Spring break had come and gone, but the group of young women waiting to board our short AeroMexico flight to Cancun early one morning recently certainly looked like there was an abundance of overly sweet drinks and cloying DJs in their future. It turned out they were part of a bachelorette party, which wasn’t a surprise at all.
As an entry point to numerous destinations on the Mayan Riviera, Cancun airport sees an interesting mix of travelers: the high-fiving bros and the women who put up with them head to the high-rise hotels on the closest beach; well-heeled nouveau hippies drive an hour and a half south to Tulum, where they can dip a toe into eco-tourism while still eating at restaurants imported from Tribeca; and stressed-out urbanites desperately in need of luxe pampering head for the geographical middle – the opulent multi-resort enclave of Mayakoba.
It’s been a decade since it first appeared – and Mayakoba still thrives by offering remarkably polished yet relaxed service at all of its enclosed resorts, at which the newest, Andaz, we recently dropped our bags. Andaz shares the Mayakoban encampment with three other resort hotels and their accompanying residences, each of which appeal to a slightly different demographic; we came for a long weekend and this is what we found at Andaz Mayakoba.
We’re very big on first impressions, and Andaz nailed it with their circular open-air reception area, The Sanctuary, which is built around a pool designed to resemble the fabled jungle cenotes.
Image by Tadeu Brunelli
Our airy open plan room looked out on to the hotel’s lagoon, home to hundreds of species of chattering birds – all of which are included in the rate. As was one fat, happy looking iguana – who may have discovered Mayakoba’s array of excellent dining options.
Indeed, with three poolside restaurants-slash-bars at the hotel, and no particular business to be done, cocktails en la piscina was a perpetual option. We couldn’t imagine saying no to an expertly made pina colada…and didn’t.
Guests of each resort have the privilege of touring the other three, expanding dining options exponentially – not that we wasted any time doing the math. Andaz by itself flaunts four superb restaurants, ranging from hipster casual at OllaTaco (Yucatan street food), to elegant fine dining at Casa Amate.
Technically there’s nothing outside of the Mayakoban encampment that you can’t live without; but we were in the middle of a Mayan jungle, so we got out and explored. Tours of the amazing cenotes (underground rivers, pools, and caves) are a must – our new friends at 4Worlds Expeditions escorted us through one of them, as well as taking us to a sacred Mayan cacao ceremony. It wasn’t quite “altered states,” but it was the middle of the afternoon, after all.
Image by Tadeu Brunelli
A series of canals and waterways connecting all four resorts flows throughout Mayakoba; Andaz offers an eco cruise that ferries you through mangrove covered banks while you try to catch a glimpse of a baby croc (we did). Oh and you can have them bring champagne and snacks (we did).
The beach. Do we really need to say? It’s stunning.
But Andaz’ de rigueur spa Naum was where we passed most of our leisure time – with such wellness wonders as a hydrotherapy room featuring a shaved ice face bath and a customized fragrance roll-on, made from ingredients you choose, as a parting gift. The hot stone massage was…hot stuff.
Perhaps we were most charmed however by El Pueblito, at the entrance to Mayakoba. Created to look like a town center of yore, with cafes, shops and even a church and a quaint stone gazebo. It’s a Mexican-inspired recreation of Mexico, in…err, Mexico. How meta.