Paul Heney, collaborator of Travel Pulse magazine, published an interesting article about his last trip along the Riviera Maya and Cancún…
Cancun is well-known as an LGBT-friendly vacation destination, but most of our friends who head there seem to be looking for one of two things: party central or all-you-can-eat bliss (plus some beach time) at one of the area’s all-inclusive resorts.
We were delighted to discover a different aspect of the traditional Cancun trip—pure, unadulterated luxury—on our last trip to the area.
Less than an hour south of the hustle and bustle of the hotel zone strip is the more placid resort area of Riviera Maya, a region that stretches south to the ruins of Tulum.
In the midst of Riviera Maya sits Mayakoba, an extensive resort development that includes four high-end hotels, upscale residences and an 18-hole golf course. Built in and around an ecosystem of mangroves and freshwater lagoons, there is an amazing amount of wildlife, including myriad species of birds.
We spent a long weekend at the Banyan Tree Mayakoba, with 121 private pool villas that are crafted into the surrounding landscape in such a way that you feel very much in touch with nature.
We used Maritur to get from Cancun airport to the resort—about a 45-minute drive on a well-maintained divided highway. We easily found the company representative upon exiting the arrivals terminal and were in the vehicle within 45 seconds. The large, plush black SUV was perfectly cooled, and we had chilled bottled water and wonderfully scented hand towels to refresh with.
The vehicle even sported free WiFi, which was an unexpected treat. I’ll never travel to a Cancun-area resort any other way now!
The main hotel building includes two of the resort’s restaurants, as well as the award-winning Banyan Tree Spa and the extensive fitness facility. Winding, one-way pathways fan out around the main building, connecting each private villa.
To get around (including the easy half-mile through the lush resort grounds to the beach), you can walk, have the very attentive staff shuttle you in golf carts or ride your bikes—each villa comes complete with their own set of comfortable road bikes. And if you end up somewhere and decide you’re too tired to bike back to your room, the staff will even take you in a golf cart and return your bikes for you—that’s service.
Our room itself was stunning.
In fact, calling it merely a room seems downright insulting. It was more a villa or a compound. Walk in through a private gate and you’re in what amounts to a large yard with a lovely canopy of mature trees overhead. Due to the layout of each villa, there are no windows facing you from other villas, so there’s total privacy.
Two buildings sat on either side of our yard. To the left were the bedroom and bath. A vaulted ceiling highlights the bedroom area with huge glass windows and two sets of sliding doors. The adjoining bathroom space is a large room surrounding a huge circular vanity holding two sinks. A toiletries/beach bag full of amenities awaited each guest.
A sliding door leads to a large soaking tub that’s outdoors but surrounded by high walls and open to the sky. Separate glassed-off rooms lead to a toilet and a large shower.
But let’s return to the yard itself.
Situated on the left side, nearer the bedroom is an enormous private pool with a separate hot tub et the edge. Oversized chaise lounge chairs are arranged for sunbathing. The second building, across the yard, contains a large sitting room, including a daybed that’s great for lounging on and watching the large television.
The Banyan Tree chain always presents a fascinating combination of Asian service and flavor paired with the local culture. Here, the local addition is, as I was told, “Mexicans’ passion for service.” And we were impressed with that service.
So many employees asked us how they could help.
On one ride to the beach, our golf cart driver inquired about our stay (and we raved about it). He asked, “What can we do to make your stay even better?”
The next day, I realized that I had forgotten to pack my Fitbit charger. I asked at the front desk whether they happened to have one in lost and found that I could borrow. They didn’t but actually offered to go purchase a Fitbit charger for me in town.
Dining is a highlight at Banyan Tree. The signature Thai restaurant, Saffron, is only open for dinner, but what a setting: Seating is perched on a dock overlooking the waterways, with white lights hanging above—a very romantic setting. All the food was top notch, from the extensive Oriente breakfast buffet to the casual luncheon service at the beach at Sands Restaurant.
Other options for dinner include Italian and an Argentinian steakhouse, so you’re never short of options.
We saw several other gay couples at the Banyan Tree, and we were open about holding hands on the resort ground and the beach—never getting so much as one double glance. Resort staff made us feel completely welcome as a couple, from room service to the wait staff at dinner to our spa experience.
That’s as it should be, and I’m eager to return to Mayakoba again soon for another blissful escape from the pressures of the real world.
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