Originally published by Forbes Travel Guide.
Offering a superior mix of hospitality, scenery and easy airlift, Mexico’s pristine beaches make for a simple yet satisfying weekend away.
While there are dozens of great resorts, Riviera Maya’s Mayakoba is a mix of fun and relaxation. It’s a complex of four luxury properties — Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Rosewood Mayakoba, Four-Star Fairmont Mayakoba, Four-Star Banyan Tree Mayakoba and Andaz Mayakoba — connected by a series of man-made lagoons and cenotes. (After all, Mayakoba does mean “city on water.”) Simply put, you’ll find everything you could wish for right on site, whether you’re seeking a few days on the beach, a gourmet getaway or an active escape.
Check-in at Rosewood Mayakoba begins with a unique welcome: a cocktail infused with chaya (a spinach-like local herb), agave and your spirit of choice — we’d pick tequila — before boarding one of the resort’s boats to take a short journey to your room.
You won’t go wrong with the Deluxe Overwater Lagoon Suite, which features a lush private garden with an outdoor shower, and a spacious living room leading to a plunge pool and dock. Thoughtful touches, like a bottle of house mezcal, fresh water and daily-delivered fruit make the stay seem extra special.
But don’t get too comfortable. Hop on your bike — the resort leaves them conveniently outside each door — and get ready to explore. It’s just a short ride down to the beach, where you’ll find adults-only retreat Aquí Me Quedo. Settle into the seaside club for a leisurely lunch of shrimp tacos and spicy mezcal margaritas served from a vintage food truck, followed by an afternoon of lounging at one of three oceanfront pools or on a beachside recliner. Bringing kids? Don’t worry; the family pool is right next door.
Check the resort’s events calendar before making evening plans — the Le Ceiba Dinners on Wednesdays and Saturdays are not to be missed. This family-style feast offers everything from agave-glazed lamb to grilled octopus, paired with Mexican wines and cocktails. The name comes from the location — it takes place under a large ceiba tree in Rosewood’s garden. It’s a nice way to get to know other guests, many of whom return year after year.
For something more casual, opt for an early dinner at El Pueblito, Mayakoba’s re-creation of an authentic Mexican village. Try your hand at the arcade or peruse three different gift and clothing boutiques for a locally made souvenir before grabbing a burger or tostada. Just save room: El Pueblito offers both a sweets shop and a pastry bar. Afterward, the complimentary shuttle service will bring you back to your hotel.
Rise early — the lagoons are most pleasant when experienced before the full humidity of the day. Boat tours, which leave every 30 minutes from the resort’s main lobby, provide a wonderful way to learn more about the wildlife and natural surroundings of the 1,600-acre Mayakoba complex.
Let the boat drop you off at Banyan Tree Mayakoba for the day. Start off with breakfast at Oriente, where you’ll find a gorgeous spread of made-to-order crepes, a quesadilla bar and spiced Mexican coffee.
Next, walk over to the Four-Star spa for a treat: the Rainforest Indulgence. The 150-minute hydrotherapy experience is a decadent, eight-step process that involves a mud application, ice baths and a sauna, before ending with a body scrub, Vichy shower and blissful massage in one of 16 private villas.
It’s tempting to spend the rest of your day lazing by the pool or on the white sand — and we wouldn’t blame you if you did. Have lunch at the new Sands beach club, where you can savor the catch of the day and colorful cocktails without wandering too far from the shore.
However, if you can’t sit still, plan a big afternoon with a cruise on Mayakoba’s new 55-foot VanDutch yacht. Available for a full- or half-day charter, the sleek ride allows you to see areas like Cozumel on a private excursion, or to simply get out and enjoy the clear blue Caribbean waters. The yacht packs a passel of floating toys, too, like Submarino Sublue scooters, which enable you to easily glide through the water without flippers.
When you want to explore on land, it’s easy to arrange trips to nearby Mayan ruins like Chichen Itza via the resort’s onsite tour desks.
For dinner, stick with Banyan Tree and book a table at its Thai restaurant, Saffron. Perched on a wooden deck overlooking the lagoon and tropical mangroves, the romantic eatery serves up flavorful Southeast Asian specialties — the yellow curry is a standout.
As darkness falls, hop on a golf cart back to your room for a nightcap (and a quick reflection on all the excitement that transpired over your vacation) in your own pool.