Fairmont Mayakoba: a Large Resort with Personal Pampering

Fairmont Mexico pool

The oldest and largest resort in the Mayakoba complex in the Riviera Maya, Fairmont Mayakoba is a solid choice for a wide range of travelers to the region. It can host high-end conventions or large destination weddings, but the layout makes it feel intimate enough for couples. The extensive pools and kids’ club make it popular with parents as well.

The Mayakoba complex north of Playa del Carmen contains several hotels and a PGA Championship golf course, but it’s no ordinary beach development. After learning what doesn’t work on a coast regularly buffeted by hurricanes, the hotels here are designed to be set well back from the beach, with mangroves and waterways (really exposed cenotes) left in place. This makes for a much more sustainable development and it also makes the resorts here havens for wildlife. On the boat ride from the lobby area to the beach and pool area, it’s not unusual to spot a half dozen bird species.

Mayakoba lagoon

As with the other two resorts in this complex (and the adjacent Blue Diamond), the layout is long and skinny, with rooms spaced out in multiple small buildings along paths that connect them to the inland lobby and the seaside pool and restaurant. It can make for a long walk in the tropical heat, but there are two other options: an elongated golf cart shuttle or a bike. The bicycles—made by BMW—are there for the taking at multiple stations. You just ride one where you need to go and leave it there.

Three pools keep the crowd spread out when the resort is full. A large inland one is close to most of the rooms, while another one near that is for adults only. The pool by the beach is a dramatic infinity pool and is a great place to sip a drink and gaze out at the turquoise Caribbean water.

The European executive chef at Fairmont Mayakoba is one of the best in the region and the meals here are consistently excellent. In the photo here is a appetizer sampler: a cochinito taco with orange habanero chutney, ceviche in tomatilllo with avocado, and blue crab cake with herbed micro greens. Yum!

El Puerto restaurant

Two of the three main restaurants are inland: El Puerto in the lobby building and La Laguna facing an infinity pool and a canal. Las Brisas by the ocean has the best view and the most extensive fresh seafood selection. There’s a strong sustainability focus to the food sourcing here and there are is a Mexican craft beer tasting program available, which is not an easy thing to find in most resort areas.

The large Willow Stream Spa has an extensive list of treatments in a facility with 20 treatment rooms and indoor pools. The gym carries a charge for anyone who doesn’t have a President’s Club account—the only hotel where I’ve encountered this in all of Mexico—so sign up here and get a number before arrival. That also enables you to avoid the Wi-Fi charge, so then you’re on par with most other Riviera Maya luxury hotels.

Fairmont Playa del Carmen

Rooms vary in size and layout, but are well-equipped with amenities and have spacious baths. Even the lowest class rooms get Bose stereos, large flat-screen TVs, electronic safes, coffee makers, and ample closets with plenty of hangers. Robes and slippers are in the marble baths stocked with quality toiletries. The smallest start at 436 square feet and face the mangroves or lagoons, while some by the beach are larger. The 34 suites are all at least 900 square feet and some are two-bedroom affairs with an ocean view. All are well-designed and comfortable, contemporary but also functional. Maid service is exemplary, including nighttime turndown service with a treat. There’s a true ergonomic desk chair and easy-to-reach outlets, so this is a beach resort where you can actually get some work done.

There’s a small convenience store with prices four times what you’ll find in Playa del Carmen, but that’s a 15-minute cab ride away. Otherwise plan on doing your dining and drinking here or making reservations at the Rosewood or Banyan Tree neighbors.

This option is not as refined and luxurious as those two others, but it also has significantly more affordable rates. This Fairmont resort has been designated a AAA 5-Diamond one and it has two AAA 4-Diamond Restaurants, which puts it in rare company on this region. Overall it’s a reliable, well-run resort run by experienced Fairmont managers, with enough amenities and features to keep every member of the family happy.

Rates start at around $200 outside of high season and can go into four digits for the best suites. Book direct at Fairmont Mayakoba or check rates at Hotels.com or Priceline.

Review and photos by editor Tim Leffel, who was hosted at the resort while covering the ILTM Americas luxury travel conference.

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