Resort Review: Excellence Playa Mujeres in Cancun, Mexico
No one was more surprised than I was to find myself headed to Cancun for the second time in six months. But in COVID times it was one of the simpler options, so the question was whether to stay again at the stunning LeBlanc, or try somewhere new. I ultimately decided to give Excellence Playa Mujeres (my second choice) a try, and wanted to provide a detailed review!
If you want to read more about my personal experience at EPM (more narrative, the routine I fell into, just more personal overall), I’ve got that for you. This post is a more formal, detailed review of specific parts of the resort experience.
My other Cancun adventures to help with your trip planning:
I’ll go MUCH more in-depth about the room, resort grounds, pools, beach, food and drinks, Excellence Club, and more below…with LOTS of pictures so you can really get a feel.
It’s quite a lot of info, but that’s because when I was doing my own research on resorts in the Cancun area, I had trouble finding really helpful details (particularly recent ones) to help me make my decisions.
But in case you’re short on time, here’s the TL;DR version…
Bottom line review of Excellence Playa Mujeres:
- The resort is beautiful, well cared for, and fairly sprawling. People clearly love it and come back over and over. It definitely caters to couples, and seems like 50% of the doors had happy anniversary or honeymoon banners on them. But you saw some friend groups and (adult) families too.
- There are 7 different pools (3 dedicated to Excellence Club) and they’re lovely. The beach is underwhelming, not the best in the area…if you’re really wanting an amazing beach, go further south.
- My room was lovely, pretty large, and comfortable, as well as impeccably clean. I appreciated that they had decent seating on the balcony too. I stayed in an Excellence Club Junior Suite Ocean View.
- The food was a little uneven…had some great individual dishes but quite a few average ones too. It always *looks* beautiful, but they didn’t always taste as good.
- I didn’t have a chance to try out the spa, but it gets good reviews.
- EPM has quite a lot of different activities, depending on what you want. The evening live music and shows are great, and there’s stuff during the day. If you want to try out one of their mixology classes or similar, make sure to book a few days (or more) ahead. And if you’re looking to do excursions they are able to set those up.
Okay, diving in to the details…here’s what we’ll cover in this EPM review:
- Complimentary transfer to & from the airport
- Excellence Club: yea or nay?
- The rooms
- The resort grounds
- The pools
- The beach
- The service
- Food & drinks
- Activities & excursions
First, a few miscellaneous thoughts and tips for your trip…I was there in late May 2021, and all the staff were wearing masks but no guests were. For me, that was good news, but if you’re concerned about it you should know.
There’s a Facebook group called “We Love Excellence Playa Mujeres” that is SO helpful! I didn’t find out about it until partway through my trip, but it would be really valuable for your pre-trip planning. I recommend joining it!
The resort has gotten rid of all plastic straws. But they don’t have any alternatives (paper, bamboo, etc.). There are just literally no straws at the resort. If you care about that at all (I DO!!!) I recommend bringing your own. These metal ones are great. Also, it would be helpful to have clips to hold your towel to pool chairs. Many people bring their own insulated cups as well.
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The complimentary transfer
My booking came with a complimentary transfer to and from the airport, and I used Seasons like they recommended. In your resort confirmation there’s the info you need to contact them about your transfer.
I emailed them and didn’t get a response back for a bit (maybe a week?) but then followed up about a week before my trip and they responded quickly. The process was seamless and I had no trouble finding them at the airport. Seasons was easy to use, nice clean cars, and the drivers were courteous.
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Should you get Excellence Club?
So one of the main decisions you’ll need to make—other than the type of room—is whether you want to have Excellence Club (EC) or not. As opposed to many other resorts, this isn’t some club you join or pay for access to long-term, but rather a level of room you book.
Now it’s important to know that the ROOMS themselves aren’t different. They’re the same as non-EC, though in slightly better locations in my opinion. But there are a few big perks that come with it. The biggest ones are access to Excellence Club lounge, Magna restaurant and bar area, and Excellence Club-only pools and beach areas.
You also get private check-in and check-out. I knew I wanted Excellence Club (especially for the more private, chill pool areas) and that’s what I booked, and so I was whisked upstairs when I arrived, offered champagne, and checked in. This is the Excellence Club lounge and bar area.
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Below is an example of one of the Excellence Club pools (building 7, the view from my room). The EC pool areas are small (feel a bit claustrophobic) but nice and private, and for someone like me who didn’t want the more party-like atmosphere and crowds of the main pool, this was a draw.
One of the biggest differences is the beach area, and you can see from the third pic below that the Excellence Club beach area has upgraded loungers, beach bags, and Bali beds.
They will constantly come and ask your room number when you arrive and throughout the day to make sure only EC people are in the EC pools and beach areas, and your room key gives you access to Magna.
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Magna was my favorite restaurant on the resort, and is exclusive to Excellence Club. I ate there twice for dinner and twice for breakfast. The service there was great, food really solid, and you have slightly more options for wines that don’t cost extra (you can at least pick between varietals, rather than just “red or white”).
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On my last night the staff put a nice message in rose petals on my table (“CBS”, which means “come back soon”), and on my dessert.
The pool concierge at my Excellence Club pool also gave me a “coco loco” (coconut monkey filled with a piña colada since I’d been drinking those all week) and a beautiful towel message on my last day. I’m assuming that’s all EC “special touches” but I don’t know that for sure.
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The rooms at EPM
I booked an Excellence Club Junior Suite Ocean View room. The room was very nice, comfortable, clean, and had a good seating area. I really liked that they not only had a little table and chairs but also a comfy bed out on the balcony for chillin’. I spent a LOT of time out here!
If the bellboy doesn’t mention it when they bring you to the room, you can ask them to turn the air down to 64 which apparently is the lowest it goes. It does not feel like 64 but it’s way better. And many people recommend using something called Damp Rid to help with the humidity (I didn’t and I was fine, but can see how it would be nice).
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I never used my little jacuzzi tub but it was really cute and has a great view. I *did* use the little leather card holder they left me, for my room keys, to keep them from getting de-magnetized. I believe the in-room alcohol bottles are a little bit better with Excellence Club as well, but can’t confirm.
The little petits four they left every night with turndown service were beautiful, though all were way too sweet or stale for me. Really pretty though.
Every morning I’d be up early, make myself some espresso (they have in-room Nespresso machines), and sit out on the balcony.
I ordered pastries from room service the night before to be delivered at a certain time, though they weren’t great. When I remembered, I’d grab a couple pastries at the coffee shop before going to bed, to have with my coffee in the morning.
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The resort grounds
The resort is a circular maze, and I’m positive I never got to every part of it. The grounds are beautiful and very well-cared for, with interesting landscaping…it all feels very lush!
Beyond the main building, which has the lobby, several restaurants, Excellence Club lounge, and Martini Bar (on the bottom floor), the resort is oriented around the main pool and Lobster House restaurant. The restaurant sits on a little island within the pool, so always has great views.
The “lazy river” pool (it doesn’t move on its own, so the name can be a little misleading) then kind of winds around the outside of the main pool, and there are cute little walkways and bridges to take you to different parts of the resort. They give a feeling of whimsy over only having sidewalks.
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This is the inside of the main building, as you can see it’s really lovely. Excellence Club lounge, Magna, and a couple other restaurants are on level 2, the lobby and some restaurants on the main level, and then Martini Bar, some restaurants, and shops on the bottom floor. This is a major congregating area in the evening.
The third pic below is the Plaza Prelude, where there’s a good bar, evening entertainment, the taco truck (which I never got to try), and then the coffee shop Aroma is on the opposite side of the plaza.
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The resort is really beautiful at night as well.
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The pools at Excellence Playa Mujeres
Okay, some of the really important stuff…because as I mentioned in my LeBlanc Cancun review, I am really here for the pools! The pools at EPM are all pretty, but particularly the main ones. The Excellence Club pools aren’t anything special, other than being more private.
The club pools don’t get much sun in the early morning or late afternoon (pool 8 gets more in the morning at least). Generally speaking sun is a little hit and miss in the late afternoon anyway, because the sun has gone behind the big buildings.
The main pool right around the Lobster House is definitely where the action’s at, much more “bumpin'” (do people still say that??). That doesn’t mean it’s like college kids spring break or anything, just that there’s more of an upbeat party atmosphere, very social, they have activities throughout the day and a DJ.
It’s a grown-up party, but still a party. So for me that’s a hard pass as I’m 80 years old inside…all I want to do is read my Kindle in peace, get a tan, and drink piña coladas!
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My biggest issue with the pools at EPM? The pools all have palapa-style umbrellas (with thatched covering), which LOOK very cool but are not terribly practical. They can’t be lowered or moved depending on what kind of sun coverage you want. That makes it a little tricky if you’re (like me) going to be at the pool all day, because the sun moves a ton and you have to keep moving your chair around, or try and find a new chair (which is difficult, particularly if the resort were at capacity).
The other minor thing is that the pool lounge chairs are decent but have a huge gap when flat. I always had to lay on them backward whenever I was on my stomach because otherwise it was super uncomfortable. A small thing, but just a note.
I did try out the hammocks for a hot minute, because I knew @sjems5 would kill me if I didn’t. It’s a really cool option to have, and for some people I can see them spending a lot of time here. I was more worried I’d dump my Kindle in the pool!
There are some Bali beds (with covering/curtains) around the main pools that are first-come/first-served too, so get out early if you want those!
As I mentioned, I spent most of my time at the Excellence Club pool (building 8), which has its own bar and concierge. Gimme those pineapple mojitos!!
From a location standpoint, the EC pool at building 7 is super chill, no music playing even, but doesn’t have a bar. That’s the main reason I chose the one at building 8, so I could get drinks and food easier. You can order some food out at the pool, it’s a fairly limited menu but a good option to have (get the quesadillas!).
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I loved to see the main pool at sunrise as well! Couldn’t resist sharing this pic…
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The beach at EPM
This might be make-or-break for some people. Basically, the beach at Excellence Playa Mujeres is nice enough, but definitely not amazing.
And there are a LOT of amazing beaches in this part of Mexico, so if that’s really important to you, I’d maybe look for a different resort (the main Cancun hotel zone and Playa Del Carmen both have lovely beaches…check out LeBlanc or Royal Hideaway Playa del Carmen).
The beach, since it faces east, gets good sun in the early morning and midday. It also has amazing sunrise views. It has the same palapa umbrellas and sun lounge chairs as the pools do. It also has (at least in the Excellence Club areas) sun beds (first pic below) and Bali beds (second pic below). One note, neither of the bed types can be adjusted up or down, they are what they are.
Here’s what the beach looks like during the day. Now, I’m not sure if the sargassum (seaweed algae stuff) might have been just as bad at any other resort at this particular time (late May 2021). They do comb the beach every morning, basically pushing the seaweed right up to the edge of the waves.
But even in the middle of the day it never had that beautiful open beach feel, with lots of different colors of green and blue, that you can see in the two resorts I linked above, or at Isla Mujeres at the end of this post. I just don’t think the beach is a selling point here. For me, it’s not my #1 consideration so that’s fine. If I’d had @sjems5 with me, it would have been a dealbreaker for her.
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That said, a sunrise on the Riviera Maya never gets old…
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You can’t do a review of Excellence Playa Mujeres without talking about the staff and service, since it’s one of the biggest things they say is a selling point, and that people talk about afterward. Overall I found the staff here to be super friendly, always smiling, and eager to help. Shoutout to Martha and Antonio at pool 8!
One thing that was a little weird is that I sometimes felt ignored by servers when I was trying to get their attention, whether at the pool or in restaurants. I wondered if it was because I was alone? I just could see them checking on everyone but me, which was strange. I think that nice resorts in general struggle to know what to do with single people/solo travelers. Strangely I felt more comfortable as a single person at Leblanc even though I was literally the only solo person there at the time.
Something that started make me laugh was that I was asked constantly whether I had any food allergies. I totally appreciate them asking, but what was funny is that I was asked when I checked in (and it was noted on my account), and then LITERALLY every time I went to a restaurant, both the hostess asked me and noted it, and then the server would ask me again at my table. I started to get the giggles anytime I was asked.
One thing I did NOT like was that some of the staff was pressuring me to fill out reviews right in front of them…daily at the pool area, at the snorkeling on the boat, etc. This isn’t the staff’s fault, because from what they told me, they have quotas of reviews tied to their jobs, which is ridiculous. So this is a management issue but put a bad taste in my mouth (and made me distrust reviews I saw a little more).
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Food & drinks
I’m going to do a MUCH more in-depth review of the restaurants and bars at Excellence Playa Mujeres, including diving into different food and drinks I loved (and what I didn’t). So here I’ll just provide an overview. Dinner reservations are not required (and in fact you can’t make them in most cases), so it’s first-come, first-served. I always went right at 6:00 when they opened.
First off, a PSA: There are no straws at the resort. Period. So if you care about having a straw, bring your own.
As I mentioned early in this post, Magna was my favorite restaurant overall, and it’s Excellence Club-only. Some of my fave dishes were the foie gras toast with candied pear, salmon appetizer, and the scrambled eggs with mushrooms and truffle oil. They had good cocktails and better wine too.
My second-favorite restaurant was Basmati, which was delicious and had great service (shouts to Efrain!). Among the other restaurants, Chez Isabelle was good overall, though I found the appetizers strong but the main dishes just okay (this was a common theme for me with restaurants at EPM). Service here felt rushed and perfunctory. Spice was just okay, though the rice pudding (like kheer) was awesome and the sushi was good.
Overall, EPM had a lot bigger focus on cocktails and alcohol options than other resorts I’ve stayed at, which was great to see for someone who is not a tequila fan. Martini Bar had interesting cocktails (and quite a few gin cocktails), the bar in Excellence Club had some great ones, and then I honestly mostly got drinks out at the pool.
I was SUPER bummed that they didn’t have the gin cart when I was there, but hopefully that comes back soon? I think it might have been a COVID casualty.
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I only ate at Lobster House a couple times and never found The Grill, so can’t speak to it. The fish tacos were pretty good, and the salmon tataki (slightly weird texture but great flavor). I just didn’t feel like taking time to go have a real lunch, since I usually had two breakfasts 🙂
Okay, let’s talk casual/fast food options. The food available to order poolside food was fairly limited and standard, but enough choices. The quesadilla was decent, guacamole edible but really needed salt. Nachos were terrible.
I also REALLY struggled with room service. First, the good things—the room service menu is large and varied, and it’s really prompt. You also have a box in your room where you can have them leave your food if you don’t want to answer the door (I loved this touch, very convenient). However, I ordered breakfast multiple times, dinner and dessert a couple times, and the food sadly was, without fail, terrible.
My advice is to stick to restaurants, or if you’re getting room service, things like smoothies or the smoked salmon bagel (both are hard to mess up and were good).
I did want to give a shout-out to one of my favorite places, Aroma! This is the coffee shop at the resort, the only place to get good coffee. They also have decent pastries (pineapple horseshoe!), great little desserts later in the day (get the fruit tart!). And I lived on the iced macadamia nut lattes…I just wish they opened an hour earlier!
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Activities & excursions
EPM has a ton of different types of activities and also provides access to a lot of (paid) excursions. I believe non-motorized watersports are free, which is a big draw for people.
My #1 tip: book things ahead!! If there are activities you want to do, like the Mojito class (which they only offer certain days), or any spa treatments, you absolutely need to make sure you book ahead. Even for the hydrotherapy treatment that comes with EC rooms…I called Wednesday evening and they didn’t have anything Thursday or Friday morning, and said that actual spa services were booked even further out.
They have a lot of activities throughout the day and in the evening, everything from yoga to kayaking to beach games to quiz games. If you’re looking for a place with lots to do so you don’t get bored, Excellence definitely might be the place for you. Then they have things like cocktail classes, wine tastings, etc. that have a small fee (like $25) and need to be booked.
I didn’t try any of the spa services, so can’t speak to them. The spa is a large building on the edge of the resort, very calm and beautiful. There’s also this little hut they use for couples massages by the beach.
There are always evening entertainment activities, starting with live music around 7:30pm. I would always do an early dinner (getting to the restaurant right at 6p when they open), then be finishing up right around 7:30 so I’d come out to Prelude Plaza and have a drink and listen to music for a while.
From Souly Grail to indie acoustic to Cubanissimo, all the live music was great. Around 9:00pm there would be a show next door in the open-air theater, then around 10:15pm more live music, a silent party, karaoke, or something a little higher-energy.
Be aware of where your room is located, because some of those afterparty things can be quite loud, and don’t wrap up til 11:30. It was only an issue for me one night.
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On a whim, I did do one excursion, a boat and snorkeling trip over to Isla Mujeres. We got ferried out to the boat in a tiny motorboat in groups, then took off across the water. El Farito was our first stop, where we snorkeled for quite a while. Then we pulled up to the famous Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres…the water is so shallow we literally walked from the boat to the beach.
Finally, before heading back to the hotels we stopped at a shipwreck and snorkeled around it. One thing to be careful of, when I booked the guy told me we’d be back by noon, but we didn’t actually get back til almost 2:00. This was important to me first and foremost because my COVID test was scheduled for 2:30 so it was cutting it close (plus I chose this excursion because it didn’t take most of a day vs. other ones).
I loved this experience, and next time I’d actually just do the legwork and book my own that’s a little more private and less “mass” (MM Royale Yachts gets good reviews from resort-goers), but it was a super convenient and easy option, cost me $70 I think plus tipping the boat folks?
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WHEW!!! I told you it would be an in-depth EPM review! Excellence Playa Mujeres is a lovely resort and a great option for couples, adult families, friend groups, and is okay for solo travelers. It is a great option if you’re looking for a more social experience, somewhere with lots of activities and things to do, or a little higher-energy.
You can book through EPM’s website directly…though it’s worth calling their customer service to see if you can get a better rate. Weirdly it’s not on Booking.com, which is one of my go-tos. Make sure to read through TripAdvisor reviews too.
Other beach/pool vacay experiences to consider:
- The Gorgeous “Hotel Unique” In Fethiye, Turkey
- Tips For a Super Chill Vacay in Caye Caulker Belize
- Negril, Jamaica’s, Stunning Tensing Pen Resort
- 9 Tips for an Amazing DIY Vacay in Aruba
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