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Riviera Maya, Mexico
A small resort in a large resort means exclusivity and plentiful options, white sand beaches and jungle experiences, canals and boats, championship golf, unique spas, unique venues for events and family gatherings, easy access from the U.S. and Europe.
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January 2017 - Special Report - Rosewood Mayakoba
A Big Resort That’s Small…
When you hear Cancun and Riviera Maya, you make think of the large all-inclusive or 3-and 4-star hotels. It's not necessarily the case. There are a couple luxury hotels in Cancun, and Riviera Maya has seen quite a bit of luxury hotel development in the past decade, including the recently opened Thompson Playa del Carmen. There is frequent commercial air service at good prices, which is important if you are holding company meetings, or even friends and family gatherings where not everyone is coming via private jet.
I find service and hard product in Mexico of a high standard in the luxury segment, and if you are looking for more than a beach, there is great golf, lots of activities from checking out Mayan ruins, nature hikes, cave swimming, diving, deep sea fishing, luxury shopping, spas, a variety of dining, clubbing and so forth.
One resort I have been visiting on and off for its decade of existence is Mayakoba, some 600 acres developed by Spanish group OHL out of the jungle that separates the Cancun-Riviera Maya highway and the Caribbean Sea. The golf is good enough it hosts a PGA event. With four hotels, it gives an intimate feel, but with the ability to sign throughout the resort, you have plenty of options. The complex can hold large events (over 1,000). Each of the hotels has a different approach to luxury. The Fairmont offers a large resort experience. Banyan Tree brings an Asian flair while just opended Andaz is Hyatt's counter to W Hotels. In this issue, I'll focus on the Rosewood, arguably the most luxe, although they are all nice, and each have some excellent suites and villas.
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In This Issue:
3. Dining and Bars
6. Children’s Programs
7. Meetings/Family Groups
8. 2016 Awards
9. Key Contact
10. DG Amazing Experiences Library
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Rosewood Mayakoba is one of four hotels that make up the 590 square acre Mayakoba resort complex, 26 miles south of Cancun International Airport. The others are Fairmont, Banyan Tree and a just opened Andaz (Hyatt’s attempt to compete with W Hotels).
Culled out of the jungle that separates the highway from the Caribbean Sea, the resort was an early adapter to eco-principles of development, meaning it is low density building with a focus on nature. Where the jungle ends is white sand beaches that you find on many “best” lists. Recently Rosewood spent over $1 million on sausage-like barriers to prevent erosion. When staying at Mayakoba you get signing privileges across all the hotels, so there are lots of options to dine and play. Playa del Carmen with its galleries and cafes is only seven miles south down the highway, and you can be in Cancun in 45 minutes if you want to disco until dawn or do some luxury shopping.
If you want to feel a million miles away from it all, Rosewood offers that as well. The 128 low-rise units are situated along a series of canals amidst mangroves, jungle or on the beach. The resort is spread out, and you get bikes to peddle around or you can jump on golf cart shuttles that ply the twisting pathways. The footprint of the hotel is divided between a beach area and the main resorts, and the paths are good for jogging or walking.
I’ve stayed at the hotel twice recently, both times when it was sold out during major events (a luxury travel conference and a PGA golf tournament held annually on the resort course), and both times service was excellent. Room service was fast, orders were correct, and despite a full house, neither of the two pool areas or the beach seemed particularly crowded.
In terms of ratings, Rosewood is ranked #1 of 213 hotels on Trip Advisor in Rivera Maya. There are 1,503 reviews. There were only six Terrible/Poor reviews in the past three years. Two were about mistakes on bills, so probably a good idea to review your invoice when checking out. On Expedia, which verifies its reviewers, the hotel gets a 4.9. Only two of 98 verified reviews were less than 5 stars, and both are 4 stars.
Keith Waldon, founder of Departure Lounge in Austin, Texas, who was there when I stayed the first time told me, “It’s really a spectacular setting, but at the end of the day, it’s the service that makes place really special. He says the key is to decide if you want to be on the beach or a lagoon in the jungle-like mangroves. I prefer beach, but others I spoke to like the novelty of being on the canals that cut through the jungle where you can spot birdlife and wildlife from your deck. There is a fun element of being picked up or dropped off on your dock.
If you are looking for a great event venue for business or family gathering, Sir Philip Green took over the entire Mayakoba complex, reportedly spending $20 million for his 60th birthday. To accommodate the size of his group, Rosewood built a large high-roofed, open-sided palapa (below) on the beach that can hold up to 350 for a seated dinner. While you don’t have to take the entire space, it can be configured for smaller groups with separate areas for pre-dinner drinks, dining and then a dance floor set on the beach for a late night disco. The entry via a narrow wooden bridge adds to the experience.
One other note is the young, energetic managing director, Daniel Scott. While the hotel is managed by Hong Kong-based Rosewood, Scott runs the hotel to the beat of his own drummer. This includes taking the work week from six to five days (counter to many hotels in Mexico), focusing on supporting local vendors and suppliers and really celebrating his employees and local partners. Customer contact staff I’ve found are both service oriented and have a level of confidence in probing to make sure you have everything you need. Suite butlers on both my visits were particularly service focused. When I was there Scott was out and about on the property, to me, always a positive sign. When I was checking out, always a bit busy when you have large groups, he was in the driveway helping make sure things flowed and chatting with guests.
In choosing where you want to stay, you have to choose between the beach locations and those on the canals, which give you a bit of a jungle experience. See the resort map above.
Casa Laguna combines 6,500-sq. ft. of interior space with 3,500-sq. ft of exterior space. You enter into a large living and dining room overlooking the lagoon with floor to ceiling windows. Adjacent to the living area is a chef’s kitchen good for hosting parties. On the main level, there are three bedrooms including two master suites with en-suite bathrooms. There is a media room and outdoor space with a private pool overlooking the lagoon. A boat dock and a private dining deck are good for fresco entertaining and there is a dedicated staff of five.
You also get roundtrip airport transfers, non-alcoholic beverages, fresh fruit and afternoon snacks daily, plus a private golf cart with butler. There is also Xbox and you get VIP reservations at restaurants.
Beachfront Presidential Suite
The crescent moon-shaped Presidential Oceanfront Suite features floor-to-ceiling glass walls with Caribbean Sea views. There are three large bedrooms, bathrooms, TV rooms, lounge terraces and two oversized plunged pools.
The master bedroom has a swim-up pool. You can connect to two other beachfront suites, making it good for large families. There is 3,435 interior sq. ft. and 2,837 exterior sq. ft. of space. As the suite is at the end of a cul-de-sac, it can be closed off for extra privacy and security.
Presidential Lagoon Suite
This 3,800 interior sq. ft./4,750 exterior sq. ft. three-bedroom suite features a large living and dining area, circular TV room, studio and kitchen with a separate pantry. Connected to the main building by a bridge, the Presidential Lagoon Suite offers a separate master bedroom for additional privacy, large bathroom, walk-in closet and private plunge pool.
Each of the two additional bedrooms offers private bathrooms. One offers a king bed; the second features two queen beds. In the main building, there is a large private pool and extensive wood terrace.
Two-Bedroom Mayakoba Suites (4 units)
These townhouse style Two-Bedroom Mayakoba Suites are comprised of a lagoon side grand master bedroom, including king size bed with seating area, large bathroom and outdoor lounge area. An upper level living area with sleeper sofa, a second bedroom with two full beds or one queen bed, a full bath and closet space. The outdoor terrace features a private plunge pool, and a rooftop sundeck with a day bed and lounge chairs offering Caribbean ocean views. Like other suites, there is substantial outdoor space (1,187 sq. ft.) and 1,562 sq. ft. interior suite.
Oceanview Suites (12)
The Oceanview Suites are 966 sq. ft. of interior space and 1,530 sq. ft. of exterior suite with panoramic views of the ocean from the living room. These suites are located on the second floor of units just across the pathway from the beach. The rooftop terrace with plunge pool offers ocean views and private sunning or evening star gazing. There is also butler service.
Deluxe Lagoon Suites (12)
Offering views of the lagoons and mangroves, these one-bedroom suites include a sitting room with sofa bed that can be closed off from the bedroom with sliding doors for additional privacy, as well as a second bathroom with rain shower.
Exterior features include outdoor rain shower, roof top terrace and pool terrace with sun loungers. There is 1,103 interior sq. ft./1,057 exterior sq. ft. There is butler service, a heated plunge pool, outdoor deck and boat dock.
Island Suites (5)
These split level suites located on the same island as the spa have floor to ceiling windows with 1,533 interior sq. ft., 599 sq. ft. exterior and butler service. The bedroom and master bathroom are located on entry level, while the downstairs living room includes a full wet bar as well as second bathroom with rain shower. Additional features include a private treatment cabin with outdoor rain shower for in-suite spa services, and marble bathrooms with indoor shower and sculptured tub. You get a heated plunge pool, outdoor deck and boat dock.
Beachfront Studio Suite (17)
Located on the beach, Beachfront Studio Suites offer unobstructed ocean views and a wood deck with chairs, table for dining, loungers and a heated plunge pool. Waiters who roam the beach with various drinks and treats will come up and serve you in your plunge pool with their offerings. The suites (I’ve stayed in them twice) are a single room in an L-shape with dining area, sofa and King bed. You can close off the dining/bar area from the sleeping/sitting area with a curtain.
Highlight is the outdoor shower and deep, sunken stone tub. There is 779 sq. ft. of interior space and 653 sq. ft. outdoors. Tropical bushes and vegetation provide a reasonable level of seclusion, and there are steps down to the sand.
3. DINING AND BARS:
Casa del Lago
Overlooking the main pool and lagoon below, Casa del Lago features “Italian fare with Mexican flavors.” There is a good breakfast buffet featuring lots of tropical fruits, juices and freshly baked breads and pastries. At night Casa del Lago serves modern contemporary Italian cuisine. In the afternoon at the bar, there are tapas. On Tuesday evenings, the sommelier provides pairings of cheeses and wines.
La Cava is a glass-walled Wine Room, which is also used as a private dining space for romantic dinners, although it can seat up to four people. You can order the Casa del Lago menu or a customized menu of your choice. Reservations are required.
Overlooking the Caribbean Sea Punta Bonita serves light lunches and pizzas plus regional Riviera Maya specialties. There is indoor and outdoor seating and the food/bar goes until 11 pm.
Agave Azul Sushi & Tequila Bar
Near the reception area with views of the main lagoon and mangroves there are 100 tequilas to go with sushi and Asian-inspired dishes. A lunch buffet when I was there offered a number of stations with different Mexican specialties, with preparation as you wait.
With high-vaulted ceilings and limestone walls Avicenia is a private room holding up to 16 people and is a good location for VIP dinners, board meetings, family and friends groups or even a romantic dinner.
The 17,000 sq. ft. spa is set on a jungle surrounded private island. You cross a small bridge to get there. There are 12 treatment rooms and eight couple’s suites. Separate dressing areas for men and women feature plunge pools, steam rooms and saunas. There are inside and outside relaxation areas. A variety of treatments range to $975 for six hours although there are a number of one hour treatments. There is a large focus on local elements, Mayan techniques and philosophies, and there is a unique hot house massage. You can also have a one-hour Shaman Consultation for $170. There is also a separate spa menu for the kids.
A perk of Mayakoba is you can also try out Banyan Tree’s spa, which is the ethos of the company with a tilt towards Asian treatments as Willow Stream, Fairmont’s award-winning spa offering.
The 24-hour fitness center features Technogym, an area for stretching and free weights. Scheduled activities include Yoga, Pilates, Cardio Combat and Iron Legs, offered from 8 to 10 a.m. Access is complimentary.
There are three pools. Casa del Lago Pool is near reception and is set with jungle views. There is a beach-front infinity edge pool, and a Spa Pool exclusively for adults.
The Greg Norman 7,000-yard, 18-hole course, El Camaleón, is the first golf course to host an official PGA Tour event in Mexico. It is dotted with water and sand hazards. Note the course will be closed the following dates: April 21, 22, 28, 29 and 30, 2017; May 1 & 29, 30 and 31, 2017; June 1, 2017; June 3, 2017 (closed until 2:00 p.m.); August 8 to 11, 2017; September 30, 2017 (closed until 2:30 p.m.); November 3 to 13, 2017, and November 17, 2017 (closed until 2:30 p.m.).
6. CHILDREN’S PROGRAMS:
Special programs for children include kids yoga and spa, eco boat tours with a biologist, scavenger hunts, pizza and cookie-making classes and themed pajama parties. The hotel can also arrange babysitting services.
There is horseback riding, kayaking, nature walks, archery, croquet, jungle biking, tours to the Mayan ruins, dolphin excursions, diving, and deep sea fishing. There is also a Cenote swim excursion taking you through underwater caves that gets strong reviews. There is birdwatching on property with several hundred varieties calling the resort home. As you navigate the canals and lagoons on a boat, it’s possible to spot crocodiles and other wildlife in the mangroves. There is a Mayakoba cooking school opened last year as well as a tennis complex.
7. MEETINGS/FAMILY GROUPS:
There is 2,615-sq. ft. of indoor meeting space with a capacity of 100. Not surprisingly, there are numerous spaces on the beach and around the resort that are good for cocktails, dinners or parties. Le Ceiba Garden & Kitchen is a 20,000-sq. ft. outdoor space (above) with open kitchen. It is the location for cooking classes, but for lunches or evenings becomes a magical garden venue with hanging lanterns and tables set around a large Zapote tree. The resort has lots of experiences putting together parties to wow your guests, from white parties to Caribbean and Mayan themes. The aforementioned oversize beach palapa created for Sir Philip Green provides a blank canvas to create unique events as does the white sand beach.
8. 2016 AWARDS:
- AAA Five Diamond Award
- Brides Magazine Best Honeymoons Award, ‘Top Resorts in Mexico’
- Condé Nast Traveler ‘Readers’ Choice Awards’ Top 10 ‘Top Resorts in Eastern Mexico’
- Forbes Travel Guide Five Star Hotel
- Golf Digest Editors’ Choice Award ‘Best Resorts of The Americas’
- Trip Advisor 2016 Travelers’ Choice Award: #1 Top 25 Hotels in Mexico; Number #13 Top 25 Luxury Hotels in the World
- Travel+Leisure Mexico: Best of the Best 2016; # 1 ‘Best Hotel in Mexico; Best Resort Mexico; # 1 ‘Top Hotels and Resorts in Mexico, #30 ‘World’s Top 100 Hotels
- US News & World Report’s: Best Hotels in Mexico
- Wine Spectator: 2016 Award of Excellence for Casa del Lago
Cancun International (CUN) is 24 hours and is a port of entry. It can take aircraft up to Boeing 747-800s without payload restrictions. Aircraft carrying more than 16 passengers may have to clear customs and immigration at the main terminal. It is negotiated on a trip-by-trip basis. ASUR operates a full-service FBO.
9. KEY CONTACT:
Rosewood Mayakoba Managing Director Daniel Scott: firstname.lastname@example.org or +529841680512