BlackBook Does a Revitalizing Weekend at the Andaz Mayakoba Resort, Part I

We were somewhere around La Isla on the edge of Cancun when we learned that the airport we were approaching was, after Mexico City and Sao Paulo, the busiest in Latin America. This was surprising, as we’d just spent a long weekend in restorative tranquility in Mayakoba, the enclave to the south, where we had run into fewer people in four days than on a typical weekday subway ride; where was everybody? Then we passed a line of cars backed up behind a freeway exit that read Hotel Zone and we understood; the mega hotels of Cancun rose in the distance, and we could almost smell the vats of fruity drinks that awaited the surely thirsty, traffic snarled, travelers. 

We get it, fun times on a beach have unanimous appeal; throw in guilt-free vacation gluttony surrounded by like-minded touristas, and going home sunburned and bloated with exaggerated stories to tell. But our idea of a beach getaway has, shall we say, evolved since we’ve been paying our own bills – and we have enough experience to know that you can combine sun, fun, and overindulgences, and still come home refreshed and wise – the latter not really a stretch for us. And for that the absolute only choice for us was the Andaz Mayakoba Resort Riviera Maya (they sometimes tack on “a concept by Hyatt”, but that does seem a bit much for a hotel name).

Just 40 miles south of the airport, and halfway to Tulum, Mayakoba is a private community of four world class resorts, including the Andaz. In 2020 it was actually named the #1 resort in all of Mexico (a CN Traveler readers poll…and those are people who would definitely know about such things), and if there were fruity drinks to be had here, they would definitely be of the more epicurean sort. We settled into our cool, white, balconied room, and quickly surrendered to the sensual allure of the Riviera Maya

This was our second visit to the Andaz – we’d come down for opening four years ago, and there was comfort in the familiar. But this time we had been invited to experience tweaks that have been put in place specifically to showcase Mexican culture, something that is perhaps overlooked at the more, shall we say, “commercial” properties. A year’s long immersive initiative, our visit coincided with the third installment (Volume 3, they call it), which highlighted the Yucatan, with additions to the menus at the resort’s main restaurants, special treatments at the spa, and activities specific to the indigenous culture. We enthusiastically dove in.

Casa Amate

Following an afternoon at one of the two splashy pools on the property – which is actually a multi-pool creation in itself – we cleaned up and headed to the fancy place for dinner, Casa Amate, an intimate space with various dining rooms designed to resemble the eclectic residence of a cultured world traveler. The special six-course dinner was a luxurious combination of delicacies, from crustacean soup with lobster, plantain, and rum, short ribs with agave honey, and morita chili, red snapper wrapped in banana leaves, and other dishes each showcasing aspects of traditional Mexican cooking; to say our senses were overwhelmed is an understatement. Thankfully the Andaz has miles of lush walkways between buildings where we were able to stroll off the evening’s indulgences.

After breakfast by the pool the next morning at Cocina Milagro (poached eggs on avocado toast with chili flakes), we boarded one of the resort’s numerous small boats for an eco-cruise on the lagoon that winds through all the properties. Even at 10am the Mexican sun was asserting itself, but there was shade along the route, and we thrilled to the abundance of flora and fauna, from herons to iguanas to assorted species of turtles.

Lunch was at one of the two beachside restaurants, VB, which up until recently was named Vegan Bar, since everything on the menu is just that. We loved this idea, as it takes the guesswork out of semi-vegan menus – even though we’d recently strayed from our meatless ways. And of course, the various wraps, smoothies, and salads were healthy and delicious. That it’s also connected to the resort’s shop, with their colorful selection of beachwear, snacks, and other goodies, meant scoring a few good souvenirs on the way out.

VB

Notably, the Andaz, and Mayakoba in the larger sense, have been involved in charity, sustainability, and ecological initiatives from the start. And that afternoon we were introduced to an impressively knowledgeable ambassador from the Sancvs Foundation, from whom we learned all about coral reef rehabilitation. While the prognosis for reefs worldwide is dire, their demise certainly won’t be for a lack of trying from such determined conservation organizations.

After an hour on the beach discussing said coral it was definitely time to get out of the sun. And clearly there would be no better place to shelter than the Andaz’ plush, in-house Naum Spa. We remembered Naum as one of the best hotel spas we’d ever had the pleasure of experiencing, especially its steam room, sauna and facial ice bath. But we opted for a simple and relaxing hand massage employing honey made by melapona bees (a stingless species that’s endemic to the Yucatan), which is used by Mayan communities for its healing properties.

To be continued…

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