FIRST LOOK INSIDE ANDAZ MAYAKOBA, THE LAST PIECE IN THE MAYAKOBA PUZZLE

Andaz is on a roll: the paint is still fresh on Andaz Ottawa Byward Market; Andaz Scottsdale arrived but a month ago; and the Hyatt brand is ending the year with a bang by opening Andaz Mayakoba and Andaz Delhi in two consecutive weeks.

What’s even better, we had a chance to explore Andaz Mayakoba – its second resort in Latin America – mere days after it started welcoming its first guests, completing the massive Mayakoba resort development on the Riviera Maya, which is about twenty minutes outside Playa del Carmen. There are very few real photos from inside the resort out there for now, so join us on a brief tour – from the arrival ‘Sanctuary’, beachy guestrooms, local tile work and graffiti art to the beach itself.

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Andaz was the missing piece for Mayakoba –a planned resort community on the stretch of coast south of Cancun, towards Playa del Carmen. It adds a more contemporary, dare we say ‘trendier’ option to the three resorts that have been there so far: Rosewood, Fairmont and Banyan Tree. Alongside the resorts there is a golf course and ‘El Pueblito’, a replica of a small Mexican village.

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Once you’re through the Mayakoba gates it’s a short drive to the Andaz entrance, with the reception/lobby dubbed ‘The Sanctuary’. Its design is inspired by the cenotes – natural pits or swimming holes formed by the collapse of limestone bedrock – that you can find in the area (one of the free activities the resort offers takes you to the Mayakoba cenote). And yes, that green and red star is part of the holiday season decoration.

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Like all Mayakoba resorts, Andaz is roughly divided into two parts: one section surrounding the lagoon inland, and one section facing the beach. This will be your main choice in deciding your room type, with accommodation set in small clusters of two- and three-story buildings. It’s a five-to-seven minute golf cart ride from the lagoon to the beach, so don’t think you’ll be walking this in the blazing heat. With the resort being so brand new, some of the vegetation is still growing in; but, having seen the other three Mayakoba resorts, we’re confident it will blend into the landscape much more over time.

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For many, coming to a resort like this is all about R&R – and there’s plenty of opportunity to do a lot of nothing. But for restless types, less than a week after opening we already received an overview of free daily activities to get involved in (including that cenote tour we mentioned earlier), with a focus on the local area and culture.

One of the things we loved seeing was the collaboration with local graffiti artist Senkoe, who is creating beautiful murals throughout the resort – from the octopus on the side of OllaTaco restaurant near the beach pool, to the variety of indigenous birds on the room buildings.

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The murals, their location and style are up to the artist; plus some are still in progress, so you can see how they come together.

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There are 214 rooms, of which 41 are suites. All standard rooms are 50 square metres (about 540 square foot) and come with private outdoor space; while suites feature the add the luxury of a plunge pool. The design is very beach-appropriate, verging on simple: white-washed walls, bleached wood and crisp white sheets.

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Area rugs are a bad idea in this kind of climate, so instead a touch of colour comes from these pretty, locally-produced cement tiles. One of the benefits of a brand-new hotel comes through in the intuitive controls for lighting, ceiling fan and so on – different style, but just as easy to operate as we saw in Tokyo. If you open the balcony door to let in the ocean breeze, the air-conditioning switches off automatically to preserve energy.

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The bathroom runs the length of the room; ours had a circular porthole-style window with a rain shower and double vanity (you can just make out the reflection in the frosted glass door to the toilet).

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Aside from this lovely beachside pool, there’s another set of them on the lagoon side by Cocina Milagro, the all-day dining restaurant. Lounge chairs are also set up on the private stretch of beach. You can walk north past Rosewood, or head south past Fairmont and Banyan Tree for a long beach walk; along the way huge sandbags and rocks have been added in places to counter the erosion that is affecting the coastline.

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In addition to Cocina Milagro, there’s fine dining option Casa Amate on the lagoon, which serves Latin American specialties with a twist. Two informal restaurants next to the beach pool are OllaTaco (with octopus mural) and OllaCeviche. Still to open is the Naum Spa, which will offer ‘Naum Rituals’ “designed to help guests pay homage to themselves and the Mayan Gods”.

Right now, about 80 of the 214 guestrooms are up and running, with more being added to inventory over time.

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Up next for Andaz? Singapore! We told you about the crazy DUO development Andaz will be part of: well, it’s now progressed to having an actual website, which enthusiastically lists a ‘mid-2017’ opening – we’d love that to be true. When we walked by in early 2015 it was very early stages at the site in Ophir Rochor; a quick search shows construction has advanced at typical Singaporean speed, with the two towers shooting up. But considering they’re due to be 50 and 39 stories tall, and taking into account the internal fit-out, it’ll be a busy six months to get everything ready nonetheless… Here’s hoping. The year after next, Andaz is also planning Palm Springs.

[Photos: Paul J DeVries]

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Paul J DeVries
Paul J DeVries is a freelance travel writer and was previously a contributing editor for HotelChatter.com. Based in London, he knows the city's hotel scene inside out, while also covering the latest in destinations around the world. When not checking out a new hotel, he checks in on the airlines and inflight products that get you there.