Cancun’s Native Son
What Happens When Resorts Are Grandfathered In
In the 1970s, the Mexican government eyed each of its 32 states to create the ultimate resort city. Cancun won the lottery, and one of the first hotels was built there in 1973 by then President Luis Echeverría. It became what is now known as the InterContinental Presidente Cancun Resort. First come, first served, it sits on Cancun’s most prized beach, and unlike most of the rest of Cancun’s rows and rows of beachfront hotels hovering over thin or rocky beaches, Presidente is neighbored by a beachfront medley of deluxe homes and is set back a quarter-mile from the shore, maximizing the shoreline. Half of the resort’s perfect sand beach is a forest of palm trees that shade swank lounge chairs, Le Cap restaurant, a classic bungalow bar, two pools (one for families, the other for adults), and four Jacuzzis. Also, unlike some of the louder resorts that pump out loud music or “shows,” this estate remains mellow and classy. Although cutting loose isn’t outlawed, it embraces relaxation.
Most hotels these days have a green spiel. This property’s amusing and unheralded first eco-friendly example is the bird-of-prey (raptor) a handler brings out onto the lawn next to the outdoor breakfast buffet to intimidate and keep pesky smaller birds at bay. Every few minutes, the raptor lets out a mild shriek that announces “stay away,” and it works. The bird adds a down-to-earth element to a privileged landscape.
Another way this Presidente (there’s one on nearby Cozumel, too) keeps things special is by only permitting one wedding per day—while other hotels allow up to a dozen per day. There are no intersecting brides on this vacation campus.
Wedding parties and guests alike enjoy spa treatments at the stand-alone Ikal Spa, where the signature massage blends modern and Mayan techniques with aromatherapy. The property also includes Le Cap seaside grill, an open-air kitchen specializing in fresh Mediterranean fare (try the seafood chowder). The indoor Café Urbano features an internationally healthy menu along with craft Mexican beers. From Café Urbano, you can also behold the state-of-the-art gym, where you can work off those calories. The hotel is only a 10-minute walk to town, which resembles a Vegas-like strip, if you like that sort of thing.
You can also keep it real in Cancun by visiting the nearby El Meco Mayan ruins (Castillo centerpiece built in 300 AD), which also doubles as a resort for iguanas. Many of the structures are partially held up by ingrown banyan trees, similar to how jungle growth sustains parts of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. Guests may also visit the legendary Isla Mujeres (Women Island), which the hotel overlooks. Cat Mania, located near the ruins at El Meco, offers catamaran cruises to Isla Mujeres, which includes time to dive or snorkel on a reef.
Many Cancun guests also visit sister property InterContinental Presidente Cozumel Resort Spa. Cozumel is a quick flight or ferry from Cancun. Totally renovated in July 2016, the island getaway’s 218 rooms and pretty much every other square inch of this oceanside lair were elevated to a sturdy five-star standard. Also originally built by the President (1969), this private westward-facing beach gem is supremely sunset-situated and even more laid back than what you’ll experience at the Cancun property. As the resort faces west, it’s safer during hurricanes. In fact, it actually doubles as a hurricane shelter in times of need.
If you’re not a fan of elevators, this is the resort for you, as most rooms are on the ground floor. I stayed in a ground-floor Reef Room that had an inviting front porch that was a stone’s throw from the ocean.
In-room amenities include after-sun cooling gel, a beach bag, mouthwash, and easy-to-open organic soaps. The ultra-cool straight-talking general manager Andres Garcia Ricard has worked in hotels and resorts all over Latin America (including Miami) and knows the business well. While celebrating the unsurpassed Mexican work ethic, Andres is sure to keep their many legacy guests looking forward to reconnecting with staffers, some who have been at the resort for 30-plus years. Serenity is the rule here; there is no shot at hearing another hotel’s concerts or dance shows. Also limited to one wedding per day, brides have their choice of several epic spots to make their vows. The rowdiest thing you’ll witness is laughter around the nightly marshmallow fire pit.
Scuba Du—and its good-natured dive master Oliver—provide snorkel and dive trips right off the resort’s dock. We were treated to an adult loggerhead sea-turtle sighting while it dined on a huge starfish. Starfish are part of Cozumel’s “heaven on the sea floor” attraction, as there are acres of huge, evenly spaced starfish.
The hotel’s two dining options will make sticking to your diet impossible. Fresh seafood lovers will be in awe, as everything is fresh. The huge under-palapa water’s edge restaurant also keeps guests connected to nature and the direction of the wind. The other dining option is the indoor Trattoria Alfredo in Roma, where US Presidents JFK and Bush-1 once dined. Discovering their pictures on the restaurant wall made the impressive Presidential Suite even more significant. Come to think of it, significant extravagance is what both of these InterContinental Presidente resorts are all about.
InterJet—“Mexico’s JetBlue”—has direct flights to Cancun from New York and other US cities.
For more on the InterContinental Presidente Cancun Resort and the InterContinental Presidente Cozumel Resort Spa, visit the sites linked above. All photos credited to InterContinental unless otherwise noted.