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“VERY GOOD BUT NOT EXCELLENT”

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Banyan Tree Mayakoba
Ranked #2 of 213 Hotels in Playa del Carmen
Certificate of Excellence
GreenLeadersPlatinum level
Reviewed September 9, 2010

Intro

This is my first trip adviser review and I was motivated to write it by all the very descriptive reviews I have read from other users over the last year and found to be very helpful in researching destinations and planning my trips. Thanks for that!
My wife and I just spent 6 days at the Banyan Tree Mayakoba over the U.S. Labor Day holiday and I hope prospective travelers find my review helpful.

Playa Del Carmen

While Mayakoba is no doubt a beautiful complex unfortunately Playa, in fact the entire stretch from Cancun to Playa, feels like a high end (and not so high end in most cases) hotel strip mall with the Banyan Tree and the Rosewood being the Bergdorf and Barneys. If you are into all inclusive hotels then this is possibly your Mecca, but if you are looking for a charming and relatively remote Gulf/Caribbean paradise this is definitely NOT it. The Riviera Maya is overdeveloped and overcrowded and the beach is strewn with very large, unaesthetic hotels. The town of Playa may have been charming 20 years ago but now just resembles a cheesy tourist trap. It is unfortunate that the Mexican tourism authority has not been able to develop an otherwise beautiful area in a more protected and less commercial fashion.

The Banyan Tree Property

The entire Mayakoba complex has been meticulously constructed to preserve its ecological surroundings and the Banyan Tree is its star. The hotel is beautiful and dramatic in design while maintaining an element of subtlety and very effective touches of Asian architecture and design that let it blend seamlessly into the mangrove that is Mayakoba. Truly stellar. I must add that the Rosewood, which we visited for dinner one evening, is also very beautiful and perhaps more dramatic but in a contemporary, modern, South Beach sort of way. We preferred the design of the Banyan Tree.

The Beach

The sand is white and soft but that’s all I liked about it. The beach is very narrow and it is quite rocky in some parts and has large pebbles in most other parts. You will feel them almost cutting into your feet within 10 yards of getting into the water. I love swimming in the ocean and if there are big waves I’ll be body surfing for hours on end and the only reason I’d probably even get in the pool is to get a drink from the swim up bar. I’ll give even odds that you will rip your torso on large pebbles within 5 minutes of trying to body surf on this beach, if you were lucky enough to find a big wave. But it’s a beach off of a very large reef and that’s to be expected. What is not to be expected or accepted is how disgustingly dirty some parts of the beach are. We walked the entire stretch of the beach from the Grand Velas resort which lies to the right of Banyan Tree all the way to the Mandarin Oriental which is on the other end of the Mayakoba Beach. Here is what I thought was ridiculous: The hotels clean the beach area only immediately in front of their property, but walk another 5 or 10 yards to either side and it is littered, in fact clustered , with plastic bottles, metal cans and other garbage. Every beach segment in between each of the hotels is in the same condition. This was truly saddening. I find it downright hypocritical of the Banyan Tree and other such resorts that pride and market themselves as eco friendly green hotels to not even bother to clean the areas immediately contiguous to their own property. They spend large amounts of money to maintain their own properties but will not take on the relatively inexpensive exercise of keeping the entire beach clean. Shameful. I’ve been swimming in the ocean since I was 5 yrs old and I can confidently say that I know beaches well. I would give the Mayakoba beach a 4/10 max.

The Rooms

Score. I don’t think anything in the area compares to these rooms. We were in a courtyard suite and the pool, jacuzzi combo is unbeatable. You can do laps in this pool. Seriously. Clothing optional! It makes the plunge pool concept feel like you got downgraded. The rest of the room, lounge, bathroom is spectacular too. Very earthy and very aesthetic. Many other reviews discuss the rooms in detail so I’ll keep it short. We loved it.

Service

They definitely make you feel warm and welcome from the minute you get there. Very courteous and always with a smile. Almost perfect on the surface but when you scratch below it the service is lacking in depth at times. This is best explained by the following service lapses we experienced.

- We rented 2 bikes at $5 per bike per day for the duration of our stay. The hotel provides these at a cost. Both bikes had the seats set pretty low and we had to ask 4 times for them to be raised. 2 days later …. Nothing! On the 3rd day they replaced my bike with another one …. Which was broken. The chain was literally falling off the bike. They didn’t even bother to check what they were replacing my bike with?? I complained again and they replaced it successfully this time. My wife’s bike was never fixed or replaced and we just got tired of complaining about it. The rental fee is small so we didn’t care but they never bothered to credit us for it.

- We did a tennis lesson one evening and were dropped off in the hotel car at the courts which are part of the Fairmont. The phone at the tennis courts was not working and the courts are not attended so I asked the driver to pick us up in exactly one hour as we would have no way of getting in touch with the hotel (going over it 3 times to make sure I was clear). The courts are a good 15 – 20 minute walk from the Banyan Tree and there are no other buildings anywhere near it. One and a half hours later there was no sign of the hotel car to pick us up and we walked back. It’s a pleasant enough walk to be honest but not pleasant to know that they just forgot about us knowing we had no way of getting in touch with the hotel. I did complain about this to the front desk and they left us some strawberries and chocolates in our room that evening with an apology note.

- The front desk recommended a Mexican restaurant in Playa del Carmen for us to try out. It was one of their top two picks. The food was poor at best and even the guacamole and margheritas were substandard. I’m hard pressed to believe that restaurant could have been anywhere close to the best Mexican food in Playa.

- The concierge was only slightly helpful when giving us diving options in the area. I think they called one dive shop that was closed on Saturday, the day we wanted to dive. I was able to find 3 other options online quite easily. Kinda half assed attempt on their part.

- The package that we booked included a $150 room credit which did not appear in our check-in info for some reason. I had to bring it up with the front desk twice to have it rectified and I was assured that this was going to be included at the time of check out. Of course it was not credited on my final bill at check out and I had to remind them yet again.
Basically we had to request for some things several times before they were addressed and we found this to be quite annoying.

The Food

The breakfast was marvelous and included in our room rate. They have a huge selection and it is truly top notch. Tamarind is mediocre and completely overpriced. Don’t bother. Saffron is good Thai food but not amazing and again completely overpriced. I’ve lived in NYC for the last 10 years and eat out very often at some of the best restaurants. Saffron would probably not get away charging those prices here. I find it in very poor taste when hotels charge ridiculous prices for mediocre food knowing that its guests are at least partially captive to the on property restaurants. The best meal we had down there was at the pool/beachside restaurant at the Rosewood, Punta Bonita. Very good Mexican fare and service at half the prices of the restaurants at the Banyan Tree. I strongly recommend dining there.

The Spa

I thought it was amazing. Possibly the best spa I have been to. The staff are just too polite! Everything the reviews say about how good the therapies are is absolutely true. Each massage session is conducted in a separate over water villa with a private toilet, steam and shower. Definitely take advantage of the rainforest experience, either on its own or as a combo package with one of the massage therapies. I did the 3 hour rainforest indulgence. I was so relaxed I think I fell asleep twice. My wife also thought it was very good but was not as impressed as I was. Maybe women just have higher spa standards.

Overall Impression

A very luxurious and beautiful resort but the shortcomings I’ve mentioned above make this less than a perfect resort. If you claim to be among the best and charge accordingly, then you need to be held to a much higher standard. I will add that if the beach and location (Playa) were better (put another way: this hotel on a nice beach on an idyllic Caribbean island) I’m pretty sure I would visit often. However, if you don’t care much about the beach or the surrounding area outside the hotel then the Banyan Tree offers great value and enough to keep your mind and body occupied for several days without leaving the property.

  • Stayed: September 2010, traveled as a couple
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12  Thank NYCyaatri
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed September 2, 2010

Needing to keep this review brief, it is difficult to do so. My husband and I had no true idea of what we would experience on our honeymoon. We travel extensively but don't stay in high-end 5-star resorts. But......it was our honeymoon so we decided to splurge.

In a nutshell, it was all we could desire and more. Our mouths dropped open as our private airport transport pulled onto the grounds. We had people greeting us right away - managing our check-in while sitting outside enjoying a delightful glass of juice. We were escorted to an electric buggy (golf-cart) and taken to our villa. It was magnificent!!!! Not to mention private. We were given a tour of the villa and amenities were pointed out. A newspaper would be available daily as well as a listing of the day's events on the resort.

From that point on, we enjoyed outstanding service (especially Alejandro at Oriente and Carlos at the beach and pool), beautiful surroundings and wonderful food! We sampled every restaurant on the premises (including In Villa Dining) and ate breakfast at Oriente every morning (their wide selection of fresh fruit was perfect each day). At no point did we feel alone, someone was always presenting themselves to offer help -- without ever being intrusive or crowding. All staff were pleasant and really seemed to enjoy their place of work. The grounds and villa were immaculate yet you never really ran into all the people you know were responsible for keeping it so. It was quiet and tranquil. We enjoyed the Rainforest and a few massages. The spa services were a well-rounded experience. The electric boatride through the canals to the beach was relaxing and beautiful.

It wasn't til toward the end of our week-long stay that we really started to uncover the philosophy behind Banyan Tree -- the investment in it's employees, local environment/culture and eco-friendliness. When we casually talked to some of the staff about it, all were eager to discuss and had glowing things to say. We felt even better spending our money in an area/to a business that was so conscious of the indigineous people and land.

All in all, it was an amazing experience that encompassed all the senses -- and soothed the mind. We have already been telling everyone we know about our honeymoon and how perfect it was! We defintely plan to return as well as visit other Banyan Tree establishments.

  • Stayed: July 2010, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank Charlie12378
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 25, 2010

Hopefully, there will be more Banyan Trees in our future... we've been ruined. This was truly hospitality at it's finest. We stayed for 6 days at the Banyan Tree Mayakoba in August and were blown away by the staff, the place, and the amenities. From the moment we stepped out of the car, we knew that this place was special. Beautiful, airy, modern, romantic and luxe, we found our garden villa to me more than complete with it's private pool, swinging hammock, outdoor bathtub, view of the lagoon, and uber comfortable bed. We were steps from the fabulous breakfast at the Oriente (included in our reservation and generally one of the many highlights of our day) the quiet Reflections pool, and the top of the line spa. Whatever you do, try the rainforest walk!! When we were there, the spa was having a special- $20 per person for a 60 minute walk through. You go from rainforest shower, to sauna, to steam room, back to shower, to another sauna, to an ice rub... it was a bit like going through a human car wash, but so much fun!

We took advantage of most of the complimentary activities, all of which I would highly recommend, including the Mexican cooking class, the tequila tasting, the wine and tapas tasting (generous portions!), and the one hour long eco tour by boat through the lagoons with a naturalist guide. We did take two day trips- one to Cozumel for snorkeling, and another to Coba, the Mayan ruins, which included zip-lining, rappelling and swimming in a cenote. We enjoyed all of the activities, but it was always a little bit wistful to leave the Banyan Tree!

It was pretty amazing that most of the staff knew our names by the second day that we were there. From Zuleyka's friendly welcome and beautiful smile, to Alejandro, our waiter who bent over backwards to make our breakfasts phenomenal experiences every single day, to the attentiveness of Erik and Federico, the two managers at Tamarind and Oriente respectively, to Mariel's exquisite knowledge of tequilas, Rubi's gentle, sweet greeting as she watched me swim laps around the main pool before breakfast and Samuel's cheerful "whistle while you work attitude" as he transported us from one part of the resort to another, we felt like no stone had been left unturned. It wasn't just that these people are really good at what they do, it actually seemed like they loved it. In fact, Samuel actually told us that he will often take over the shifts of his colleagues because he loves work so much that he never wants to leave! I can't imagine never wanting to leave work. From all accounts, it does seem like the Banyan Tree Company treats it's employees well, providing good housing options, multiple meals a day, and training locals in the art of hospitality, so that they can develop skills and build careers. At the same time, we were impressed by all of the efforts the resort put into re-developing the surrounding nature preserve, educating it's staff in protecting the environment, and utilizing a green philosophy within the resort.

On the night of our anniversary, we had a delicious dinner at Tamarind, and returned to our villa to find candles aglow, rose petals strewn across the bed to spell "Happy Anniversary," and a bottle of Chilean wine chilling on ice! We don't even remember telling anyone that it was our anniversary. Just another example of how the staff here will go that extra mile.

  • Stayed: August 2010, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank La Verne C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 25, 2010

My husband and I went to Banyan Tree to celebrate our 4 year anniversary in August (off season - very quiet, but extremely relaxing). We were there for 5 nights, which was a perfect get-away. We read all the reviews on TripAdvisor, and had high expectations. Banyan Tree certainly lived up to and surpassed the reviews we read online.

Transportation - we used cancunshuttle.com for transportation from the airport to the hotel. There are many options on the website, but we selected the VIP private car service. We drove in a very comfortable Suburan SUV, they provided bottled water, and drove very safely. Not sure the VIP upgrade was necessary, but it cost around $165 round trip (not bad!).

Take advantage of complimentary hotel activities - but sign up early. My husband took a tequila tasting class (I am pregnant so couldn't participate, but had a great time watching). We took a cooking class - and had a delicious lunch. We missed out on the wine and tapas, but heard it was great.

Spa - AMAZING! I had 2 spa treatments and they were out of this world - even if your treatment is 60 minutes - they provide an additional half hour of relaxation (but they're actually massaging you; so it's equivalent to a 90 minute treatment)! My husband did the rainforest walk and LOVED it (he's not typically a spa-goer).

Pools - besides our private pool (every villa has a private pool), we spent most of our time at the pool near the beach. My husband and I are "pool" people, but we like to be near the water - so this worked out perfectly for us. It's either a 10-15 minute walk from the lobby/breakfast, 5 minute golf car ride, 5 minute bike ride or 10 minute boat ride. After eating such large breakfasts every day - we opted to walk to the pool/beach.

Lunch - almost every day we had lunch by the pool/beach. There were lots of options, but I really like the veggie burger and fries (had it 2 times).

Dinners - we ate at all the Banyan Tree restaurants. They were all exceptional!! The food was fantastic and service was great. My husband and I didn't want to try Saffron (We like Thai food - but really wanted Mexican food since we were in Mexico). As a result - we saved Saffron for our last night, and we were both so happy we experienced it! We did the tasting menu - way too much food (only 1 person needs to get the tasting menu, the other person should order 1 entree). It looked like we barely touched a thing. I really wanted fajitas one night (at The Sands), and the chef was kind enough to make them for me (even though they weren't on the menu). Fantastic dinner! We also went to Rosewood one night, and had a delicious dinner at their casual pool restaurant (I think it's called Punta Bonita).

For future travelers - this hotel is highly recommended!

Thanks to everyone at Banyan Tree for making such a memorable vacation.

  • Stayed: August 2010, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank MemorableVacations
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 23, 2010

We just came back from our visit to Banyan Tree Mayakoba to celebrate our 10th anniversary on August 12th and all I can say it was absolutely amazing. We spent the first 4 days at Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita in Puerto Morelos which is also incredibly nice and you can read our review of that hotel under that name. The good thing about spending time at both first class resorts is that it really allowed us to get good comparisons of both.

When we arrived at the Banyan Tree, we were totally floored of how beautiful and certainly how different it was from our previous resort. Upon arriving, we were shown a quick tour of the lobby area and quickly taken to our spa courtyard villa in one of the buggy’s, so basically we just had to sign a form in the lobby and that was the only check in process. We had seen man pictures of the rooms from the website/tripadvisor but it really didn’t compare to the beautiful view upon entering our villa. Everything was perfect, the bedroom, the wonderful and luxurioius bathroom, walk in closets (plus for my wife), the outdoor private tub. The kicker was the villa pool/hot tub and the attached living room/media room. There is no way to describe the whole villa arrangement and the vibe of the whole villa and resort. It was so tranquil and Zen-like, we felt at peace the moment we arrived. The beds were probably the most comfortable we have ever slept on, really they were that comfortable.

The breakfast buffet as many mention is incredibly delicious and totally first class. If you can’t find something to satisfy you here, then you simply weren’t meant to eat. The fruit, the pasteries, the eggs, the juices, the daily specialties, coffees and Mexican treats are unbelievably delicious and everything is super fresh. The only thing we didn’t try was the sushi but everything else was delicious. In addition, you can ask the waiter or the cooks to make you anything you could imagine and very likely you will have it on your table within 10 minutes.

The boat ride to the beach is simply beautiful and well worth it. While it takes 10 minutes longer than the Buggy to the beach, it is such a beautiful ride through the mangroves and such a special treat and part of the individuality of the resort, that I think you are missing a big part of the experience if you don’t try at least the boat ride once. We took it every time we wanted to go to the beach. The beach area is great, you come right onto the Sands building which like all other buildings at this resort is very Zen, beautiful and clean. The workers tend to you right away and set you up with beach chairs or pool chairs, whatever you prefert. The waiters will come by during the day with small free samples of the food at the Sands restaurant and the food there was fantastic. The Vuelve La Vida cocktail was the best I have ever had and my wife tried the fish tacos and the club sandwich during our stay which were also delicious. The pool is also very nice but we mostly laid out by the beach, there is some very good snorkeling about 200 meters out from the beach, I took the resorts kayak and the lifeguard told me where to go and had a beautiful snorkel session out there. Walking on the beach, you can see the other resorts such as the Starwood, Gran Velas, etc which all look fabulous as well. The beach and the sands here are incredibly soft and beautiful so I feel no beach connoisseur will be disappointed.

We also enjoyed one day at the upper pool by the lobby (forgot the name) which was really nice. This pool is much nicer/larger with plenty of little curves and alcoves to hang out in and also has a swim up bar. We were able to get chairs that are half in the pool and thoroughly enjoyed our day there, it was very quiet as only one other couple was there so we basically had this large area all to ourselves, with the bar tender and the pool help tending to us very nicely.

At dinner, we ate at Saffron and really enjoyed our meal, it was probably the best Thai we have ever eaten and the wine was really nice that they served us. The dessert was also great and although we ate outside and got bit a little by the bugs at the end, the outdoor ambiance and romantic lighting was truly a joy. However, hands down the highlight of our meals and of our stay was our in Villa Mexican Barbeque which we arranged for to celebrate our 10th Anniversary. Although there was a slight hiccup from the maids that day (which Banyan Tree made up for by comping us a bottle of wine for dinner) the whole set up was amazing. The lights in the Villa, the metal barbeque (hard to describe) the table set up, the complimentary cocktails, and specifically our waiter who both cooked the 5 course meal and also served us was amazing. We literally did nothing except walk into our villa at the appointed time and sat to have one of the best and most romantic dinners we have ever enjoyed. I STRONGLY recommend getting this in- villa dining experience, you will not be disappointed.

We also did a Spa session, my wife got the tender touch pregnancy massage and I had the Balinese massage, both in the same room and we both agreed it was the best massage we have ever had. The whole experience and set up was wonderful, but like other reviewers, I did miss a place to relax/hang out afterwards like other Spa’s seem to have. I would think they would allow you to enjoy a hot tub or steam/sauna but they don’t have this option, however we thoroughly enjoyed our spa and would definitely do it again.

We went into Playa del Carmen twice but sadly this is not the same Playa we have learned to love. It has officially been over commercialized and the small little delicious restaurants and high class Mexican souvenirs/art stores have sadly been replaced by tourist traps and stores selling mostly tourist junk. While we still enjoyed ourselves, I fear the Playa of old is long gone and the commercial reaches of Cancun have crept in.

Which actually made our stay in our Villa and at Banyan Tree even better, as we felt everytime we returned to our villa that we were returning to our sanctuary and used every bit of our villa. I cant say enough about the resort, the beauty, the villas. We were very satisfied with the Banyan Tree, will definatlely be recommending it to our friends and look forward to going back in the future.

  • Stayed: August 2010, traveled as a couple
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5  Thank jfloMiami_FL
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 20, 2010

I don't need to repeat what the majority of reviews say, it really is as good as that.
All you need to know is that I'm going back and bringing my teenage kids to show them how a hotel should be run,with great staff , wonderful location, outstanding rooms.
See you in December !

  • Stayed: August 2010, traveled as a couple
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Thank Travelking997
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 16, 2010

We visited Banyan Tree August 8 -15. We were married on the 12th. It was the most fabulous vacation experience I have ever had. The staff was polite and courteous. Nothing seemed as if it was too much trouble. At the very least they tried to give you every thing you asked for if it was in reason. The villa's were amazing! We had a courtyard pool Villa ...The food was excellent... Our wedding was well executed and ran according to schedule. The decor was simple and tasteful ... not typical destination wedding decor. It was beautiful, almost like a "Platinum Wedding" for 6 people. The wedding here are a la carte. They have no wedding packages, everything is customizable. Which is great for picky girls like myself...The resort made a recommendation for the photographer; he was fun to work with, professional and I expect the pictures will come well. They anticipated our needs and gave us special surprises at dinner. They way they catered to our needs made us feel as if we were the only guests there. The customer service was outstanding. We are looking forward to returning to Banyan Tree for our anniversary!! I would highly recommend Banyan to those looking for personalized attention, luxury, relaxation, great food and spa. It's not a place to party hard and binge drink... I personally loved it and thought it was worth the money spent.

  • Stayed: August 2010, traveled as a couple
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Thank ent91
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Banyan_Tree_Mayakoba, General Manager at Banyan Tree Mayakoba, responded to this reviewResponded August 19, 2010

Dear Valued Guest,

We really appreciate you took the time to write a review.

Hope your family enjoyed the wedding and the amazing sunset we had that day.

Our staff is always trying to create a memorable moments that will last forever and we are glad you could experience it on such an important day of your life.

We look forward to assist you during your 1st Anniversary at our Sanctuary for The Senses.


With kind regards,



Peter Hechler
Resident Manager

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Banyan Tree Mayakoba

Address: Carretera Federal Chetumal - Pto. Juarez Km. 298, Playa del Carmen 77710, Mexico
Location: Mexico > Yucatan Peninsula > Quintana Roo > Riviera Maya > Playa del Carmen
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Beverage Selection Business Center with Internet Access Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Room Service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
#1 Green Hotel in Playa del Carmen
#2 Luxury Hotel in Playa del Carmen
#2 On the Beach Hotel in Playa del Carmen
#2 Spa Hotel in Playa del Carmen
#8 Romantic Hotel in Playa del Carmen
#11 Family Hotel in Playa del Carmen
Price Range: $667 - $1,860 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:5 star — Banyan Tree Mayakoba 5*
Number of rooms: 122
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Banyan Tree Mayakoba is a site of almost mythical beauty. It flawlessly blends elegance and nature, taking the Caribbean lifestyle to an unprecedented new height. A breathtaking getaway for relaxation, rejuvenation, romance and world-class dining, it is also the region's most sustainable five-star resort. With its revitalized culinary concepts, Thai-inspired therapies at the Banyan Tree Spa, 14 event-venues and the Greg Norman signature 18- hole El Camaleon golf course, home to the PGA Tour Mayakoba Classic, the resort raises the bar for premium leisure options and event planning. Perfect for private getaways, family trips and group events, the Banyan Tree Mayakoba offers 118 villas, ranging from romantic Bliss and Serenity Pool Villas to Family Residences and Ocean Front Villas. All include outdoor areas with private pools and terraces. Inspired by the interior courtyards of houses in the Far East, each villa is discreetly built to blend with the landscape, integrating the interiors and their idyllic surroundings. East meets West in every subtle detail, from the fragrance of flowers encircling your villa, to the softness of a kimono, fine linens and essential oils on your skin. Here, even world-weary guests discover the eloquence of tranquility. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Banyan Tree Mayakoba Hotel Playa Del Carmen
Banyan Tree Mayakoba Riviera Maya/Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

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