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Banyan Tree Mayakoba and Hyatt Ziva Cancun TR

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I had the opportunity to finally get away for a week and really wanted to go to Cancun. I had heard numerous reports about people going to Banyan Tree near Playa Del Carmen and wanted to check it out myself. We went during Yeshiva week 2020 so some of the restaurants had limited menus. Our trip consisted of flying JFK to CUN on an early Sunday morning flight, spending Sunday through Tuesday over there, and then heading up to the hotel zone and staying in the Hyatt Ziva Tuesday night through Thursday, and flying back to JFK Thursday night. We rented a car after hearing mixed opinions on whether or not we should due to police etc. I did not notice any issues and would highly recommend renting.

I started by booking on AA with 15k miles per way in economy from JFK direct to Cancun. There are some taxes added on which I don't remember exactly how much, however, that was covered with my $300 travel credit on the CSR card. Our flight was for 8 AM and it took off exactly on time. The flight going there took around 3 hours 45 minutes whereas the way back took only 3 hours 15 minutes. Being that it was relatively early in the day when we arrived, there was barely any line at customs. Someone who landed at around 2 in the afternoon that same day said that they had about a 45 minute wait for customs. Also, make sure that you fill in the bottom portion of the customs declaration form even though it seems like a repeat of the top portion because the customs agents were turning back anyone who hadn't filled it out and making them go back into line.

We exited customs and got our luggage immediately. To exit you need to present the declaration form to an agent and then push a button to determine if you can go through or if you are selected to put your luggage through a scanner. We got the green light and proceeded through. Right before the doors to the outside they stopped us and asked to look through our bags. They ended up just looking quickly through our main suitcase and didn't bother with the carry-ons. We hadn't brought any food so didn't have any issues.

Right outside those doors there are a bunch of booths for every car rental company. We had rented with National at about $4 a day. he looked up my name on the list and radioed the driver outside. We went immediately into the National van shuttle and they took us to their main office which is about 4 minutes away. There is no open lot to pick any car from the aisle but they did upgrade me to a Kia Forte.

The drive down to Mayakoba is straight and simple and takes about 50 minutes from the airport. We arrived at Banyan Tree at around 1:15. We pulled up to the main gate that is the entrance to about 5 or 6 other hotels and residences and they looked us up on their papers. Banyan Tree is all the way at the end of the complex so it is a solid 6 minute drive from the entrance. The drive to the hotel is gorgeous as you literally drive through a jungle with cool birds and iguanas all over. We pulled up to the front and there were a bunch of staff members waiting there to greet us already and didn't even have to ask for our name as they are given a heads up from someone at the front gate. The entrance to the hotel is stunning as the lobby is sort of an outdoors lobby overlooking the lagoon. One of the staff members lead us from the car to a couch while showing us the different restaurant options that overlook the water. She sat us down on a couch and offered us hot towels and some interesting cultural drink as well as cold water. I must preface that the service at the hotel starting from the second you pull up until you leave is phenomenal! At check in she simply takes your passports to the receptionist while you relax on the couch and brings it back when everything is done. There is also a massage bench there next to the couches in the lobby with a therapist from the spa offering free 5 minute massages which we actually got when were checking out.

I had booked the hotel using CSR points and as it was prime season, the dollar price was over $900 a night after the taxes and fees. The entire resort is all suites/villas with private pools. I booked the serenity pool villa which is the second level room. The Bliss is the base room and the basic difference is that the bliss doesn't have a separate indoors living room area whereas the Serenity does (highly recommended). After booking, I emailed my confirmation to Chef Chaya (for those asking, she is on Instagram as "chezchaya" and advertises that "If you book the @banyantreemayakoba email ChefChaya@Gmail.Com your confirmation before you go for a room upgrade, rainforest experience for 2 OR $100 food and beverage (All subject to availability depending how you book)) and she easily got us upgraded to the spa pool villa with a massage porch which is one level up from that. It is also located along the main lagoon so you see (through the trees) boats passing by every so often.

Thanks for the amazing trip report and the info.

After checking in, they drove us to our villa with our luggage on a golf cart. Every villa has bikes parked right outside it with the villa numbers on it. Some villas had bikes with baby seats attached, or little kids bikes with or without training wheels depending on what you had requested. We got to our villa and were in awe! the place was humongous! There is a nice sized pool as well as a hot tub in the middle, an indoor couch and table area in its own house, and then a separate house for the bedroom. There is an indoor and outdoor shower as well as an outdoors bathtub with a bunch of candles decorating the wall. Next to the pool there is a hammock as well as a double lounge cabana with a sun protector and a little table to eat outside on the grass. All this is overlooking the lagoon with trees blocking to provide privacy. Our room also had the massage porch which basically had another level on top of the bedroom with outdoor couches, another outdoor shower, and 2 massage tables that you can have them come set up to get an in-room massage if you want.

We got settled in and immediately went into the pool. The water is kept standard at 82 degrees but you can request from them to raise it if you want. It is completely private so no issues for DW swimming. The pool is gorgeous and you can literally jump straight from the bedroom into the pool. After that, we took the bikes out to ride around and check out the beach. It was about a 10 minute bike ride to the beach but it was beautiful riding along the golf course and the lagoon. You can also have them drive you in a golf cart or you can even leave your bikes at the beach if you are too tired to ride back and they will pick you up and deliver your bikes back to your villa later. The beach is really nice with a sort of bar on the beach where you can get drinks and they have numerous different water sports available for free such as paddleboards, kayaks, and some cool looking catamaran sailboat that they can take you out on. We rode back to the lobby and on the way there I asked one of the workers that I passed if they can have my car ready. He radioed it in and sure enough the car was waiting for us when we go there. We left our bikes at the front lobby and headed out to Playa Del Carmen to eat.

The drive there is about 15 minutes from the hotel (with about 6 minutes of the drive just getting from the hotel through the jungle to the main entrance). We parked on the street about a block from the Chabad. We were having an issue paying the meter with credit card so made sure to get peso coins. I davened Mincha and Maariv at the Chabad and then we walked around deciding on which restaurant to eat at. There are nearly 10 different kosher options all under the Chabad hashgacha and they are basically all clustered on the blocks around Chabad of 10th avenue. We first decided to go to Platinum Grill but after sitting down (all outside seeting) with it being really hot and not really liking anything on the limited menu we left and went to the next block to Yummy's. The food at Yummy's was very good and we got drinks, smoothies, mains and a desert. The total bill came out to about 750 pesos and after checking up how much that was in dollars, I was shocked to see that it was under $40! They only take cash so paid in USD and got a million pesos in change. After that we went down to 5th avenue which is near the water and is where all the tourist shops and bars are.



Great TR so far. Keep it coming.


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