Inside the suave new hotel bucking Cancún’s wild reputation

Side by side of luxury hotels in Cancún.
Quiet luxury comes to Cancun (no, really!).

Cancún means tequila body slammers, crowded beaches and rowdy college students. Or does it? Suddenly, it’s looking more “Succession” than “Spring Breakers.”

Just steer clear of the infamous Hotel Zone along Avenida Kukulkan and you’ll discover a host of new Cancún hotels selling quiet luxury. And numero uno among them is the Waldorf Astoria (from $875), which opened at the end of 2022.

Located along 100 acres of Mayan coastline just 15 minutes from Cancún International Airport (four hours from NYC), the solitude begins as soon as you arrive. It takes a full 25 minutes just to drive up to the hotel, a journey that takes you through wild mangroves to an marble lobby with views of the Caribbean Sea. It’s the first newly built resort in the Hilton-owned brand’s Caribbean and Latin American portfolio, and each of its 173 rooms and suites feature panoramic views of the ocean, its own balcony and a massive soaking tub.

A new Waldorf Astoria brings quiet luxury away from the crowds to the party capital of the Yucatán Peninsula. Diana Baldera
A new Waldorf Astoria brings quiet luxury away from the crowds to the party capital of the Yucatán Peninsula. Diana Baldera
Rooms start at $875. Diana Baldera
Rooms start at $875. Diana Baldera

Outside, there are two huge infinity pools glistening in the sun and the smell of barbecue as chefs cook lunch. Food is part of the atmosphere here and the chilaquiles, a Mexican baked egg dish, at breakfast are a highlight.

For dinner, head to Malpeque where the freshest seafood, fish and steak are served against a twinkling ocean.

Wellness is the other reason to hideaway here. Sitting cross-legged in front of a crackling fire in the spa, a chanting therapist will embark on a limpia, or a spiritual cleansing, with the white smoke of copal or palo santo trickling up your nose. Even the massages promise to “surround you in a halo of mysticism,” as most of the treatments are inspired by Mayan traditions.

Rooms at the Conrad Tulum Riviera Maya are start at a more modest $416 a night. Conrad Tulum
Rooms at the Conrad Tulum Riviera Maya are start at a more modest $416 a night. Conrad Tulum

Because you’re so far removed from the real Cancún, it can feel a little like you’re marooned, so venturing out is essential. Getting to Playa del Carmen for shopping and a cheap bite to eat costs $70 for a cab ride, one way, and 45 minutes of your time. More essential, still, is a booking to one of Cancún’s cenotes — the underground swimming holes hidden in the forest floors that dotted the Yucatán Peninsula. For the more adventurous, grab your hiking boots and head to Chichén Itzá, arguably the most famous archaeological site in Mexico. It’s up to you whether you want to trek up the pyramid’s 365 steps.

But the Waldorf isn’t the only game in town. The Conrad Tulum Riviera Maya resort (from $416), about an hour away, has five pools, 11 eateries and is perfect for kiddos. The other Cancún luxury powerhouse is Mayakoba, a gated golf compound with five luxury resorts.

Spring break couldn’t last forever.