Just Back From Banyan Tree Mayakoba

1 Banyan Tree Entrance.
2 Arrivals lobby.
3 "Still Life" at the beach club.
4 Attention to detail! Bathroom vanity.
5 Banyan Tree Beach Club.
6 Banyan Tree bliss!
7 "Daytime" living space.
8 Beachfront at the Baynan Tree Mayakoba.
9 Daybed in living space.
10 Indoor/Outdoor living.
11 Lobby - Banyan Tree Mayakoba.
12 Lobby lounge.
13 Main pool - Banyan Tree Mayakoba.
14 My personal paradise at the Banyan Tree Mayakoba.
15 Part of Banyan Tree tradition - and charm!

Eat, Sip, Dip, Nap...RETREAT as necessary!

There is a distinctive aura of serenity that  envelopes you from the moment of arrival in this most serene of resorts .  Tucked discreetly in the heart of Mexico's Riviera Maya, in the Mayakoba development about 30 miles from Cancun, the Banyan Tree Resort and Spa is an offshoot of a renowned collection of discreet, luxurious resorts in exotic locations around the world.

Immediately upon entering the impeccable reception area, I am greeted by my charming hostess, Carolina, who, once I am comfortably seated in the lounge, offers up a cup of tamarind tea, served  in a colorful ceramic cup of Mexican design.  I immediately start to notice it's some kind of magic elixir, no doubt concocted to weave a spell.

I marvel , for instance that the demeanor of the Mexican employees, normally a somewhat boisterous and enthusiastic people, has transformed into gentleness and grace.  Remarkable service levels seem effortless here, with the solicitous attitudes and kind gestures that are characteristic of Asian hospitality traditions abundant in every aspect of the hotel operation.

The accommodations portion of the property is comprised of private pool villas of various sizes, designed with privacy as a priority and for maximum indulgence in the creature comforts.  Mine had been upgraded to a courtyard pool villa which provided me with 3000 square feet of indoor/outdoor living space. I know, I could not believe it either so I looked up the floor plan!

As my escort opened the gate to this exclusive little Shangri-La, I could not disguise my delight! Entering into the lushly landscaped courtyard, where a gentle breeze was blowing and exotic birds serenaded me, I took in the azure infinity pool, deeper blue hot tub, two large loungers and a shaded place to dine.

To my right, a glass walled enclosure housed the daytime space- amenity bar which included a private wine chiller and sophisticated Espresso machine, eating area, day bed, flat screen TV, Bose sound system playing soothing New Age music,  enhancing the ambience. Immediately, I drew back all the sheer drapes and opened the sliding glass walls, creating a seamless indoor/outdoor living area.

Across the courtyard awaited my nighttime space, equally soothing in atmosphere, but punctuated with vivid tapestries of Mayan origin. Once again, sliding glass walls open up to make the pool space part of your "at rest" area. For the remainder of my stay, all doors and windows were wide open and I wandered to and fro in this sybaritic paradise, reveling in my definition of the "ultimate indulgence."

Perhaps the most stunning feature of all was the enormous bathing and dressing area. The centerpiece of the room was an oval "island" with twin black and white hand painted tile sinks on either side, a large decorative 2 way mirror in the center, and an oversized, handcrafted, intricately designed lampshade suspended overhead.

One glass wall opens up to a huge stone outdoor bath tub, protected from the courtyard by a niched wall filled with small votive candles.  With one phone call, guests can arrange for a bath concierge to attend to your whims, customizing the bath ingredients for  your soaking pleasure, surrounded by a wall of candles.  Breathtaking!

I have to will myself to break away from all this loveliness- a girl's gotta work, right?- in order to investigate the rest of the resort.

A cart and driver is always a phone call away and off we go, around the immaculate grounds, to the Beach Club.  Because of the allocations of space in the Mayakoba complex, none of the resorts have much ocean front property so only a few of the most exclusive villas overlook the sea.  However the beach experience provides  unparalleled natural  beauty,  a chic indoor/outdoor restaurant (Sand), popular infinity pool and well attended, comfortable beach lounging amenities.

As I soak up the atmosphere and the few remaining hours of daylight, I enjoy excellent local fish ceviche, grilled fish tostadas and a world class Margarita!.  As a final treat, along with my bill, came two miniature chocolate covered coconut ice cream bars- just a bite each, but so clever and just the right touch of decadence for a bathing suit day!

The resort boasts four wonderful restaurants, including Sands at the Beach Club and Oriente, the breakfast venue ( breakfast is almost always included in your room rate here ), the third being Tamarind, where I choose to dine on my first evening.

Small and intimate with international cuisine and delicious cocktails, I decide to go for a celebratory feast and choose the Maine ( not local) lobster, grilled to perfection and bathed in a garlic butter emulsion, accompanied by a delicate butter lettuce salad  dressed with truffle oil, and a "Mayatini"  cocktail which  managed to combine champagne, citrus vodka and tropical juices.

  

After passing up their considerate offer of some reading material ( as a solo diner, I was frequently offered this, but would much prefer to eavesdrop on my fellow diners!) , I was graciously attended to by 3 solicitous wait staff who never seemed to hover but were always a glance away. Once again, a surprising example of Asian refinement in a Mexican resort.

I awoke my 2nd morning in a state of relaxation and bliss that is rare for me- and goody!  This day is going to feature the Rainforest Spa- an experience I will not soon forget!  Treatment times are blocked in hours, and for the cost of two one hour treatments in most any resort spa anywhere, I was able to enjoy a 4 hour extravaganza that included a free hair styling session (totally necessary as my hair had been subjected to all manner of punishment during my hydrotherapy experience).

Gently led by my therapist Fernandina- a little girl with mighty thumbs!- to my private treatment suite, I first enjoyed a rose petal foot bath accompanied by a cup of water infused with antioxidants. I am pretty sure this is good for you in some mysterious ways, but I am hungry for the main course!

I had chosen the Balinese massage, as recommended, as the therapist engages thumbs and elbows to unknot the kinks!  This bliss seemed unending, so deeply relaxed was I!

After another interlude for tea, Fernandina led me to the Rainforest area, where 7 stages of singular water based therapies await- scented steam rooms, ice baths, hot and cold showers coming at you from every direction, and a Vitality Pool enhanced by colored lights and exotic music.

Body treatment, scrubs, plunges, showers  and, soaks- another two hours slip sweetly by!

The fourth restaurant on property, Saffron, turned out to be the most exquisite of all, due to it's site on the fresh water lagoon, outdoor , overwater dining decks, soaring Balinese architecture and fantastic Thai cuisine.  A four course tasting menu, with each course featuring three items, seemed a bargain at $68 US, and the ambiance was priceless!

With so much to do and see, I find that I have spent 30 hours here and still not kicked back in my villa- so impetuously,  I throw financial considerations and airline penalties out the window and opt for one more day- a "day at leisure", which you event planners out there know, we NEVER have!

This is one  of those rare resorts that has been purposely designed to encourage you to make your accommodations your home for the duration of your stay, so any well designed program should include a day to do just that.  I noted that the Villa Service Menu even includes the opportunity to have a chef come and serve an entire meal or prepare a Villa BBQ in your courtyard.

I told myself I needed to work, that this would be a great place to focus and with that little nudge of justification, I signed on for a " Villa Day!" and am I glad I did!

Morning catching up on email and reading by the pool. Plunge, swim a few laps, pop open a Corona from the fridge.  Order a lunch of grilled chicken in adobo sauce with an excellent fresh salad with figs and blue cheese.  Afternoon, more work followed by a nap, more research and writing. And already it is dinner time!

With so many wonderful options, I would eagerly repeat any of the restaurant experiences, but I am quite comfy in my lounging mode, so I order a steak and a glass of wine and honor my promise to never leave the villa on this exquisite final day.

I am ever reminded of my mantra, and I hope you, Patient Reader, will remember it too-

Eat. Sip. Dip. Nap. RETREAT as necessary!

So here are some additional things you may want to know:

Where Is It?

Fly into Cancun International Airport and proceed as swiftly as you can in the opposite direction! 

Is It Safe?

No rational person thinks this area of Mexico is any more dangerous than the USA. The State Department has recently revised their traveler's advisory to specifically name Cancun, the Riviera Maya, Cabo San Lucas, and other tourism  "hot spots", as safe for tourists, so what are you waiting for? 

In addition, The Banyan Tree Resort is an enclave, situated within a larger enclave known as Mayakoba. In addition to abundant security , this particular resort is far,far,far removed in reality and in spirit from the frenzied, chaotic overly commercialized resort of Cancun.

What Is There To Do?

If you ever choose to leave the villa, and then the resort,  Mayakoba has a PGA worthy , Greg Norman designed golf course.  The Mayan archeological site at Tulum is about 30 minutes south.  The former fishing village of Playa Del Carmen has it's charms- an afternoon of shopping, some decent restaurants and a bit of nightlife. 

Water sports and Eco-tourism activities are abundant in the area and the hotel concierge will know the best ones.

When Is A Good Time To Go?

I was there in late March and the weather was ideal!  Warm sunny days with little humidity and a bit of coolness after the sun goes down.  I am told this idyllic situation can last into mid to late May.

Avoid the rainy season and the sticky , awful high summer- you won't feel as much like enjoying that open air experience, which was a not-to-be-missed highlight for me.

Things pick up in November and I think mid October to mid December would also be quite pleasant.  Mid December - March you are looking at peak rates and fewer deals. 

How About Groups?

I thought you'd never ask!   Surprisingly, the Banyan Tree can accommodate up to 300 people , and have done quite a few buyouts.  It has a 3,300 square foot ballroom and nearly 12,000 square feet in ancillary function space. I came there on the heels of a $3 million dollar wedding buyout ( yes, you heard that right!) and yet, due to the layout of the property, the design of the public space and the serene atmosphere I felt I was in a very small, very exclusive resort.

The Banyan Tree is a place  where CEOs go on vacation and then go back and direct their event managers to secure it for their important incentives and recognition events.   The director of group sales, Cinthya Cabrera,  tells me that this has almost always been the case for their corporate groups- decisions made from the top down, rather than recommendations from the middle up.

I'm just sayin' - this is the sort of place that will cement your reputation as a genius and a hero! Why not send us your RFP today?

Can We Afford It?

The abundance of all-inclusive resorts in the area serve to keep prices in true luxury resorts like this one ( which are rare in the area, I confess)  in what I consider a reasonable rate range for an experience of this quality.  Group pricing, which is seasonal, starts in the mid $300's, and like most Independent hotels and small brands, they are quite negotiable.

With the additional value of the refunded VAT knocking a full 10% of your master account charges off the bottom line, this is certainly great value.

And worth every penny- did I mention that?

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