A week ago, I returned (sans swine flu) from a five-day stay at the newly opened Banyan Tree Mayakoba in Mexico, the first North American property of this Singapore-based hotel chain. During my career as a travel writer, I have had the privilege of staying at a variety of stunning five-star hotels and resorts around the world, places normally beyond my reach. And so it happens that I’m not all that easily impressed. But when it comes down to Banyan Tree, I was absolutely swept off my feet. It felt like walking into a fairy tale.
From the moment I arrived and was presented with a beautifully scented hand towel to refresh myself, I felt as if a cloud lifted. Things became even lighter when a buggy transported me along the resort’s scenic pathways to my own private spa pool villa where Asian and Mexican design blend seamlessly. As I explored the many perks of this stunning spot, I thought I had died and woken up in heaven.
What followed were mornings when I’d wake up to open a sliding glass door of the bedroom and swim right into my own sizable pool. Other mornings I’d hop on a bike parked outside my villa and ride through the protected nature reserve of mangroves that edges the resort all the way to the beach, for a soothing walk along the sands. In the afternoons, I’d doze off in the hammock of my verdant courtyard, watching the waterways and feeling the breeze on my skin. Each night, I’d first dip into the hot tub in the garden and then draw the bath on an enclosed outdoor patio, light a dozen candles, pour the fragrant salts and phase out under starry skies.
Beyond my private villa, plenty of experiences delighted me in the Banyan Tree world. The three-hour Thai herbal detox massage at award-winning Banyan Tree Spa was a journey to a perfect world, a short glimpse of heaven, and then back. Each of the meals was a culinary feast: from contemporary Thai cuisine of the signature restaurant, Saffron; to Mediterranean-inspired fare at Tamarind; modern Mexican cuisine at Oriente; and stellar seafood at Sands on the beach.
On Earth Day, I joined a boat tour along the canals with an ornithologist, spotting endemic birds and learning about various environmental projects by the Banyan Tree’s Green Imperative Fund, such as reforesting the mangroves of Mayakoba; funding an orphanage in Playa del Carmen; and reviving the area’s endangered melipona bee population. At the end of the mini-voyage, I planted my own buttonwood mangrove three. May it grow tall and strong out there in Mayakoba.