My family love a little bit of winter sun. Summer in the UK is getting hotter and hotter, and as the kids get older, it’s easier to fill the days with them here, so we prefer to do a big family holiday just before Christmas, when we’re crying out for some warmth. The past few years we’ve been to Dubai, but to end 2023 we fancied something different. Regular followers will know that my husband is detail obsessed, especially when it comes to holidays – working out time zones/flight times/square footage of rooms so that we get the max for our money. He came across Mayakoba during his research, which seemed similar to Sani in Greece and the Jumeirah resort in Dubai in the way that it is one big resort, with four different hotels on it. You can use the beach, the pools and book the restaurants in any of the resorts – Banyan Tree, Andaz or Rosewood. We chose the Fairmont because it seemed to have the best options in terms of restaurants and activities for our kids. And we were really glad we did.
We aren’t fussy when it comes to our room. We’re not the kind of people who pay extra to book one with the best view, because we never spend any time in the room. We’re out from the moment we leave for breakfast, until we come back to shower for dinner. We all happily squeeze into one room, and cope with a little bit of bed swapping for the sake of staying somewhere wonderful. We stayed in a ground floor Casita Room, which is about 500 sq foot – two queen beds, a dressing room, a large bathroom with an outdoor shower complete with Le Labo products – and a view over the riviera which meant while we sat on the balcony enjoying a post-beach coffee, we watched families of turtles swim by. As you are sleeping in the jungle, there are animals around. Make sure you lock your balcony doors, otherwise you may be visited by some wild racoons on a rampage for Oreos or Party Rings (Alfie’s stash was gone on night one when we woke at 5am to a furry friend going through his rucksack)
Kids under 6 eat free, and kids age 6-12 are 50% off, which is kind of what swung it for us. The food is amazing – we all love Mexican cuisine – but aside from that there’s incredible sushi, seafood, steak, Italian and Thai (Saffron at The Banyan Tree is a must) There’s also a Kosher restaurant, Ember, at Banyan Tree, if that’s your vibe. However, the food and drinks add up. Everyone else we met (who had been 3 or 4 times, their repeat custom is high) were all on the All Inclusive, which after receiving our bill on check out, we. realised made huge amounts of sense. Fancy a bottle of tequila in the pool one afternoon, it’s on the All Inc. Kids want another icecream sandwich, go for it. It just makes everything more relaxed. However, I don’t know if you can transfer it to eat in any of the other hotels, so may be worth checking.
There is a kids club by the main pool on the resort, but we mostly hung out at the beach and the beach pools because the scenery was stunning. There is also a smaller kids club there but my kids never used it. I don’t know if it’s their age, or the fact that they made friends on Day1 so didn’t need to – but they were constantly busy swimming, cayaking, playing card games or football with friends down on the beach. We walked along to see each resort, and the Fairmont beach is the largest and deepest – Rosewood is exceptionally thin, with lots of seaweed so that would be my last option, personally. The beach at the Banyan Tree is fun, they ran a couple of football tournaments that my kids joined in with, but in terms of pools, the Fairmont pool is the best – with the most beds (there are only 4 around the Banyan Tree pool, which means you can’t watch your kids whilst lounging)
There is a little village on site called El Pueblito which is cute – a large outdoor courtyard modeled after an authentic Mexican village with traditional shops, a sweet shop, a coffee shop and a games arcade ($10 per kid for all day usage) and worth visiting. There is also a Cenote (a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater) which you can go in, well worth a visit. Alongside all of the nature walks, there’s tennis and padel courts, football pitches (we watched one of the top Mexican teams play) and watersports, not to mention biking around the resort (my kids fave) or you could jump on a buggy (Carlos was our fave buggy driver). I’d also recommend doing the boat tour along the Riviera between all of the hotels – ask for Eduardo, he’s been doing them for 10 years – if you’re lucky you’ll see a croc. We took a taxi one afternoon into Playa del Carmen to show the kids a little bit of reality which was 20 minutes from the Fairmont.