The verdant Mayakoba eco destination in Mexico’s coveted Riviera Maya is a nature lover’s dream. This hidden oasis set on 1600 acres of mangrove forests and waterways including six miles of canals, lies just north of Playa del Carmen. The luxurious oceanfront Andaz Mayakoba Resort, opened in December makes the fourth hotel in the complex and its newest star. Here, sugar sand beaches rimming the blue Caribbean, gorgeous gardens plus exotic flora and fauna including 200 species of tropical birds, are on display.
During an eco boat tour on the turquoise lagoon that weaves through the property, I marveled at sunning crocodiles, spider monkeys, black iguanas, cormorants, boat billed herons, white egrets, sea turtles, blue-crowned motmots and a Ferruginous pygmy owl.
The ambiance at the Andaz Resort seems a bit more trendy, casual and relaxed than at the other three hotels ( Rosewood, BanyanTree, Fairmont). A replica of a cenote, a sacred Mayan pool, is the lobby centerpiece. Upon arrival, guests perform a Mayan Ritual by making a wish and tossing a stone into the water. The resort plans to highlight Mayan culture with many innovative experiences being planned throughout the year.
Design is sleek and stylish, all rooms and suites have balconies with glorious views. Oversize suites feature plunge pools. White buildings are done in local wood and stone with facades reflecting Mayan glyphs. Interiors in neutral tones showcase light modern furnishings accented with artisan décor. Mexican tiles, bright baskets, traditional Mayan masks and colorful bird figures create a chic, authentic ambiance.
Aqua lovers will be delighted with the 3 resort pools in addition to the Caribbean Sea, just steps away. I loved the sunscreen machine, perhaps the favorite toy at the property. Gone are the times you laboriously slather the greasy lotion over your body, invariably missing key spots and requiring assistance to properly cover your back. Now you simply go to the wooden cabinet behind the pool with a computer screen for selecting your chosen SPF and your height; the nozzles adjust accordingly. You have only to turn around and repeat the process for a perfect spraying on both sides. Goggles are provided to protect your eyes.
One of the three lovely resort pools
Days are spent sunning, swimming, snorkeling, walking on the beach
In addition to sunbathing, swimming and walking on the powdery white beach, activities include stand-up paddling, snorkeling, kayaking, kitesurfing, tennis, golf and archery. Mayakoba guests staying at one property can use the facilities at the 3 others, including dining and all activities.
After a day of taking in the eco splendor, I pampered myself at the Andaz Naum Spa with a Mayan Reflection massage. The steam room features light color therapy; you gaze at the ceiling which looks like a multi colored starry sky and drift into a deeply relaxing state.
In keeping with their Mayan focus, the resort offers tours of the famed ruins at Tulum, just a 45 minute drive away. The remarkable 13th-century, walled Mayan city situated on 39 foot tall cliffs overlooking the sea is spellbinding. This not to be missed archaeological wonder with clifftop Castillo and pyramid-shaped temples is one of the best-preserved Mayan sites.
The exciting culinary scene here is second to none. Many of their acclaimed chefs are brought in from top eateries in Mexico City, the country’s renowned gastronomic hub. The resort’s four restaurants use the freshest ingredients for delectable specialties ranging from a buffet at Cocina Milagro, Yucatan dishes and local favorites such as motulenos for breakfast ( eggs, ham, peas, plantains, totillas) at poolside Olla Taco to outstanding yellowfin tuna tostadas with coriander aioli, beet root and habanero, scallop ceviche with coconut, pineapple and cashews plus black octopus ceviche with coriander at beachfront Olla Ceviche.
Casa Amate, designed like separate rooms in a private house, delivers sophisticated dining in a lovely setting. Here, I savored a sublime feast of Beef Pachamanca, a Peruvian stew cooked in a clay pot with corn and sweet potatoes, Veracruz empanadas with plantain banana, Oaxaca cheese and spinach plus duck breast a la plancha with corn chochoyones, mole, roasted pineapple, jicama and apple.
I hopped a golf cart next door to the Rosewood for their superb outdoor garden grill restaurant La Ceiba and to Banyan Tree’s La Copa to try their new Mexican menu including exquisite tuna as well as suckling pork on a plantain tortilla, done to perfection. All of the food was paired with the best tequila, every variety of margarita and fine wine. I was so impressed, I would return for the culinary experience alone.