Carretera Chetumal—Cancun Km 328, SM 31,
Bahía Petempich, Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo,
The vision of a globe–trotting Mexican architect, Zöetry Paraiso de la Bonita is a small, exclusive, and very personal beachfront property that mixes local Maya culture with other international styles––but amenities and service are all inspired by European hospitality.
The Zöetry Paraiso de la Bonita experience begins at the airport, where guests are whisked into a plush Lincoln Navigator kitted out with chilled towels and an iPod they can program for the 20–minute drive south from Cancún. (Too slow? There's also an option of a transfer by helicopter.)
At the hotel, guests are greeted by two giant carved Balinese dogs and a warm "Bix–a–bel"—a Maya greeting. Check–in takes place in your suite, which is named for one of the owners' many favorite places around the globe, and decorated accordingly, but with a light touch that doesn't significantly alter the basic cream–stucco finish and stone floors. Durban sports a leopard–print bedspread (more tasteful than it sounds), while Monaco evokes French Mediterranean with rich chintz. The schemes don't extend to the bathrooms, though, which all have the same separate shower and two–person marble tub, and some very flashy his–and–hers sinks. These standard suites are all similar in layout, with sea views and separate living rooms and a desk; several ground–floor rooms have private plunge pools, rather than large terraces. Larger groups might choose one of the two–bedroom suites.
The mishmash of styles could be a bit jarring were it not for fine service and the public space that makes the resort feel like a comfortable––if very grand––home: the library displays framed snapshots of the owners and favorite guests, for instance. This home also happens to have a 48–foot catamaran at the ready––it makes a daily run to the small town of Puerto Morelos just down the coast, or you can hire it for a longer private outing.
Zöetry Paraiso de la Bonita has three excellent restaurants on the premises: a simple grill and wood–fired pizza oven at the water's edge, casual Kaax ("jungle") for breakfast and lunch, and formal La Canoa, which is lit with candles at night. The food throughout shows the strong influence of its French chef, who has worked at the property since it opened in 2001, lending a consistency that's rare among resorts in this area.
The restaurants––as well as the Hippos Bar, named for two enormous carved hippopotamuses the owner had carted back from Africa––surround a curvaceous, deep–blue infinity pool with a somewhat formal feel, thanks to the palm trees ringing it at regular intervals. Nonetheless, the pool is generally more popular than the wide beach, as the water is a bit murky with sea grass.
Paraiso's spa is also more formal feeling than those at similar resorts. The Thalasso Center, as it's called, offers European–style treatments using seawater and marine algae that were developed in Greece. In fact, it's the only thalassotherapy spa in Mexico, and it looks and feels like it could be in a German resort town, say, rather than on the Caribbean coast––there is not a whiff of New Age (or New World) about it.
In terms of amenities and level of service, Zöetry Paraiso de la Bonita is competitive with nearby Maroma Resort & Spa and Ikal del Mar––which you choose will depend largely on your taste. The two most distinctive factors at Paraiso are its European–feel spa and its quirkily decorated rooms—they don't necessarily reflect the Mexican setting, and whether this is good or bad is up to you.
Web Address: www.paraisodelabonita.com
Total Number of Rooms: 90
Published rates: $595 to $1,285, incl. continental breakfast and transfers
Review and photos by Zora O'Neill
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