Mayakoba Is a Grown-Up Vacation Spot Just South of Cancún

The eco-friendly destination has four luxury resorts, top-notch food and tour-level golf

January 31, 2023 6:00 am
Mayakoba Coastline
Mayakoba Coastline

Mexico has no shortage of vacation-worthy destinations, from party-fueled hotspots like Cancún and Tulum to culinary- and culture-rich cities like Mexico City, Oaxaca, San Miguel de Allende and Merida. If it’s a beach trip you’re after, you have your pick of coastlines, with great beaches and hotels up and down the Riviera Maya on the eastern Yucatan as well as the Pacific coast and the Baja peninsula to the west. But if you want to save yourself hours of research, just head to Mayakoba. This protected enclave of good living is located next door to Playa del Carmen and can be easily accessed from the Cancún airport. With four resorts on site, you’ve got options, and all of them are good. Here’s what you need to know before booking your trip.

The Destination

Mayakoba is situated along the Riviera Maya’s Caribbean Sea, encompassing 620 protected acres of lagoons, jungles and beachfront. The gated community got its start in the mid-2000s, with the first hotel opening its doors in 2006. Today it houses four hotels, residences and a Greg Norman-designed golf course. Once you’re inside the gates, the rest of the world melts away, including traffic, as golf carts, bicycles and boats are the only modes of transportation. Each hotel has its own resort-style footprint, with multiple pools and restaurants spread across their sprawling grounds. A lagoon winds through the area connecting the hotels, and many of the hotel rooms back up to the waterways, which are populated by birds, turtles and other wildlife. You can see Cozumel island from the beach, and the second largest barrier reef in the world is located offshore, making this a popular spot for scuba diving and snorkeling. 

Mayakoba’s Four Luxury Hotels

With only four hotels on site — Andaz, Banyan Tree, Fairmont and Rosewood — Mayakoba’s resorts feel more secluded than most beachfront properties. Visitors can move between hotels to check out restaurants, spas and other amenities, but each has its own footprint and doesn’t bleed into its neighbors.

The Andaz and Fairmont are the two most affordable hotels of the quartet, but they’re still luxury hotels with all the bells and whistles you expect. Both offer à la carte rates as well as all-inclusive packages that bundle all your eating and drinking into the nightly rate. So, if you’re confident in your appetite, you can start earning your money back immediately after check-in. 

Andaz Mayakoba has 214 rooms, including 41 suites, that are draped in earth tones with bright pops of color. There are two pools — one that fronts the ocean and another that’s lagoon-side — and five restaurants on site. The flagship restaurant is Casa Amate, which serves Latin American food in a space meant to resemble the home of an eclectic traveler, with themed rooms like a library and studio. Tinta del Pulpo is a poolside restaurant with ceviche, aguachile and local beers, and Sotavento is a shipwreck-inspired beach bar serving fresh seafood, salads and other light plates.

Fairmont Mayakoba
Fairmont Mayakoba

Fairmont Mayakoba is the largest of the four hotels, with 401 guest rooms including 34 suites. Most of its accommodations are set back from the water within lush foliage or on the lagoon, but a handful of suites are located on the beach. The Fairmont recently completed a major renovation that updated the rooms, overhauled its restaurants and added more pools to the mix. The new Maykana beach club sports two restaurants and a rooftop bar looking out over the ocean, and three new pools are nestled directly into the sand and conveniently beside a beach bar.

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The beach club’s new digs include Gaia, the Fairmont’s signature restaurant, which serves fresh fish in a bright and airy space that features a seafood display up front. It sits side-by-side with Brisas, an open-air restaurant with a casual menu of ceviche, tacos, burgers and sandwiches. And just outside is Fuego, an on-the-beach option for grilled meats and seafood. Back toward the lobby you’ll find Laguna, which serves traditional Mexican cuisine and has tables jutting out into the lagoon, and Bassano, a cozy Italian joint slinging pasta and wine. There’s also Tauro, a steakhouse with an attached martini and oyster bar.

Banyan Tree Mayakoba
Banyan Tree Mayakoba
Banyan Tree

Banyan Tree opened its first resort in Thailand nearly three decades ago, and it brings those roots to Mexico via Banyan Tree Mayakoba. The hotel features 162 villas, all with private pools and separate living spaces. Residence-style options range from one to three bedrooms and are perfect for housing families or friend groups. When you’re hungry, Saffron serves Thai food on the water, while Cello is all about Italian food and Tomahawk is an open-fire grill where steak is the star. There’s also a casual burger restaurant and La Copa bar, which serves ceviche, tacos and drinks. If you require a little extra relaxation, Banyan Tree’s spa is decked out in Balinese design elements and features relaxing pools and all the typical treatments, plus Thai massages and rain shower scrubs.

Rosewood Mayakoba
Rosewood Mayakoba

Rosewood Mayakoba takes things up a notch, with 129 private suites, two beach clubs, four pools and six restaurants. Those suites all feature plunge pools and expansive terraces, many with lagoonside docks. And should you need anything during your stay, just ring your butler — yes, you’ll have a butler assigned to your room. Restaurants include Agave Azul, a Baja-inspired seafood spot with Asian influences, and Punta Bonita, which serves seaside meals inspired by Mexico’s Pacific coast. La Fondita is a Mexico City-inspired cantina serving tostadas and mezcal, and Zapote Bar slings well-made cocktails featuring fresh ingredients.

The restaurants are joined by the al fresco La Ceiba Garden & Kitchen, which has an 18-seat communal table in a courtyard anchored by a massive ceiba tree. Guests enjoy an interactive experience and traditional Mayan cuisine prepared over an open flame with seasonal ingredients hand-picked from the restaurant’s garden.

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