A Lovely, Relaxing Solo Trip To Cancun’s Excellence Playa Mujeres
It was time for a vacay!! And as I pondered my choices, the time of year, and what I knew (and didn’t know) about the COVID travel situation, I found my list winnowing down to Mexico’s Riviera Maya again. I’d stayed at the magical Le Blanc six months earlier, and so decided to try out the other resort that had been top of my list—Excellence Playa Mujeres.
My other Cancun adventures to help with your trip planning:
The last year has not afforded any of us a ton of opportunities to travel, and so my few trips have been focused on places where I could get fairly easily and without a ton of restrictions. This has made all-inclusives a bit more appealing to me than they previously were, as I usually prefer a more DIY approach to travel.
I’ve written a more formal review post of Excellence Playa Mujeres, but here I wanted to share more about my personal experience on this solo trip at the resort overall…a little more on my routine, what I liked and didn’t, the Excellence Club experience, excursions, and more!
I never get tired of the view flying into Cancun!
Customs at the Cancun airport was really busy, but moved fairly quickly and then I found my transfer company (Seasons). Since it was a Sunday, there wasn’t much traffic and before I knew it I was welcomed into the cool, quiet waiting area at Excellence Playa Mujeres for check-in.
Since I had booked Excellence Club level, this was upstairs on the second floor. I waited with a glass of (quite good!) champagne, enjoying the air conditioning and peace after a very early morning and a couple of flights. Amir got me all checked in, but my room wasn’t ready yet so I went down to Lobster House for a spot of lunch.
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Amir called to let me know my room was ready, so I went back up and the bellman met me with my bag. I was in building 7, room 7320. I think all the rooms themselves are fairly similar (the rooms for Club are the same, it’s just the service and amenities that are different).
The room was plenty spacious, comfortable, and clean. They had a chilled bottle of champagne there but since I rarely drink champagne I let it be. I never used any of the alcohol in my room (though if there’s been gin I would have!).
The rooms are automatically set at 70 degrees, but the bellboy can call to ask maintenance to turn it down to 64, which apparently is the lowest it goes. It does NOT feel like 64, but it’s way better. Also, I didn’t use it but some people packed something called “damp rid” and swore it helped decrease the humidity in their rooms.
I had an Ocean View Club room, and planned to spend quite a bit of time on my balcony…I was happy there were good, comfy seating options out there. I was happy enough with building 7, but wish I’d had a room on a higher floor. Also, building 8 would probably be closer to the ocean view-wise.
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I tried to explore the resort quite a bit. It’s quite large and feels like a maze…I definitely found my way around the places I needed to go, but am positive I didn’t find *everything* there is to see there.
The grounds are beautiful, very clean and well-cared for. I loved the look of the kind of “core” of the resort, with the main pool, Lobster House sitting in the middle, and then little walkways and hammocks scattered around.
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I settled into a nice morning routine. Since I’m already an early riser and Cancun was an hour earlier for me (during Daylight Savings Time), I was awake super early each morning regardless of being on vacation. The beauty of this is that I always had that quiet time in the morning with the resort pretty much all to myself.
The first few mornings I wandered down to the beach to watch the sunrise. I never get tired of sunrise over the oceans of Quintana Roo!
The sunrise takes quite a bit of time to develop, and it’s almost like there are two different “sunrises”…there’s the light pearly pink light before the sun comes over the horizon, and then you have to wait a while before the sun is fully above the horizon and you get this more fiery orange sunrise.
After a bit I went back up to my balcony to finish watching the sunrise, with my Nespresso and (terrible) room service pastries. The last couple mornings I watched the entire thing up there with my espresso and computer. Peaceful, quiet, lovely.
Then I’d go down to Aroma about 10 minutes before it opened at 7am, get two iced macadamia nut lattes and some (somewhat better) pastries and come back up and do more of the same for an hour or so. The line is already forming 10 minutes before, so that extra few minutes makes a difference in your wait time.
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Then it was time to get fully sunscreened up and head to the pool. I would do a FULL sunscreen twice a day up in my room, using lotion everywhere and and spray for my back (see my faves!), then reapply here and there at the pool as well. That kept me from getting burnt at all despite being out all day, which was a massive victory.
I did try out the main pool areas and the beach a couple times, though mostly stayed at the Club pools. I absolutely HAD to get in a hammock for a few minutes, because I knew @sjems5 would kill me if I didn’t. Love the idea, but often find the experience a bit less comfortable than I imagine. I also laid out on one of the little beds IN the pool for a bit.
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There is a separate Club section of the beach too, with concierge service. There are both chairs and beach beds. I laid out here one morning, but I’m honestly not as much of a “lay on the beach” person, preferring the comfort of the pool area without sand getting all over me. I love to see the beach, be near the beach, hear the ocean…but not get *in* the ocean 🙂
The beach here is (in my opinion) not as nice as the ones in Playa del Carmen (like at Royal Hideaway), or even the one at Le Blanc on the hotel zone. If that matters a lot to you, definitely take that into consideration.
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So here’s where I spent most of my time. There are three Excellence Club-only pools, and I chose the one at building 8 as my home for the week. You have to give your room number to the concierge and waiters pretty frequently, but they do a good job of remembering too, and that’s how they ensure that only Club guests are in this area.
I chose the pool at building 8 because it has a bar there, so I could get faster drink service. Building 7’s pool (where I was staying) does not have a bar, so it’s even MORE chill and quiet, which was tempting, but it’s also further back and so doesn’t get as good of sun early in the day. I never found building 9, but it should have a club pool too 🙂
In general the club pools don’t a ton of sun early morning or late afternoon. The beach gets good sun early morning (facing east), then it’s spotty random parts of the main pools that get good sun later in the afternoon.
PRO TIP: The resort got rid of all plastic straws and do not offer an alternative, so bring your own silicone or metal straw!!!
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The pool area was fine, though these ones are quite small and the pool area feels a little claustrophobic to me. All the pools and the beach only have the straw palapa-style umbrellas, which don’t move and you can’t collapse…they look great but are not terribly practical for laying out.
They give you a lot less control over whether the sun is on you, and so YOU have to constantly move your chair around, which isn’t always possible in such a small pool area. If I could change one thing about the pool area, it would be for them to have real umbrellas, that could be controlled a little easier.
Antonio (the concierge) and Martha (pool server/bartender) took awesome care of me while I was at this pool. Martha makes a great pineapple mojito, and while I tried a lot of different drinks, I heavily rotated between the pineapple mojito, bahama mama, pina colada, and guava dacquiri.
This dude was a frequent pool visitor, and liked to watch this old gentleman do his morning crossword…
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Another perk of Excellence Club was getting to use the Magna Bar and eat at Magna (the restaurant). For me this was something I used quite a bit, as I loved the quiet, cool experience of the Magna, they had interesting cocktails (and slightly better liquor options), and the food at Magna was my favorite of all the restaurants.
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Magna was open for breakfast and dinner, and I did two meals of each while I was there.
For breakfast I’d highly recommend the French toast, and I enjoyed the scrambled eggs with mushrooms and truffle oil. Their smoothies and raspberry mimosa were good, but the coffee was just okay (like what you’d find in a Delta lounge). The smoked salmon bagel and pancakes were fine but nothing special.
For dinner my favorite things were the foie gras toast with candied pear, greens salad with blue cheese and figs, salmon appetizer, and ricotta spinach ravioli. The salmon loin stuffed with zucchini and blue cheese was decent (and unique) as well as the cauliflower soup and risotto. Desserts hit and miss, always beautiful though. The short rib flavor was awesome but the meat itself was not good, quite tough.
One thing that’s nice is that Magna does offer more wines with the all-inclusive than the other restaurants (which only have house red and white, and everything else costs).
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I ended up creating an evening “routine” for myself too. Because you can’t do reservations for the restaurants, I always showed up right at 6:00pm when they opened for dinner. So I was usually finishing up between 7:00 and 7:30, so would go get a cocktail and wander out to the pavilion.
Each evening they had live music, whether Cubanissimo, rock covers, acoustic, etc. I’d have a drink or two and watch the music, then usually took a drink back to my room to chill on my balcony and read or work on my blog. Once or twice I was genius and grabbed a couple pastries at Aroma to have with my Nespresso the next morning.
The resort has a few activities each night, so after the live music there’d usually be a show of some sort (I caught a few minutes of the Michael Jackson show), and then an after-show…band, silent disco, etc. For me I was just tired and didn’t want to stay out that late, preferring to chill in my room. Yes, I’m an old lady 🙂
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I did decide, on a whim, to do an excursion. Usually I plan these things much better and so would have picked my own company (MM Royale Yachts gets good reviews from resort-goers), but in this case I went the super lazy route and just went to the resorts water sports desk to see what they had on offer.
I decided to go with a half-day snorkel tour that would take me to Isla Mujeres (I’d considered going there on my own). I met up with the boat a little before 9:00am. They’d told us we’d be back by noon, but it was closer to 2:00.
Our first stop was for a decent amount of time snorkeling along the barrier reef. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is the second-largest in the world, and stretches over 700 miles through the Caribbean Sea down past Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras. I also have snorkeled in it in Belize as well, and it’s got amazing biodiversity both in coral and wildlife.
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We saw all sorts of awesome fish, though not really any coral. I was bummed because my underwater camera crapped out the second I got in the water…it had been working fine til then! Ugh, isn’t that always the case.
Then we got back in the boat and headed over to Isla Mujeres. We docked offshore and the water was so shallow we were able to just jump off the boat and walk ashore. The water here is so unbelievably clear, and all sorts of shades of turquoise! I had a drink and enjoyed the white sands of Playa Norte, floating in the water near the boat some.
Then we boarded the boat again and made one last short snorkeling stop, at a little shipwreck…very cool! Wow, the current was strong though, definitely got a workout in there. Finally it was back to the resort, and I made it just in time for my COVID test.
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In terms of other food at Excellence Playa Mujeres, I really liked Basmati (Indian) but didn’t get any good pics because it was so dark in the restaurant. Aroma is hands-down the only place to get decent coffee, and their pastries are okay, but they have some lovely little desserts later in the day (try the fruit tarts!!).
Chez Isabelle was fine overall, but nothing to write home about. I didn’t love most of what I had at Spice, but the sushi and rice pudding were great. I never got a chance to try Flavor Market or Agave. Generally I found appetizers good at most places, but the mains and desserts often let them down.
Room service was always prompt, but everything I ordered was kind of terrible 🙁 I ordered multiple meals at different times, and it just wasn’t great, no matter what I tried. Worth going to get food at the restaurants.
On my last day, the EPM staff did a few different special things as a farewell. At the pool they brought me a “coco loco”, this crazy coconut that looks like a monkey, and was filled with one of the drinks I’d ordered frequently (a pina colada in this case). Antonio also made me amazing towel art using sand…it is so detailed!!
And at Magna they made a few “CBS” or come back soon messages when I ate dinner there my last night.
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And so ended my delightful five-day solo trip at Excellence Playa Mujeres in Cancun. The view from the plane leaving was just as pretty, but always a bit more bittersweet than the arrival view.
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As I mentioned at the top, I’ll be doing a deeper, more formal review of the resort soon, and also a deep-dive into the food offerings…so stay tuned!
Tips to make the most of your Excellence Playa Mujeres experience
- If you care at all, bring your own straw! The resort got rid of all plastic straws and doesn’t provide a biodegradable alternative. These combo stainless steel/silicone ones are great.
- A few other recommendations you may want to bring…clips to secure towels to chairs, damp rid for your room, and insulated cups for your drinks.
- I didn’t pack much, just a few swimsuits and cover-ups, plus some sundresses for dinner. Clothing varied for dinner, but on women you’ll see anything from cute sundresses, maxi dresses, pretty rompers or jumpsuits, or cute capris and tops. Flat or heeled sandals were most common shoes for dinner.
- There was no gin cart, which made me sad…I’d read it existed, but maybe is a COVID casualty
- Excellence was good as a solo traveler, but not excellent (lol terrible accidental pun). I haven’t found any resort that makes you feel special as a solo traveler, any of those nice touches that they do for couples (e.g. romantic dinners for your anniversary, etc). But there were times at restaurants in particular where I felt especially ignored and didn’t know if it was because I was alone? Their assumption is also always “table for two”, which I get, but then their look when you say “just one” is always a little sad 🙂
- 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 need to make sure you book ahead. That even goes for the hydrotherapy that comes with Club rooms. I called Wednesday evening and they didn’t have anything Thursday or Friday morning, and said actual spa services were booked further out.
- While EPM is pretty chill, it’s still a bit higher energy than *I* am looking for. There was a nice social vibe, lots of couples who wanted to get to know each other, TONS of return visitors, and the main pool has a (chill) party vibe. If that’s for you, you’ll love it here.
- 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 chill tropical vacay experiences you’ll love:
- An Idyllic Chill Weekend In Negril, Jamaica
- How To Have A Super Chill Vacay In Caye Caulker
- 9 Tips For A Perfect DIY Vacay In Aruba
- My First All-Inclusive Resort, Royal Hideaway Playacar in Playa del Carmen
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