CANCUN, MEXICOThe five-star Oasis Sens in Cancun has quietly reinvented itself as an adults-only, gay and lesbian-friendly beach destination.
"Romantic, relaxing and a little risque" is how marketing materials describe the guest experience, and first impressions don't argue. Setting the tone smack-dab in the center of the towering atrium lobby is a monumental bronze sculpture of Rodin-like lovers. It just gets better from there. The all-inclusive resort presents a leisurely itinerary of global cuisine, top-flight entertainment, blissful spa treatments and ecotourism experiences against a backdrop of crystal white sands and turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea.
Located on the south end of the city's renowned Hotel Zone, the 388-room Oasis Sens is a member of the Oasis Hotels & Resorts family. Each property is-themed, and this one is "The Pleasure Resort" versus, say, "The Calm Resort" in Tulum or "The Urban Experience," also in Cancun. The Oasis Sens has been extensively renovated and renamed ( formerly the Sens Del Mar ) to launch its new identity. The resort is an affiliate of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association and is TAG-approved.
"We started to discover a demand, from the gay and lesbian community in particular, to be able to relax in luxury and have fun and be romantic in a discreet setting," says the Oasis Sens' sub-director Manuel Soria. "Our focus is for every guest to be satisfied and to not feel afraid of being judged."
About 30 percent of the staff identifies as LGBT, he added.
Many warm-weather resort areas cater to wedding parties, and this one is no different. However, the Oasis Sens takes extra care to serve the wishes and needs of same-sex couples, given the trend toward legislation of their marriages. For example, traditional venues are laid out with a dressing room for the bride and a single processional aisle for her to walk. The Oasis Sens' wedding center was designed with twin dressing rooms and dual aisles that lead to the waterfront gazebo where the ceremonies are performed. Two brides or two grooms enjoy identical and equal amenities.
The guest rooms are appointed in crisp white-on-white decor, king-size or double beds, mood-lighting system that moderates color and speed, large-screen television and mini-bars. Most rooms capture panoramic views of either the sea or the Nichupte Lagoon. You can upgrade to the VIP Sian Ka'an Club category for special perks like a private plunge pool or whirlpool tub on the terrace or balcony, designer toiletries and Internet connection. VIP Club members also are granted complimentary use of an exclusive Smart car ( mandatory insurance costs extra ) to explore the city and the nearby Riviera Maya. Free honeymoon and anniversary packages are available with qualification.
Nine restaurants, including buffets and a la carte specialty, serve up opportunities to indulge in the flavors of Nouveau Mexican and international cuisine. Nine barsone a swim-up configurationpour exotic cocktails as well as Caribbean favorites.
The showpiece of the collection is the exquisite dining at Benazuza restaurant and its menu of Mexican-influenced molecular cuisine. The Executive Chef is Rafael Zafra, a two-star Michelin chef who worked alongside world-renowned Ferran Adria at El Bulli Hotel in Seville, Spain. Breakfast alone is a masterpiece: You might start your day with the watermelon and hibiscus juice, toast with strawberry and tequila marmalade, and poached egg with cuitlacoche and beetroot.
Other eateries serve Italian fare, sushi, tapas, burgers and chicken. If you're still hungry, dial up the 24-hour room service.
During your stay, you can be as convivial or as isolated as you like. An enthusiastic entertainment staff has planned a full agenda of daytime activities and nightly entertainment. Sun lovers can lounge on beachside chaise lounges, shaded by a palapa, or alongside the massive infinity pool with cascading waterfall. Lively sorts can choose among such leisure pursuits as salsa lessons, pool volleyball, gymnasium workouts, par-three golf and tennis.
There is a marina for non-motorized water sports, but you will steer clear of the sea turtle nursery. If your timing is puts you on the beach on a late summer night, you might have the opportunity to guide hatchlings from their sandy nests into the water. This summer, 248 tiny turtles made the trip. Another unforgettable ecological experience is a visit to the Sian Ka'an Reserve, a pristine sanctuary for natural wonders and virgin beaches surrounded by nearly 2,500 acres of tropical jungle. Excursions are free to VIP Club members; others are subject to a surcharge. Your concierge can direct you to other local adventures, like swimming with whale sharks. Don't worrywhale sharks are vegans. They won't eat you. Promise.
When the sun goes down, the night heats up. The lobby fills with aerialists, fire dancers, drummers and other acts reminiscent of a Cirque du Soleil troupe. But the naughty fun takes place at the Kinky Night Club, where song-and-dance reviews are sure to entice. Burlesque, pole dancing, cross-dressing and other indulgences carry on into the wee hours.
To refresh the body and spirit, the Sensoria Spa awaits, offering an extensive menu of massages and wraps as well as beauty salon services. Perhaps your choice will be the resort's signature chocolate massage. Treatment rooms are available for singles or doubles, indoors or outdoors. A tasteful array of locations, lubricants and other products to enhance intimate play is offered for purchase. Overlooking the Lagoon, the spa's terrace leads to one of the resort's three swimming poolsthis one is secreted away from the beach crowd and surrounded by oversized curtained chaises.
"Everything we do, we are thinking about two persons," said Soria.
For more information: Oasis Sens, Km 19.5, Blvd. Kukulcan, Cancun, Mexico, CP 77500; Telephone: 998-891-5000; 800-44-OASIS ( 62747 ); Email: email@example.com; www.sensoasis.com; www.oasishotels.com .