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
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
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.
I went with a friend to sit on the beach and relax. The beach, room, spa, food and staff were all lovely. I had read a few less-than-positive reviews and am now not sure what they were talking about... maybe there were renovations since they were there? I love luxury hotels and this ranks among them. In any case, the staff is he best part - Noe the driver, Sophie at the beach bar and Filiberto our waiter on the beach always made us feel like VIP guests. The beach was beautiful - no seaweed, no shortage of lounge chairs, waiters or cocktails. For breakfast, we found room service to be the best value. Otherwise, all the food we had was very good. We never would have eaten/drank enough for the all inclusive so we opted out. The spa... very quite and relaxing... there are pools on the roof: hot and cold with private lounge areas. Also there are separate women's and men's lounges with their own hot tubs, sauna and aroma therapy rooms. Worth spending a few hours before or after your treatments. I don't go to Mexico often, but would be happy to return here soon!
They were extremely accommodating for celiac, and the food was delicious. Such a great, luxurious hotel as well. The grounds and the mangroves are amazing, and this we have stayed there a few times. Highly recommend.
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.