Marita Adair 2016-04-27 01:35:53
WELCOME TO WANDERLAND 1,600 acres.Three properties.Fresh-water canals.Pools galore. And oh, the beaches.A Mexico-savvy traveler finds this Yucatan resort to be a seaside jungle sanctuary like no other. Fading daylight and soft jungle night sounds set an exciting, mysterious tone on the cool December evening I arrive at the Rosewood Mayakoba. Within minutes, I settle into a small, covered water taxi and head for my lagoon-side suite. Dusky shadows of low forests and dense mangroves edge the canal, hinting at the tropical bounty I can't fully see. Soon, soft lights appear, glowing within a spacious abode. We aim toward the private dock. A small, warm-water plunge pool immediately beckons my travel-weary self. I slide in as soon as I can, tippling from an ice-cold, salt-rimmed glass filled with a lemony margarita and savoring a mound of chips and sublimely fresh guacamole. Eyes closed. Listening. Water lapping the deck. No human sound. Here at last. A soothing round of soaking and sipping beckons again the next evening. On the third night, I return late to butler-created bliss: Warm water fills the freestanding bathtub ringed with fresh rose petals. I've traveled extensively in Mexico, written numerous guidebooks, and I know of no other place in the country like Mayakoba. The lush 1,600-acre luxury retreat between Cancun and Playa del Carmen on Mexico's Riviera Maya is hidden deep within a tropical woodland and fronted by a lengthy stretch of Caribbean beach. Mayakoba means "village on water" in Mayan. And so it is, featuring three kinds of water: clear and fresh flowing canals, tranquil swimming pools and the salty sea. Four discreetly placed luxury hotels — Rosewood, Banyan Tree, Fairmont and, soon, Andaz — each with distinct personality and amenities, cooperatively share everything within their verdant 2Vi square miles. A large part of the low-rise structures sits inside mangrove-lined woodlands; all are a secluded-but-easily-accessible distance from a mile-long curve of white sand beach. Suites, like my grandly sized quarters, face a portion of the 6% miles of clear fresh-water canal. A few superluxurious beachfront lodgings face the horizon-filling Caribbean. Everything is linked by canal and paved paths touched by a wide, snaking swath of the immaculately groomed 18-hole Greg Norman-designed El Camaleon championship golf course. The paths accommodate transport via golf cart and the bicycles available free for guests, plus they offer access to a shady and tranquil 2Vi- mile nature path through the woods. Iguanas, coati, turtles and at least two crocodiles add fauna spice to the scenic flora. But most notable, this environmental partnership has no shortage of birds. There are at least 150 species. Before daybreak the morning after my arrival, a loud, persistent squawking echoing from the direction of the living room jolts me awake. Through two walls of floor-to-ceiling windows I spy the feathered wakeup caller. A huge White-speckled brown bird, as big as a turkey, perches statuelike on the balcony rail a mere 6 feet away. Overcome by excitement, I snap a million photos with my hastily grabbed point-and-shoot camera. Caged and frenzied, I try to capture my placid pal. He lingers long before fluttering off over the lagoon. It is a fortuitous encounter, as within an hour I arrive at Mayakoba's Master Photography Workshop, inspired By my ineptitude, to tackle a morning afternoon of instruction. Snagging workshop director Ivan Gabaldon—and looking for a miracle — I sheepishly beg for an immediate tutorial for my disobedient new digital camera. Within a few minutes, the sublimely patient Ivan has my fingers singing over all those buttons and dials. A world of birds pays us no mind as we float by on the canal in a covered boat. In Central Casting fashion, American coot, great blue heron, northern jacana, common moorhen, blue-winged teal, osprey, cormorant, limpkin, roseate spoonbill and others sip and preen, pose, puff, squawk, sing and tutor their young before us. When Ivan points to movement in the darkness of the mangrove undergrowth, I spy my morning visitor, a limpkin, stepping gingerly through the tangle of roots, perhaps looking for apple snails, found here in abundance. The following day we take oar-and- pedal-powered kayaks to another portion of the canal.Other than giggling through mashups with rocky canal walls, we are a quiet bunch. But there are five kayaks instead of one boat, making us a large presence in this natural kingdom. And yet, the birds don't scatter.Many of these same fowl migrate to — or even reside in — Texas, but birdwatchers find glimpses of them hard won. In Mayakoba ifs normal to come upon them sitting quite still. My conclusion: Mayakoba's safe and thoughtfully Conserved setting is the reason birds (and iguanas) don't spook in the presence of people. A bit of overcast sky and occasional sprinkles provide an indoor opportunity to indulge my favorite mental getaway: gazing at a horizon filled with cerulean blue water. The Fairmont's Las Brisas restaurant, with an enormous half circle of open beach-view windows, offers that soul-soothing sea scene at lunch. The vista is equal to the perfectly prepared variety of seafood appetizers I devour, followed by a kebab of fresh grilled shrimp and a delicious trio of desserts. Locally sourced and carefully grown food, a hallmark of restaurants here, includes tastes from around the world, as well as fabulous Yucatan offerings.At Rosewood one morning, I sink my teeth into huevos motulenos (eggs atop a tortilla mounded with ham, peas, onions, black beans and a delicious tomato sauce), a favorite seldom offered anywhere off the peninsula. I pair it with fresh juice made with pineapple, celery and chaya (a superhealthy spinachlike tree leaf). A tequila tasting one evening at Punta Bonita, Rosewood's seaside restaurant, couples handsomely with mixiotes, an interior Mexico specialty of steamed chicken inside a maguey wrapper.Trying to total the number of restaurants in Mayakoba, I lose count at 14, sadly far more than I can try. As naturally as moving from bird watching to dining with a view, I roll onto a massage table at Sense, Rosewood's Yucatan-influenced spa, and another at the Asian-inspired Banyan Tree Spa. At both, whispering voices and serene surroundings coupled with healthy hydrating drinks and skilled hands render me both soothed and renewed. That feeling returned while, as I was writing this, I opened the gift of a tiny clay jug containing the palm scent I chose for my treatments at Sense. I sniffed the fragrance and was immediately transported back to the serenity of Mayakoba. A getaway that soothes your body while you're in residence is one thing. A respite that offers something you can take home to tap into whenever your soul needs soothing, that's truly magical. THE DETAILS Mayakoba The resort offers three luxury hotels in three price ranges: Rosewood, Banyan Tree and Fairmont. The accommodations and other Facilities Sit On 1,600 Acres 40 Minutes South Of Cancun and 10 minutes north of Playa del Carmen on Mexico’s Riviera Maya. Each hotel cooperatively shares amenities and activities plus complimentary transport within the resort. TV, telephone and Wi-Fi are available in each room. For rates and information, visit mayakoba.com. Who goes here Singles, couples and families seeking an uncrowded, service-focused tropical setting paired with beach, sporting and jungle nature activities, as well as the convenience of multiple dining choices and local culture — all without leaving the resort. What to do All Mayakoba: 18-hole golf course, a mile of private beach, 18 restaurants and bars, three spas, multiple swimming pools, threeday photography workshop, staffed kids clubs, kayaking, archery, tennis, nature and jogging trail, canal boat rides, biking, pro shop, shopping. Special activities: Banyan — Asian-focused cooking classes, daily yoga, moonlight and breakfast dining for two by boat, turtle release twice yearly. Rosewood — Bees Farm Tour, tequila tasting. Fairmont — cooking school, Mexican craft beer tasting. Hotel guests at any of the three hotels may partake of amenities at other hotels. Several activities require advance reservation and are offered at an extra price. What to pack Golf clubs, swimsuit, lightweight resort attire with slightly more special, but casual, duds for fine dining.
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