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Mexico’s Mayakoba resort community is a luxury experience of mythic proportions

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Mayakoba is fast becoming the last word in luxury travel to Mexico. Located on the Yucatan Peninsula, the lavish resort community hosted its first PGA event, the Mayakoba Golf Classic, in 2007, with only one of its five ultra-luxurious properties open. The Fairmont Mayakoba opened its doors in May 2006, followed by the Rosewood Mayakoba in December 2007. In February 2009, the Banyan Tree Mayakoba is slated to make its debut, and the Viceroy Mayakoba Resort is set to open in the spring. (The fifth resort has not yet been revealed.) But this opulent vacation village is as much about environmentalism as it is indulgence.


The company made the decision to build Mayakoba upon nearly 600 acres of mangrove forest and jungle in 1995, then spent about $6 million and six years on preliminary environmental and technical studies. Finally, the Mexican architect Mario Lazo was hired to create a master plan for the entire parcel of land, including its one-mile beach. The result was a series of hotel lots, each with a beach club, as well as golf courses that take advantage of the location’s natural landscapes. Most important, the blueprint for Mayakoba also took into consideration the preservation of sand dunes, coral reefs and mangroves; 90 percent of the land’s mangroves were protected while another 47,000 were planted. Mayakoba’s plant nursery, overseen by a team of biologists known as the Mayakoba Environmental Advisory, is home to 306,000 native plants, and local wildlife, including turtles, monkeys, pelicans and flamingoes, continues to inhabit the land.


Yet maintaining so much of the indigenous flora and fauna also forced Lazo to come up with a network of transportation that would connect the properties to one another as well as the beach clubs without destroying any more of the ecosystem than was absolutely necessary. So, although narrow trails exist for walking, biking and electric golf carts, Lazo brought to the surface the property’s naturally occurring underground waters to create a series of canals and lagoons, along which a fleet of 40 thatched-roof boats ferry guests around the resort village.


But these waterways are not the only nature-based distinction of the luxury resort community; Mayakoba also offers seven cenotes, or naturally occurring sinkholes, which serve as hazards on the golf course.


Plans for Mayakoba did not only include the preservation of the property’s natural surroundings; it was decided fairly early that Mayakoba would be the address for luxury on the Riviera Maya. In fact, Fairmont was specifically chosen because of its standing as a high-end hotel company.


Certainly, the 401-room Fairmont Mayakoba continues the practice of signature Fairmont services and amenities. The 20,000-square-foot Willow Stream Spa boasts 20 treatment rooms; guest rooms are equipped with LCD televisions, Bose Wave radios and high-speed Internet access; and there is 40,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space. However, this resort also has features unique to the Fairmont collection. Among the accommodations is a private-island suite, the spa offers treetop treatment rooms and Fairmont also manages the 18-hole El Camaleon golf course, Greg Norman’s first in Mexico.


The resort offers three restaurants, ranging from an alfresco dining experience serving three meals daily to a gourmet seafood restaurant and a cafe, five bars and five swimming pools. Among these are a 10,000-square-foot free-form pool with a waterslide, a children’s pool and an adults-only infinity-edge pool.


Accommodations are equally as diverse. The 401 rooms include 34 suites, located in either the low-rise main complex or clustered in two-story casitas scattered throughout the property. The Tortuga Suite, situated on its own private island, boasts a living and dining space, a study, a pantry, a bedroom and a private plunge pool.


Guests are invited to partake in the resort’s “moonwalks,” which highlight the Maya legacy of astronomy and calendars. In addition, the resort offers tours in conjunction with Community Tours Sian Ka’an, giving groups an opportunity to trek through Maya ruins and float down various canals throughout the region. For more information, call 800-441-1414 or visit


Equally sumptuous are the 128 suites that comprise the offerings at Rosewood Mayakoba. Signature room categories include overwater spa and lagoon-view suites and deluxe oceanview suites offering panoramic views of the Caribbean. Wooden lattices and hidden glass doors give the accommodations an airy ambience; exterior features include private plunge pools, outdoor garden showers and rooftop decks. Specialty in-room details include Lady Primrose amenities, and many of the suites have private docks so that guests who choose to get around the resort village using Mayakoba’s boat system can be transported directly to or from their rooms. Among the amenities are 40 butlers, a main pool, a beachfront infinity pool, a spa lap pool, and a media room with a pool table and board games. Dining and bar venues include a restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner daily; two private wine rooms; a cigar bar; a beachfront grill, a spa cafe; a raw bar; and a tequila library. For groups, there is 2,615 square feet of meeting space.


Rosewood Mayakoba debuted its signature spa, Sense, in March 2008. Designed around one of Mayakoba’s seven cenotes, the 17,000-square-foot facility sits on a private island and is accessed via bridge. Spa therapies are offered in any of 12 treatment rooms, and there are men’s and women’s steam rooms and saunas. Outdoor facilities include a lap pool, a meditation platform and a relaxation deck. Itzamna, the spa cafe, serves light, organic fare during the day. For guests seeking a full wellness retreat, there are deluxe spa suites, each featuring a private treatment room, a bathroom with an outdoor shower, a terrace with a plunge pool and a rooftop sundeck.


To keep guests in tune with their environment, the resort hosts lectures on the ecosystems of the Yucatan in addition to others on Maya culture and history. For more information, call 888-ROSEWOOD or visit


Asian hotelier Banyan Tree will make its foray into North America in February 2009 with the Banyan Tree Mayakoba, which will have 132 pool villas. Fifty of the villas, which range in size from one to three bedrooms and showcase outdoor bathtubs and showers, will be reserved for residential sales. The Banyan Tree Spa features outdoor pavilions in the lagoon and a hydrotherapy facility. A large free-form pool with a dining/sunning deck, and Saffron restaurant – the property’s signature dining experience, on three pontoons -- complete the main public areas. The beach club offers sun decks, a pool, a dining room and a lounge. For more information, call 800-591-0439 or visit


Readying for a spring opening, the Viceroy Mayakoba will have 164 villas, 83 of which will be single, stand-alone residences. Viceroy Mayakoba’s gourmet restaurant will serve contemporary versions of Mexican favorites. The restaurant’s cocktail lounge will feature an extensive list of premium tequilas and fine cigars, and there will be live music nightly. The spa will consist of 12 treatment rooms, steam rooms, infrared sauna rooms and two spa suites. A spa cafe will serve organic foods and salads, and a spa boutique will offer select sundries, yoga and beachwear, and several high-end skin- and body-care lines. Two full-service wellness centers will be located beachside and near the main lobby.


The Viceroy Beach Club will provide waterfront dining with a seafood concept, serving traditional Mexican dishes. The Beach Bar will specialize in ceviches and creative margaritas, as well as offer an extensive raw bar and a collection of champagnes by the glass. The Beach Club will also offer private cabanas and recreation areas for parents and children. Viceroy’s children’s program fosters an environment of discovery using the Montessori method, and the Kids’ Club offers books, video games, tennis, arts and crafts, sand-castle contests and wildlife excursions. Nanny services will also be available. For more information, call 888-752-9220, or visit or Medina

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