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“Beautiful beach; not much luxury”

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Na Balam Beach Hotel
Ranked #13 of 37 Hotels in Isla Mujeres
Reviewed March 2, 2008

My husband and I are frequent travelers to Mexico and have been to Cabo St. Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Huatulco, Cozumel, Puerto Penasco, Oaxaca, and Cancun. On a trip a few years ago to Cancun, we discovered the lovely Isla Mujeres (island of the women) on a day trip and decided to go back there for a vacation some day. We were there for four days in February. The weather was perfect, low '80's and sunny, lots of puffy clouds; no rain. Isla Mujeres is a wonderful place to relax. No cruise ships, no parasailing, few jet skis, and other annoyances. Just laid back beach and beautiful turquoise waters. Pretty much everything is walking distance and it's easy to get around the island on golf carts and mopeds. The main street in town, Hidalgo Street, is full of charming restaurants and shops and everyone seems very relaxed and happy. Lots of tourists from Canada, Europe and Mexico also makes it cosmopolitan. Overall, it is a destination well worth the effort (short and enjoyable ferrry from downtown Cancun).

This resort bills itself as a small luxury hotel, and although it is nice and we enjoyed the stay overall, it is not luxurious in any way. It does not compare, for example, to the beautiful Hotel Twin Dolphin, a small luxury hotel in Cabo. Na Balam is also over priced, given the overall experience. We asked for a beach front room, with king size bed. The room was large and airy, but had few amenities and was quite monastic. The bed was like sleeping on a rock, there was no rug on the floor, very few wall decorations, and no pretty touches, such as fresh flowers, were ever put in the room.
The beach experience is strange. You get towel tokens, which you have to exchange for beach towels, but when we arrived in the late afternoon on Valentine's Day anxious to relax in the sun, not a chair was to be found on the beach! We later learned the hotel rents the "sun beds" and chairs to visitors who are not staying at the hotel, which led to that fun sport of "sharking" early in the morning for a spot and then having to fend off "invaders" looking for a spot. The hotel was having a special dinner on the beach on the day of our arrival (majorly expensive), so the staff kept asking us to move so they could set up, while we were simply trying to enjoy the lovely beach. Kind of annoying.

The beach was eroded significantly by Hurricane Wilma, and there are sand bags everywhere in the water as well as spiked wooden sticks, which are an attempt to save erosion; but this is not a pretty sight.

We met many other tourists who were not staying at our hotel (but who frequented and used most of the available chairs/umbrellas). Everyone seemed to agree that the Na Balam beach was one of the best, but it was not a great value.

One other strange thing - my favorite sandals went missing the first day (later found by one of the staff in the outdoor shower). My husband's bathing suit also went missing, but was recovered in the hotel laundry. Not sure what happened. Front desk staff was charming and helpful. Bar and beach employees were not particularly friendly but that may be because we do not speak much Spanish. Unlike many Mexican resorts, many locals do not speak English.

Overall, I would not return to Na Balam, but will return to Isla Mujeres.

  • Stayed: February 2008, traveled as a couple
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3  Thank Wilmettetraveler
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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624 - 630 of 900 reviews

Reviewed February 16, 2008

I came to Na Balam from New York City in Nov 2007 looking for a very laid back and quiet long weekend. I basically got what I was looking for except I was surprised at how small the beach was due to the hurricane. My only real problem with the hotel was that I arranged through them transfer to/from cancun airport for an additional $100 or so.
Unfortunately for me and my friends, the return van never showed up at the dock and we had prepaid with Na Balam. I've been trying to get my money back from them for 3 months and now they've stopped replying to my emails. Based on my experience I would say do not prepay for anything and trust them at your own risk.

  • Stayed: November 2007, traveled with friends
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2  Thank Josh A
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 14, 2008

A group of 13 of us stayed at Na Balam for 4 nights from Feb. 7-11 for a friend's birthday party. I obviously did not have any input about where to go. It was arranged by my friend's travel agent. I felt it was very overpriced for what it was, and would not recommend it. Let me start by saying I was in the Riviera Maya in December at a wonderful, perfect spot with my husband so in comparison, this was a real letdown. Also, I have never submitted a review before but I felt this place warranted it.

Rooms: We all had ocean facing rooms. Mine was on the 2nd floor. The rooms are a nice size, but they were basically dirty and very old and outdated. There were bugs on the bathroom floor and every time I opened my toiletry bag big roach like things would crawl out. The beds were uncomfortable and the pillows were hard foam with lumpy, peanut like clumps in them. The bathroom was tiny and needed a major update to say the least. The water was hot, but no pressure at all. There is virtually no soundproofing so you hear every little sound from other rooms and the beach. We were awakened every morning between 6 and 6:30 am with the sounds of a baby screaming "mama, mama, mama" repeatedly. The shades are also very skimpy so the sun blasts in quite early.

Property/facilities: The location is pretty good -- a short walk into town. The hotel is on a nice piece of property and does have potential if they updated everything. The restaurant/bar is nice, the food is OK. However, unlike most hotels in the area, breakfast is not included with the rate. When we were there, there were a lot of families with babies and young kids. So if that bothers you, this is not the place for you.

It's a nice, sandy beach but is very shallow (up to your knees) unless you walk quite a ways out. Due to the recent hurricanes, the beach is much smaller than it used to be and it gets very crowded in the afternoon with the daytrippers who come in and rent beach chairs. The beach beds are comfortable but they don't raise so you're flat on your back which makes it hard to read.

Staff/service: I have been to Mexico many times and am not bothered by the laid back, slower paced service. Also, I always try to speak Spanish when I can (as bad as mine is). However, most of the staff was very surly and walked around with a scowl on their faces. Every time we asked the front desk staff about anything, the answer was always "no". We were told there was no other nice beach on the island (ha, ha) and they would not make restaurant reservations for us because their restaurant was the best too.

Overall, I wouldn't have minded so much if the room rate was $100/night instead of close to $300 (and this does not include food, drinks, or any other miscellaneous expenses). For that price, I can stay in the Peninsula Hotel in Chicago. And believe me, I don't mind spending a lot if it's worth it. Na Balam is clearly not. I couldn't wait to get home and wash all my clothes to get rid of the dank, dirty smell.

P.S. - I would recommend renting a moped or golf cart to tour around the island. It was a lot of fun and you get to see what you're missing.

Also -- there's a new restaurant in town called Olivia (mediterranean) that I thought was the best dinner we had.

  • Stayed: February 2008, traveled with friends
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5  Thank hfplaurie
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 11, 2008

I am so glad to see the review just before mine. We had a completely different experience and we were there at the same time Feb. 2 - Feb 7. We ate at Zazil Ha everyday we were there. We had 7 people in our group and had breakfast and lunch every day for 6 days, we went into town for dinner, and had no problems at all. The staff was exceptionally nice and helped us with anything we needed.
Most Americans, who write bad reviews, always say the same thing they took too long, they did nothing. Every time I go to Mexico from Puerto, Penasco (rocky point) to Cancun, Isla Mujeres, everything takes longer just expect it. I am tired of people giving bad reviews to nice places. Out of the 7 of us 3 had never been to Na balam or Cancun, they feel in love with the place and can't wait to get back.
I think that the staff at Na balam do a great job and made our vacation one to remember. I want everyone to know, you can have a bad experience at a great place, but you will never have a great experience at a bad place. You are on vacation in Mexico slow down take your time and enjoy. They will always get you your next beer you just need to know how soon before you finish your first, you need to order your next, and remember they work just as hard as we do so tip them well, they deserve it.

  • Stayed: February 2008, traveled with friends
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1  Thank dairydh
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 7, 2008

Our first night at Na Balam we ate at Zazil Ha, the on-site restaurant. Several hours later I was horribly sick with food poisoning (up all night etc.) To make matters worse the bed was absolutely miserable. Reports that the beds are hard and that the rooms are overpriced are absolutely correct.

The next morning we complained to the front desk staff and informed them we would like to check out early. Not only did they charge us an extra night's penalty (which was their right) but they would not compensate us for the meal that made me sick.They did nothing whatsoever to rectify the situation.

We repeatedly tried to speak with the manager but were told that she was late. The front desk staff phoned her to explain the situation but she was unsympathetic. After waiting for an hour and a half to speak to her directly, we gave up and left. When all was said and done we spent a whopping $630 USD for one of the most miserable nights of my life.

What bothers me the most is how little they seemed to care about our situation. I was sick the next two days and our vacation was basically ruined. Please don't take a chance at Na Balam!

  • Stayed: February 2008, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank cferguson08
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 4, 2007

My wife and I have had two absolutely wonderful experiences staying at Na Balam. In April of 2006, we traveled to Isla Mujeres for the first time in order to scout our potential wedding location. As soon as we arrived at Na Balam, we knew it was the right place for us to be married. The grounds are rustic and peaceful - this is (thankfully!) not a glitzy, spring break, teeny-bopper resort. The beach is calm and well-catered by an incredibly warm and friendly staff. I'm not sure how anyone can say that these folks aren't among the friendliest and most hard working staff ever. That truly boggles the mind.

The resort is what you make of it. It is quiet. It is laid back. It is awesome. When we first arrived we admittedly were a bit turned off by the fact that it lacked many amenities (TV, radio, etc.) but we soon came to truly love that aspect of our stay. Our most enjoyable moments came when we would take the time to "practice speaking Spanish" with Jujo (the evening bartender), Jose, Julio, and all of the others who catered to us on the beach and at the beach bar each day. We made many friends among the staff and were even once invited to come to dinner at our bartender's home.

We returned to Na Balam in December 2006 for our wedding. It was incredible and went off without a glitch. We were married on the resort's beautiful point beach. The staff, the atmosphere, and the weather were all perfect. We've had absolutely no regrets or complaints during both stays at this resort.

Some recommendations:

1) Na Balam is rustic and chilled out. Don't go in expecting it to be what it's not. If you want night life, it's available in town which is a short walk or golf cart ride away. If you want a quiet place to rest under the stars at the end of the evening - look no further.

2) Be friendly. Be conversational. Joke around with the staff. If you want white glove treatment by a staff who only speaks English, go to another resort. Actually, just stay in the States. Why are you even traveling? WHEN YOU ARE TRAVELING, TAKE TIME TO LEARN A FEW PHRASES IN YOUR HOST'S LANGUAGE. It'll go a long way toward making your stay more enjoyable.

3) We had a safe in our room, but we left our valuables in the front office safe. Not that we even felt security was ever an issue. I guess a bad seed can sneak into any place from time to time. Be smart - don't leave tempting valuables out in the open.

4) I'll admit, it is a bit pricey for what you get. But for us, it's worth the extra cost each year to travel to Isla and visit our friends at the ultra-relaxing Na Balam resort.

5) The food at Na Balam is excellent - a perfect balance of traditional dishes, seafood delicacies, healthy dishes, and classic blends.

6) Have the staff hang a hammock inside your room. It's awesome. Want to relive the Corona commercials? This is the place for it.

7) If you're getting married here, these are the folks we used and we couldn't recommend them any higher:

Wedding planner: Juliette Franze (Papillon Weddings)
Photographer(s): Sol Tamargo and Matt Adcock (Del Sol Photography)
Band: Javier and the Band With No Name (appearing nightly in town at Fayne's Restaurant - awesome rock covers)

We were married at Na Balam and then left for our honeymoon in St. Lucia. We wished we had stayed in Isla Mujeres almost the entire time. Live and learn.

-Lisa and John G.

  • Stayed: December 2006, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank LisaJohn2006
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 27, 2007

I chose Na Balam for my wedding venue because it was intimate, zen like and on the beach. The hotel is small with 30 rooms and was the perfect spot to accommodate our group for a wedding. Unfortunately mother nature has been shifting the beaches at Na Balam and they no longer have the beach front that they had when I visited in May. However the staff did a great job relocating our wedding ceremony. Our wedding was incredible, the weather was sent by angels and the sunset was breathtaking. The food at Na Balam is pretty good as is most of the food on Isla Mujeres. The rooms are stark, white, crisp and clean and that is a trend in many of the nicer hotels on Isla. The staff was pretty good. My wedding contact at the hotel was lovely, she had just started at the hotel when I met her in May and she did a great job fulfilling my wedding ideas and helping on the locations for the ceremony, cocktails and reception. She set up a food tasting for my husband and I that was incredible.It truly was a dream wedding, mostly because of the man I married and the amazing friends and family that came. My only complaints with the hotel were that they could have communicated with myself and my guests more promptly prior to our arrival in Isla. It would take weeks sometimes to get an e-mail response from them. In fact some of my guests never heard back at all and stayed elsewhere. I was a bit shocked when I arrived the first day and saw how much of the beach was gone. Again, I would urge the hotel to communicate this with their clients especially if they are planning a beach wedding. They also ran out of wine and had some communication breakdown between the bartenders and wine. I paid for a full international bar for 6 hours and was upset to learn that some of my guests were turned away for wine (at the cocktail hour) when I had expected and paid for it. Other than that they did a great job and we had a memorable wedding that people can't stop talking about.

  • Stayed: November 2007
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1  Thank brideinmex
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Na Balam Beach Hotel

Address: Calle Zazil Ha 118 | Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres 77400, Mexico
Location: Mexico > Yucatan Peninsula > Quintana Roo > Isla Mujeres
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Kitchenette Restaurant Spa Suites Swimming Pool Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
#5 Spa Hotel in Isla Mujeres
#7 On the Beach Hotel in Isla Mujeres
Price Range: $157 - $349 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:3 star — Na Balam Beach Hotel 3*
Number of rooms: 32
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The love for nature, an admiration to the Mayan culture and a concern for holistic wellness are reflected in this haven of peace and serenity. Na Balam offers you a place to enjoy the beauty of the Caribbean sea and its sunsets with personalized services and attention. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Hotel Na Balam Beach
Na Balam Beach Isla Mujeres

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