It has only been open less than 10 years, but Mayakoba, the eco-luxe development on Mexico’s Mayan Riviera, has already achieved a sort of legendary status among elite travelers. Its guests treasure their natural surroundings as much as any high-end amenities. Mayakoba, Mayan for "city on the water,” is all the more impressive because the tremendous effort that went into creating it remains mostly hidden from view. To the casual observer, the three luxury resorts and golf course on the 240-acre parcel seem to have sprung up among the jungle and mangrove forest, providentially connected by a series of lagoons and canals.
In fact, part of the Yucatan Peninsula’s famed network of pure underground waters were carefully and creatively brought to the surface to make the wondrous waterways (a sinewy six miles in total). They now lend Mayakoba its air of magic and mystery. Located in the Mexican State of Quintana Roo alongside the Caribbean Sea, it is just 40 miles south of Cancun but truly a world apart. More than mere aesthetics, preserving the parcel’s mangroves has had an important impact on the planet.
They purify the water and prevent it from clogging the coral reef which sits just off the coast and is the second largest in the world. Rather than crowding a string of resorts along the beach, Mayakoba’s developers conceived of it as a “community of luxury brands” in harmony with the ecosystem, a bold move at the time, now acknowledged as brilliant.
The three resorts currently occupying the property—the Fairmont Mayakoba, Rosewood Mayakoba, and Banyan Tree Mayakoba—also share the Greg Norman-designed El Camaleon golf course, Audubon certified since 2006 and re-certified every year. Host to the only official PGA event in Mexico, it also features the Jim McLean Golf School. The Fairmont, the first resort to open in Mayakoba, is a thoroughly natural fit for the site. The company, which dates back to 1884, was “founded on an enduring connection to the land and communities” where it does business, as its impressive roster of properties around the world attests. And indeed Fairmont has furthered the goals of the city’s founders on its acreage.
Using an ancient Mayan technique called “socoleo,” its landscape architects enhanced the beauty of native flora by pruning and replanting them. In all, more than 1,500 trees were rescued and relocated all around the property. At the same time, more than 40 species, including exotic birds and iguanas, were relocated to the most hospitable sections of the site. Several areas were given over entirely to nature, including the Fairmont’s much-appreciated Turtle Garden, home to three different species of freshwater turtles. Today they can all be seen enjoying the property just as much as the guests.
The hotel also has a spectacular roster of six restaurants, including two AAA Four Diamond Award winners, Las Brisas and El Puerto. Las Brisas is the Fairmont’s signature beachfront restaurant, with a traditional “palapa” thatched roof design, intimate seating for 85, and a menu of enticing New Latin dishes. It also features a Terrace bar for enjoying the seaside locale. El Puerto, with expansive views of the resorts canals and lagoons, is a romantic setting for enjoying Caribbean lobster and other fresh local seafood as well as steaks and international favorites. The La Laguna Grill & Bar offers indoor or outdoor dining in a more casual mode, while the Las Olas & Aqua Pool Bars are dedicated to quenching guests’ thirst in style.
While Fairmont Mayakoba is on the lower end of the resorts’ rates, its AAA Five Diamond rating means that in no way compromises its luxe amenities. The property offers several swimming pools, tennis courts, an oceanfront beach club with extremely soft, fine sand, six restaurants and a 37,000-square-foot spa. With just 401 rooms and suites (including a collection of beachfront and lagoon casitas) set on 45 acres, it feels peaceful, private and privileged.
No cars are allowed within the resort grounds; guests get around on foot, on some very cool BMW-made bicycles, in golf carts or small, custom-designed thatch-roofed boats called lanchas that ply Mayakoba’s pristine waters. The resort has also introduced an all-inclusive “Appetite for Luxury” package with unlimited food and beverage options for those who want to experience everything the property has to offer without worrying about the individual cost of each item.