FAIRMONT HOTEL, MAYAKOBA
Riviera Maya, Mexico
Style & Character
The 401 room (including 34 suites) Fairmont Mayakoba is one of four luxury hotels located in the Riviera Maya gated community known as Mayakoba. (Mayakoba Village of Water)
The hotel has a simple, spacious and modern feel that is typical of many beachfront resorts. Although the property is quite large it has an intimate feeling by virtue of the layout of the various buildings, pools, restaurants, lagoons and palm covered pathways.
Individual clusters of single story rooms never feel overcrowded and there is not a building on the property over four stories high, which adds to the “village” effect that the designers intended. There are also several 2-story rooms with large decks overlooking some of the lagoons.
Fairmont Mayakoba boasts three distinctly different outdoor pools. There is a small pool tucked away in a secluded and lushly landscaped area while another larger pool is located near the La Laguna restaurant. The third and most popular, pool is located within steps of the ocean offering views of the sparkling Caribbean. It is also conveniently close to Brisas Coastal Grill & Bar, the resorts beachfront restaurant.
Surrounded by the lagoons, waterways and waterfalls and fronted by the sparkling blue Caribbean Sea, Fairmont Mayakoba is a perfect getaway for a relaxing break on Mexico’s Riviera Maya.
Rooms & Amenities
There are a wide variety of rooms available at Fairmont Mayakoba, all of which are comfortably appointed and, regardless of their size, have open layouts and color pallets that reflect the natural surroundings. From lagoon, poolside, and oceanfront view rooms to larger beachfront suites and the ultra-spacious family suites there are accommodations to satisfy any taste and budget.
All rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows ensuring that plenty of light floods in as well as providing views to the resort gardens, mangrove lagoons or the Caribbean Sea. Rooms are stylish and modern and come with spacious spa-style bathrooms complete with luxurious soaking tub, a double vanity and a private glassed shower stall.
Our particular room was located close to one of the resorts more peaceful pools making it easy to relax and stay clear of the more energetic crowds that gather at the larger pools. Plenty of shade from the surrounding palm trees allowed us to linger without the need for an umbrella.
Fairmont Mayakoba has four restaurants, all of which showcase the freshest local ingredients and authentic cooking techniques along with very appealing presentations. There is also daily in-room service from 8am – 6pm.
Brisas Coastal Grill & Bar is a casual beachfront affair with fresh seafood and great cocktails, and the vibrant beach bar known as Ki Beach Bar & Korean BBQ is a toes-in-the-sand Korean grill experience. At night it becomes an intimate, warmly lit place to gather with friends.
El Puerto is an open air restaurant that specializes in Italian cuisine with a great view overlooking the main lagoon, while La Laguna offers an all-day buffet with fresh seafood dishes as well as lagoon and pool views. La Laguna is especially dramatic in the evening when the lagoon is lit up.
During our 5-day stay we had leisurely hour-long breakfasts and in the evenings El Puerto was our go to place with its fantastic collection of tequilas and laid back atmosphere. During one particular dinner with family and friends we sat outdoors under a large umbrella overlooking the main lagoon as warm rain the size of marbles began to fall.
It was truly magical.
In addition to the four restaurants at the Fairmont, the three other Mayakoba hotels also feature world class dining options and a wide range of cuisines. Dining at any of the hotels is made easy with their shared policy that allows guests to charge any meal, from any restaurant, to the hotel in which they are staying.
If guests are feeling restless and wish to explore other dining options or some night life, Playa del Carmen is a short 20 minute ride away. With its vibrant, globally hip atmosphere and countless restaurants of all stripes, Playa (as the locals call it) is truly an international hot spot for the curious and the epicurious.
Word to the wise when going out for a night on the town in Playa…it’s best to hire a cab, or a shuttle from Mayakoba, as parking can be a real challenge.
On-site and local activities
Fairmont Mayakoba is the perfect destination for a relaxing beach or poolside break or an activity packed week long agenda.
If relaxing is the only thing in your vacation playbook then a stay at the Fairmont will check all the boxes. There are numerous pools to choose from that vary from quiet to more enthusiastic crowds. It’s your pick.
Once you have finished that page turner you brought along and are looking for a little more activity the resort will not disappoint. From the daily activity list of sunrise yoga, tennis, cycling around the resort and lagoon boat rides, the Fairmont has you covered. Once at the beach there is an array of non-motorised watersports including stand-up paddleboarding, snorkelling, kayaking and catamaran sailing.
For lovers of the links there is the Greg Norman designed masterpiece, El Camaleón championship 18-hole course. Designated as the only PGA championship course in Latin America, El Camaleón blends the diverse ecosystems of Mayakoba, including tropical jungle, dense mangroves, freshwater canals and two oceanfront holes capturing amazing views of the Caribbean Sea. Of course, no afternoon on the links would be complete without a cold one once you’re finished. Rising above the 18th. hole with stunning views of El Camaleón, the Koba Club House is the perfect place to wind down and brag, or commiserate about, your scores!
For the more adventurous there is Punta Allen, the largest village in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve and the bonefishing capital of Mexico. However, the roughly 80 mile drive south (one way) from Mayakoba is not for the faint-of-heart.
The narrow, dusty and oftentimes severely rutted dirt road cuts through the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a vast tract of mangrove swamp, lagoon, beaches and jungle that supports a variety of endemic species, including the elusive jaguar.
The village of Punta Allen is truly at the end of the road and exactly what explorers dream about…no noise, no traffic, friendly people and crystal clear blue waters. Once you have arrived the locals will be happy to offer you a cold beer to wash the dust out of your teeth before boarding one of their colorful pangas for a trip out to the flats for some fishing, snorkeling and turtle spotting.
Punta Allen may be a challenge to get to but, like us, you will never regret having ventured there.
Staff & Services
Most guests would agree that one of the most important elements to a great hotel or resort stay is the staff. Befitting any luxury resort, the team at the Fairmont succeeds in spades as uber friendly, helpful and professional to a fault. From the parking valets, to the check in desk, housekeepers and restaurant staff we were made to feel like family from the moment we drove up.
There is a unique kind of hospitality that Mexican people exude that is very authentic, and the staff at the Fairmont is no exception. They are genuinely delighted to have you and they never hesitate to share that happiness with guests. Their graciousness goes beyond good training, although that certainly plays a big role. Instead, the enthusiasm they showed us, and all guests, is more symbolic of their pride and historically welcoming culture.
In all of our trips to Mexico over the years we have found the warmth and hospitality that we experienced at the Fairmont to be the case everywhere we travelled.
Location l 20.6916° N, 87.0344° W
History of Mayakoba
Since its inception Mayakoba Resort remains, one of Mexico’s most treasured resorts. The amount of vision, planning and execution devoted to this property is evident everywhere you turn. As environmentally sensitive resort communities go Mayakoba ranks among Mexico’s finest.
In the 1980’s Mexico’s Caribbean coast had yet to be discovered. Aside from a few secret, and much beloved campgrounds, and a smattering of small hotels attracting a loyal clientele, the coast was left largely untouched. The overwhelming building boom of the 1990’s and 2000’s had yet to begin, eventually populating the beaches with monstrous hotels.
It was during this period when the Spanish construction company known as Obrascon Huarte Lain (OHL) purchased more than 1500 acres acres of jungle, mangroves and beach. Being that OHL was known for their prowess in building highways, airports and hospitals, but not resorts, the property remained in their portfolio for over a decade without a trace of movement toward any sort of development.
With OHL unable to come up with a master plan for developing the land talk turned to selling their investment. Enter Salvador Linares, an impassioned Spaniard with a plan as wild as the white shock of hair he sported. Linares was OHL’s investment manager and it was he who envisioned a tourism destination unlike anything Mexico had ever seen. His vision was of an environmentally sensitive community built around a series of canals leading to the ocean. This would prove to be a tough sell as even though there were over 1500 acres ripe for development there was less than one mile of beachfront.
People go to resorts to be near the beach Linares was told.
Undeterred, Linares hired hydrologists and biologists and worked for years on a master plan. Painstaking debate and planning took place between Linares, his team and key OHL players regarding uncovering and rerouting the existing canals as well as how best to remove and store thousands of mangrove trees for future use along with planting 100,000 additional trees.
The powers that be within the OHL Group took notice and in 1994 agreed to follow through with Linares’ master plan and set about applying for the numerous permits from the Mexican government and Semanart, the most important federal environmental agency. Final approval of the plan from Semanart came in 1998 and OHL promptly began courting potential hotel partners. Needless to say, everyone at OHL breathed a collective sigh of relief knowing that finally, their massive investment would eventually see the light of day.
As Mayakoba was evolving the Riviera Maya region was exploding with rampant development, most of which was focused on “all-inclusive” resorts with some exclusive hotels and residential housing projects. Sadly, only a few of those numerous resorts can lay claim to being truly environmentally sensitive.
Today as hotel and resort developers are turning their collective sights to building eco-friendly properties Mayakoba is still recognized globally as a model, and a pioneer, for a successful environmentally sensitive resort. With four luxury hotels, private residences, the colorful town square of El Pueblito along with the stunning, 18-hole Greg Norman designed golf course, Mayakoba remains a blueprint, and an inspiration, for future sustainable developments the world over.
Is Mexico safe?
In over 20 years of travelling to various regions of Mexico we have never encountered any problems, save for the occasional police officer pulling us over because we were “speeding”, which is shorthand for a bribe. That is not to say that there are no problems, as can be the case with many countries. Needless to say, resorts throughout Mexico, including the Fairmont Mayakoba, take the safety and security of their guests very seriously.
As frequent travelers to Mexico we have learned that the majority of people are honest, helpful, kind and possess a very generous spirit. However, it is important to be mindful that tourists can sometimes be targets for certain people looking to take advantage of what they may perceive as a persons affluence. That is all the more reason to keep a low profile, respect local customs and laws while treating people with dignity and respect.
Stay longer. See less. Experience more.