TUCKED AWAY IN a pocket of astonishing natural beauty in the heart of Mexico’s Riviera Maya is Banyan Tree Mayakoba, a beachfront resort set amid dunes, lagoons, and mangroves — with a design that offers a true respite from everyday life. As the world continues to open up in fits and starts, many of us are finding that an escape is more than just flopping down on a sun-soaked beach. It is instead about a profound urgency for a complete mind-body reset. As much as a break from our surroundings, it’s driven by a desire to dip our toes into an environment that will also get us out of our heads. Banyan Tree properties are renowned for providing such opportunities, but Mayakoba takes this to another level, providing a leafy green hideaway that is, in all ways, perfectly otherworldly.
The Riviera Maya, a stretch of Caribbean coastline on the Yucatán Peninsula in northern Mexico, has long been a draw for tourists for its lush jungles and the turquoise water of its serene beaches. Banyan Tree Mayakoba in Playa del Carmen boasts all these natural wonders, and recently expanded to make the most of its coveted views, adding 34 private beachfront pool suites, ocean-view massage rooms, a new beach club with an infinity pool, and a raw bar and restaurant with an all-day menu. For families, an activity center for kids called Rangers Club is situated nearby. Soon, the resort will open seven over-the-water villas for maximum luxury and privacy.
Banyan Tree Mayakoba is also a hideaway that’s integrated harmoniously into the landscape. The use of indoor-outdoor areas in the private villas, for example, invite a peaceful flow between sun and shade, light and shadow. The use of neutral hues and local materials like tropical wood and chukum, a limestone-based stucco, enhance this feeling that the structures themselves are not an interruption, but an extension of the vista. The high-ceilinged villas are decorated with Talavera-glazed earthenware sinks, Mayan-inspired lamps, and other touches indebted to the local culture. They also each have a hammock, outdoor bathtub, and private heated pool.
While the accommodations offer ample opportunity for guests to relax in the privacy of their own rooms, Banyan Tree Mayakoba is also known for its award-winning spa. Its menu includes Balinese, Thai, and deep-tissue massage techniques, an array of body scrubs and baths, and nine different options for facials. Body treatments draw on Mexican, Chinese, Indian, and Indonesian traditions. For those seeking total spa immersion, the Banyan Day offers 420 minutes — seven hours — of treatments, punctuated with spa cuisine.
This year, with rest and renewal in mind, the resort has launched well-being sanctuaries for guests. Guests can practice over 50 simple yet impactful techniques, like ocean breath meditation by the sea. The spa’s new Rainforest Experience combines spa treatments with hydrothermal facilities; guests can feel Swiss rain and bucket showers, or try an aroma steam or rainforest walking trail. These offerings are designed and implemented by expert practitioners — the resort’s spa therapists have at least 350 hours of training from the company’s accredited academies in Thailand and Indonesia. Sanctuary stays are designed to encourage a mental reset, cultivate a sense of harmony with nature, and achieve better sleep. Guests depart with a tailored well-being guide to keep the benefits going long after their vacation has ended.
For extra pampering or special occasions, staff are happy to create intimate moments on request, like decorating guest villas with candles, flower petals, and aromatic oils and incense. Soft background music, wine, champagne, exotic fresh fruit, and chocolate are available to further enhance a romantic or indulgent mood. Those who want to eat while taking in the sites can try the Ixchel Dining Experience. Ixchel, translated as “moon goddess,” is set on a traditional trajinera boat; guests can explore the canals and mangroves of Mayakoba on a two-hour ride featuring a cooked-to-order meal.
In general, food is a huge draw at Banyan Tree Mayakoba. Saffron, the resort’s flagship restaurant, serves fresh Thai food. While all Banyan Tree locations around the world have a Saffron, Mayakoba’s scenic outpost is particularly dramatic, overlooking the nearby river.
When not indulging in rest, meals, beach, or spa time, there are many activities to take advantage of on the sprawling property. Ride a beach cruiser along the three-mile bike trail, snorkel in nearby cenotes, or visit the Mayan ruins, which include pyramids built as far back as the fifth century. Whatever your fancy, a tailored blend of relaxation and adventure against a stunning, serene backdrop awaits.
Nina Renata Aron Writer
Nina Renata Aron is a senior editor of Departures based in Oakland, California. She is the author of "Good Morning, Destroyer of Men's Souls." Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Guardian, the New Republic, Elle, Eater, and Jezebel.
Pia Riverola Photographer
Pia Riverola was born and raised in Barcelona and currently resides between Los Angeles and Mexico City. With an acute eye for detail and color, she creates captivating imagery across the genres of fashion, still life, landscape, and architectural photography.