Regular contributors John and Sandra Nowlan visit Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita and discover an all-inclusive resort that is a cut above most others along the Mayan Riviera.
Serene. Romantic. Love the animal Life.
These are three typical comments we heard frequently at an atypical Mexican resort.
Most popular, all-inclusive resorts along the Mayan Riviera—stretching south from the crowded beaches of Cancun to the historic Mayan ruins at Tulum—are large, crowded and lively.
Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita is the exception.
Not your typical resort
Located along 500 yards of white sand beach just 20 minutes from the Cancun Airport, each of the 100 suites in a string of two- and three-story units has unobstructed beachfront views and unique furnishings hand-chosen by the Mexican owner, hotelier and architect Carlos Gosselin. The resort is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World and has been awarded AAA Five Diamond status for 13 consecutive years.
Zoetry is the high-end brand of AMResorts, known for Secrets, NOW, Dreams and other all-adult and family properties throughout the Caribbean. But Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita is unique in many ways and attracts a loyal following who prefer a quiet, relaxed ambiance, stellar service from a well-trained staff, and gourmet dining. Frankly, it can be a bit of a shock after visiting a typical Mexican resort. But for most people, the shock soon becomes a wide smile.
The first difference comes as we enter the spacious lobby filled with fountains, 17th-century lion statues (the symbol of the owner) and antiques. Greeted with cold towels and with sparkling wine in hand, guests can see over the large pool and beach beyond. A few swimmers, a few sunbathers on comfortable loungers but no music, no pool games, and no loud entertainment director. This is what it’s like all day. Just relaxation and discreet waiters to make sure your drink glass is full. Even a daily afternoon tea is offered in one of the many serene lounges.
Meet the wildlife at Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita
As we’re escorted to our suite on an electric golf cart, another distinction is obvious on both sides of the path—the animals. We pass several prehistoric-looking iguanas ignoring us as they lounge in the sun, a giant peacock strutting between the buildings, a dozen or more raccoon-like coatis, striped tails high in the air, looking for food in the grass as they chirped and snorted.
Then, just before we stopped at our building we spotted a cat-sized, tailless rodent that looked like a big guinea pig with long legs. We couldn’t get a photo before it hopped away but learned it was an agouti, known as a sereque in Mexico.
Along with many colourful macaws in several areas of the resort, this was non-stop wildlife entertainment!
All accommodations at Zoetry are large one-bedroom suites.
They don’t have numbers, just names of places visited by the resort’s owner (Bora Bora, Havana, Kenya, Fiji) and include precious artifacts collected from that location. The bathrooms are huge with double sinks, Bvlgari toiletries, a separate shower and a sunken bathtub big enough for three or four people.
There are three restaurants on the resort grounds, all of which promote the “wellness” theme with fresh, local ingredients. Almost unique among Mexican resorts, there are no buffet restaurants. Breakfast is a special treat at Kaax with an excellent variety of Western and Mexican dishes like enchiladas and poblanos with chicken. There’s gentle music by a talented harpist.
A pair of guitarists also stroll among guests in the evening at Kaax and at Zoetry’s high-end French restaurant, the AAA Four-Diamond La Canoa.
The fresh fish was, as expected, of exceptional quality with imaginative presentation and superb service. The complimentary house wines, both white and red from Chile, were okay but clearly low-end. The resident sommelier told us they have plans to improve the house wines.
The other Zoetry restaurant is the El Chiringuito Beachside Grill, with outdoor seating and a wide variety of wood-fired specialties like chicken and pizza. The grilled red snapper we enjoyed was outstanding, especially accompanied by excellent Mexican draft beer.
A brand new section of Zoetry is called Impression, nine ocean-front suites with butlers and even an on-demand private chef. We were able to dine at the main Impressions Club fine dining restaurant, called Dragons, with its superb Asian-theme cuisine, including signature Peking Duck carved at the table by the Chef.
The Red Kitchen at Impression is also used for complimentary cooking classes, part of the overall wellness and serenity theme. We all pitched in to produce pasta from flour, eggs and olive oil, then kneaded and cut it into long narrow strips and boiled them for three minutes to produce the base for our pasta dish.
Great fun. We also had a Mexican cooking class where we made corn tortillas and empanadas, then added various ingredients to produce an excellent Mexican lunch.
In pursuit of physical and spiritual wellness
The wellness theme is at its optimum at the first certified Thalassotherapy Center in North America. There are some extra cost treatments (like seaweed or Dead Sea mud wraps) but access to the invigorating Thalasso Seawater pool is available for all.
In addition, anyone can sign up for the ancient Temazcal Healing and Cleansing Ceremony where a Mayan guide in traditional dress takes guests into a darkened sweat lodge. Steam is produced from red hot stones and herbs, then the leader takes participants through a traditional and ancient ritual of aromas, sounds and sensations.
This spiritual fitness is in addition to daily physical fitness classes – yoga, tai chi and Aquafit in the saltwater pool.
During our stay at Zoetry, we took advantage of a relaxing sunset cruise on the resort’s catamaran and spent a couple of hours visiting the nearby NOW Sapphire resort. Also part of the AM Resorts chain, this family-oriented resort was a favorite when we visited with our kids and grandkids a few years ago. Now after a major $11 million renovation, it looked even more appealing for families with many large, swim-out suites, improved dining facilities and a new, kid-friendly water park, still under construction.
Between this and Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita, the Mayan Riviera is clearly more appealing to diverse travelers of all ages than ever before.
**Guest contributors John and Sandra Nowlan are travel and food writers based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
All photo credits: John and Sandra Nowlan.
Disclosure: The Nowlans visit was hosted by AMResorts but any opinions expressed in this post are their own.
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Previously on More Time To Travel: The Mexican Riviera: Where Small is Beautiful