We just returned from a stay at the Maroma in February 2012. This was my 3rd time in Mexico and my fiancee's first. We wanted a relaxing vacation, away from the freezing cold of NYC in the winter, within a 3-hour direct flight from NYC and with some cultural highlights. The hotel - a former architect's home in the middle of a 500-acre coconut plantation - is superb! A beautiful whitewashed hotel that is right on the beach. And what a beach!! It is pure white sand and turquoise water. The hotel is 30/40 min. away from the Cancun airport and about 30 min. from Playa del Carmen (by car). This is a great location as it is away from the cheap thrills of Cancun and close to the local scene in Playa. We rented a car as we wanted to see Chichen Itza, Coba and Tulum (more on this below) so we were able to travel outside the resort, which we highly recommend.
Firstly, the hotel is beautiful, very clean and very well kept. While being right on the beach, it still has quite a bit of nature around the premises including large but friendly iguanas which we grew fond of before we left (though we were petrified when we arrived). The main pool is beautiful and heated. The rooms are large - we booked a junior oceanview suite and were upgraded for free to a master oceanview suite (we were celebrating our engagement). The room had a great balcony with a hammock, a large bathroom with a shower and tub, and a separate bedroom and sitting area. There is free Wi-fi in the rooms which works very well and thankfully no TVs. The beach is absolutely beautiful - it has nice beach beds (if you can get one - see "con" below) and otherwise nice beach chairs and palapas. The beach will not disappoint.
Secondly, the Maroma staff is pure gold - very friendly and attentive. They actually go out their way to be helpful and to remember your name. They are the hotel's greatest asset! Belen, who welcomed us, was a sweetheart - she made everything possible, from our amazing free room upgrade to a master oceanview suite to showing us on the map how to drive out to the Mayan ruins. Luis taught us the intricacies of tequila (it's such a fine spirit if you know how to enjoy it) and even emailed us a sangrita recipe which we will surely use! The Maroma staff actually cleans the beach every morning of the seaweed that is washed up by the ocean during the night so the beach is really quite clean and inviting. The one staff-related issue we had was the room cleaning. For our entire stay of over 6 days, the maid NEVER came before 2:00pm (even though we tipped nicely the first day). So if you want to go back to the room for a shower or an afternoon nap, you will find a messy room and will be disturbed by the maid coming in to do the "morning" cleaning.
Included in the room is a free snorkeling session per person - they take you inside the great barrier reef (the second largest in the world, after Australia) and they offer private sessions to take you outside the reef. Def. take advantage of your trip - we saw amazing fish and coral during our 40 min. time in the water. My fiancee also wanted to get PADI scuba certified (a long time dream) but the only scuba instructor there was not available for 2 days during our stay and no replacement was considered by the staff, though we understand that the water activities desk is separate from the hotel.
The free coffee service delivered in the mornings directly to the room is great and was always on time. The free breakfast in the mornings is amazing - they have full entrees of real Mexican/Mayan dishes - our favorite was the poblano chili filled with an egg omelet but the dishes range from simple eggs to muesli to the Mexican traditional dishes. Also included are unbelievably good exotic fruit juices (papaya, etc.) - definitely try the chaya juice (a local Mayan plant) - yogurt, pastries, out-of-this-world hot chocolate and Santacruz coffee. We loved the coffee so much that we bought a few packs to take home! The sporadic group theme dinners can be great (see "con" below for a la carte dining) - they usually run at US$75-125 per person for a buffet plus an additional 24% tax/tip automatically included. Our favorite was La Cantina night which included traditional Mexican dishes and mezcal - def. try this if it occurs on a night you are there. The beach BBQ theme was also great!
Below are the cons. We truly hope that management works on these as we would love to return to Maroma in the future.
(1) This is the MAJOR con - The a la carte food and drinks at the 2 restaurants and bar on the premises are insanely expensive (by NYC 3-Michelin-star standards) and of passable quality - we definitely did not travel on vacation with the intent to be cheap or even reasonable and we have the funds to splurge; however, you feel taken for a ride when the entrees are so expensive and so very small. It's almost like this is where they make their profit margins as they know that they have a fairly well-off and captive clientele. It really is an unnecessary way to spend money that leaves you feeling a bit cheated. Depending on your order (say, appetizer, entree and wine), each dinner can run in the high $300. We even saw people ordering inside the restaurants food from the outside bar (we assume it was price-point related). This is just not sustainable. To EACH lunch, dinner or drink at the bar or on the beach, or really to ANY service (including the spa, the gift shop, etc.), the hotel automatically adds a 14% tax and 10% service and every item is presented only in US dollars but not charged this way. So a single shot of good tequila at the bar will run about US$20 with 24% additional surcharge - i.e. ~US$25. This gets presented in US dollars but charged in the peso equivalent (not clear why) and your US credit card will add a forex fee to every such charge. So a single drink can turn into quite a feast! Our best-tasting meals were in Playa - definitely try Las Brisas (best seafood salad/ceviche, beers, whole grilled fish, guacamole for US$20) - in Valladolid - def. try Taberna de los Frailes - and in the village of Coba at a great restaurant called Pyramida overlooking the lake near the ruins.
(2) Related to the above, there are no other real restaurant options on the premises. There is only a restaurant called Pavo Real about 5 min. drive away (also, technically, on the premises but run by a different staff) but it is not very good, aesthetically pleasing or reasonably priced, though it does have a live piano player. They gave us Mexican sparkling wine when we asked for Italian prosecco and were planning to charge us as if we were consuming the prosecco (a large price differential) until we finally asked to see the bottle and the label as it was so awful. We were refunded the price, but mistakes like this should not be made - and I'm being kind in calling this a "mistake" and not an intentional plan to pad the bill.
(3) The general clientele at Maroma are folks in their 50s (again, we assume for price-point related reasons). This is perfectly fine, but worth a mention. On the other hand, we partially chose Maroma due to their policy of not allowing young children, but alas it seems this has changed as there were young (under 10 year-old) kids at breakfast - not a deal-breaker for us really as we're in our early 30s, but there's something about kids running around that's a bit stressful when you're trying to unwind.
(4) The staff allows patrons to wake up early (if not the night before) and place random belongings on the beach beds - i.e. a newspaper or the in-room slippers. So, by the time we finished breakfast at 8:30AM (with, at most, another 2 couples at the beach-side restaurant), we would reach the beach where there were PLENTY of non-occupied beach beds BUT with random items securing occupation. We were unpleased to have to take beach chairs and see people stroll onto the beach to their "reserved" beach beds 3 hours later that us. Unless patrons are going for a dip in the water or a beach stroll or breakfast, they should not be allowed to "reserve" beach beds in the morning...or the hotel should invest in more beds.
(5) If you do not have a car to travel around, this can prove to be a little suffocating as well as very expensive. If you add the lunch, the drinks on the beach and the dinner, you'll be spending around $1000 per couple per day. With a car, you can travel to the nearby Playa del Carmen, experience real restaurants - with great fresh seafood - and real locals for a reasonable price point. You can also travel there by taxi. We rented our car from Avis at the airport and were very glad we did so (get the insurance!). We drove 3-hours inland to see Chichen Itza which was absolutely amazing - a UNESCO World Heritage Sight and new 7th World Wonder. The highways - both the toll and the rural - were VERY safe and we were able to get there before the tourist buses. We were also able to stop along the way in Valladolid for a great lunch and for cenote swimming - we can provide more details of our itinerary via private message, but you should definitely travel outside the resort. We also visited Coba where we were able to climb the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan and the Tulum ruins.
Overall, the Maroma was a great stay but we did not feel that we received true value for our money. We will not return - it was a great, though unnecessarily expensive, stay.
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