Fairmont Mayakoba and Playa del Carmen Trip Report

Mar 2nd, 2015, 05:36 PM
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Fairmont Mayakoba and Playa del Carmen Trip Report

TRIP REPORT:

My family of 4, including 2 children (10 and 7), recently returned from the Fairmont Mayakoba, with day trips to Tulum and Playa del Carmen. Overall, it was a fabulous break from the snow and frigid weather in the Midwest, but there were pluses and minuses:

Weather:

I should have done some better reearch about the temperature in Mexico in February. It was sunny every day, but only in the high 70s, which is great if you're lounging by the pool, but a little chilly to swim. If I would have known, I might have considered a more southern destination. Luckily, the Fairmont has 5 pools, and one of them is very warm, so we spent most of our pool time here. They also have a VERY large hot tub swimming pool, and we spent a lot of time there as well. We rented wet suits to snorkel in Akumal, and wished we had wet suits when snorkeling in the cenotes. It was quite a bit warmer in Tulum, and we were hot enough that day to swim in the ocean without getting chilly.

Safety and Transportation:

I had some concerns about Mexico in general- I had not visited for 20 years, and I had visions of muggings, crooked cops, and kidnappings. Of course I didn't really think this would happen, but sometimes worry gets the best of you. Anyway, we had no problems. I always felt very safe. The Mayakoba region houses the Fairmont, the Banyan Tree, and the Rosewood hotels. It is gated, and has excellent security that monitors everyone going in and out, records names and times and dates. I never felt like I needed such good security, but it's nice to know that it's there if you want it. We took taxis to Akumal, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum, and never had issues. The concierge arranged a hotel pick-up, and the drivers usually offered a flat rate to take us wherever we wanted for the full day, waiting for us at each stop. It was 250 pesos from Mayakoba to Playa one way. I believe it was 860 pesos from Mayakoba to Tulum. It's cheaper if you pay in pesos, and the hotel will exchange currency for you if you have your passport. They do have a limited amount of cash each day though, so do it early in the day. The hotel also has an ATM that will give pesos. Mayakoba is about 30-40 minutes south of the Cancun airport. We had a car service pick us up and had no problems.

Tulum:

Worth the trip, though it was a little underwhelming. The ruins are not as grand as I had imagined, and you can't climb anything. But it' still very interesting to see. I think the admission was about 57 pesos per adult, and children are free. You do not need a guide unless you want one. The best part is the beautiful beach at Tulum. You can walk right down to it after touring the ruins. It is crowded, but worth a stop. Beautiful water, cliffs. We spent a total of about 2 1/2 hours in Tulum.

Snorkeling:

I had read that the reef at Cozumel was nearly destroyed by a hurricane a few years ago, so we decided to skip Cozumel for snorkeling. We took a taxi to Akumal, and there are several dive shops where you can rent gear if you don't have your own. We had everything except wet suits, which we rented. They even have wet suits for the kids. The bad part is that the beach patrol individuals warn you that you are not allowed to snorkel past the roped off buoy section unless you are with a guided tour, "because of the boats- we do not want anyone to get hurt". I do understand this, but it seems like a ploy to get you to pay for a guide so you can snorkel farther out. We did not. Inside the buoy area, you can definitely see several turtles munching sea grass, but no coral or fish. It might be a different story past the buoys. So after we saw the turtles, we took the little road next to the Akumal shops and walked about 15 mins. north to Half Moon Bay. There really was no public beach access, but we kind of just walked through onto the beach. There was hardly anyone there. Lots of seaweed, a horrible beach to swim in- but really good snorkeling! Go toward the left side of the half moon and about halfway to the reef, and there are lots of colorful fish and coral. It is rocky in the water, there is really no sandy entry. Also no bathrooms or changing areas so do that before you get there.

Playa del Carmen:

We took a ten minute taxi from Mayakoba to Playa for dinner on two nights. It was really fun to walk 5th Avenue and shop, listen to the music and see the sights. We had dinner one night at Cueva del Chango, which was good but not great. Authentic Mexican. Nice outdoor patio with lush greenery- good atmosphere. Cash only, no credit cards accepted here. The other night we had dinner at Yaxche', which I liked a little better- Mayan food. We were serenaded a few times by street musicians. Another great patio for interesting people watching while you eat. Food here was very good, but not outstanding.

The Fairmont Mayakoba:

This is a very family friendly, yet upscale resort, so it was a good match for us. They have a great complimentary boat ride (make a reservation in advance), that takes you on an electric pontoon boat around the canals of Mayakoba for about 45 mins. You see lots of water birds, fish, and a few crocodiles! Great fun for the kids. There are really good kids menus at all the restaurants here- with lots of options instead of the usual 3 or 4. I can't say enough about the staff at the Fairmont- every single staff member from housekeeping to bell services, to waiters to transportation drivers- they were all very welcoming, helpful, friendly, and courteous. As far as the hotel goes- you must know in advance that there are only a limited number of beachfront casitas. The rest are canal views or jungle views, and you will need to take a golf cart or bike or walk to the beach. This was NOT a negative to us- on the contrary- I loved it. I hate high rise hotels with hordes of people, so the layout of the Fairmont was great. It is spread out through the jungle, with very lush, manicured grounds, paver stone walking paths, and it seems very peaceful and never felt crowded. We never waited more than a few minutes for a golf cart, and we could walk to breakfast at La Laguna every morning- a 3-5 minute walk. There are bikes if you want them, but they are not always available. Kids' bikes can be reserved for free, and they give you a lock and a helmet for the kids after you sign a waiver for the day. Adult bikes are a free for all. But like I said, we usually walked to the pool or restaurants, and took the golf carts to the beach. The beach directly in front of the hotel is beautiful- very clean with beautiful water and sand...and beach food and drink service is available. Now if you walk north or south on the beach, you will notice that the conditions start to deteriorate once you near the neighboring resorts. Lots of seaweed and rocky beach, and big sandbags to prevent beach erosion. BUT- the beach surrounding the Fairmont is very nice. It's no Grace Bay on Turks and Caicos, mind you, but still very nice. As far as rooms go, we had a Signature Casita. I would definitely not go any lower than the Signature Casita. The Deluxe Casitas do not have near the room, privacy or balcony views. Even better would be a casita suite or a beachfront casita, if you can manage to reserve one. They were sold out of suites when we booked. The Signature Casita is still very nice- beautiful, huge bathroom with rain shower, large soaking tub and double vanity. Kids bathrobes and slippers as well as adult bathrobes and slippers. Twice daily housekeeping- very clean. Big balcony overlooking golf course and canal. There is a slight musty smell to the casitas, but I think it's because of the location on the canals. Ask for the 2nd floor casita if you can. It's not a horrible smell by any means, but it is noticeable at first. Very good air conditioning/heating system. Beds are very comfortable. The birds can be noisy in the mornings at times- but they only woke me the first day, I never heard them after that. The casita manager brought balloons and chocolate covered strawberries for my girls upon arrival, which was a really nice touch. There was one minor incident where a corporate group was being rowdy at the pool one day about 5:00pm, but I sent an email to the hotel and they took care of it and I never noticed a problem after that. I don't think I even saw the group again after that one evening. Management also sent champagne and dessert to our room to apologize for the corporate group's behavior, and they gave us a complimentary family dinner, which was exceedingly gracious, and not at all expected, but appreciated. Service is definitely a priority at the Fairmont, and they will do anything they can to make your stay memorable. There is a huge breakfast buffet every day at La Laguna- highly recommend it. They have everything you could ever imagine and the food is very good. I've had breakfast buffets at Ritz Carltons and St. Regis, and this was the best I've ever had. We also had lunch poolside at Las Brisas- very good chicken quesadilla. And dinner one night at Las Brisas- excellent and great service. There are a fair amount of children here, but there are 5 pools and one of them is adults only, so it never felt crowded. Also the main pool at La Laguna is gigantic, so it's easy to find your own little spot.

Language:

Everyone speaks English, so no worries.

If I were going back to Mexico, I would definitely come back to the Fairmont Mayakoba. Especially as a family. Great trip!
brubenow is offline  
Mar 4th, 2015, 06:31 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2007
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Beautiful trip report. So happy, sounds like you all had an amazing time..
Mamaw is offline  
Mar 4th, 2015, 08:51 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2003
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Thanks for reporting back!
MichelleY is offline  
Nov 4th, 2019, 10:50 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2004
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Thanks for the trip report. We are headed there tomorrow and I learned today that 2 of the 3 restaurants have dress codes for dinner. With kids, how strict were they? Do I need to go buy a pair of shoes for my 9 year old son? Otherwise it's sneakers or black flip flops. I was expecting nicer shorts, button down or collared shirt and flip flops. Not much time to go shopping now. Didn't realize it was as upscale/formal as it is. Don't want to be under dressed...
tpatricco is offline  
Nov 13th, 2019, 11:00 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2019
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Thanks for sharing!
manmendoza is offline  
Nov 14th, 2019, 05:54 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2003
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This trip report is four years old. Many things might have changed since the OP was there.
schmerl is offline  
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