Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts, a well-known luxury brand in Asia, has arrived in Mexico with a splash. Among the brand’s first properties in the Americas is Banyan Tree Mayakoba, an all-villa resort set within the private gated development of Mayakoba. Not only does this enclave include an 18-hole Greg Norman golf course, six miles of freshwater canals and mangroves, but its beachfront is a peaceful, mile-long stretch of powdery white sand and turquoise Caribbean water.
Banyan Tree Mayakoba blends a modern Asian aesthetic with the warmth of Mexico. The all-villa concept works especially well for families; villas are spacious and beautifully appointed. Guests receive a “Personalize My Villa” option via an email link prior to check-in. This feature enables families to indicate any special items they would like to have placed in their accommodations before arrival, such as a baby cot, a highchair, a steam sterilizer or a baby bathtub.
Each villa is spread over multiple levels and contains a kitchen, dining area, living room and one or more bedrooms, as well as a private plunge pool. Parents will need to keep an eye on younger kids who don’t yet have a sense of stair and pool safety, but the configuration is otherwise perfect for families with different sleep schedules or who need a little personal space.
Complimentary fresh fruit, water, juices and sodas are provided daily, and a market is 10 minutes away if you’d like to keep other basics on hand. Note that, though there is a kitchen, cooking utensils and pots and pans are not available to prepare full meals.
TIP: If you are traveling with very young children, bring a baby monitor along. The bedrooms may be out of earshot of the common area and/or private pool. A monitor will allow you to soak up the sun or relax in the living room while little ones sleep.
Banyan Tree has a number of restaurants onsite, and guests also enjoy charging privileges at any of the other Mayakoba resorts. The daily breakfast buffet at Oriente offers something for everyone. Our family loved the churros and made-to-order quesadillas, with local fillings such as chorizo, nopales (cactus) and huitlacoche (corn truffle). It’s best to select a rate package that includes breakfast, as it is expensive otherwise and there aren’t other easy options available.
A surprise dining highlight for our family was Banyan Tree’s signature restaurant, Saffron. Saffron serves authentic Thai food made by Thai chefs, in a unique and fantastic setting (ask for a table on the deck overlooking the canal and mangroves).
TIP: Throughout our stay, service was exceptionally friendly but meals tended to run long. If you have younger kids, plan to go early so they don’t fall apart before dinner arrives.
Banyan Tree Mayakoba’s vast size translates to lots of amenities. Each villa includes two bicycles for daily use (additional bikes are available for $6/day) and golf carts are on call to take guests anywhere they’d like to go. There is a full-service spa, fitness center and two swimming pools, plus a wading pool for babies and toddlers, onsite.
The beachfront facility, about a 5-minute golf cart ride from most villas, has kayaks and canoes and is also home to the children’s activity center, open to ages 5-11. Activities during our visit included face painting and movies. For older kids, there is a kids’ club near the lobby with snacks and video games available. Both clubs are free of charge. Guests also have access to the Mayakoba tennis courts, golf course and golf school.
For those looking to explore the beautiful natural surroundings, there is a three-mile nature trail that can be enjoyed by foot or bicycle. I also highly recommend the complementary nature cruise. This private boat tour along the inland waterways of the mangroves showcases the animals native to the area. We spotted turtles, iguanas, a crocodile and lots of beautiful indigenous birds on our outing.
Banyan Tree Mayakoba is well situated for sightseeing and activities. Playa del Carmen is just 10 minutes to the south and offers a bounty of restaurants and shops. It’s very touristy, but there are some hidden gems among the restaurants and it’s a nice break from resort food if you are in the area for an extended stay.
The ancient Mayan ruins of Tulum, Coba or Chichen Itza are all options for a day trip. Chichen Itza is the largest and most impressive of the three, but it’s also the farthest away (about a three-hour drive from Mayakoba).
Active families should check out Xplor Adventure Park. Admission includes zipline rides, driving amphibious vehicles, and swimming and rafting through underground rivers. There are two options for admission, day or night. The night option, Xplor Fuego, is less crowded. If you plan to go, pack your water shoes.
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Editor’s Note: Banyan Tree Mayakoba provided Ciao Bambino with a media package to facilitate a review of the property. As always, our opinions are our own. Photos by Leslie Rich except where noted.
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