The Un-Cancun: Nizuc Resort and Spa Connects to Yucatan Peninsula’s Roots

Cancun is one of those places that I thought I might never make it to. Though I have an insatiable wanderlust, like Las Vegas, Cancun seemed like it just might not be for me, based on everything I’d heard over the years. And then I got a chance to stay at the Nizuc Resort and Spa (opened in 2013), located in Cancun, but away from the resort towers and well-known all-inclusives (and college-town spring breakathons). As the general manager told me, “We’re miles away from “Cancun” but yet in Cancun.”

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First, I now understand why Cancun has grown in size and popularity since the 1974 when it was designated an Integrally Planned Center by the Mexican government. The formerly tiny fishing village (now worldwide-known mega resort area) is in an absolutely gorgeous spot, with incredible Caribbean blue ocean (see my floating, above….that color!) and soft white sand beaches. But mostly the area is known more for its party-hearty atmosphere and chock-a-block hotel towers lined along the beach—but not at Nizuc Resort and Spa.

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That’s because Nizuc is located several miles away (and what feels like a totally different planet) from the main hotel strip in Cancun: Its private, quiet and altogether stunning location is no accident. It’s the former getaway residence for the Mexican President (like the United States’ Prez has Camp David for schmoozing outside of Washington, D.C.). The view above—over the adults-only infinity pool now—is approximately the same view as presidents of the country and their guests had from the original residence.

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So if you’ve ever wondered what it was like to live like a head of state, welcome to Nizuc Resort and Spa, where they take this idea pretty seriously, making me—and all the guests I spoke with during my four days there—feel very well taken care of. The incredible modern design you see in my images above and below will give you an idea of how the space looks, but it can’t really capture how it feels to walk the grounds and buildings here. (And I love that you feel and know you are in Mexico via innumerable small design touches—there’s nothing worse than being in a pretty-but-soulless resort and forgetting what country you are in.)

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Nizuc is a truly inside-out resort, meaning that all the common areas are open to the cool ocean breezes—and attention has been paid to where both light and air come from, so that almost wherever you stand (even while waiting for the elevator), you can enjoy a glimpse of blue ocean, creamy sand, or green jungle. That’s great design: Location-specific, celebratory of the natural environment, mindful of light—where it comes from and where it goes—and beautiful to look at too. Nizuc’s main building, where I stayed, had the feel of a soulful, intelligent mind behind it, someone who understands how delightful a breeze across your shoulders feels as you walk down the hallway to your room. Turns out its one of Mexico’s premiere architects, Alejandro Escudero.


And besides the lovely rooms, there are the pools—five of them, all with wonderful servers ready to bring you your heart’s desire and as helpful as can be.


What could be better than lovely infinity pools and great service? How about native Yucatan peninsula flora, thoughtfully designed so that when walking from one pool area to the next, you are ensconced in the sights, sounds and scents of the local forest (a boon for the area’s songbirds too). This is just one of many subtle clues that this high-end resort has a heart of green and a serious commitment to the local environment. Want proof? Check out the mangroves behind me in the picture above—mangroves are incredibly important to coastal ecosystems (they serve as beach-preservers, fish nurseries, and cover for a multitude of animals and birds).


How does Nizuc create a nearly invisible sustainable space? The infinity pools are kept clean through the use of osmosis technology, so they are easy on visitors’ skin—and safe for local birds. Turns out the plantings, being local instead of imported plants, prevent erosion.


And fertilizer is all-natural too; it comes from a worm composting system that prevents organic waste from the resorts several restaurants from becoming garbage. Most of the food in the restaurants comes from Mexico, some of it very locally (though they do import a few specialty treats from Europe). Employees are trained to know the names of the local trees and plants

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And as much as I love pools, there’s also a lovely quiet beach at Nizuc. I enjoyed its quiet, protected shores as an ideal yoga-in-the-morning location.


And yes, the rooms are gorgeous too! The view above is from my Ocean View Suite with floor-to-ceiling windows and a huge bathroom and changing/closet area. The bathroom was spacious and I had a wonderful bathtub that cleverly allows a view of the ocean while soaking. Of course the king-size bed was incredibly comfy, and I’ll admit to waking up the first morning, opening the giant windows, and absolutely revelling in the view from the comfort of my bed. The resort only offers suites and super-luxe Garden Pool Villas, which are little homes-away-from-home and ideal for families or groups. And with that lovely room comes a super-helpful butler, dedicated just to you—you can call them for anything!

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Nizuc has several restaurants on-property, and brilliantly, they each have their own kitchen, so they run independently (and food tastes unique at each venue). I had the chance to enjoy Ramona, which features the locally focused, super-fresh, Mexican food of today (the country’s food recently received world heritage designation). With direction from Chef Bladimir Garcia, and ardent fan of Yucatecan cuisine, it’s pure gastronomy — and their wine selection, put together lovingly by Sommelier Jonatan Verduzco, includes the best of Mexico as well as some serious treats from around the world, including rarities like selections from Casa Grande, Mexico’s oldest winery at 400 years old and counting. Read more about Ramona here.

I got a chance to go swimming with whale sharks, which was an incredible experience. You can see the fin of one just behind me in this picture—but underwater they are huge!


You can read about my voyage out to swim with the whale sharks here (I highly recommend it!); but of course you can also go snorkeling, windsurfing, or any other of a number of other activities—or even head down the coast to check out some Mayan ruins. Of course the staff at Nizuc will be happy to help you arrange any such adventures.


As Nizuc’s general manager told me, “Anyone can provide a nice room, but an incredible experience is more difficult, and our priority.” I feel like my experience at Nizuc was so full of sensory details, I can’t possibly forget it.


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All images by Starre Vartan