Photo: Breathless Riviera Cancun

Embrace Cancún’s Energy and Counter With Calm at This Riviera Maya Resort

Cancún Epic Stays
by Tara Morgan Mar 29, 2024

Day three. That’s when vacation relaxation usually sets in for me. My shoulders unclench, my heartbeat slows to a waltz, and worries begin to drift from my brain. But as I bobbed in the glassy turquoise waters off the shores of Cancún, watching blue tang fish like Finding Nemo’s Dory dance with angelfish while stingrays glided over coral reefs studded with spiny sea urchin, I felt that telltale unclenching and sighed through my scuba mask. It had been less than 24 hours, and I had already hit peak relaxation.

This was a short winter escape – three days total – and I had to make the most of it. I needed sun, sand, and a drink in my hand. Enter Cheap Caribbean Vacations, a hub for booking all-inclusive vacation packages in Mexico and the Caribbean. The promise of “less money, less worry, more beach” had me rummaging through my closet past wooly sweaters to pull out swimsuits and sundresses. Cancún: Here I come.

Suites and swims at Breathless Riviera Cancun

From the moment I touched down at the Cancún airport and spotted the Amstar shuttle driver in a blue-flowered shirt clutching a sign with my name on it, I knew I was in good hands. The direct transfer zipped me through the city, down a long road lined with mangrove trees, past security, and right to check-in at Breathless Riviera Cancun, a five-star, all-inclusive adults-only resort. Within minutes, I had a chilled glass of bubbles in one hand and my room key in the other.

Breathless is a beachfront, all-suites resort with 362 rooms peppered across the property. Suites include either a king-size bed or two doubles, along with a massive glass-walled shower with double rain shower heads and a private terrace. Some first floor rooms even offer swim-out access into a private serpentine pool shaded by lush tropical plants.

My third floor balcony provided a bird’s eye view of the Xcelerate Pool, a twinkling aquatic runway lined by purple-hued loungers and Bali beds that flows into an ocean-front infinity pool. This is the spot to shake your buns while the sun’s out. DJs pump out dance beats all afternoon long while swaying saxophone players serenade bikini-clad dancers through a thick haze of bubbles.

The resort’s other pool, the Energy Pool, offers a slightly more subdued vibe with floating daybeds and inset lounges. But the pace quickens when a raucous game of pool volleyball gets people diving and splashing. While most of the resort’s pool seating gets snapped up before noon, I never had a problem snagging a stool at one of the swim-up bars for an icy drink.

Dining at drinking at Breathless Riviera Cancun

Breathless is not short on bars – nine plus a fleet of roving cocktail carts. Bartenders shake up everything from tamarind- and mango-flavored margaritas rimmed with tart tajin to craft concoctions like the Mexican Hat, made with coffee-infused tequila. If you have a more adventurous palate, order a mezcal margarita with sal de gusano, a salt made from pulverized worms that grow under the leaves of the agave plant and are rumored to enhance, ahem, virility.

Speaking of adventurous palates, I made it my mission to sample as many of the resort’s restaurants as possible on my short trip. I started my mornings off at The Nook for a hot oat latte, followed by breakfast at The Spoon Buffet. The buffet features American comfort classics like crispy bacon, scrambled eggs, and hashbrowns, along with a build-your-own omelet station and a donut wall. But my go-to was the chilaquiles bar, which offered an assortment of sauces, beans, cotija, and perfect orange-yolked fried eggs.

While lunch options were fairly limited – Barefoot Grill makes serviceable mid-day pool snacks like pizza and burgers – dinner was clearly the main event. Most of the restaurants have a dress code barring bermuda shorts and beach sandals, which classes things up a notch as the sun sets. Cuisines run the gamut from pan-Asian at Silk City to Italian American at Spumante and steakhouse classics at The Strip Grill.

My best meal was at Coquette, a cozy French spot with a sizable wine cellar. I started things off with a cool glass of chardonnay and basket of flaky onion-flecked rolls, which I slathered in compound garlic parmesan butter. Next up was a frisée salad loaded with fresh figs, ripe plums, kisses of foie gras, and a beet reduction. The finale: seared salmon with lentils, bacon, and creamy tarragon sauce.

Another highlight was Picante, an upscale Mexican cantina that serves everything from fresh ceviche and guacamole to Michoacan-style carnitas. The pollo en mole poblano was a winner: fall-off-the-bone-tender cornish game hen braised in a rich mole sauce served with fluffy rice and veggies. As I contemplated the cacao taco for dessert, I heard the familiar refrain of Backstreet Boys thumping from a live cover band playing right outside the restaurant. This was part of the resort’s rotating line-up of evening entertainment that ranged from silent discos to karaoke to nightclub dance parties.

Finding calm at the spirited Breathless Riviera Cancun

Though Breathless is a party place at heart, that doesn’t mean you can’t find tranquility. One morning during a sunrise stroll on the beach, I stopped to rest in a lounge chair. I let the lapping waves and the gentle rustle of palm fronds under the empty palapas lull me into a serene trance. When the urge for coffee finally struck, I passed a group mid-sun-salutation in a beachfront yoga class.

The Spa by Pevonia is the resort’s expansive pampering zone. Treatments combine indigenous and modern techniques, including a seaweed detox body wrap and a chocolate mint exfoliation. The latter was the perfect way to shed some dry winter skin and get glowed up for my main outing of the trip, a half day catamaran snorkeling tour of a nearby reef.

Day trips with transfers from Breathless Riviera Cancun

You can book a handful of tours through Amstar, including day trips to Tulum and Chichen Itza, all of which include air conditioned transportation direct from the hotel lobby. My snorkeling tour sailed out from Puerto Aventuras, about an hour south from the resort, on a catamaran operated by Cancun Adventures. The boat dropped anchor alongside the Mesoamerican Reef, the world’s second largest reef system that stretches from the Riviera Maya all the way to Honduras.

After a 45 minute guided snorkeling caravan through the Caribbean’s warm waters – watching giant sea turtles float inches below my flippers – I clambered back on board the catamaran and was handed a cold margarita.

The salty ocean breeze mingled with the tart burn of the cocktail, and I was reminded of a quote from the foul-mouthed animated character Archer, “[A margarita only has] five ingredients: Tequila, cointreau, lime juice, ice, kosher salt.” And while he’s not technically wrong – as I took a sip of my frosty, salt-jeweled margarita and cast my eyes out at the shimmering ocean, I couldn’t help but think there might be a sixth: magic.

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