The newly expanded Sands Beach Club at Mayakoba.

With travel opening back up again, here’s a tip for those seeking luxury and serenity (and, fine, a potent marg) in paradise: The Banyan Tree Mayakoba in Mexico’s famed Riviera Maya has undergone a multimillion-dollar renovation and is ready to show off in all your vacation selfies. The five-diamond eco resort is located in Mayakoba (which means village over the water), a 620-acre resort community about 45 minutes from Cancún International Airport.

Only a 2.5 hour flight from IAH, it's worth dusting off your passport. Here’s what to expect.

New Lagoon pool villas will be available to book in June.

New Upgrades

Among the new additions here is an expanded 43,000-square-foot Sands Beach Club directly on the Caribbean coast. The new oceanfront pool offers all-day dining, a fresh fish market, a beachfront lounge and library, an interactive Rangers Club for kids, and ocean view massage rooms operated by the Banyan Tree Spa, among other fabulous amenities. Meanwhile new beachfront suites are now ready for booking, and seven new lagoon villas, directly over water, will be available for stays starting in June.

The view out from a new villa suite over the lagoon—it also has its own private dipping pool.

A pool (and bike!) to yourself

The resort takes “no bad rooms” to a new level: Villas here start at 3,000 square feet, come with airy outdoor spaces, and all have private pools. Plus, each comes equipped with beach cruisers to help you explore the lush resort at your own pace.

For those hoping to explore, the award-winning resort (nestled alongside the Andaz Mayakoba, Fairmont Mayakoba and Rosewood Mayakoba) offers a blend of Mexican culture, Asian hospitality, the jungle, and the beach, all in one. From boat rides to breathtaking beaches, there’s a lot on offer here. 

Mayakoba is also home to El Camaleón Golf Course, a PGA Championship course designed by renowned architect and PGA legend Greg Norman. The course boasts stunning natural features like a cenote on hole 7, baby crocodiles sunbathing on the rocks, and two oceanfront holes stretching over the Caribbean Sea, practically begging for a selfie.

Breakfast at Oriente is a must.

Great Eats

The hotels at Mayakoba are not inclusive, so it’s encouraged to make dinner reservations at the neighboring hotel restaurants, and you'll have fun venturing out—head to dinner in one of the resort’s SUVs or opt for the water taxi that trolls through lagoons and jungles, dropping you off curbside for your reservation. Or start your morning off by riding a bike to the breakfast buffet at Oriente.

Nothing about the resort is standard, and that goes for breakfast, which offers an elaborate buffet with made-to-order eggs, omelets, crepes, pancakes, and more, all made-to-order. The setup is so decadent, in fact, your server will give you a much-needed tour beforehand. Don’t miss the included mimosas or bloody mary bar, and if you need a caffeine boost, order an iced soy latte for your other hand.

The view from the beach club's raw bar.

The perks

A few of the free luxuries on offer at the resort: Bites by the pool, which can include paella, handcrafted pizza bites, and more by Sands Beach Club; a branded beach bag, flip flops, robes, and slippers to use during your stay; 5-minute chair massages by the pool; and homemade bath salts, bath oil, and bath foam in your room to enjoy the outdoor bathtub (call ahead to have room service light the candles and get everything ready while you’re at dinner).

On-Site Covid Testing 

Banyan Tree Mayakoba has partnered with local healthcare providers to offer on-site Covid-19 antigen and PCR testing on-site for all guests traveling back to the states, per the CDC guidelines. The negative test needs to be taken 72 hours or less before you return travel to the U.S.

Making the most of your stay:

Pack a portable speaker for your villa. If you’re usually not one to spend much time in your hotel room, this vacation will change your mind.

A glass of rosé starts at $20, so bring a bottle or two of your favorite liquor or wine to enjoy after-dinner drinks at your villa. Pack it, stop at duty-free before your flight, or ask your private transfer to stop on your way to the resort. Ask for a to-go cup at breakfast for an extra mimosa or bloody mary to take to one of the pools or the beach.

The Signature In-Villa BBQ is the perfect way to celebrate a special event—I can personally vouch that it’s a idyllic way to propose, and can be arranged prior to arrival to help make it a surprise.

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