Carretera Federal Cancun–Playa del Carmen,
Solidaridad, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Though in large part a conventioneer's resort, Fairmont Mayakoba is notable for its striking natural setting; luxury–level service is available in a portion of the property.
Opened in mid–2006, the Fairmont is the first property to be completed in the 600–acre Mayakoba development, a novel project in which five luxury properties and two golf courses will be set amid swathes of low jungle and mangrove swamp, with a long stretch of beachfront from which neighboring resorts are visible but not intrusive.
The logic of large–scale development (the Fairmont alone has 401 rooms) with an allegedly eco–friendly bent has yet to be proven, but at least in the case of the Fairmont, the aesthetic results are undeniable.
The view from the lobby lounge, the highest point on the property, takes in a sea of green, punctuated by the sleek lines of the square ocher–yellow villas that march east toward the water. But the Caribbean is barely visible beyond a wide buffer of mangroves, cut through by a network of canals (which will eventually link all five hotels). Small boats provide shuttle service past water birds and chirping frogs to the beach, where there is a pool, the most formal restaurant, and the higher–category rooms; the less glamorous––but more convenient––way of getting around is by golf cart.
Fairmont Mayakoba does almost 70 percent of its business in group sales, and portions of the property have an undeniably business–class feel. The spa, for instance, is Fairmont's second–largest (after its Scottsdale property), and its size makes it feel corporate and impersonal compared with the smaller, more visionary spas in the region.
The most basic rooms ("Fairmont rooms," according to the complex system of room categories), too, are in somewhat generic blocks, and are best avoided. For pampered luxury, opt instead for anything with the word "private" preceding it––these for the most part refer to the clutch of rooms in the beach area, all of which are significantly larger and have butler service; a few (labeled "suites") have private plunge pools as well.
Even in a mid–range Signature Casita ("signature" means the room has a view of the canals and mangroves; "casita" places it in one of the square yellow two–story villas), though, the amenities are perfectly satisfactory: a large terrace overlooking the water (opt for the second floor for marginally fewer mosquitoes), an expansive bedroom with a flat–screen TV and Bose stereo, and a deep tub adjacent to a floor–to–ceiling window, for plenty of natural light in the marble bathroom.
The style throughout is modern without being over–designed––furniture is spare and devoid of ornate details, and bed linens are punctuated with splashes of bright pink, lively purple or pale green.
The only real drawback to Fairmont Mayakoba is its massive scale. Feeding as many as 800 guests results in less–than–satisfactory food at its three restaurants, and though most employees seem genuinely excited to be working in such an experimental place, the service occasionally suffers under the logistical demands of shuffling everyone back and forth to the beach. And aside from a nature tour of the canals and the Greg Norman–designed golf course, El Camaleón, guests will find very few activities.
Fortunately, the layout of the buildings and the landscaping––including the arrangement of the main pool complex into smaller, more private sections––help absorb the crowds. For great restaurants and nightlife, Playa del Carmen is a 20–minute cab ride away, and concierges are happy to arrange off–property snorkeling trips and the like.
While the Fairmont won't appeal to anyone seeking an intimate retreat, it is fairly successful as a large resort, combining modern style with the natural beauty of the Yucatán.
Web Address: Fairmont Mayakoba
Total Number of Rooms: 401
Published rates: $289 to $1,699
Fairmont Mayakoba - Hotel Packages
Review and photos by Zora O'Neill
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