Travelogue: Fairmont Mayakoba, Mexico

Travelogue, Mayakoba, trip, mexico, cancun

In a sense, our entire Mexico spring break week started with plans to stay at Mayakoba.

After some wonderful, but intensely planned trips last year, I’d suggested to Aron that we look for an all-inclusive, club-Med-like stay for spring break this year, and maybe even coordinate plans with friends. The requirements would thus be: convenient flights into a major air hub (Cancun) and a kids’ club. But true to form, I just couldn’t let us go all the way to the Yucatan only to check into a resort for a week. Some exploring would be required. And that’s how we ended up instead splitting a week between Isla de Holbox, the ruins and cenotes of Coba, and the resort area of Mayakoba.

The resort is essentially four hotel properties set among lagoons, some jungle, and a beautiful stretch of beach just north of Playa Del Carmen. At the Fairmont, the property we stayed at, you can choose an all-inclusive plan, or pay as you go—as we did. In other words, we completely strayed from that initial impetus, though the resort did share some of the features of an all-inclusive in that it had all the amenities to dissuade you from ever leaving—including a kids’ club.

It turned out to be just the relaxing kind of family vacation we had craved, if a very luxurious end to the week—and I’d go back in a heartbeat!

We checked in around sunset and set out for dinner. The immensity of the place was immediately clear—there were bikes and golf carts available for getting around the property and it was a long trip from the lobby to the casitas, where we were based, and then another ride through the protected forests just inland to the beach, where we had dinner on our first night.

I remember it taking us a little while to settle in—as I find is often the case at large resorts—and I felt that familiar pang of regret at leaving a small island with a perfectly wonderful boutique hotel for what one look at the menu told me was going to cost us a lot more. There’s certainly a local specificity one trades for all of the amenities at a place like the Fairmont—and a higher price to pay. We did our best to offset some of this by joining the hotel’s membership, looking for ‘one-free-night’ deals, and taking advantage of kids’ meal prices.

But almost as soon as the sun rose—and after a very, very comfortable night’s sleep—we started to appreciate just how special this particular resort is. Our room looked out onto one of the many waterways that moves through the mangroves around the hotel and the first thing the kids did was to run outside and spot a small crocodile emerging from beneath the deck.

They say that they’ve left about 80% of the mangroves in tact around the property, and we knew to be on the lookout for the resident wildlife—monkeys, turtles, crocodiles, and hundreds of bird species—which still call the land home. In fact, when we left for breakfast, we found evidence that a troupe of Coatis (raccoon-like mammals we would spot around each day) had made quite a mess on the stairwell, and the kids spent the next few hours telling anyone they could about the “coati caca.”


After breakfast—a sprawling buffet with loads of fresh fruit, juices, sweets, and anything else you could wish for—we got to meet another one of the resort’s residents: there was often a falcon present to scare away other birds from being bothersome. So much to see before we had even made it to the beach or the pool!

There were four or so pools at the hotel and the kids were immediately thrilled that one had a slide! We noticed that the best seats by the pool did tend to fill up with towels, but it felt like there was always space to be found. I really liked the way that each seating section seemed to have its own shallow sun shelf associated with it (shown here with some glamour poses).

Everyone got sunscreened-up and we spent the day between the pool and and taking advantage of the included kids’ club option, a free camp for children ages 5 to 11 for 2-3 hours each day. More hours of “discovery club” could be added for a fee.

I wouldn’t say the camp was as “adventure” as promised, and I would worry that kids much older than Hudson would be bored, but ours were more than happy to do some crafts and and play with other kids for long enough for us to make it to the adults-only pool and do some exploring around the resort!

Success all around!

We rode bikes around and learned how to reserve kids’ bikes, too (though Skyler would be too small); we checked out the Willow Stream Spa (but decided to save); and we spotted some giant iguanas and wished our kids were with us… for the moment.

But when they came back, reporting that they’d be happy to go on another occasion, we signed them up for dinner-time the following day!

Though it was our intention to stay put for all four nights, we ended up taking advantage of having a rental car to drive into Playa del Carmen for dinner once. That evening, we checked out the main pedestrian street and the beach to see what it looked like, and then just happened to spot a really charming looking place to eat a few blocks away: El Doctorcito. It was perfect! Open-air, casual, with delicious seafood cocktails, ceviche and los aguachilies. I had shrimp tacos and a giant michelada.

When we got back that night, the hotel had set up a food market on one of the lawns and the kids ran around to the sounds of mariachi music before bedtime.

The next two days were spent at the beach—a wide stretch of sugary white sand and turquoise water. It turned out that there were so many families at the resort that the kids never wanted for playmates, and we were almost able to sit and read as easily as if they had been in an activity. There were some off-shore barriers installed to keep the water calm and a line of buoys protecting a swimming area, but we were lucky to have fairly flat conditions throughout our stay.

There were games and sand toys, shells to collect, paddle-boards and kayaks for use. My only complaint was that the catamaran sailing lists had already been filled up, and this—along with the mangrove boat tours and restaurant reservations—would be something the hotel should suggest you sign up for in advance.

Being the classy folks that we are, we would often order virgin drinks and then use the bottle of tequila we purchased at the store by the pool to spike them. But this did help us save some money at the beach.

We had finally hit that truly relaxing vacation-stride.

For dinner that night, we got the kids some fare by the pool and then they opted to check into the kids’ club for an evening face-painting activity and a movie, while we went out to one of the on-site restaurants. They were completely thrilled with their new looks, and didn’t mind missing the restaurant one bit!

On our last morning we had breakfast down at the beach rather than at the buffet, but otherwise spent the morning much as we had done the day before…

… at the beach!

However, I had managed to get us reservations on one of the boat tours around the mangroves for that afternoon, so we took a midday break to look for iguanas, crocodiles, and birds of Mayakoba.

We were surprised, in fact, by just how much Hudson was into the bird-watching—and he took a ton of photos along the way. The kids’ favorite bird was probably a Limpkin that feeds on Apple Snails and leaves piles of shells on the banks of the canals.

If you look carefully, you can spy a small crocodile sunning itself just below someone’s deck at the Rosewood Mayakoba. Apparently, once they get too big, they are taken somewhere else to live out their days. Or at least that’s the story.

From the boat we saw all kinds of beautiful birds, and had the chance to check out the nature trail that winds around the property—there’s apparently even a cenote. Again, we had to laugh a little at the extent to which they really had made it so you didn’t need to leave.

Later that evening, we looked back out at the canals at sunset, the golf course and the mangroves side by side reminding us that we are indeed at a resort. But we were really impressed with how many natural spaces also remained, and loved the feeling of being at the intersection of sea and jungle. We were worried that it might feel a bit placeless, but I always still felt like we were in Mexico.

For our last night, the kids chose to go back to the kids’ club, so we checked them in and had room service deliver their dinner there while we watched the bats come out to hunt over the canals.

Of course, it felt a little odd to be without them on our last night of vacation, so after dinner we all had dessert there before returning to the room to pack up.

It all went too fast! And yet, it felt like we had truly gone on vacation. We flew out early the next morning, spending a long layover in Guadalajara, before landing in Sacramento.

Have you been to one of the Mayakoba Resorts? What have I missed? Do you have any family-friendly resorts that you’d recommend? 

P.S. The first portion of our spring break in Mexico: Isla de Holbox and Tulum/Coba. Also, our trip to Mexico City! And what does “family-friendly” even mean?

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