Published on February 24th, 2013 | by Mark Chesnut
My Cancun: Travel Tips from Christopher Calabrese, JW Marriott Cancun
If you want to know a destination, ask a local — or a hotelier who’s lived there for quite a while. In this Q&A, Christopher Calabrese, vice president and general manager at the JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa and CasaMagna Cancun Marriott Resort, shares some of his personal favorite experiences in Mexico’s most popular beach destination.
LatinFlyer: Where are you from originally, and how long have you been living in Cancun?
Calabrese: I’m from the Washington, D.C. area and have been in Cancun since 1998, so this year marks 15 years.
What do you personally like best about living in Cancun?
I am a warm-weather person, and in Cancun I can enjoy it year-round; 85 degrees is about as hot as it gets. There is plenty to do outdoors, whether it’s visiting one of the parks, playing golf or tennis, scuba diving, or of course, just relaxing on the beautiful beaches.
Aside from your property’s restaurants, what are a couple of your own personal favorite off-property restaurants?
There are plenty of great culinary experiences around Cancun. My all-time favorite restaurant is Harry’s Prime Steakhouse & Raw Bar. The food is phenomenal – their meats are all prime and aged in house – and their service never falters, not even when they are star-swept.
Another spot I love is La Habichuela Sunset. It’s a two-story building with floor-to-ceiling glass windows that overlooks the lagoon. They have neat Mayan artifacts all around, and best of all, they make really good mole.
I also love La Palapa Belga, which is walking distance from where I live. It’s one of the best-kept secrets in Cancun, nothing touristy about it. I love the salmon and bucket of mussels. On Friday nights I head downtown to have drinks at any one of the local dive bars and take in the local “Cancunese” culture.
Cancun is a legendary vacation destination, and the JW Marriott gets a lot of rave reviews. But a lot of upscale travelers are also looking at the Riviera Maya now. What would you tell these travelers — why should Cancun still be on their radar?
In Cancun there is always a beautiful breeze coming off the Caribbean Sea with ocean views all around. Hotels are also within walking distance to the nice restaurants located alongside the lagoon. There are water sports and other activities nearby, while some of the greatest golf on the planet is just 15 minutes away. Because the hotels along the Riviera Maya are tucked away and spaced further apart, getting off property can be more of a challenge, and there is just too much to enjoy throughout the destination.
As someone who lives in paradise, what’s your own personal idea of a perfect day in Cancun?
An ideal day for me is to lay in my backyard to catch some rays, followed by a little golf. Putting myself in the shoes of a traveler, a perfect day in Cancun would include lounging around the beach/pool before heading back to the room to change into something that shows off my tan. I would play golf at one of the championship courses, relax on my balcony and watch the sunset, then hit one of the great restaurants on the hotel zone. Every day thereafter I’d do something completely different — take the ferry to beautiful Isla Mujeres for breakfast, visit one of the many eco-parks, go swimming in a cenote, one of the Yucatan’s most breathtaking natural wonders — the possibilities are endless.
Christopher Calabrese is vice president and general manager at JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa and CasaMagna Cancun Marriott Resort. The resorts are adjacent to one another and connected by a skywalk, so guests at either property have access to any one of the six restaurants. The JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa is currently the only Marriott International property with Five-Diamond status. This spring, the JW will debut its new teen lounge, which will include ping pong, foosball, music, video games, food and beverage and other amenities.