Originally published by Forbes.
Just 40 minutes south of Cancun you’ll find the tranquil Mayakoba, a 1,600-acre resort that features four luxury hotels: Banyan Tree, Rosewood, Fairmont and Andaz. There are lagoons, spas, fine dining, infinity pools, jungle trails and miles of sandy beach to explore but the first thing you’ll notice about Mayakoba is the birdsong; it’s rich and operatic with an exotic edge. If Pavarotti were a bird, he’d be singing here. The full-on density of nature’s embrace in this ocean-meets-jungle resort is so seductive you’ll find yourself forgetting what it was that you were going to say. Yet, Mayakoba’s best feature—because everyone in the Yucatán Peninsula has some version of beach, jungle, and ocean—-is the access to multiple and very different hotel amenities.
It is the only destination in the Yucatán that offers seamless movement (read: you don’t need a car) between multiple hotels. Guests can depart from their Banayan Tree villa and cycle over to the Andaz for a spa treatment, or catch the electric boat shuttle and weave through the canal system to the beachfront club at Rosewood. Variety is the watchword here; instead of two or three restaurant options, you have 25 to choose from. The resort currently has four spas, a village square with shops and restaurants, three miles of nature trail, 18-holes of golf (designed by PGA legend Greg Norman, and home to the Mayakoba Golf Classic) and new to the party is the resort’s glamorous VanDutch yacht, a 55-foot splendidly futuristic vessel.
We booked three nights, two at Banyan Tree Mayakoba and one at Rosewood. The Banyan Tree is a Thai-based hotelier with a much-deserved reputation for service and spa experiences. Our villa, located along one of the canals, was a spacious roomy affair with a large sitting area, walk-in closet, outdoor bathtub, and massive indoor waterfall shower. Villas also come with a pool—not a plunge pool but a genuine modestly-sized and very private pool. In fact, I was deeply impressed with the use of jungle and architecture to lend a sense of both privacy and openness. Villas also come with a set of bikes, which we rode throughout the stay.
Rosewood’s villas, much like those of Banyan Tree, specialize in privacy and spaciousness. Rosewood properties across the globe are peerless for their fresh, luxurious vibe and silky-perfect service. The private outdoor waterfall shower –really a walled tropical garden— was my favorite feature. Yet, our personal villa butler was also a nice touch. Name your need and it is met—your butler is on-call (best by text) for anything you need whether its fresh ice cream, more coffee or a dinner reservation. The villas line the canal, each with a private plunge pool and plenty of deck space for sunning or just reading a book. The vibe is very private but you can mix and mingle at the newly minted adults-only pool or their family-friendly one.
So, what does one do in Mayakoba?
Get up early if you can and ride your bikes through the pre-dawn mangroves to catch the sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico. If you need more exercise the resort also offers kayaking, a full tennis center, and archery. After your morning cycle, you should indulge in the ridiculous breakfast spread at Banyan Tree’s Oreinte. Be sure to try their Mexican coffee and a hand-made quesadilla. To better appreciate the resort as a whole, jump on the electric boat and ride the canal system. You’ll make stops at each of the hotel properties; if you see something you like hop off and enjoy as the shuttle runs all day.
Spa treatment options are abundant with four separate spas, but we opted for the award-winning Banyan Tree Spa’s Rainforest Spa Indulgence, which is best shared with a partner. It’s an all-in water immersion (what they call a hydro-thermal circuit) with ten alternating hot and cold thermal cabins—-sauna, steam, shower, and a final dip in the tricked out super jetted whirlpool. Then we closed the deal with a couple’s massage; I honestly don’t remember the rest of the day— one tends to get inebriated on relaxation here.
You’ll also have your choice of breezy dining venues with canal and ocean views—remember there are 25 dining options within Mayakoba. Literally dip your toes in the sand at Sotavento, the airy seafood restaurant located on the beach at Andaz. Banyan Tree’s Saffron is one of the most popular Mayakoba destinations for a romantic dinner. Try to book a table right over the water, literally on a floating dock, for the ultimate in modern Thai cuisine and candlelight. Rosewood’s Agave Azul is perched above the canal with sweeping jungle views. Ask for a table outside over the water and tuck into their menu freshly-made sushi with Latin influences.
And, saving best for last–Mayakoba’s new VanDutch Yacht experience delivers all the luxury, exclusivity and power a 1.7 million-dollar yacht can buy. Whether you prefer a two-hour snorkel trip or a full-day with chef-catered meals, the yacht experience is defined by what the guest wants. And what a yacht it is—-it still has that new boat smell. I suggest a half-day trip over to the brilliant turquoise waters of Cozumel. You’ll get to experience the James Bond-like power of the yacht as she slices through the ocean swells like a knife through butter and you’ll see some of the prettiest reefs in the Yucatan. The yacht comes equipped with Sublue underwater scooters—think Johnny Quest-styled hand-held jet packs for the ocean. Grab the Sublue with both hands, press and off you go. The boat also has two bedrooms, a galley kitchen, and shower/bathroom.
Mayakoba is a destination within a destination—you can leave, or stay put. Either way, you will enjoy exposure to a variety of places and experiences. Ultimately, What you’ll love here is not the five-star service or luxurious amenities, but rather the sense of being cocooned in the best nature has to offer, something the operatic jungle birds of Mayakoba figured out a long time ago.