For real though, does it get any better than a family vacation to Mexico? The travel time from anywhere in the U.S. is pretty darn reasonable, the beaches are pristine, the water is the bluest blue you’ve ever seen and the weather, ahhh, that weather. It’s a dream. A dream you never have to wake from when you treat the family to a holiday at Fairmont Mayakoba.
This favorite family destination is hidden in 240 acres of tropical forest marked by crystal clear waterways and surrounded by the gorgeous Caribbean shoreline. It’s just 40 miles south of Cancun, near the town of Playa del Carmen.
Fairmont Mayakoba is part of the Mayakoba Riviera Maya collection which occupies just over one square mile of beachfront and includes 4 hotels in total that can be accessed without ever leaving the property via nature trails, roadways lined by lush natural vegetation or the Mayakoba Connection water taxi via the lagoon. Guests at each property have pool, activity and dining privileges at all 4 hotels: Fairmont, Banyan Tree, Rosewood and the newly opened Andaz. Note: Guests actually staying at each hotel receive scheduling priority.
Let’s start with the free stuff
Anyone that’s vacationed knows that one of the most expensive aspects of traveling is the extreme amount of eating we tend to do when we’re far away from home and relaxed. Our stomach capacity somehow doubles. This can get very pricey, very fast. Hands down our favorite facts about Fairmont Mayakoba is (1) how excellent the food is at each of their 4 restaurants and (2) drum roll, please . . . kids 5 and under eat free from the kids menu when eating with their parents.
With their tummies full, give them a nice warm bath before tucking them in for the night. Complimentary kits for littles include an Ollie the Otter stuffed animal, no-tears hair wash, cleansing soap, toothbrush & paste, bubble bath and gentle lotion. Score! That takes several things off your packing list!
While we’re on our favorite subject of free stuff, guests get 3 hours worth of complimentary daily access to the resort’s kids club. You can pick between the 9 a.m.-noon and 5 p.m.-8 p.m. time slots.
Tell us about this kids club you speak of
All 4 hotels within the Mayakoba property have excellent programs for kids ages 4-12 and, like we said, you receive 3 hours free . . . so why not take full advantage? Use the free time to treat yourself to spa services, take a cooking class, hit the gym, read a book or simply remember the joy of silence with your favorite travel mate. While you’re doing all this important adulting, your mini-me will be learning cool Mayan words, crafting and engaging in a plethora of supervised activities.
There’s something for the older tots, too! Kids ages 12-17 can enroll in the Yucatan Ranger program, which is a daylong experience offering group activities, such as hiking, kayaking, golf and archery. Their journey is led by trained camp rangers and biologists that educate the group on the various birds and wildlife on the property.
If teens would rather skip the ranger-ing, they also have access to the Teens Room, open daily 9:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. for ages 10-17. The room features game stations with wireless controllers and a 42″ HD TV and allows kids to participate in a variety of multi-sensorial experiences, including kart races, dance contests, sports and classic arcade action.
Camping isn’t just for the kids
Big kids (a.k.a., you!) will love Camp Mayakoba, a collection of outdoor amenities and programming for guests of all ages. Activities include kayaking, archery, hiking, tennis and more!
Get the scoop on where to take a dip
Besides the obvious option of, you know, the ocean, there are 5 swimming pools throughout the hotel, including a free-form pool and waterslide, a children’s play pool and an adults-only infinity edge pool overlooking the lagoon.
Don’t forget, you also have privileges at the 3 other properties. Hitch a ride on the Mayakoba Connection ferry service that connects all the hotel lobbies, hop on a complimentary bike you’ll find stationed throughout the grounds and ride the trails, or ask for a ride from the main lobby to take the plunge at another hotel.
Get schooled on the ways of culinary geniuses
It might be tempting to keep your toes buried in the sand, but taking a break to beef up on your kitchen skills makes for a fun few hours out of the sun. Mayakoba’s El Pueblito Cooking School offers classes with a wide range of themes, from asian noodles to artisan jams and a selection of short series offering tips on basic pastry, healthy cooking and more. (Note: just don’t be like us and leave your patio door open, giving the animal residents of the resort access to your edible creations.) If you’d prefer a vacation from cooking altogether, they also host book signings, pop-ups and special events throughout the year.
Come for the school, stay for . . . everything else
Besides housing the cooking school, the picturesque El Pueblito area of Mayakoba mimics the feel of an authentic Mexican village square with a mix of sidewalk restaurants, boutiques and an art gallery. It’s the perfect spot to relax over a cup of coffee, a healthy smoothie or to grab a quick bite in one of the restaurants that capture the essence of each of the four hotels that make up the property.
Not only that, but you’ll find the La Santa Cruz chapel that’s open daily for visitors and offers a mass every Sunday at noon.
No vacation is complete without spa time!
While the littles are busy being kids at camp, book yourself spa time at the Willow Stream Spa. Services range from a simple manicure to a romantic couples massage. Once you’ve indulged in a little pampering, we recommend staying a few extra minutes to float around in the rooftop sea-mineral soaking pool.
When should we visit?
Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall . . . take your pick! There’s really no bad time to dust off your passport and head south, now is there? However, you might be surprised to hear that one of the most popular times to visit Riviera Maya is over Christmas break. Families seeking solace from snow and coolers temps have been flocking to this area for years. In response to this influx of guests, Fairmont Mayakoba goes big for the holidays. Visitors won’t miss their white Christmas when they see the festive decorations, non-stop themed activities throughout the day and endless dining options that keep you out of the kitchen and focused on family time.
While they are still developing this year’s activities, you can take a peek at last year’s offerings to get an idea of what to expect when you’re expecting a Christmas in paradise.
Go road trippin’ on your vacay
We don’t like to be bossy, but we’re going to be for just a split second. You absolutely cannot be this close to the Mayan ruins without taking a little look-see at what is left behind of this mysterious civilization. There are several ruins to choose from in the area, but the most convenient from the hotel is Tulum, which just so happens to also be the only ruins with an ocean view. Located just under an hour from Fairmont, you can book an excursion with the help of the concierge staff or be a little more adventurous and rent a car from the onsite Budget office. We highly recommend option 2. It’s a straight shot from the property, with absolutely no turns, and it’s a fun and easy way to get out and explore Mexico on your own. Tip: There’s a Starbucks on the way, total bonus!
If you choose to strike out on your own, be sure to take pesos to pay for entry and parking. It’s best to exchange your money at the hotel, as their exchange rate is typically better. Take along comfy shoes, a bathing suit in case you decide to take a dip, mosquito spray, a bottle of water, sunscreen (as there is very little shade) and a camera to capture the adventure.
One way to maximize your vacation time is to arrive at the ruins right when they open at 8 a.m. You’ll beat the crowds, be in and out before the heat makes it unbearable and, with it only taking an hour to conquer this world wonder, you can make it back to enjoy plenty of beach time and margaritas.
Just a little note to keep in mind when planning
Mayakoba Riviera Maya was built to respect the natural landscape and beauty of the land with a design that followed the contours of the existing geography. Because of this, the hotels are sprawling and offer a different feel than some other beachfront resorts you might be used to. While a trip down to the beach is certainly walkable from your room, majority choose to utilize bikes stationed strategically throughout the property or catch a ride on one of the many golf carts that are constantly moving guests from one place to another. You’ll want to make sure you leave your room with everything you need, because a trip back can be a bit time consuming.
Additional travel notes and tips
- The closest airport is Cancun International Airport, which is a short 40-minute drive
- Cribs for the babes are available upon request
- Download the Mayakoba App to make dinner reservations, get the Mayakoba Connection ferry schedule, access the trail map, read about the various activities offered and more!
- Connecting rooms are available, but be sure to make the request upon booking
- In-room nanny and babysitting services are available with at least 24 hours notice ($20 per hour for 1-2 children and $24 an hour for 3 children)
- The Riviera Maya is home to the second largest coral reef, which is easy accessed via nearby Cozumel
And just one quick PSA: do not under any circumstances leave this property without grabbing a lounger by the beach and ordering the ceviche and fresh guacamole. It’s a guarantee you’ll be thanking us for the recommendation.
Starting Room Rates (per night, USD): Fairmont, $300; Andaz, $450; Banyan Tree, $574; Rosewood, $695
Carretera Federal Cancún, Playa del Carmen Km. 298
Quintana Roo, Mexico
Have you had the pleasure of basking in the sun at one of the Mayakoba properties? We’d love to hear about it in the Comments below!
— Maria Chambers