by Candyce H. Stapen
To reach the Fairmont Mayakoba, part of a 240-acre gated community, guests drive through a lush “jungle” landscape of canals and lagoons lined with coconut palms, bamboo and mangrove thickets. That’s because the design of the Mayakoba development, home to several other resorts, fosters the preservation of the Riviera Maya’s indigenous natural habitats.
Instead of permanently cutting away the dense foliage to position the hotel seaside, the Mayakoba’s main building sits well back from the ocean, encircled by a wide ribbon of trees, bushes and mangroves. From the lobby, situated on a rise, there is a patchwork of greenery laced by the lagoons and canals that wind near the resort’s 90 casitas. Only nine rooms are oceanfront. The remainder of the resort’s 401 units is either in the hotel building near the main lobby or clustered throughout the grounds.
This is a different feel for a beach resort and, we confess, one that takes us awhile to enjoy. After all, like so many who come to the Riviera Maya, we crave the beach. Given a few days, however, we come to appreciate the sense of place that the resort delivers. The Riviera Maya is known for its mix of jungle and water — sea, canals and cenotes, also known as underground rivers.
Because the property spreads out, guests arrive at rooms via golf cart. Cars aren’t permitted on the grounds, a nice touch that makes bicycling and strolling particularly nice for families. But this is not a resort for those who mind walking or waiting for the frequent shuttles as the main pool is about a half-mile or more away.
Our Editor Loves
- Swimming at the beach
- Comprehensive children's programs
- Family cooking classes
- Theme Park
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Family Room 5+
- Free Wi-Fi
- Game Room
- Kids' Pool
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Onsite Dining
Rooms & Rates
The hotel located near the lobby offers typical Fairmont rooms with pool, canals or tropical forest views. At 436 to 480 square feet the unit's are large, with enough room to share. Each comes with a LCD TV, Bose wave radio and CD player, two line phones as well as in-room tea and coffee service.
Only nine units -- all suites -- sit beachfront. Some of these units feature second bedrooms as well as private plunge pools.
At this property, it's fun to choose a room located in one of the 90 casitas, each of which houses two to four units. Larger at 458 to 504 square feet, these rooms either face the canals or are nearby, offering views of watery thickets or the forest.
by Anshul A
We had a great time at Fairmont Mayakoba with one constant disappointment. First let's talk about what we loved:
* The property is amazing, lots of great views, greenery, the canal, and of course the beach
* They have taken care of the small things that elevate your experience. For example, the presentation of food, the notes left in the room by housekeeping, buggy rides to get around the property
* Everyone you come across will greet you with a smile
* The waiters were professional and well-versed with the menu
* They make you feel like royalty
What we did not like:
* The F&B service in restaurants and pool/beach area was very slow. At first we thought it was a one-time thing but we experienced slow service every time at every place. It seemed that the place was understaffed. With everything else being top-notch, it was a downer to experience sub-par service. It was very difficult to get a hold of waiters and they were often forgetting a part of our orders.
* The photoshoot company's sales process was not transparent. I understand that this is not owned by the hotel but they operate on the property and we trusted them because they were on the hotel property. They told us that we can get a photoshoot with no obligation to buy. And if we decide to buy, the price will be $20 per photo. After the photo shoot was over (the pics were great btw), we decided to buy 5 photos. At that point they told us that they had a minimum of 10 photos. This was again a bit of a downer. We would have still gone ahead with the photo shoot had they told us about the minimum beforehand, but we just expected more transparency from a brand like Fairmont.
Overall, it was a fantastic vacation and we will visit again for sure.
We spent 5 days here while attending a conference and we couldn't have been more impressed with the property and the service we received. We stayed in a spacious Signature Casita Room which has a private deck overlooking the canal. The grounds were spotless and the employees friendly and extremely helpful. The resort offers a free boat tour of the canals but you need to make reservations upon arrival as it fills up quickly. They also have a free water taxi that will take you to all the other resorts located within the property where you can dine or use their facilities and charge it back to your room if you so desire. They also provide free bicycles and transportation throughout the property. They also offer inexpensive snorkeling and kayaking tours on the property. We did not have the opportunity to have dinner at any of the restaurants at the Fairmont as we waited to long to make a reservation and they were all full but we ate breakfast and lunch at the Laguna restaurant located by the pool. The breakfast buffet was incredible in it's selection and freshness and the poolside lunch was very good. Regardless of your dietary needs you could find something to eat here. We did have dinner at Tomahawk Den and Saffron in Banyan Tree and lunch at Punta Bonita in Rosewood. You can read my reviews of those if you like. Overall, the Fairmont Mayakoba is an excellent resort to get away from it all.
Pools and Beach
All five of the resort's pools are heated. Although the beach area features a pool, most families tend to hang out at the laguna pools, the main pools, one of which has a waterslide. There's also an adults-only pool. Conveniently, the laguna area offers plenty of lounge chairs, two eating options -- an inexpensive cafe and a restaurant -- and is home to the resort's multi-room children's facility.
Then there's the beach, a reasonably wide, but not too long strip of sand. Despite the resort's size, we did not find the beach crowded. The sea's gentle slope and typically calm waters make it a good place for kids to splash under the watchful eyes of their parents.
The gated children's complex, which has an outdoor pirate ship for young kids to climb, plus another air-conditioned main room, also houses an air-conditioned teen lounge with a Nintendo Wii, billiard table and air-hockey. We are not certain how many teens show up since they'd have to walk through the entry to the children's program, something most teens won't do no matter how tempting the fun is on the other side. When teens aren't present, the older kids in the supervised program use the room.
Both the Fairmont Mayakoba's program for ages 4 to 6, the Discovery Club, and the Adventure Camp for ages 7 to 12, operate out of the same facility. Hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 5 to 8 p.m. daily. The resort recommends you reserve a space at least 24 hours in advance.
We like the fact that kids are taken around the property and not confined to the kids' area. Children go on nature walks to feed the resort's turtles, swim in the pool, slither down the water slide and build sandcastles at the beach. Back in the air-conditioned room, kids craft mini-pirate boats, create Mexican-style bracelets, have their faces painted, find out the secrets of fashioning balloon animals and watch movies.
The fitness program for ages seven to 17 aims to get kids moving. Kids follow instructions on drill cards that outline a specific activity such as jumping over obstacles. By doing these exercises or "tricks" as they're called, kids strengthen athletic skills needed for baseball, skateboarding, soccer and other sports. After training for an hour or two with an instructor at the resort, participants can opt to come back to be tested as well as continue to improve and post their scores once at home.
Something special to try: the family cooking class. Even though the hour-long class conducted in the resort's kitchen consists of mixing ingredients rather than actual cooking, we have fun combining, drizzling and garnishing the prepared elements as well as looking around the large facility. Afterwards, guests can enjoy the lunch they just created. The chef is happy to work with families about any dietary restrictions, too.
You and your 'tweens and teens can borrow one of the resort's complimentary BMW bicycles to pedal around the property. This program has proven so popular that the resort is obtaining more bicycles, including ones designed especially for women.
Children's menus are available at all sit-down restaurants. Kids under age 5, when dining with parents, eat for free. For ages 6 to 12, the restaurants offer a children's menu plus kids this age may receive a 50 percent discount on most entrees from the regular menu.
La Laguna Grill
La Laguna Grill serves an ample breakfast buffet as well as an a la cart lunch and dinner. From the children's menus, kids can pick fried chicken, pizza, peanut butter and jelly and other items. Families will like dining on the restaurant's outdoor deck, watching the birds flying over the surrounding lagoon as well as peer down into the water at the fish. The restaurant also has an indoor, air-conditioned space.
When you don't have the time or don't want to spend the money for a full meal, the nearby Cafe Maya, also in the laguna complex, offers moderately priced sandwiches, salads, pastries and coffee to go as well as a few outside tables.
El Puerto, in the main building downstairs from the lobby, is known for its seafood dinners. In high season, the restaurant also serves breakfast and lunch.
Las Brisas, the resort's signature beachfront restaurant, serves burgers, salads and other such fare for lunch. For dinner, Las Brisas, offers a contemporary take on Latin cuisine.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Babysitting is available as are cribs. Two children under 18 years sharing with parents stay free. The resort creates special programs for children and families at Easter and Christmas/New Years.
Complimentary Wi-Fi access is available throughout the hotel.
Fitness Center and Spa
The property has a gym plus a 37,000-square-foot spa with a wide range of treatments, such as the Chac Chac Rain Ritual or Yucatan Healing, which incorporate indigenous ingredients and Mayan elements.
Small pets, under 25 pounds, are welcome to stay at the resort.
The Art of Smart Timing
High season runs mid-December through May and the low season is June through mid-December.
Fly into the Cancun International Airport. Either rent a car or book your transportation from the airport to your resort ahead of time. That way you can bypass the gauntlet of vendors trying to get you to book transportation and outings.
Cars aren't permitted on the grounds, so bicycling and walking are the primary ways to get around the expansive property. This is not a resort for those who mind walking. However, there are frequent shuttles to the main pool.
For Mom and Dad
The Laguna Lounge, the restaurant and bar area near the main pools, features Caribbean music every night.