Mayakoba

We’ve been lax in posting but the long and dreary Northeastern winter is finally in the rear view mirror and in mid-March we took the opportunity for a quick getaway to Mexico. While we are long-time fans of Puerto Vallarta on the West Coast, recent trips have taken us to the Yucatan peninsula, because it is a much quicker trip from Philadelphia or Newark to the airport in Cancun. A little over three hours in the air for a direct flight works for what amounted to a three-night holiday. Puerto Vallarta is a day-long affair that involves a change, usually in either Dallas or Houston, depending on the carrier.

Pool at the children-free area of the Fairmont Mayakoba.

We sort of dilly-dallied deciding to make this trip, so we ended up having to fly down via a plane change in Charlotte, one of American’s big hubs courtesy of its acquisition of the former U.S. Air. We did it reluctantly, but it worked out, though not without a moment of concern. We were on a very early flight out of Philadelphia. The departure was supposed to be 6:25 a.m. Boarding was on schedule, and it looked like all would be fine. We had a large plane (no 737 Max thank god), but next thing we know the pilot comes on the blower and announces there would be a delay because they had to take fuel off of the aircraft.

Yep, you read that correctly. The plane had been fueled for a flight to Europe but due to an equipment change we were on it for what’s basically a one-hour flight to Charlotte. Over many years of flying we have had delays for various reasons, usually weather, but this is the first delay for having too much gas. Evidently it would have made the plane too heavy for landing in Charlotte. We were getting whiny about the issue, but it worked out. In our defense, we’ve had some bad travel luck in the last year (see earlier posts about trying to get to Paris and play golf in New Zealand) but we were a bit overdramatic. (Hmmm, our “problems” do kind of seem like first-world issues. What are we complaining about?)

Anyway, we got to the Mayakoba resort around 1:30 pm local time and we were in our room and on the beach by 3ish, so it worked out. Mayakoba is about 30 to 40 minutes from the Cancun airport, closer to Playa del Carmen. It is basically cut out of the coastal jungle, a large swath of mangroves traversed by canals and waterways. Mosquitos are undoubtedly a big issue during the warmer, rainier months as the hotel has bug spray in the rooms, but in March they weren’t an issue. We stayed at the Fairmont Mayakoba, which was the first resort on the property and also probably the largest, but there are now three other hotels within the Mayakoba environs: Rosewood, Andaz and Banyan Tree. Rosewood is probably the priciest, but the other resorts aren’t exactly shabby.

The resort features a Greg Norman-designed golf course that has hosted a PGA tour event in November for the last several years. We had played the course in 2017 while staying at another resort near Mayakoba, and it was that visit that piqued our interest in returning to stay there. We weren’t disappointed. We upgraded for a nominal fee to a casita-type room, one of many spread out across the property. It was on one of the waterways, but also near the main path that led to the beach. So there was fair amount of foot and cart traffic during the day, but it was quiet at night. Ours was the second-floor room on the right in the photo below. Pat is sitting on the deck in the image that follows.

Our casita at the Fairmont Mayakoba resort.

Relaxing on the deck.

We played the course on the day after our arrival. We were paired up with a fellow from NYC named Rick (we’ll leave out the last name to protect the innocent.) He was a perfect fit for us. He announces on the first that he was “terrible,” a 20 handicap. I told him he was in the right company because we are similarly inept. We had a very enjoyable morning. He was staying at the Rosewood with his wife and 11-year-old daughter. He said it was spring break for private schools in NYC, so we were likely to run into a lot of people like him. He and a brother are the third generation to run an electrical contracting business in the city that handles very large projects, so the man is doing well. They recently sold half of the business to an Israeli firm. But he was otherwise a “regular guy,” so much so that it wasn’t long before we were into the tequila after losing too many golf balls. Let’s just say five or six shots of tequila doesn’t lend itself to quality golf, but we had a lot of fun, so much so that Rick and I met up again the next day while Pat did the spa thing. We stayed away from the agave nectar until the end of the round, and as a result I was able to post a respectable round.

Part of the central courtyard of the Banyan Tree resort.

As for the resort itself, one of the nice features is that the hotels on the property, while competitors, also act cooperatively to make for a seamless visit for guests. You can get an all-inclusive meal plan at any of the resorts, or do what we did, which is opt for a room and breakfast package. You can then have dinner or lunch at any of the hotels and charge the meal back to the property where you are staying. Each hotel will shuttle you back and forth as needed. The typical shuttle ride is only five minutes. You can also do a boat tour through the canal network, which is billed as an ecological tour. I skipped it because I played the second round of golf, but Pat took it. I understand I didn’t miss that much because we saw bits of all of the properties from the golf course.

We dined at an outdoor steakhouse kind of concept at the Banyan Tree, and on the beach at the Andaz resort. Both were very good though the latter, due to its setting, was windy. All of the food was good but because of the resort setting they were all pricey. One of the things we did love about Puerto Vallarta is that dining in the town was part of the experience and was very inexpensive. Eating in Playa del Carmen would be similar, but on a short trip, we were content to stay put in the resort. We believe we would be up for staying there again next year, hopefully.

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