Review: Banyan Tree Mayakoba, An All-Villa Sanctuary on the Riviera Maya

By Ellie Smith

1 year ago

Asian hospitality meets Mexican vibrance at this sunny paradise

Cancun and Playa del Carmen are renowned for their party scenes – but in between the two lies a haven of peace. We’re talking about the utterly idyllic Banyan Tree Mayakoba, one of the five-star hotels nestled within the Mayakoba complex on Mexico‘s Riviera Maya coast, set within 595 acres of lagoons, beaches and jungles. C&TH’s Ellie Smith checked in for a dose of high-end relaxation.

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Review: Banyan Tree Mayakoba, Mexico


The Banyan Tree hotel group has its roots in Asia, with the first resort opening in 1994 in Phuket. Since then, it has launched hotels all over the world, including three in Mexico, scooping up endless awards along the way. Each one is referred to as a ‘Sanctuary for the Senses’, with a focus on creating restorative energy, and leaving guests feeling zen. 

This is certainly the case at the Makayoba outpost, a paradise surrounded by tropical mangroves, with a world-class spa and access to a pristine white-sand beach. This atmosphere of calm pervades from the minute you arrive: we were welcomed with a refreshing green juice and a fresh flower bracelet before settling down for check-in within the lobby – a gorgeous space set around a central banyan tree positioned in the lagoon. 

Bliss Pool Villa at Banyan Tree Mayakoba

Bliss Pool Villa

Banyan Tree Mayakoba offers ultimate privacy: all rooms are villa-style and have their own pool – some boasting sea views, others overlooking the lagoon. We stayed in a Bliss Pool Villa, a spacious room with high ceilings, which is well-suited to couples. Décor is a sleek blend of Asian and Mayan, all dark wood and neutral tones with pops of colour and Aztec design. There’s a real inside outside feel: a huge bed looks out onto a terrace, complete with a pool, sun beds and a hammock. A luxurious bathroom, meanwhile, has a rainfall shower and double black marble sink, plus an outdoor bath, set within a walled space with an open rooftop. Bliss indeed.


It’s tempting to spend the majority of your time horizontal in your villa (which we did our fair share of), but there’s also plenty worth venturing out for. The resort is expansive, but you’re given your own bike to cycle around on during your stay – or you can simply hop in one of the golf carts.

Beach club at Banyan Tree Mayakoba

Ultimately, though, a stay at the Banyan Tree is all about putting your feet up and getting some serious R&R. You’ll want to spend lots of time lounging around at Sands Beach Club, a picture-perfect idyll where palm trees sway above the glistening Caribbean Sea. There’s an infinity pool here, complete with in-water beds (get there early to nab one), plus a restaurant and beach bar. And, on the other side of the hotel near the lobby, you’ll find another pool with its own swim-up bar.

A spa bed in Banyan Tree Mayakoba

Another highlight is the spa, set amid the mangroves. This offers the hotel group’s signature Asian therapies as well as some Mayan-inspired offerings, such as the Sense of Place – Mexican Traditions, a 150-minute experience including a pear body scrub, antioxidant body mask and massage. Also worth checking out is the rainforest experience, a circuit of hydrothermal experiences designed to revitalise different parts of your body.

A meander round the lagoon is also a must, with various on-water experiences on offer. Book an eco-tour to set sail around the natural water canals on a boat, spotting iguanas, crocodiles, turtles and birds along the way – or embark on a spot of kayaking. The summer camp, meanwhile, offers activities for children including treasure hunts and cooking classes, plus twice a year families can get involved with a turtle release, where baby turtles are safely returned into the sea.

The Mayakoba complex is set up so you never need to leave. But, for those who fancy going out and exploring, there’s lots to see and do nearby. Take a trip to the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá, Tulum or Coba, or go swimming in a cenote (a natural swimming hole), such as Gran Cenote or Cenote Dos Ojos – both great spots for snorkelling.


There’s a wide variety of food on offer across the resort. For relaxed beachside dining head to the aforementioned Sands Beach Club, the perfect lunch destination serving ceviche, poke bowls, pizzas, tacos, sushi and some exceptionally good quesadillas.

Elsewhere, you’ll find authentic Mexican food and tequila-based cocktails at the rooftop La Copa, steak at Tomahawk Open Fire Latin Grill, and gourmet Italian fare at Cello. The hotel’s signature Thai restaurant is Saffron. Head here for a memorable al fresco dinner above the water: think small plates of crispy prawns, vegetable spring rolls and fried squid ahead of fragrant curries and hearty noodle dishes.

Outdoor restaurant at Banyan Tree Mayakoba

Wherever you are at the Banyan Tree, you won’t be far from an impressive cocktail menu. Naturally, margaritas were our drink of choice, and there are lots of varieties to choose from here, from classic to passion fruit to a super spicy version infused with chilli. All restaurants and bars have extensive wine lists too, alongside local beers. 

In-villa dining is also available – but for the ultimate romantic experience, book dinner on the Ixchel boat (named after the Mayan goddess of the moon), a traditional Mexican Trajinera, where your own chef will whizz up a decadent feast under the stars. This is perfect for proposals, anniversaries or birthdays (I got engaged aboard the Ixchel, and can confirm it was extremely special).

Aerial view of Banyan Tree Mayakoba


Competition is rife within the uber-exclusive Mayakoba complex, with outposts from big hitters like Fairmont and Rosewood vying for the top spot. But where the Banyan Tree really shines is in its service, which is second-to-none. All staff are exceptionally polite, kind and helpful, instilling a feeling of serenity throughout the resort. It’s this that will have you planning your next trip before you’ve left the grounds.