After a year-long hiatus from travel to focus on health, I finally decided it was time to dip my toes back into the waters and go on vacation. To keep things simple and close to home, we used my Westin timeshare StarOptions for a week at the Westin Lagunamar Ocean Resort in Cancun, Mexico. (NOTE: I have since sold my Vistana Starwood Ownerships as they no longer aligned with my lifestyle.)
The flights to/from Cancun were uneventful, other than the fact it’s clear that the Cancun airport cannot handle such a large influx of passengers. We flew business class thinking we’d sail through customs. Not so- the line was over an hour long. I am seriously considering applying for the Mexico Trusted Traveler program. Upon return, every flight was delayed out of the airport because of a lack of gates. It appears that they may be adding some additional terminal space, but until then, things will be a bit chaotic and if you have any connecting flights, plan your layover appropriately.
We had prearranged transfers directly with the Westin using their in house transportation company, The One. The transfers are $85USD round trip and paid upon arrival at the resort. The driver was waiting outside of the airport for us when we arrived and was easy to find based on the instructions provided. I may have mentioned this in my previous Cancun reviews, but definitely do not stop when exiting the airport. You will be bombarded with salespeople for everything from activities to timeshares. Just walk out of the building and find your name/resort name in the sea of signs.
The resort is approximately 15 minutes from the airport, located along the famous Cancun Hotel Zone across from the high-end Le Isla Shopping Village. The Hotel Zone is a great place for people who want to explore beyond the resort, as there are various malls and restaurants all along the strip. The beach along the strip is also gorgeous, with soft, white sand. While we were there, we only ventured down to the beach for walks, as the ocean was a little rough and there was tons of sea grass. The sea grass is not a constant issue, but you also cannot predict when it will be there.
The Westin Lagunamar is a fairly new, and very large, resort, with the first phase being opened in 2007. It’s a timeshare property, so the rooms are configured with a kitchen and washer/dryer and are lock0ff units, meaning you can book the two bedroom option, or break the two bedrooms into a one bedroom room and a studio room. The main differences between the one bedroom and studio is the kitchen size- the one bedroom has a full kitchen while the studio has a smaller kitchenette- and, in the one bedroom, the bedroom is separated from the main living area. The two bedroom set up is great for families with kids or two families traveling together. However, both the one bedroom and studio have sleeper sofas. I chose to stay in a one bedroom as it was just the two of us traveling together. It was more than enough space and we made great use out of the full kitchen.
Our room was located in Building 10, Floor 5. The view was just above the tree line looking out diagonally toward the ocean. There are 14 buildings, all with some type of view of the ocean. The lower level rooms have mostly obstructed views, so I recommend trying to secure a higher level room. Buildings 900 and 1400 are located just steps from the beach. Buildings 500 and 1100 have the most direct view, looking out over the pools to the ocean. Room requests are not taken by the hotel, but it never hurts to ask when checking in. I have an SPG Ambassador (for those who stay over 100 nights per year with Starwood) and requested Buildings 900, 1000, 1100, and 1400 on a high floor. I guess you can say it worked, though I don’t consider Floor 5 to be a high floor.
The room itself was clean, though it had some maintenance problems. Our deadbolt on the door was broken, as was the lock on the door leading out to the balcony. The balcony light was also burned out. We called maintenance to have the light repaired, as we enjoyed several dinners on the balcony, and they came quickly and had everything fixed within 20 minutes. The room also comes fully equipped with kitchen tools so you can cook your own meals. There is a small market on the property, Tierra Market, that is good to pick up a few last minute items. However, I recommend walking about 7-8 minutes South to Soriana Market. The selection there, while limited compared to our grocery stores (they didn’t have Diet Coke!!!), is much better and it’s also quite a bit cheaper. If you have too many supplies in your cart, they will deliver to the resort for less than $3USD. Just remember to tip the baggers and the delivery men.
While we enjoyed cooking our own meals, we did go out for dinner a few nights. The first night, we had dinner at the Duna Sports Bar on the resort property. It’s very casual and has a “pub-like” menu. Our last night, we had dinner at Oceana, the resort’s main restaurant. They offer theme buffet nights on Monday (Mexican), Wednesday (Steak), and Friday (Italian). The other nights offer an a la carte menu to choose from. On Tuesday night, we walked across to La Isla Shopping Center and had dinner at Thai Lounge. Thai Lounge is an outdoor restaurant, with tables set up under trees or out over the water on a covered dock. It’s very quiet, very secluded, and very intimate. I recommend getting a seating around sunset. I also advise making reservations a few days in advance if you prefer to have the overwater seating. The food was delicious, though it seemed to be pricier than the resort restaurants. I believe the extra expense was worth it to experience the ambiance.
We also dined every day at the Duna Pool Bar, which has a menu from Viento, the restaurant at the main pool. The food was typical poolside fare- burgers, nachos, and tacos. Happy Hour is everyday from 3pm-4pm and really only lasts the one hour. They offer a 2 for 1 special on certain drinks and we downed as many as we could. You’d be surprised how quickly that hour goes! I was also surprised at the cost. A full meal at the pool, a few sodas, and 4-6 alcoholic drinks/beer only ran us ~$45USD.
As far as activities goes, we kept very much to ourselves on this trip. However, the one thing we could not pass up was a trip to the spa. If there was one complaint about the resort, I’d say it was the pressure to go to the spa. The masseurs would circle the pool every day offering to give you information on the spa. If you said no thank you, some of them would keep pressing. Some days, we were approached about the spa 4-5 times. The first guy who approached us, Gerardo, won out. He gave us each a 5 minute complimentary foot massage and booked our 80 minute couples massage. He, and Paulino, gave us excellent massages and entire spa experience was relaxing. Even with the unwelcome pressure, I recommend going to see them and the prices are very reasonable.
All in all, sometimes it’s good to just get away. While I personally like to jaunt over to the South Pacific, sometimes it’s just too difficult to fit that in to an already packed schedule. So, when I think “quick, easy, fun” getaway, I think Mexico. Yes, it’s true that Mexico has some issues with violence, but Mexico is a large country. Cancun has always remained safe (as has other popular destinations like Los Cabos), so I didn’t think twice about planning a trip there. I also didn’t think twice about walking down the road to the market or across the street to La Isla. While it might not be as exotic or remote as Tahiti or Fiji, it was still worth the trip!