BANYAN TREE MAYAKOBA, RIVIERA MAYA

www.banyantree.com

By MARK KEAST

The gates swing open, the security team guides you in, and immediately the traveler gets a sense that Banyan Tree Mayakoba, in Mexico’s Riviera Maya, is a different world, a different level, in a tourist-happy region with a reputation for a multitude of quality destinations offering soulful respites.

Banyan Tree is well known for its stable of luxury hotels around the world, all offering a “sanctuary for the senses”, as they call it. I’ll call it a wellness haven. Naturally luxurious, ecologically focused in its design, culturally sensitive, the hotels and resorts company, with 25 properties in nine countries, has a formula well laid out – living spaces that breath, airy outdoor areas, private pools and hot tubs, all for the world weary.

The Mayakoba property has 118 private and tranquil villas, ranging from lagoon to beach front, all elegant in their design, spacious, serene. Every corner of the living space features luxury touch points. My wife and I stayed two days in the Bliss Pool Villa, and never left the room (except to go for a steak at The Tomahawk, a barbecue on the deck of the Oriente Restaurant, on Night 1, Italian at Tamarind on Night 2, culinary experiences that book-ended lunch near the beach, at Sands). There was no need to. Honestly, we later drove off kicking ourselves for not extending the stay. Not because we didn’t feel regenerated – because we did – but because we loved the room so much, and never left, we didn’t experience the spa.

My friend Sergio Serra, the Area Director of The Americas, for Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts, was sure to point that out, and encouraged us to come down again soon, to see that part of the experience for ourselves. The Banyan Tree Spa features 16 lagoon or jungle-view private pavilions, offering body treatments, massages and facials, all at the hands of certified therapists trained at the Banyan Tree Spa Academy.

Me, I was OK spending two days stretched out on our king-size bed, doors opening up to our private pool, and outdoor sun deck, my wife lounging for over an hour in the outdoor private bathtub, next to a wall of candles. Incense burning the entire weekend. I could barely get my own meditative chant out of my brain. A wellness doctor couldn’t have better designed a two-day break.

On a separate trip down this way, a few months before, I played a round of golf on the PGA course, El Camaleon, and if you are a golfer, this is about as close to a religious experience as you will find. I have never seen fairways so immaculate, some of which nestle up to the Caribbean ocean. Soon you start forgetting your score.