Written by Heather Whipps
Do you want to know what paradise is? It’s not swaying hammocks under shaded palms, just steps from the ocean across a soft sand beach (though the case could be made for that too). Casa del Agua and Zacil Na, two villas side by side in the gated community of Puerto Aventuras has that, sure, but what else they offer might be even better - a full, impeccably trained staff, creating our view of paradise, which is to literally not have a care in the world... These villas are all about enjoying the view and time spent connecting with friends and family, while someone else takes complete care of you. And not just ANYONE else. Casa del Agua and Zacil Na’s staff members are top of the line, trained to offer white glove service without the actual white gloves -- the feeling is a bit more barefoot here. The villas’ owner was intent on having his guests feel as though they could completely relax, and never have to worry about preparing food (the incredible chef will do that) or even shopping for it (let the manager handle it). Don’t even think about getting out of the pool to refresh your drink (that’s what the butler is for), or straightening your bed before heading down to breakfast (the housekeeper will do it while you’re not even looking). Just never having to worry about regular life things is worth the price of admission alone, though these houses are pretty spectacular.
Altogether this luxury villa compound offers space for 22 guests across nine bedrooms. The homes are unique, but common to both is a dedication to natural, Mexican materials and airy, indoor-outdoor living. Casa del Agua features an amazing, soaring thatched palapa roof over the great room, while Zacil Na has a collection of art by amazing local artists and features towering wooden doors from buildings in the colonial town of Merida, painted turquoise and repurposed as unique bathroom dividers and wardrobes. The homes are close enough to be rented together, but are also completely private, with their own pools, sandy front “yards” speckled with loungers and incredible ocean views. In fact, the villas have hosted many celebrities, who come to the for the service but also the privacy, though the staff is tight-lipped of course about the details.
But back to the service.
We were lucky enough to enjoy an afternoon at the villas, complete with a typical lunch that might be served to a guest on any given incredible vacation day. This one was a hot, steamy day typical of a Riviera Maya summer, but the shaded dining table and the wafting copal incense nearby kept things pleasant.
First, a margarita arrived, sweet and tangy like it should be, with the musky tequila taste strong on our tastebuds. Margaritas are a favourite here, and you might ask your chef to prepare them the local way - with a spicy-sour rimmer - or even with a jalapeno floating inside.
Then came a fresh salad of tomatoes and jicama, a crunchy Mexican vegetable known for its health properties. It was incredibly refreshing on a hot day, and the chef told us it’s the way locals like to rehydrate when it gets hot. We happily lapped up the chilled juices.
Fresh fish tacos with spicy sauce followed, with multi-coloured salsas to the side so as to give diners the option to either amp up the heat, or keep it cool. The tortillas had been handmade not long before, and the fresh fish caught from the water out front rolled in a just-heavy-enough crispy fried batter.
We couldn’t even contemplate dessert, but caved for another margarita sipped slowly while enjoying the view. Have a bit too much to eat or drink? There’s a pillow-strewn daybed under the palapa overlooking the waves -- you might choose to camp out here for a few hours -- and not get up unless you really have to, or want to. Now that’s paradise.