Elaine and Scott Harris
How do you combine the exotic and authenticity of the Mayan culture and the mystery and beauty of the rainforest with modern luxury travel? There is a place that has done this very well: Rosewood Mayakoba. Although the Mayan civilization lasted from 250 to 900 A.D., the essence of their culture infiltrates the very fiber of the Mayakoba. The Mayakoba was founded almost 20 years ago, and it continues to be dedicated to the preservation of the mangroves and living waterways, along with the bourgeoning plant and animal life. Given this respect for the environment, visitors can revel in the beauty of flora and fauna while enjoying world-class hotels, shopping, and outdoor activities. Mayakoba is a two-hour flight from many southern cities in the U.S., and it's both a convenient travel destination and a step back in time from the frantic pace of everyday life in the U.S.
This unique resort has embraced and enhanced the quality of upscale amenities while upholding the sacredness of the culture and the people that make your stay at the resort so memorable. Located along the mile long stretch of the Yucatán Peninsula, Rosewood Mayakoba is dedicated to “luxury tourism with a conscience.” As a winner of the “Sustainable Standard Setter Award” by the Rainforest Alliance and the “Ulysses Award for Sustainable and Responsible Tourism Development by the United Nations,” Rosewood Mayakoba is a leader in creating and maintaining a "sense of place" philosophy and environmental responsibility.
Upon arrival, amid a torrential downpour, my driver escorted me through the palatial stone gate, which was surrounded by swaying palm trees and windswept landscape. I was then greeted by my host and butler for the weekend, Pavel Rivero. His warm smile and charming manner put me at ease, as he led me to the awaiting golf cart. Raindrops pattered on the plastic window of the golf cart as we meandered through a forest of mangroves, tropical plants, and palm trees to a bungalow suite which would serve as my own private residence for the weekend visit. The suite was more of an upscale second-story apartment, lined with quarried marble, cool beiges, and wood accents. Fine linens adorned the bed, and soft lighting and music, brought a sense of calmness and tranquility. The spacious suite had a lovely sitting room and outdoor patio that led to a second-story outdoor terrace overlooking the River Maya and the Pacific Ocean. The private plunge pool quickly became my favorite place to relax and unwind as I gazed upon nature’s grandeur that indeed surrounds every facet of Rosewood Mayakoba. The luxury suite also offered a large soaking tub and an outdoor rain shower for bathing in comfort and again embracing the space of nature and nurture. After a day of travel, I felt a sense of awe and a spirit of relaxation sweep over me as I nestled down for a restful sleep.
After awaking, I headed to Casa del Lago, the main restaurant on the property, that features upscale Mediterranean cuisine. While sipping on my cappuccino, I relished the warm sunshine streaming down upon the lovely swimming pool, verdant courtyard, and the meandering River Maya that created a window of scenery to start my day.
Casa del Lago is also the place that offers an astounding breakfast buffet of luscious fruits, cheeses, egg dishes, and a bevy of baked goods, from bagels to buttery croissants. Rosewood Mayakoba offers several dining options for their guests, including the more casual lunch and dinner spot on the beach, Punta Bonita, and the lovely sushi bar and tequila bar, Agave Azul. And now, with the advent of their new town square El Pueblito, the La Fondita, offers signatures tostadas with the freshest local ingredients.
“La Fondita is a place where you can try authentic Mexican food, like a snack or a small bite, using the freshest of ingredients," said Karin Salinas, regional director of sales and marketing. Whether choosing the fresh cerviche or duck tostada, each bite will have you returning for more. My agenda did include a visit to all the above, but I was anticipating my cooking class at La Ceiba, the outdoor cooking venue and gardens, in particular. It was hosted by executive Chef Juan Pablo. Interactive venues are my favorite, and cooking with others is a great way to learn about the ingredients and culture of a place.
After dining, Pavel promptly brought me to the Sense Spa for a day of pampering as an introduction to a new spa feature for the guests at Rosewood Mayakoba. Sense, the Rosewood Spa, has dedicated its services to “stimulating the fine balance between life, nature, and spirit by integrating spiritual well being into traditional spa experience.” The Apothecary spa treatment was inspired by the Mayan’s culture close relations with nature, as it elevates wellness as it first introduces one to the nuances of nature as it seeks to enliven the spirit and the senses. By first relaxing in the outdoor veranda, surrounded by the mystical greens of the rainforest, I embraced the sounds of the nearby cascading waterfall. A lovely Hispanic woman, Cecila, greeted me with her effervescent smile and gentle manner. Cordially, she ushered me along the white pebbled path into the wood-planked door building that would serve as a window into the “apothecary” aspect of this spa offering.
A person trained in apothecary is one who is an expert in the use of medicine and herbs in healing. Cecilia, my trained massage therapist, lead me along the plant- and flower-lined walls, explaining the importance of the use of plants and herbs in the healing practices of the Mayans. She encouraged me to close my eyes and breathe in the fragrances, to let go and live in the present moment within this special rainforest garden.
As I tuned into the plants and flowers surrounding me, Cecilia encouraged me to select one that stood out me. My selection of lavender seemed a perfect fit to be use as the main fragrance in my spa treatment. After our apothecary journey, we again continued towards the nearby Cenote. Many of these historic Cenotes, or natural sinkholes, were considered sacred and were believed to be gateways to the afterlife by the ancient Mayans. After a few minutes of contemplation, I was lead to my final destination, my outdoor spa bungalow. Tranquil and soothing music filled the warm space as I prepared for several hours of exfoliation and massage. Starting with a cleansing scrub and followed by the detoxifying lavender infused Mayan clay, I was gently stripped of all the dead skin cells. As I stepped into my steamy private shower, I felt like a butterfly stepping away from a scaly chrysalis. The final massage was a welcome end to a day of rejuvenation and restoration.
With much gratitude for the thoughtful and integrative aspects of this new spa package, I left feeling more connected to the surrounding culture and more aware of the goodness of my present life. As I bid farewell to my new friend, Cecilia, I was in awe of the experience that made me more aware of how important it is to take time to stop, observe, and reflect on what is really important in life. Rosewood Mayakoba’s mission rings true as a special place that "invites guests to integrate spiritual well-being through services that honor the local Mayan traditions in healing and highlights indigenous natural elements of its locale and region.”
Only after a very short time on this stunning property of white sandy beaches and spectacular rainforest surroundings, I began to understand the very essence of this property, and it had to do with the intuitive nature of the culture. My butler, Pavel, went above and beyond to make my stay comfortable and memorable. I noted that everyone who worked on the property was very friendly and happy. He replied with a beaming smile, “The owners are happy people, and that makes everyone working for them happy also.” I was glad to hear of the symbiotic relationship of genuine mutual respect, and it resonated through the smiles all who graced the property. Pavel listened intently as I told him I was very interested in the animals that live in the rainforest on the property. He told me of the coati, an animal that is considered the guardian of the forest in the Yucatán region.
The coati looks similar to a raccoon, and are seen quite frequently walking in family groups. I really had hoped to see one of the creatures, but as the day progressed, I did not have the opportunity. When I returned to my room that evening, Pavel had a book about the flora and fauna of the area and a miniature Oaxacan statue of the Coati waiting for me in my room. I was so touched by his attentiveness and thoughtfulness. This type of customer service is above and beyond anything I had ever recalled at a normal resort stay, and I was not alone in this observation.
I met a couple from New Jersey who praised the resort for this very aspect. This was their second trip to Rosewood Mayakoba, and they continued to be in awe of the special care and attention to detail that they received and continue to encounter at the resort. I also felt the same way throughout my entire stay. Rosewood Mayakoba also takes special care for families with children, offering the Rosebud program that offers many interactive activities for children of all ages. So whether you are planning a family vacation or an anniversary getaway, Rosewood Mayakoba is a must for those who want to indulge in the best of all worlds, including the inner world of the spirit and culture.
My final night had arrived, and off we went to our special dinner with the food we learned to prepare with executive chef Juan Pablo. The warm night air was alive with the sounds of the Mariachi band playing. Twinkling lights adorned the entrance to La Ceiba, the outdoor dinner venue and working kitchen gardens, that had been transformed into a formal dining area for our last communal meal of our stay. Being able to interact with the chef and the other guests made this a memorable event. The mighty Ceiba tree is the center of attraction, and rightly so, in that it is a grand shade three that has a mystical meaning in the Mayan culture.
The Ceiba tree is thought to bridge the gap between the earthly realm and the spirit realm, and that night it graced the background of our dining experience, adorned with brightly lit handcrafted lanterns. As we made our way to our seats, plates of food started to make their way to the table. They included mounds of succulent lamb chops and plates of fine filets doused in Mexican spices and cooked to perfection in banana leaves. All this was accompanied by many assorted salsas and freshly made tortillas. The wines, served with pride by our sommelier, were described as unique wines from tropical growing regions of Mexico. Spain’s influence on the wine growing regions of Mexico has secured international attention, especially as the wine industry which has flourished and grown over the years. With each glass of wine and bite of the best in authentic Mexican cuisine, each guest remarked with delight at the abundant feast before us.
As guests happily engaged in eating and conversation, Chef Juan stopped by to see how we were doing. I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about this lovely feast.
About his inspiration, Chef Juan said, “I love using the unique ingredients that are not well-known but are reflective of this area, such as the many Mayan spices. He also mentioned that they "can take a big group and do a cooking class, and then we can turn what you have learned into a splendid dinner such as this one.” As for the chef's guilty pleasure, it's hot dogs, as well as good Middle Eastern food and authentic Greek cuisine.
Well, there were no hot dogs at this dinner, and I thanked him for his sumptuous fare and bid him a heartfelt gracias and adios for the evening. We completed our final cheers with a bit of tequila.
Laughter and joyous conversations filled the air, as we reminisced of our adventures with the other guests who stayed at Rosewood Mayakoba. La Ceiba gives guests the opportunity to join in this very interactive venue, which is a truly communal way to engage with other travelers and to enjoy the bounty and beauty of this Yucatán paradise.
As more people move into a sense of using their money in a more conscious manner, including where to spend precious time and funds, they should keep in mind that Rosewood Mayakoba has earned the respect and the accolades to become the place to vacation every year and recapture lovely memories. From the El Camaleon golf course to the white sandy beaches, this resort will capture your heart, spirit, and soul.