The only thing you give up when buying at the Banyan Tree is your personal decorating taste. Because these are rented as hotel villas, each has a uniform look that carries on throughout the property. It’s a meticulously designed look though, looking effortless but really the combination of multiple decisions about custom lamp designs, the right type of hardwood for the accents and doors, and which variety of Thai silk to import for pillows and spreads. Furniture and bedding is all top-grade, much of it designed especially for this property. Most of the bedroom doors are solid wood with decorative carvings.
The attention to detail is impressive, but there was a clear confidence to push the envelope beyond the typical tropical villa design. Talavera sinks join Thai touches in the bathrooms and there’s a warmth here that is absent in many marble-clad villas around Cancun and Playa del Carmen. In some villas outdoor tubs and showers join a huge master bath on the inside with a double-sink island and circular mirror on a pedestal in the middle of the room. All the expected gadgets are in place, from iPod docks to 50-inch flat-screen TVs to strong wireless Internet signals in each villa.
The Terrace Residences facing the golf course (and in some cases, the distant sea) are set up like three-bedroom townhouses. The lagoon level first floor has three bedrooms: a master suite with a terrace and two smaller bedrooms with their own en suite baths and courtyard. The main floor is all living space, with dining for six, a full gourmet kitchen, and a terrace. The top floor is the party place, with an infinity pool as wide as the villa, built-in outdoor lounging sofas, and a barbeque grill.
The three-bedroom villas on the beach are perhaps the most expensive residences available right now on the Caribbean coast of Mexico. They go for subtle beauty over a brash “bigger is better” aesthetic though, with a floor plan that gives privacy when needed but encourages interaction and family time when out of the bedroom. The giant courtyard area has a large pool with plenty of room for everyone, plus a separate whirlpool, a dining terrace, and lots of lounging space. The high-end kitchen, living room, and second bedroom are in a separate pavilion to the side of this courtyard. Upstairs over the apartment-sized master suite is the second bedroom with its own terrace and another full bath.
Other units that currently make up the hotel’s offerings can be purchased by request. These include the one-bedroom spa villas with dedicated massage terrace or two-bedroom pool or beach villas with a separate living room pavilion.
There are six dining and drinking spots scattered around the Banyan Tree property, so there’s no fear of getting bored with the menu as a resident. The most casual restaurant is at the beach club, right by the three-bedroom beach villas. Others include Saffron, which is probably the best Thai restaurant in the whole country. The organic adults-only Tamarind restaurant is near the spa, the family friendly Oriente is nearby, and La Cava is basically a table for 14 set up in the chilled wine storage room. (See our review of the Banyan Tree Mayakoba hotel for more.)
The staff can set up private meals anywhere though, including in the villas. A seafood feast, a beach barbeque, or a Mexican fiesta with musicians is only a phone call to the concierge away.
There’s plenty to explore in the Mayakoba complex itself, which is great for birdwatching or biking. The beach butlers will loan out boogie boards or kayaks for the sea. And when it’s time to go exploring, it’s an easy day trip to Playa del Carmen, Cancun, or the ruins of Tulum or Coba. The staff can set up snorkeling, diving, or fishing trips as well.
Early interest in the Banyan Tree residences has been diverse, from Mexico City movie stars to New York business tycoons. For those looking to buy a vacation home that’s maintenance free, exquisitely designed, and serviced by the best staff in the region, this should be the first or last stop on the Riviera Maya real estate tour.
Web Address: Banyan Tree Mayakoba Residences
Villa Prices: $1.7 million to $4.8 million plus annual maintenance.
Story and photos by Timothy Scott.