Banyan Tree's Latest Resort in Mexico, or is it?
New hotels are popping up on Mexico's Riviera Maya as faster than you can say "Caribbean beachfront land grab." The pristine stretch of white-sand beach is perfectly situated close to the Cancun airport and the charming town of Playa del Carmen -- that is, if you ever want to leave your resort. Gallery: Banyan Tree Mayakoba
Luxury resorts like the Fairmont Mayakoba have been populating the Yucatan Peninsula since the lovely Maroma brought luxe (and an amazing spa) to the area in the late '90s. But late in 2007, a new player arrived in the area with a new trick: the private pool villa. The Banyan Tree Mayakoba is a resort with a grand scale -- the buildings feel over sized, the roofs curving up to the sky for dramatic effect -- and its setting, built around a fresh-water lagoon lends an exotic mystique. The only catch with providing guests with such lavish rooms and private pools, is they tend to stay in them.
Gallery: Banyan Tree Mayakoba
A February visit to the Banyan Tree Mayakoba was an extremely relaxing experience. But with an incredible lobby surrounding a dramatically lit Banyan Tree, and sexy lounges everywhere for beautiful people to populate, it was a bit disappointing to rarely pass by another human.
The scale is certainly dramatic but the lobbies are excessively large, giving the resort a lonely, where-is-everybody feeling. Of course the answer is, everybody is enjoying their private villas. Some are set on the lagoons (with various degrees of privacy) and a few three-bedroom villas are set on the beautiful beach. The lobby and lagoon villas are set a bit in from the beach so guest board an electric boat to drive the 10 minutes or so through the mangroves to arrive at the beach pavilion.
Everything at Banyan Tree is about the experience. Your car from the airport, once inside the Mayakoba gates, will drive through unfussy vegetation for quite some time before reaching the resort. By the time you arrive, you're already on Mexican time. Have a seat on a sofa in the open-air lobby and enjoy a welcome drink while you're being checked in. At the plentiful daily brunch buffet, the staff will carry your plates for you to the table, softly chatting you up along the way. So that boat trip to the beach is just one of the experiences this Singapore-based Banyan Tree company has carefully planned for your visit.
If you're the in-need-of-de-stressing type, the villas should do it (like this two-bedroom villa above.) The pools at each villa are not just plunge pools, but ones large enough to swim and play in. Each villa courtyard is sprinkled with comfortable lounges. Sliding doors open to render your villa wall-less. A hammock hides in the shade. Plus, a variety of menus are available throughout the day so guests could absolutely hole up in their villas for days on end -- and likely many do. The large bathrooms have outdoor jacuzzi tubs with candles supplied for ambiance. There is little to be desired.
The only problem with staying in the villa exclusively is that the beach is one of the best aspects of the resort. The soft, white sand is immaculate and the crystal-clear water hypnotic. Banyan Tree has outfitted it simply with palapa-shaded beds with comfortable terry cloth covers. Waiters will likely bring by some snacks to nibble on. The main pavilion has a large pool and outdoor restaurant, too, so guests could spend their entire days at the beach and want for little.
While the Banyan Tree is certainly lovely, it's not very Mexican in feel. Instead it emulates the Asian aesthetic of its owners. So the resort serves as an incredibly peaceful escape but visitors might forget which country they were visiting if it weren't for the pico de gallo and guacamole popping up on menus. But for those interested in an Asian experience closer to home, this might be just the place.
The Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts run properties all over the world, including a new one in Al Wadi, United Arab Emirates.