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Hotel review: Banyan Tree Mayakoba (Mexico)

Wednesday newsletters always feature a luxury hotel and/or flight review.

Today (July 23, 2014): Review of Banyan Tree Mayacoba, a taste of Asia in the Riviera Maya (Mexico).
  • Location: Google Maps
  • Address: Carretera Federal Chetumal-Puerto Juarez, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Mexico
  • Hotel website: Banyan Tree Mayakoba
  • Tip: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso

A harmonious blend of nature and luxury, the ultra-luxurious Banyan Tree Mayakoba, on Mexico’s famous Riviera Maya coast, takes the Caribbean lifestyle to new heights. Located 40 minutes from Cancun International airport and within the gated resort development of Mayakoba near Playa Del Carmen, the resort offers a unique sense of tranquil and private space immersed in untouched nature, complemented by touches of the Banyan Tree brand’s signature Asian hospitality and warmth.

Banyan Tree Mayakoba features in my top 10 lists of the world’s best health spas, the world’s best family hotels, and the world’s most amazing hotel lobbies.

In this review (more info and photos below the slideshow):

  • Pros & things I like
  • Cons & things to know
  • My verdict
  • Tips for future guests & save money
  • Best time to visit
  • How to get there

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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PROS & THINGS I LIKE
  • The Banyan Tree resort is located within the exclusive, gated community of Mayakoba near Playa Del Carmen. Within this tropical paradise, six miles of freshwater canals surrounded by exotic mangroves and birds connect three enchanting hotels: the Banyan Tree, the Rosewood, and the Fairmont. Guests are peacefully transported in boats through the resort contemplating a revolutionary vision of beauty and harmony.
  • The resort provides easy access to a pristine coastline, the second-largest coral reef in the world (stretching from the Yucatán to Guatemala), and a colourful range of flora and fauna.
  • Banyan Tree Mayakoba’s architecture will blow you away. The resort is built to impress and it will not fail doing so. The open-air lobby is simply stunning!
  • The resort layout is gorgeous. The main hotel buildings are located inland, about 1/2 mile (750 meters) from the beach, in an ecosystem of dunes, mangroves and freshwater lagoons.
  • Although located inland, the resort has a very nice satellite facility at its beach, with a restaurant, kid’s club and comfortable beach loungers. You will need a buggy (free hotel service) or bikes (5 US $ a day per bike) to get from the main hotel buildings to the beach (unless you are booked in one of the beach villas). Biking through the beautiful, private grounds is a pure delight!
  • Villas are huge and nicely decorated with handcrafted Mayan furnishings. Bathrooms are massive. Each freestanding villa curls around its own individual garden area, creating a private yet spacious outdoor area, in a unique layout inspired by courtyard houses of the Far East. All 118 villas have their own large swimming pool (the largest private pool I experienced so far during a hotel stay). I definitely recommend to book (at least) a courtyard villa, as these come with an outdoor hot tub.
  • Food is excellent in all off the on-site restaurants, but be prepared to pay a lot (about 75 US $ per person per night for starter & entrée, excluding drinks). Contemporary Thai delights and romantic interludes by the tranquil lagoon awaits at Banyan Tree’s signature restaurant Saffron, while Mediterranean fair will tempt you at Tamarind. Delectable seafood is served at Sands beach club. At sunset, look at the fading light from rooftop bar, La Copa, with a margarita in hand. Breakfast is also very enjoyable with a huge buffet.
  • The resort offers great promotions, and sometimes features on Jetsetter, which offers additional, considerable discounts. In fact, for the luxury you get, this resort charges rather modest room rates. Room rates are cheaper than the nearby Rosewood Mayakoba (albeit the hotel is comparably classy and impressive).
  • If you like golf, you will love the resort. The on-site El Camaleon golf course earned its name because it weaves through three distinct ecosystems – jungle, dense mangrove and stunning, oceanfront stretches of sand. The golf course, designed by Greg Norman, annually hosts the Mayakoba Golf Classic, Riviera Maya – Cancun.
  • The Banyan Tree Spa features intimate outdoor spa pavilions located in the lagoon, where guests can enjoy Asian-inspired spa treatments.

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

The Banyan Tree Mayakoba is an amazing resort. Nevertheless, I want to share with you some issues to beware of: 

  • Bugs can be troublesome outside the dry season (especially around sunset), so bring lots of insect repellents.
  • The white-sand beach is nice but do not expect a dreamy, palm-fringed idyll, as the beach is rather narrow (about 15 feet or 5 meters wide), with some rocks and sea-grass in the ocean. The beach in front of the other Mayakoba hotels is similar: nice but you are not in a tropical, lush paradise.
  • The mangroves at the Banyan Tree Resort are not as visibly present as compared to the nearby Rosewood Mayakoba, where you have nicer views of the canals.
  • There are many families with small children vacationing at the hotel. This is excellent news for families of course (the hotel is very child-friendly) but not so for those looking for a zen experience. In fact, I choose the Banyan Tree over the Rosewood because I read some reviews about the latter hotel that complained about the large number of children on the property disturbing the atmosphere. I can assure you that the Rosewood and Banyan Tree are equal in this aspect and both have an adult-only area inland but lack an adult-only place near their beach clubs: the only swimming pools at their beach clubs are small and at the Banyan Tree, the child’s club is located right next to the pool, so there are always (screaming) children in the pool.
  • While the Asian influenced service was great at the main hotel facilities, it was mediocre at the beach club. It often took more than 30 min before I could catch the attention of the waiters although I was sitting in their sight. Also, while other top hotels (Four Seasons, Capella, Raffles) offer continuous surprises for their guests at their beaches (little snacks, massages, happy sprays), the Banyan Tree only offered one bottle of water per day at the beach club.

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 8/10
  • Design: 8/10
  • Rooms: 9/10
  • Food: 8/10
  • Service: 8/10
  • Overall experience: very good: 8,2/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS  &  SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: read our tips how to get the best deal at a luxury resort like the Banyan Tree Mayakoba (and/or receive many free perks).
  • Save money: I recommend to book a stay at Banyan Tree Mayakoba via Virtuoso, which has the benefit of complimentary VIP perks (e.g. room upgrade, daily breakfast, $100 USD resort credit, preferential green fees at the El Camaleon golf course, 10% discount at our Banyan Tree SPA, early check in and late check out).
  • Book (at least) a courtyard villa, as these come with an outdoor hot tub.
  • The Banyan Tree Mayakoba sometimes features on Jetsetter, which offers the best deals (with lots of savings).
  • The private resort airport transfer is twice as expensive as compared to when you reserve your transfer yourself online with another company (like Cancun transfer). Only difference is that the latter will not offer you free bottles of water inside the SUV.
  • Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

In general temperatures at the Riviera Maya follow the same pattern as Northern Hemisphere: cooler in the winter (December to January) and warmer in the summer months (June to August), although the hottest time of year is just before the rains come, between March and May, when it can be very hot and humid.  The Riviera Maya experiences a rainy season which starts in May-June and continues through to September-October. During this period temperatures remain high and although it rains every day, downpours don’t tend to be prolonged. There is a chance for hurricanes, especially from July to October.


HOW TO GET THERE

Banyan Tree Mayakoba is located 40 minutes by car from Cancun International Airport, which is served by most North- and South American as well as some European airlines (click here for a direct link to their websites). Check the Wikipedia page of Cancun International Airport for an updated list of airlines that fly to Cancun.


RESORT AERIAL VIEW

RESORT AERIAL VIEW

HOTEL ENTRANCE

HOTEL ENTRANCE

HOTEL ENTRANCE

HOTEL ENTRANCE

LOBBY

LOBBY

SAFFRON RESTAURANT

SAFFRON RESTAURANT

SAFFRON RESTAURANT

SAFFRON RESTAURANT

RESORT BRIDGE

RESORT BRIDGE

POOLSIDE BREAKFAST

POOLSIDE BREAKFAST

BEACH CLUB ENTRANCE

BEACH CLUB ENTRANCE

BEACH

BEACH

BEACH

BEACH

BEACH CLUB POOL

BEACH CLUB POOL

TAMARIND RESTAURANT

TAMARIND RESTAURANT

VILLA EXTERIOR

VILLA EXTERIOR

VILLA BEDROOM

VILLA BEDROOM

VILLA BATHROOM

VILLA BATHROOM

VILLA BATHROOM

VILLA BATHROOM

SPA POOL VILLA

SPA POOL VILLA

SPA POOL VILLA

SPA POOL VILLA

SPA POOL VILLA

SPA POOL VILLA

SPA POOL VILLA TERRACE

SPA POOL VILLA TERRACE

SPA POOL VILLA TERRACE

SPA POOL VILLA TERRACE

RESIDENCE

RESIDENCE

RESIDENCE LIVING ROOM

RESIDENCE LIVING ROOM

POOL VILLA BEDROOM

POOL VILLA BEDROOM

OCEANFRONT POOL VILLA

OCEANFRONT POOL VILLA

OCEANFRONT POOL VILLA TERRACE

OCEANFRONT POOL VILLA TERRACE

OCEAN CLUB TWO BEDROOM POOL VILLA

OCEAN CLUB TWO BEDROOM POOL VILLA

OCEAN CLUB TWO BEDROOM POOL VILLA BEDROOM

OCEAN CLUB TWO BEDROOM POOL VILLA BEDROOM

IN VILLA DINING

IN VILLA DINING

BATH

BATH

GOLF COURSE

GOLF COURSE

GOLF COURSE

GOLF COURSE

SPA TREATMENT ROOM

SPA TREATMENT ROOM

SPA TREATMENT ROOM

SPA TREATMENT ROOM

SPA RAINFOREST VITALITY POOL

SPA RAINFOREST VITALITY POOL


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