For a Winter Getaway, Fairmont Mayakoba Is Top-Notch Luxury Travel
Our correspondent attended their recent symphony…in a Mexican cenote
Barely a two-hour flight away, the beaches of Cancun are an easy sell for Miami residents, especially since discerning travelers know the state of Quintana Roo is so much more than its most infamous party town. Beyond the reaches of Cancun, nestled within Playa del Carmen, lies the gated community resort enclave that’s quickly becoming a global hotspot: Mayakoba. If you’ve heard people talk about it with a slightly awestruck tone, well, they’re right; across 620 acres of lagoons, jungles and beaches, this private community strives first and foremost to maintain the natural habitat of the region, populating its lush confines with four luxury resorts including Andaz, The Banyan Tree, Rosewood and Fairmont. All four of them are stunning, mostly due to the incredible ecosystem they’re built into, not on top of or around.
First established about 20 years ago, Mayakoba is a prime example of a legitimately sustainable hospitality project. Right alongside the 18-hole, Greg Norman-designed golf course, there are 145 acres of mangrove trees that remain untouched, to preserve wildlife habitat — we’re dealing with luxury amenities mixed with an emphasis on local culture, history and landscape preservation. Though all the properties share a similar setup, incorporating both lagoon and beachfront areas into their layout, the Fairmont Mayakoba is a standout due to a recently completed renovation that ushers the property into our new contemporary era.
A new beach club, Maykana, is one of several improvements, featuring five spacious food and drink areas, plus firepits, a rooftop bar, pools and private cabanas. Using all locally sourced materials, and built with the intent of blending in with the landscape, the new club highlights the resort’s position within the Riviera Maya and on the Mexican Caribbean.
But with just over 400 rooms, plenty of which are situated on the lagoon that runs through the property, this massive, 240-hectare section of the Yucatán Peninsula is more than just a beach resort. In fact, a new program that Fairmont’s parent company Accor recently launched brings guests outside the walls of Mayakoba and takes them deep into a subterranean cave network. And though it might include walking through the jungle in pitch-black darkness, hold out for the payoff: a live, candlelit concert in one of the area’s historic underground cenotes.
Beyond Limits, a series of experiences hosted at Fairmont Mayakoba and elsewhere around the world, is Accor’s attempt to bring a sense of wonder back into luxury programming, and honestly, it’s right on the money. Post-pandemic travelers are looking for experiences above all, and Accor’s ideation nails this: a symphony in a cenote is the Mayakoba version, but there’s also an underwater ballet in Hawaii, a cliffside oxygen bar in the Canadian Rockies and plenty more.
So what does a symphony in a cenote entail? Well, before passing down into these underground Mexican caverns, most native guides will conduct a Mayan ceremony to ask permission for entry. The Mayans believed these watery sinkholes were the gateway to the underworld, so descending means close contact with all things mystical, and that means making sure visitors are blessed on the journey.
Winding our way in single file behind our knowledgeable guide, we spent the first few minutes of the evening hearing a brief history lesson on how cenotes are formed, what they were used for in the past and how we use them today. But Accor’s vision, to transform one sprawling cave into a concert hall, is about as unique as it gets. Once the tour through the cave system is over, guests emerge into an enormous cavern covered in lights and decked out with bottles of Champagne, a makeshift bar and rows of seats to enjoy the concert. With an emphasis on accessible songs, the assembled symphony of local Mexican players mostly performed pop hits, with standouts like “Rolling in the Deep” and “Poker Face.”
Because of Mayakoba’s innate emphasis on preserving the local culture and terrain, showcasing the cenote system in a new light fits right in with the community’s mission. Still, don’t expect to see a whole spate of concerts in cenotes over the next year, as the local landowners tend to be very particular about who is allowed to use these sacred spaces. The next symphony in a cenote experience is in early January, and available to book here. For music lovers, and those who love luxury programming that goes above and beyond, this one-of-a-kind experience is a perfect foray back into travel and live entertainment.
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