I just came back from this incredible trip to Mexico. It was a group trip, mostly couples, with some singles, like me, mixed into the bunch. There were also some on the trip who were open to sharing their significant other with me — for some much needed cuddles (but that’s another story). The trip was to a planned LGBT-friendly resort community within Riviera Maya, minutes from Playa del Carmen and an easy flight into Cancun. These private resort communities are not uncommon in Mexico; in fact, I had visited Punta Mita in Riviera Nayarit recently and was kind of in love with the exclusivity of it all. This time, the destination was Mayakoba, and with the rowdy bunch I had enlisted to join me, I was looking forward to lots of tacos and tequila.
I was taken aback by how deep into the resort complex we drove from the main entrance. There are checkpoints along the way, for security reasons and to maintain the resort’s exclusivity. Mayakoba is made up of residences as well as several hotels: the Fairmont, Rosewood, Andaz (the newest addition), and where we were booked, Banyan Tree Mayakoba. The four luxury resorts are connected via water pathways and designated bike paths. Guests are encouraged to wander to the other resorts — where they can charge meals and other purchases to their rooms no matter where they are in the complex. This offers you the chance to experience more than just one hidden resort; here you have four.
Banyan Tree is a collection of villas, each with its own private full-on legit swimming pool. Lush green vegetation and freshwater lagoons surround the villas, inhabited by a wide range of birds and wildlife. Some are friendlier than others. I was filming a spider monkey swinging from tree to tree when he dropped down to the ground and started coming toward me! I’m a bit of a coward when it comes to monkeys, so I bolted into the villa and quickly shut the door behind me. I wasn’t going to take any chances. I didn’t want to share my delicious mango with anyone.
Upon arriving with my excessive luggage via golf cart, I was pleased to see a pair of bicycles for my personal use throughout the stay. Guests can use the bikes and leave them anywhere on the property and employees will return them to the appropriate villa. I found this service especially useful after a few too many tequilas.
Entering the private outdoor space of the Serenity Pool Villa, I was greeted by a heated swimming pool and hot tub with two separate buildings on either side. To the left was the bedroom, with an impressive wooden headboard that stretched to the top of a vaulted ceiling, and a bathroom larger than most Manhattan apartments. The shower was what I like to refer to as a “party shower;” spacious enough for multiple guests and featuring a glass wall looking out to the huge outdoor tub. The resort’s “bath butler” will happily set up a romantic evening bath, complete with candles, wine, and rose petals. I opted to have a solo bath set up during the day, with a bottle of tequila and some flowers. I also asked that they relocate the Bose music system within reach, so I could blast the sweet sounds of George Michael. “Careless Whisper” may have been on repeat for an hour.
The other building in my private complex was an entertainment room with a massive couch and television and enough space to host a mini-party. I threw a Saturday Night Live viewing party. Everyone came, fresh chips and guacamole were delivered, and we all had cocktails in hand — only to discover that SNL wasn’t available on any of Mexican networks we had. (No Kate McKinnon!)
The dining at Banyan Tree was over-the-top, and I felt like I ate more than I should have each day (possibly because I was distracting myself from not getting romantic). One night, we all experienced Haab, an unique dinner experience that incorporates true Mayan cuisine with an interactive dinner show, all while they overflow your glasses with tequila, mescal, beer, wine, and cocktails. Drinks are unlimited and part of the set menu price, so they didn’t shy away from over-serving. My memory is thus a little hazy, but there was fire and dancing and lots of traditional costumes. This was also the night when I cashed in those free cuddles from a couple of the guys while we were lounging in a rooftop cabana after dinner.
We didn’t leave the resort much during the visit except for a quick morning trip to Tulum to see the Mayan pyramid ruins and hang at the beach. There was also one dinner in Playa del Carmen, which validated our decision not to leave Mayakoba: It was a bit too touristy for us, and we missed our villas.
Back at Mayakoba we hit the amazing, award-winning Banyan Tree Spa and experienced the Rainforest, a private hydrothermal circuit compromised of alternating hot and cold thermal cabins. It was perfect way to end the weekend.