The Banyan Tree Mayakoba was everything we'd hoped for in a quiet, adult getaway. My husband and I try to spend one week a year together to reconnect to ourselves and each other. The Banyan Tree Mayakoba (BTM) was the perfect place to do it.
Staying in five star hotels is wonderful, but I'm sometimes put off by the stuffiness. The quality of a five star was there at Banyan Tree, but with warm, unstuffy staff and surroundings. We also chose BTM for the wonderful nature we were engulfed in. A glorious hotel and beautiful beach are wonderful, but I love to be in natural surroundings and if you are a nature lover you will love BTM! We saw crocodiles, iguana, coatimundi, fish, birds, and lizards amongst the abundant trees and shrubs.
PRIVACY, SOLITUDE, & PEACEFULNESS:
If you desire privacy, the BTM provides it. Each villa is completely secluded and private. I never heard another guest while we were there. There is room to go outside and enjoy yourself in your private courtyard or laze in your hammock. We slept late each day because it was so quiet. It was a peaceful, beautiful room – each day, incense is left in your room and a scent diffuser lit. It created a relaxing ambience I’ve never experienced anywhere else other than Bali.
The rooms are nicely appointed and every need is anticipated, from flashlights to umbrellas, mosquito spray, hairbrush, toothbrush, pool slippers, you name it. The desk even has a small stapler, paper clips, and post it notes. The walk-in closet means you can keep all your belongings put away and out of sight. This is my preference because I don’t relax when I’m looking at a suitcase sitting out in the room.
There are two large walls of windows that you can close or open if you want to wake up with the sun and see the beautiful vegetation. Bathrooms are roomy and attractive with separate shower, outdoor tub, and enclosed water closet. The coffee maker makes regular or espresso and fresh fruit was left for us daily. Nightly turndown left small gifts, ice, and robes and slippers beside the bed. The service was so attentive and unobtrusive, we left daily tips for both the morning and evening room attendants. Could there be any improvements? Hooks in the bathroom to hold pool towels was the only one I could find.
Oriente, the breakfast buffet, had an amazing array of food options each morning from traditional continental, American and European as well as (my favorite) local specialties such pozole soups, grilled cactus, homemade granola that was incredible, Mexican hot chocolate, and a variety of fruits and yogurts (don't miss the nopales (cactus)...they're fabulous).
We had such wonderful service from our waiter, Fernando, each morning – giving us a glass of champagne every day with a different fruit liqueur. Ask for the pineapple liqueur! On some evenings, this restaurant is open for a barbecue dinner and it’s very good with a variety of barbecued meats ranging from fish to lamb. And there was a fresh, housemade garlic bread that was fabulous and, I’m quite sure, responsible for an extra three pounds of weight. Or, maybe that was the guacamole?
The Thai restaurant on property, Saffron, is magnificent -- the green papaya salad is fantastic as was the tamarind shrimp, large, succulent and surrounded by a wonderful sauce. We ate there twice and ordered the same thing both times it was so good. In fact, after traveling to Thailand, you'd be hard pressed to find a more authentic Thai meal.
Make sure to reserve dinner, too, at the restaurants because we could not be seated one evening. The high end restaurant, which we were going to visit when we left, unfortunately was closed when we wanted to go, so we did not get to eat there. Be sure to check the daily memos left at nightly turn down for restaurant availability. However, the other hotels, the Fairmont and Rosewood, are also dining options and a free shuttle service is available.
Golf cart shuttles around the hotel grounds are easy to book, bicycles are available for rent, and getting around on foot is easy with the wonderful, winding pathways. This is a large property, so there is plenty of room to wander. Getting in and out of the hotel is easy too. We ate at the Rosewood one evening and had a wonderful meal there and we ate in Playa del Carmen on another evening. Getting around the hotel, local area and to and from the hotel is very easy with prompt and efficient taxis at the property and in Playa del Carmen, just 10 minutes away. I would recommend setting up airport transportation to and from the hotel through BTM because of the quality of care and because it gets you into vacation mode (and out) with less stress.
The golf course was beautifully maintained and on the day my husband played golf, we were joined by the superintendent, Lorenzo Echeverria, and one of his staff. We had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon together, they working with their limited English, and we, working on our faltering Spanish. It had rained for three days prior to our outing, but the excellent drainage made the course easily playable. A fair and very competitively priced PGA course, my resident golfer says it’s the kind of course that allows you to hit every club in your bag – a real (and rare) golfers treat.
DRINKS & BEACH:
Why put the beach and drinks together? I’ll explain in a moment. The restaurant, Sands, is open for lunch and is situated by the water’s edge. The beaches are beautiful and the hotel staff works to keep them clean. The sand is white and the beach staff at the BTM are very attentive to guests – even coming by to clean your sunglasses. Our villa was by the front of the hotel and we walked every day (about 12 minutes) to Sands. On a particular note is the quality of margaritas. Sands has the best – and we told them that every afternoon around 3:00 pm! Unfortunately while we were there, the lobby bar didn’t have the quality of drinks we found at the Sands…but that’s OK, we didn’t mind the walk at all, passing crocodiles eating fish, cormorants diving for fish, and iguanas sunning themselves on the golf course. Drinks are a bit expensive and should be high quality throughout the property, so that was the only let down.
The spa is simply wonderful. All treatments are in little cabanas over the water, which feels very special and intimate. My therapist was thorough, though she did turn of the AC about half way through a massage and I had to ask her to turn it on. Otherwise, an absolute must is the rainforest experience. At only $38, this is a STEAL and a wonderful experience of different water elements and temperatures that has you walking through a stone path under warm water, then into a shower room with various temperatures, into aromatic steam room and then onto other water treatments. Got a rainy day on your hands? This is the perfect was to spend it. This was our case and we had the whole giant Rainforest spa to ourselves – it was a decadent treat.
If you’re looking for a wonderful side trip, I would recommend Muyil. You can go to other nearby Mayan sites, but the trip to Muyil was very small and intimate and close by and we booked it through the hotel. Other ruin sites were too lengthy to get to and this one was small and close by, and I would imagine, quite overlooked. There were only 5 of us and we had a wonderful guide who showed us the Muyil Mayan archaeological site in a very up close way. Make sure you bring mosquito spray, though, and going through the jungle portion, they’re quite thick. The natural repellent, oddly, was an attractant. Bring the good stuff (Deepwoods OFF) and leave the natural oils to your spa treatments! ;)
The best part of the trip was a float through beautiful clear water canals after the ruins that connected to fresh water lakes. It lasted about 45 minutes and was simply stunning to see the clear water, wild orchids growing in the fresh water, and it was indescribably refreshing after a hot trek. This trip was $150 each and provided a tour, transportation, snack, and fresh meal with wine afterwards. The tour was supposed to be a six hour tour but ended up being longer as our group and guide discussed politics, travel and life over fresh ceviche under a palapa afterwards. Do take the boat ride around the hotel, which is scheduled daily at 11:00 am. The canals around the hotel have abundant fish and birds and it makes a nice excursion after breakfast.
The beautiful surroundings at the Banyan Tree Mayakoba were complemented by the warm hospitality and sincere service. We stay at a lot of hotels and vacation rentals and too few are ones that I would want to visit again. This is one of those rare gems where I wouldn’t think twice about visiting again for another refreshing, relaxing vacation.
If access to the beach is important ask for a room closer to the beach. Some rooms are a 15 minute w...
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