One year, late into the summer and overloaded with work demands, we decided to take advantage of a long weekend, and secretly fly to a secluded beach to unwind for a few days. Though we weren’t preoccupied with the location, we wanted it to be quiet, beautiful and relaxing. After some research, we decided on Beloved Playa Mujeres, a luxurious, secluded adults-only resort in Mexico that catered to couples looking for a little romance and a lot of privacy.
Located in Cancun, Beloved is far from what you’d expect. Upon arrival, our airport transfer was stopped so he could present the names of the passengers (and they could be checked) prior to security lifting the velvet rope and letting the car drive to the front entrance. Waiting for us to emerge from the vehicle, resort staff stood with champagne glasses and big smiles. They handled our bags, escorted us to the soft couches inside to wait while they checked us in. Once the staff handled all the preliminaries, we were asked to join them. There was no front desk or line up, the reception area resembled a luxurious living room. We sat in comfy chairs across a small booth to receive our key cards, and were then quickly escorted to our room. Along the way, the friendly concierge informed us all of the fabulous amenities available.
The pristine resort is tastefully decorated in a minimalist but luxurious elegance of white stone and natural colours, beautifully designed for maximum privacy. Nestled on a white sandy beach between neighbouring resorts, Beloved felt secluded and peaceful. The private suites were scattered on the property between clusters of muted vegetation, more that of a neighbourhood design rather than a typical resort. Our oversized suite was equipped with not only a large bed and huge bathroom, but a walk-in closet, a separate living area with a fully stocked bar and a huge balcony with indoor/outdoor round jacuzzi tub. An extensive room service menu was also available, and once you devoured your meal, the tray and dirty dishes could be set inside a cabinet near the entrance, accessible for pick-up by staff on the other side of the door. Each night, Beloved offered a turn down service, prepping your room for sleep and leaving little sweets and notes on the bed. These little details a were what made all the difference.
After settling in, we quickly changed into our swimwear and headed down to the beach, stopping first for a quick detour at the poolside restaurant for lunch. Each restaurant and bar felt separate and unique, again more neighbourhood than resort. There was no need for bracelets or identification, one photo taken at check-in was all each restaurant required to seat you for your meal, we simply told them our room number. After a delicious lunch, seated facing the ocean in a second level restaurant located over the main pool and swim up bar, we decided to cool off by taking a quick dip and enjoying a frozen drink in the shade. The beach and pools were quiet, with subdued music, and excellent service. The water, however, was warm. With the afternoon sun beating down on us, we expected cool (even cold) pool water, but it was like stepping into a warm bath. Though it felt unusual, we found a shady spot and cooled off with a frozen daiquiri before making our way to the white sand beach.
We are, most definitely, beach people. When given the choice, we would prefer to sit with our feet in the sand and soak in the ocean. The space Beloved occupied on the beach was small, but the lounge chairs were readily available, each with a palm umbrella for shade and a beach-side menu of food and drinks. What was particularly luxurious and unique, were the rentable private tents. We could reserve one of the few private cabanas on the beach (something we opted for every day possible) where you were provided a large canvas cabana with two oversized beds to lounge on in the cool shade, sipping champagne and nibbling on snacks. With each rental, they also provided a complimentary gift pack of sunscreen, bug repellent and a cooling misting spray. Luxury at it's finest.
When we visit a new area, we typically research available excursions and local specialties to possibly experience. Since this trip was only a short stay and meant for relaxation, we hadn’t planned on leaving the resort, but there was one unique ocean adventure we just could not pass up: the chance to snorkel with whale sharks in the wild. Whale sharks frequented the area and many group tours were readily available, but safety regulations protecting both people and wildlife limited individual time in the water. We wanted to be able to spend as much time as possible observing them, so although it cost a pretty penny, we opted to hire a private boat.
Many reviews warned of rough seas on route to find the whale sharks, so we came prepared with anti-nausea medication (which we took plenty of before boarding the boat in the early morning on our second day). I perched myself on the back of the speedboat, grasping to the side while my other half sat on the second level facing forward. Having been on boats many times before, I was comfortable with waves, but this time I carried with me the memory of getting sick the year prior while cruising the Galapagos Islands. Even though that illness was more a result of heat exhaustion than seasickness, I feared it would happen again. Keeping calm, I took deep cleansing breaths of the cool sea air and focused on the horizon in an attempt to anchor my line of sight. It worked, at the beginning, but the positive thoughts and anti-nausea medication were no match for the two hours our boat bounced on the deep-sea waves before we found them.
Our captain suggested we jump in the ocean too cool off, and it did help for a moment, but severe nausea overtook us both and we began vomiting uncontrollably. At first, I thought it would be fine to get it “out of our system” and feel better, but we weren’t so lucky. Determined to continue, with life vests wrapped around our waists, we swam the few meters towards the site where three other boats were stopped and a handful of people were snorkelling. From above the surface, the occasional splash of something inhuman emerged, but they were too quick to comprehend. Below was an entirely different experience.
Dunking our heads underwater, a literal new world opened up. Circling us, in the large open space between the boats, was a group of whale sharks, sucking in gallons of water from the surface and feeding. They were enormous yet so graceful. Their distinct spotted patterns glistened in the reflected sunlight. It is difficult to describe (or capture) the size of a creature, seemingly small in comparison to the vastness of the ocean, but humongous when compared to a human being. Whale sharks can grow to approximately 30 feet in length, the relative size of a long school bus.
We had been forewarned not to disturb them and not to physically touch them, we were only there to observe. They took no notice of us, or if they did, they were not bothered by our presence. The water was clear, but their movements (and ours) disturbed the plankton and other microscopic entities, clouding the water. Though their actual motions appeared slow and insignificant, due to their sheer size (they are the biggest fish in the world after all) one small movement propelled them forward, often forcing us to swim quickly out of their path to avoid a collision. In the end, both of us were “slapped” by the tail of a whale shark while trying to get out of their way. For almost an hour, we battled the sea-sickness above the waves, and marvelled at these gentle giants below, snapping photos between chasing them and getting out of their path.
Passengers on the other boats also experienced nausea, one of whom was particularly bad and needed to be rushed back to shore. Our boat was the fastest, so they used ours to transport the sick passenger and we were escorted back via a much smaller vessel. Facing forward, we pressed our backs against our seats. At full speed, the boat crashed against the waves, at times, lifting off of the water and slapping back down, spraying us with cold mist. The sound was deafening, as if the wood was cracking beneath us. Though it was an intense and long ride back to shore, whether it was the speed, the cool breeze or the movement, it eased any lingering sickness.
Exhausted and near the beach, the nausea disappeared. Floating in the calm, crystal clear waters, we relaxed and recounted our individual experiences. Even knowing now what we would physically need to endure, we would do it all over again for a chance to observe whale sharks in their nature habitat once more. Unfortunately, whale shark populations are on the decline and they are now considered an endangered species.
We spent the remaining days lounging on the beach (in our cabana) with bottles of champagne and good books. Having mentioned in correspondence with Beloved that we were celebrating an anniversary, we were surprised with a delicious chocolate cake and champagne in our room. Every attempt was made by the resort to allow privacy, encourage romance and relaxation, and make guests feel special. It may have been only a few days spent in Mexico, but those luxurious and adventurous memories will last a lifetime.