Riviera Maya’s exotic hideaway
Banyan Tree Mayakoba is a resort all about giving travelers a sense of place along with a big dose of luxury. Tucked away in Mayakoba, a gorgeous resort community on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, the luxury hideaway echoes the natural beauty and jungle mystique of its surroundings, from thick mangroves and underground waterways to ancient, indigenous traditions.
About 15 minutes from trendy Playa del Carmen, the resort is one of three in the 640-acre Mayakoba complex along the Caribbean coast. The arrival experience sets a dramatic stage: A long driveway curves through thick foliage and leads up to a stunning open-air lobby overlooking Mayakoba’s famous canals. This serpentine network of canals winds its way throughout the entire property. (Guests can use ferries to access the beach or visit restaurants at any of the resorts on the Mayakoba compound.) Abundant wildlife roams the waterways and low-hanging trees, as Mayakoba is home to more than 200 species of birds, plus turtles and even crocodiles.
The exotic elements are on display day and night, with Mayan-influenced architecture that melds indoor and outdoor spaces beautifully. You can see the aesthetic in open-air spaces or ones that are wrapped with floor-to-ceiling windows — rustic wood and stone are offset with white linen and glass, muted earth tones blend with the sea foam green of the waterways and indigenous flora.
Unlike most resorts in Mexico’s Yucatan, this one is not directly on the beach. Instead, its charm lies in the 118 immense pool villas (each is over 2,750 square feet) that are built discreetly into the landscape along garden paths accessed via buggy. Each villa has its own private plunge pool, indoor and outdoor living areas, a private garden, and a bathroom with a deep soaking tub and rain shower. The more opulent quarters, like the 5,511-square-foot Ocean Club Two Bedroom Pool Villa, overlook the Caribbean Sea and have earthenware sinks, a courtyard, a heated swimming pool and a jet pool.
Executive chef David Andrews oversees a breadth of culinary offerings, reaching beyond just Mexican to contemporary seafood and Thai cuisine. All in all, there are seven spots to eat here, plus options for in-villa dining (hello private poolside barbecue). The champagne breakfast buffet is a must, with a sprawling table of international pastries, meats, cheeses and a section of sumptuous Mexican eats including decadent hot chocolate. Perhaps the most romantic dining option in all of Mexico is the Ixchel experience, an evening outing aboard a private dining boat that cruises in and out of canals and mangroves.
Golfers will hail Banyan Tree Mayakoba’s pièce de résistance, El Camaleón Mayakoba Golf Club (home to the only PGA Tour event in Mexico, The Mayakoba Golf Classic). Designed by Greg Norman, it has three different landscapes (jungle, mangrove and sea) offering up diverse terrain attractive to international golfers. Banyan Tree Spa also incorporates the resort’s exotic jungle vibe with treatments taking place in private, over-water therapy villas.