There’s a difference between a vacation and a trip, my mom always says. A vacation is when you go somewhere with adults. A trip is when you travel somewhere with your kids. As a parent, you still have to do all the work you’d do at home—just at a different place.
Above: Mexican eggs Benedict with chipotle Hollandaise sauce; the medicinal garden at the resort’s Sense spa; the writer marvels at the beauty of a lantern-lit tree.
The key, I’ve learned as a mom, is to stay at resorts where kids and parents can spend quality time together—with a myriad of mutually entertaining activities but also enjoy time apart. (Mommy likes to read her book on the beach.) Rosewood Mayakoba, a 45-minute drive from Cancún International Airport, fits that bill.
Situated along Mexico’s Riviera Maya between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, the Rosewood resort is part of the 620-acre Mayakoba gated community. Mayakoba is also home to three other luxury resorts, all of which share an electric golf cart transportation system and a Greg Norman-designed golf course. The course, which is irrigated by recycled water, hosted Mexico’s first-ever PGA Tour event last November.
The 70-acre Rosewood Mayakoba lives up to its reputation as a subtropical garden of Eden. It is surrounded by natural mangroves and is home to hundreds of indigenous flora and fauna species. The lagoon may be manmade, but with careful attention to detail and integration of fish and wildlife, it looks organic. The icing on the cake: a powdery, pristine white-sand beach with stunning views of the aquamarine Caribbean Sea.
It’s that setting, plus all the activities available, that makes it an ideal place to bring kids. We loved the complimentary eco boat tour, where we were accompanied by a biologist and heard about the flora and fauna. We also enjoyed renting paddle bikes for a tour of the lagoon (also guided), seeing spider monkeys, long-tailed lemurs, gray herons, iguanas and more. The lagoon would seem ideal for a dip or a swim, but the presence of crocodiles means it’s off-limits to humans.
Above: The Rosewood Mayakoba open-air lobby is dramatically situated on a lagoon that snakes around the entire resort.
Another cool activity: a guided tour of the bat-filled cenote on Mayakoba. Cenotes are caves with crystal-clear pools of water at the bottom. We were spellbound watching the nocturnal bats hanging like sculptures from the top of the cave. Visitors can also check out Kantun Chi, an eco park where you can swim in the cenotes.
Rosewood Mayakoba’s complimentary bikes are another kid-pleasing element. Because the community is gated, you can give teenagers a bike and let them loose. For younger children, an on-site kids club has a daylong roster of activities ranging from yoga to Mayan storytelling.
As for accommodations, each villa comes with a butler, available 24/7 to tend to your every need. You can stay beside the lagoon with a patio and pier, or by the sea. We opted for a deluxe lagoon villa. In addition to having an indoor shower with floor-to-ceiling crystal walls, the bathroom opened to a small private garden with an outdoor shower.
The staff and service at Rosewood make you feel like nothing is out of the question. Oh gee, we loved those spicy margaritas you served when we arrived. Could we get the ingredients sent to our suite so we can make them ourselves? Sure. Even when my husband asked if we could find the not exactly high-rated Washington Commanders vs. Atlanta Falcons football game (we are both are from D.C.), our butler made it happen.
Of all the Mayakoba resorts, Rosewood offers the best beach experience. My three beach pet peeves are when lounge chairs are spaced too tight, when you are forced to listen to bad music and when the server simply won’t leave you alone. The servers at Rosewood seemed to know instinctively when I needed something; the rest of the time they left me alone to relax.
The resort’s expansive, serene Sense Spa is situated on a small island surrounded by lush vegetation. It offers a wide array of therapeutic treatments that incorporate Mayan culture. As an avid gardener, I chose the Kuxtal Sensory Garden experience to learn about indigenous plants and their healing properties. A tour of the spa garden with a medicinal plant expert followed by a massage was a heavenly way to spend an afternoon.
The resort has four distinct pool areas and numerous dining options on-site, plus a food truck that serves top-notch tacos. They also regularly host festive themed evenings with food and drink stations and a live band. These events are casual and family-friendly; we saw kids dancing as well as parents.
As for off-campus excursions, the touristy town of Playa del Carmen, which has a number of good restaurants, is about a 10-minute drive away. A more interesting option is a day trip to see Mayan ruins. Playa Del Carmen lies between the great Mayan sites of Chichén Itzá, Tulum, Cobá and Ek’ Balam. Chichen Itza, a 2 1/2-hour drive, is the most famous and the most crowded of the sites. Tulum and Cobá are great options for those who would rather not spend a whole day driving. At Ek’ Balam you can climb to the top of the highest ruins; the other sites don’t allow climbing.
Together time soaking up Mayan culture with the kids, then returning back to the resort for alone time so Mommy can continue reading her book—it’s about as close to a vacation that a parent can get.