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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
- 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