I’d begin my round-the-world Aeroplan trip with a long layover in Cancún, Mexico. While the real purpose of this little detour was to get on the Turkish Airlines 787-9 flight from Cancún to Istanbul, I still appreciated having a sunny layover in Mexico to kickstart my trip, since it’s not the kind of place I’d usually visit too often otherwise.
While my original plan for the layover was to visit the ruins of Chichén Itzá about a two-hour drive from Cancún, a schedule change on my inbound flight rendered that plan rather infeasible, so I decided to hang out by the beach instead. And in choosing among the many beachside resorts available here, I looked no further than the newly-renovated JW Marriott Cancún Resort & Spa.
The JW Marriott brand is easily my favourite among the entire Marriott portfolio, as I find it consistently balances elegance and comfort with a reasonable price point. This stay was no exception, as the Category 6 Marriott Bonvoy property was available at an off-peak rate on my date, so I booked it for 40,000 Bonvoy points for the night. The cash rate was just slightly over $400 all-in, so it made sense to use points in this case, given my 1 cent per point valuation of Bonvoy points.
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JW Marriott Cancún – Location & Arrival
The JW Marriott is located roughly in the middle of the long, thin strip of land jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean that represents Cancún’s hotel zone. To get between the airport and the hotel, I booked a pre-arranged airport transfer with Cancún Shuttle for around US$12 each way, and was picked up at the airport by one of the drivers wearing a distinctive orange vest.
The drive to the JW Marriott took 20 minutes. A security guard verified my identity as we pulled up outside the hotel, and then I was driven through the roundabout and dropped off at the entrance of the hotel.
The hotel lobby is quite a monumental space, featuring a lofted ceiling and floor-to-ceiling windows in the distance overlooking the beach, which was reminiscent of many other resort properties I’ve stayed at in the past.
JW Marriott Cancún – Check-in
Individual check-in desks were available on both the left and right sides of the lobby, and as I approached one of the empty desks to complete my check-in, I was handed a chilled welcome beverage by one of the waiting staff members – a fruity cocktail, and a rather strong one at that.
I had chatted with the hotel on the Marriott app prior to my arrival to request an upgrade to the Caribbean Suite, and I had seen earlier that my request had already been granted. The staff member still mentioned, however, that the suite was granted “as an exception”, and that as a resort property they’re usually not obliged to grant suite upgrades to Platinum, Titanium, or Ambassador members, and that we’d usually have to use our Suite Night Awards to request upgrades.
That’s not really the case, of course – Platinum members and above are entitled to space-available upgrades, including suites, even at resorts – but since I had already gotten my upgrade this time, I just smiled and nodded along.
The staff member also clarified that the JW Marriott Cancún’s Club 91 Lounge isn’t a traditional club lounge for elite members – again, since they were a “resort”, the Club 91 access would be chargeable at a rate of US$120 per “couple” per day, including five meal presentations throughout the day.
Indeed, that offering was much more on par with a Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge than a usual JW Marriott lounge, so I can see why they’d require payment even from elite members, but it would’ve also been awesome if they were more generous in extending access to elite members. In any case, I didn’t think I needed it for my stay this time, so I passed on the offer.
Finally, after receiving a brief rundown on the rest of the resort, I took my keys, turned right from the lobby towards the elevators down a long hallway, and headed up to the fifth floor.
I took note that there was still some construction going on in the hallways here on the fifth floor, which had left the carpet here in a pretty filthy condition.
Thankfully, I was able to avoid stepping through there, as my quarters for the night, Room 535, was located immediately opposite the elevators.
JW Marriott Cancún – Caribbean Suite
The Caribbean Suite follows a pretty uniform layout similar to most hotel suites out there, with a living room, pantry, and half-bath occupying the first half of the suite, adjacent to the master bedroom and master bathroom.
The sitting area consisted of a large “L”-shaped couch, a fun multi-layered coffee table, and another two chairs and a table at the far side of the room.
I thought the television was on the smaller side when situated in this impressively sized suite, and it seemed like it was a missed opportunity to add even larger widescreens as part of the hotel’s most recent round of renovations.
The closet and pantry rounded out the list of notable features in this part of the suite.
Moving on to the bedroom, the king-sized bed would give me a short but comfortable night of sleep.
There was also a desk, which was disappointingly small in the context of how large the overall suite was; however, I suppose the size of the desk is quite appropriate at a resort like this, where most guests presumably aren’t looking to sit down and work all day.
There was an Illy coffee machine at the desk, which I appreciated having in the morning, although only paper cups were available rather than actual drinkware.
The master bathroom is dressed in luxurious stone walls and flooring, and I thought it was the highlight of the room.
A simple yet modern countertop contains a set of double sinks, and its design aesthetic is matched by the bathtub, shower, and toilet.
One major deficiency I witnessed in the bathroom, however, was the fact that the ceiling above the toilet seemed to contain leakage from the floor above, dripping water all over the floor.
If I were staying for any longer than a quick overnight, I would’ve definitely raised this with the hotel to seek some form of compensation; however, since this stay was very much an in-and-out affair, I let this one slide and simply made a note to mention it in my review.
In addition to the master bathroom, there’s also a half-bath accessible from the foyer, which contained a sink and a toilet and was very large for its actual purpose.
The suite has a balcony that overlooks the beach, and I stepped outside to enjoy the ocean breeze on a few occasions. There’s a set of outdoor chairs here if you wanted to sit and relax for longer.
My overall impressions of the JW Marriott Cancún’s Caribbean Suite are mixed: while it was a very nice room in many ways, the room was noticeably more sterile and less comfort-oriented than other JW Marriott hotels I’ve stayed at, and reminded me more of a regular Marriott or a Delta than a JW Marriott.
That probably makes sense at the end of the day, given the specific nature of a beachside resort property. After all, plush carpeting and excessively fluffy furniture are probably a big no-no when guests are quite likely to track sand all over the room throughout their stay.
I just thought the resort could’ve done a little bit more to fully embrace the high standard of the modern JW Marriott brand. Still, it’s my understanding that the recent renovations were a huge improvement compared to how the hotel looked like before (when it was decidedly one of the older JW Marriotts that looked like a cigar lounge from a bygone era).
And as for the Caribbean Suite itself, while it was certainly oversized for my needs, I thought a family of four would fit very comfortably here given that the sofa could be transformed into a pull-out bed. If any families were considering visiting this property, I’d highly recommend this suite – just don’t count on receiving it as a complimentary elite upgrade, if the front desk is to be believed!
Upon check-in, I had requested a cheese plate and some bottled water as my welcome amenity. Since I had a late night of catching up on work later, I just snacked on the cheese plate for dinner before going for a big breakfast the next day.
JW Marriott Cancún – Pools & Beach
Soon after my arrival, I decided to hit the pool and beach and maximize the daylight I had at the resort.
The JW Marriott Cancún has a very expansive series of outdoor pools, including a good mix of an infinity pool with views of the ocean, shallow wading pools, larger pools in which you can actually swim a few laps, and heated whirlpools for relaxation, all spanned by a network of bridges and pathways.
I sat poolside for a few hours, ordering a Corona and a burger for lunch and working on my laptop by the pool. I even briefly chatted with a Prince of Travel reader, Drake, who also happened to be staying at the resort at the same time!
I also briefly visited the beach, which boasted several ranks of beach chairs and umbrellas, fine white sand, and the gently lapping waves of the Atlantic Ocean.
Note that while the JW Marriott manages the beach chairs in front of its property, it’s still technically a public beach, and guests will need a keycard to return to the hotel grounds.
JW Marriott Cancún – Breakfast
I returned to my room after sundown, and the only other noteworthy part of the hotel I explored before my 7:30am departure was the breakfast spread at the Sedona Grill restaurant.
Breakfast begins every morning at 6:30am, so I had just about enough time to sneak in a few quick bites. As is typical in Mexico, the staff at breakfast were very sociable and chatty, reacting with great surprise when they learned that I’d be at the resort for only one day.
I loved that the breakfast buffet didn’t restrict itself to the usual Western items of bread, meats, potatoes, and French toast…
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…but instead really leaned into the Mexican dishes as well, offering specialties such as barbacoa, tamales, and salsa verde and ranchera.
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There was also a made-to-order omelette station, where you could order from a few preset varieties of omelette, or make your own. Overall, I was highly impressed by the JW Marriott’s breakfast spread, and I would’ve enjoyed coming back every morning if I were staying for longer.
After helping myself to a few generous portions, I hurriedly headed back to my room to pack up my stuff and get ready for my shuttle pickup back to the airport.
JW Marriott Cancún – Other Facilities
I managed to stop by a few other areas of the hotel, such as the lobby bar and lounge…
…the boutique store, where you can pick up any essentials you need for the beach…
…and Gustino, the resort’s Italian restaurant.
Overall, there seemed to be a good variety of onsite dining options, and leaving the resort for the many local bars and eateries in the Hotel Zone also seemed to be a popular option among guests.
Nevertheless, I do apologize that there are definitely many parts of this sprawling resort complex that my quick review doesn’t cover, since I was only on-property for a very short time.
After completing my checkout, I had to wait another 20 minutes until the shuttle finally picked me up at 7:50am, but thankfully I had left plenty of buffer time before my 9:55am departure on Turkish Airlines’s new 787 business class for Istanbul.
While it wouldn’t be my preferred type of travel, I can certainly see why so many North Americans venture down here to the state of Quintana Roo for an easy and relaxing beach getaway every year.
I get the sense that Cancún is very much more about a casual and affordable getaway rather than any kind of over-the-top luxury, so in that sense the JW Marriott fulfilled its function perfectly, even though it didn’t quite live up to the high billing of other JW Marriotts I’ve patronized in the past.
If I were in Cancún again, I saw enough during my brief stay at the JW Marriott that makes me want to return, but I’d also be open to trying out an alternative property, like the nearby Westin or Ritz-Carlton, depending on their respective price points.
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