ACAPULCO, Mexico — I like to explore when I travel, so I generally shy away from resorts that encourage visitors to stay on site. So I was anxious when I arrived at Banyan Tree Cabo Marques, a resort a good half hour from Acapulco on the Pacific with a few restaurants and a spa. Would I feel trapped? But during a recent four-day stay, I hardly felt the need to leave my private villa, much less the resort.
That seems to be the intention: for guests to leave the outside world behind. I arrived with four dresses, two bathing suits, and one boyfriend. As it turned out, those were the only things I needed. I didn’t even really need shoes.
In my relationship, our idea of romance is correcting each other’s grammar and reading different copies of the same book about feudal Japan over sake. I’m about as comfortable receiving flowers as he is giving them, which is to say not very. But for four days, we let ourselves indulge in movie-style romance, the kind that feels beautiful in the moment, even if it makes you roll your eyes when you remember it. Maybe it was the privacy of our villa’s private plunge pool, the soaking tub overlooking the bay, or the cotton candy sunsets, but we anti-romantics were utterly seduced.
In between skinny dips in our private pool, we took advantage of the spa’s novella of treatment offerings (Balinese, Hawaiian, and traditional Thai massages, to name a few), a sunset tequila tasting complete with lime, worm salt, and cricket salt (who knew ground bugs were so tasty?), and a lunchtime cooking class where the head chef taught us to make pico de gallo, handmade corn tortillas, and fresh ceviche using Fanta and ketchup.
Now for the showstopper. On a whim we agreed to — I’m blushing just typing this — Banyan Tree’s Intimate Moments package, not knowing what it would entail. Surprise! We arrived at our villa after dinner to find rose petals arranged on the floor in a pathway lined by tealights leading from the doorway, onto the bed, down to the floor again, and to the bathtub, which was drawn and filled with even more floating rose petals. Next to the bed was a standing ice bucket holding a bottle of champagne. Nearby was a large tray of fruit and chocolate fondue. Incense burned in the bathroom. And, in what must be a bid not to be outdone by lesser, self-proclaimed “romantic hotels,” our sheets had been changed from white cotton to black satin.
We giggled for a long, long time, then let ourselves be totally swept away.
The resort, a 20-minute drive from the airport but still a good half hour from downtown Acapulco, sits at the edge of a small peninsula jutting out into the Pacific, with views of the bay and the ocean.
Southeast Asian Zen tranquility with a Latin twist.
This Place Is Perfect For
Couples. A relaxing bachelorette party. A low-key getaway with close friends. A wedding!
But Not So Perfect For
It’s not a fun-for-the-whole-family kind of place.
What’s on Site
Three restaurants. Two cabana-lined infinity pools that are so uncrowded they feel private. A world-class spa and fitness center. The hotel’s spa package offers in-room body and facial treatments all day, every day. The resort can’t provide beach access on the property, but we didn’t miss it.
Food + Drink
Saffron is hotel’s signature Thai restaurant. Every Banyan Tree in the world has one, and they’re all held to the same impeccable standards, requiring extensive training in Thai cuisine. This one is no exception; I had one one of the best green curries I’ve ever tasted. In peak season, reservations are recommended, as the restaurant is popular with locals.
La Nao and Las Rocas serve inspired Mexican cuisine. The breakfast menu at La Nao is extensive and a good place to venture beyond huevos rancheros. Each restaurant features an infinity pool overlooking the ocean, so both are good spots for lounging over margaritas. That is, if you feel like leaving your villa — in-villa dining is always an option.
45 private villas with king-size beds, floor-to-ceiling windows with bay, ocean, or jungle views and shades that open and close at the touch of a button. The bathroom has two sinks, a rain shower, and a soaking tub by the window to take advantage of the views. A covered veranda and a hammock overlook a private heated plunge pool.
Kimonos, slippers, a TV we didn’t touch, and much-needed insect repellent.
Quiet. The waves crashing on the rocks below.
The price of seclusion and cliffside views: The property is expansive and the pathways are hilly. The staff is exceptionally attentive, so when you call the front desk, you can count on a buggy arriving at your door within five minutes, but it would be a stretch to say that the restaurants and spa are within walking distance.
The resort caters to your tastes, literally. Before arriving, we filled out a questionnaire detailing our likes and dislikes and arrived to find a selection of chocolates and a sangrita and tequila tasting waiting in our villa. Also noteworthy was snack delivery every afternoon, which included fruit, mixed nuts, and two shots of tequila, making for a casual 4 p.m. start to the evening.
As a kid, I only knew about Acapulco from Frank Sinatra’s iconic 1957 song “Come Fly with Me,” in which the crooner implores his muse to “just say the words and we’ll beat the birds down to Acapulco Bay.” The lyrics refer to the coastal city because it was a hotspot for A-listers in the 1950s and ‘60s. But, as often happens with vogueish vacation destinations, Acapulco’s popularity has been in decline ever since. Driving around, I found myself wondering if this was what Cancun will look like in 30 years.
The surrounding area didn’t hold much appeal, but, overtaken by curiosity, we booked a car into the city anyway (which Banyan Tree is always happy to do). A ten-minute drive from the hotel is the world’s longest oversea zipline, Xtasea, where adrenaline junkies can get a quick fix zooming 1,800 meters over Acapulco Bay. (Note: “longest” still only means two minutes of fun.)
History nerds (like me) will enjoy learning about 17th-century trade routes between former port city Acapulco and the Philippines at the Acapulco History Museum in the Fort of San Diego. Most impressive, though, are the La Quebrada cliff divers, who launch themselves from a 100-foot cliff in Old Acapulco into the Pacific below. The tradition has been passed down for generations, the feat requiring precise timing so divers don’t land headfirst in the shallows. The intrepid showmen put on daily shows, but catch them at night to see them holding torches on the way down.