Mayakoba – Riviera Maya, Mexico

With direct flights from London and good weather awaiting you, Mexico and the Mayakoba resort are a wise choice if you are contemplating guaranteed sun, thanks to temperatures that rarely drop below the low twenties.

Getting to the Mayakoba from Cancun airport is easy and convenient with a short drive of less than an hour along a very straight road. It’s worth noting that I encountered minimal hassle at Cancun airport aside from a customs form you have to complete (and retain for the return). In fact I don’t think I have had an easier journey from plane to hotel.

Arriving in Mexico under the cover of darkness I felt the reassuring warmth in the air from a hot summers day. Sadly it was almost pitch black outside as our driver proudly told us about the 200 miles of Caribbean coastline we couldn’t see to our left as we travelled along Highway 307, a long straight coastal route to Playa Del Carmen, the coastal town on the Riviera Maya in which Mayakoba is located and my home for the next 10 days.

The Riviera Maya is a tourism resort district beside Highway 307 and part of a region called The Yucatán Peninsula which juts out of mainland Mexico like a thumb separating the Caribbean Sea from the Gulf of Mexico, therefore you can expect the same glorious Caribbean weather as I found in Grenada, with great beaches and the worlds second largest coral reef.

Not only is the weather great here but the region also contains the unique feature of well over a thousand sinkholes, known as ‘Cenotes’, which in some cases have been turned into swimming parks such as the popular Xcaret, one of many in the area. Apparently these drains were carved out of limestone over centuries through the erosion caused by the natural water drainage running out to sea. More are being discovered regularly which leads me to imagine the ground beneath your feet being quite possibly like swiss cheese in substance.

The other big attractions to this coastline area and worth a trip are Tulum beachside resort area, the ancient Mayan city ruins of Tulum and the Mayan pyramids of Coba.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

None of this however is quite as remarkable as the resort of Mayakoba; an eco-friendly, both architecturally and naturally beautiful resort created as a passion project by a Spanish construction company in a swamp.

Now, leave your initial thoughts for a moment, because this is no ordinary swamp. I am aware the word conjures up all manner of negative thoughts from muddy and smelly waterways to alligator death-traps. The reality of the swamp here is rather different to any preconceived notions.

The water is mostly gin clear and often a brilliant turquoise blue. That in itself sounds ideal but what makes Mayakoba really special is that you are literally surrounded by nature and the lagoons and trees are simply alive with indigenous flora and fauna. The design is so carefully thought out that when in your villa the resort feels empty despite occupancy fluctuating between 60-90% during my visit. Exactly what you would wish for on a holiday.

Mayakoba has it’s own beach and almost all accommodation is facing the water whether it is a lagoon or the sea, mine was facing the lagoon and I really enjoyed early mornings in the garden with a spiced Mexican coffee while I watched a variety of wildlife swim past me in the swamp, including whole families of turtle, tilapia fish and all manner of song birds through to herons and ducks. One of the most fascinating things I saw was a skinny looking version of perhaps my least favourite bird of all, the cormorant, in this environment the bird was extremely graceful to watch as it hunted it’s prey down under the clear water.

Opportunities to spot wildlife are abundant here and during my visit I saw several Iguana’s a Spider Monkey, A Coati (type of Mexican racoon) and a small Crocodile. I was reassured to know the the crocodiles are kept under observation and removed before they start to see you as on the menu!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Mayakoba is a luxury resort with a first class level of service throughout however what makes Mayakoba more special than resorts of this type I have visited is because within it’s boundaries it offers accommodation with four recognised hoteliers; Banyan Tree, Rosewood, Andaz and Fairmont.

Each hotel has the ability to cross-payment so the whole resort is open for exploration wherever you stay. Now rather than be limited to four or five dining options and just one spa you have a multitude of dining options and four spas so there really is zero excuse to struggle for options during even the longest of holidays. Some lucky residents have seized this opportunity for a lifelong holiday purchasing homes within the resort.

Map Of Mayakoba

Most importantly Mayakoba offers fishing excursions and hosts two outstanding golf courses: El Camaleón an 18-hole golf course designed by PGA legend Greg Norman and The OHL Classic at Mayakoba, the latter of which made golfing history in 2007 when it became the first PGA TOUR event ever contested outside of the US and Canada. This is a truly stunning location for golfing, where else in the world can you play golf amongst beautiful turquoise blue lagoons? The stunning contrast between golfing greens and bright blue waters I have captured below in this picture but only the natural eye can really do them justice.

The golf course has an excellent restaurant called Koba with a large full fronted outdoor terrace looking out over the course, there truly has been no better way to relax after a game of golf than with one of their margaritas and outstanding octopus panucho dishes.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Within Mayakoba there is also the opportunity to visit their very own sinkhole Cenote Burrodromo and ‘El Pueblito’ a rather tastefully newly-built version of a classic Mexican village square complete with a marketplace which hosts a farmers market on Sundays, a cafe, boutiques and an art gallery, most impressive was a beautifully decorated Catholic chapel as pictured below.

I stayed in Banyan Tree and Rosewood but had my favourite meal in Casa Amate at Andaz, a review of all these to follow soon.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Mayakoba Residences
www.mayakobaresidences.com
info@mayakobaresidences.com
Tel. +(52) 984 8734920

Continue Reading

5 Things To Eat In Grenada

1. Calaloo Soup

The first thing GT tried in Grenada is Calaloo soup, an appetising dark green soup that tastes of green leaves, peppers and spinach.

Calaloo varies as you travel around the Caribbean but the base ingredients include Calaloo leaves or spinach, chicken stock or coconut milk, crabmeat, onion, shallots, green chili and okra. We particularly enjoyed the version served up by Patrick’s in St. George’s – a hearty bowl full of flavour.

2. Lionfish

Lionfish is a reef fish with delicious white flesh that tastes somewhere between cod and snapper. We recommend eating Lionfish baked or fried and accompanied by the spice and fruit of a Creole sauce.

This is an invasive predatory reef fish which needs culling due to a surge in numbers so this means Grenadian dive instructors are happy to catch them for you. The only problem is that the fish have venomous spines which puts off many restauranteurs however we watched the preparation process and this can be overcome if care is taken while chopping the spines off at the base. GT’s Lionfish was caught by Aquanauts at the True Blue Bay restaurant located just next door to the dive centre.

Lionfish Grenada

Lionfish caught in Grenada

3. Grenadian Chocolate

Grenada produce delicious organic chocolate on the island at the Grenada Chocolate company factory from their plantation site which has been podding, fermenting, drying and emulsifying since the 1700s. Their chocolate is about as unadulterated as you can get and is a perfect gift for chocolate-loving friends and relatives.

GT was especially interested to see people making their own cocoa tea. The fruit is in such abundance on the island Grenadian people make their own delicious version of hot chocolate which contains cane sugar and local spices such as nutmeg. If the temperature drops this is something to seek out.

Cocoa Grenada

Cocoa Drying in Grenada

4. Nutmeg Ice Ceam

GT were privvy to heated debates about the new ‘Pure Grenada’ tourism campaign that has replaced their moniker of “The Spice Island”. Grenadians are very proud of their association with fine spices and nutmeg is the jewel in their crown. Grenada is the second largest producer of nutmeg and produce arguably the best example in the world. GT tried the nutmeg and don’t know where the little brown seed in the kitchen originated but it is a very pale comparison.

A common use of nutmeg in Grenada is for delicious freshly made ice-cream. GT tried this at the Belmont Estate on a hot day and it was an unusual and refreshing combination of silky cream and zippy spice.

Nutmeg Grenada

Nutmeg Fruit, Mace & Seed from Grenada

5. Oildown

Last but by no means least is Grenada’s national dish, Oildown. Ignore the name, Oildown is an unctuous meat stew created with salted pork along with the same base ingredients as a typical British stew (onion, carrot, celery). To this the Grenadians often add plantain, coconut milk, dasheen (taro), peppers and the breadfruit, a large starchy fruit that looks like a giant conker, often used as a substitute for flour in the Caribbean (see image below).

Take yourself off on a culinary trip to Grenada with return flights and seven nights accommodation from only £599 via BA.

Breadfruit Grenada

Breadfruit on the tree in Grenada

Anything else we should try on our next visit? Please do leave a comment below…

Continue Reading