Everyone dreams of that magical tropical vacation. The one where you find yourself in the most beautiful of locales with not a care in the world. However, more and more these days this is truly difficult to accomplish. The massive mega resorts dominate the pages of TripAdvisor and while they are gorgeous there can be so many variables that come with staying at places like this that have the potential to upend a perfectly fun trip. For example, the sheer size of these places means you could get lost in the shuffle, receive poor service, have issues in your room that take forever to get resolved, etc. Other potential problems include a complete lack of private time and quiet, I’m looking at the screaming kids that can plague many of these resorts.
But, sometimes, you get lucky enough to find a hidden gem where all of these problems just don’t exist. In this case, I’m talking about Mahekal Beach Resort. This Tulum style resort is situated directly in the heart of Playa del Carmen and is the only resort of its kind in the whole of the city. The entire property is perfectly blended into the nature that surrounds it, which results in you feeling like you’re in a secluded jungle but with every amenity that you could wish for.
The property spans two different sides but isn’t overwhelmingly large at all! There are room types that fit what any vacationer could be looking for. Personally, we stayed in the Oceanfront Palapa with two queen beds. It was a gorgeous room with its own plunge pool and only 5 steps to the beach!
But perhaps the beach isn’t for you. Totally understandable since I am more of a pool person. Luckily, this property has 4 different pools spread out across the area it covers. The one above is by far my favorite and the largest. It has its own bar and is an infinity pool that directly overlooks the beach!
I of course have to also mention the numerous other amenities that are on the property. First, the Revive Spa is really the perfect way to unwind even further while you’re on this vacation. They offer all sorts of treatments and even have a salon, which comes in handy for the numerous weddings that are hosted on the property. There is also a fitness center, which yes sometimes I will go to on vacation. But with how many things there are going on at the resort and in town, which is a mere two blocks away, you might not have any time to hit their state of the art gym.
We also need to discuss your dining options, which I love! First, the system at Mahekal is a bit different than other resorts. All inclusive is usually the name of the game these days, and don’t get me wrong it is great! All the drinks, snacks, and food you could ever need in one place. BUT in a place like Playa del Carmen this can actually be a huge hindrance. There are so many different things to do and see that if everything was provided to you where you’re staying you may never venture off the property to explore. The team behind Mahekal understand this and they offer an adjusted dining plan where you get two meals a day included, breakfast and your choice of lunch or dinner. The dining options on property include Boli’s Bar, which is more of a drinks/snacks place with a daily happy hour, Cocina, Itzi, Las Olas, Fuego, and Casita.
So since you aren’t locked down into having every meal on property you can explore the famous Avenida 5 and all the things it has to offer, from restaurants, to cafes, to shopping, to spa treatments.
We were taken on a property tour when we first arrived, which was extremely helpful in getting us accustomed to the layout of the resort. The staff was so attentive during this tour that they even brought us coconuts in the middle while we were checking out the secluded jungle pool!
Once we concluded the tour we went back to our room where we were greeted with margaritas and fresh guacamole! We thought this was the perfect mid-day snack, but then we were surprised by a gorgeous fruit plate and macarons in our room as well! The service levels at Mahekal are really off the charts, Gabriel in particular made our stay so special!
We capped our first day with a few hours spent by the pool and dinner at Fuego, where I enjoyed their fantastic steak and sister, who accompanied me on this trip, feasted on the pulpo! We also were excited to try some Mexican wine, which just so happened to be from the oldest vineyard in the Americas, which is located only a few hours from Playa del Carmen.
The next day we had an early morning breakfast at Las Olas to get us prepped for the private cenote tour we had scheduled. We booked this through the Vida Aquatica Dive Center, which is the Mahehal Resort’s very own dive center consisting of a group of very seasoned divers and instructors. Now some of you may be wondering what a cenote is. Basically, it is a massive and natural sinkhole. These are found all over Mexico, and apparently also in Florida, but there are home to some extremely interesting ecosystems and make for some wonderful snorkeling and diving opportunities. The cenote pictured above is known as “The Garden of Eden,” and I think you can see why! The natural beauty is UNREAL!
We spent about 4 hours exploring 3 different cenotes on this tour with our very knowledgeable instructor Roman. I highly recommend doing at least one kind of tour while you find yourself in this area. Later in the trip we took a trip to Chichen Itza, one of the 7 Wonders of the World, and often in these tours a cenote is included. However, it can get very crowded at the cenotes they take you to through these tours. As a result, if you’re really interested in something a little quieter and more private book a separate tour.
When we returned from our cenote tour, which included a lovely boxed lunch, we stopped in our room quickly before venturing to a few of the different pools available. BUT first, ice cream! There is a specific Ice Cream Corner, that my now good friend Cesar operates. He is in charge of the delicious ice cream the resort offers, but make sure to ask him about his photography game because it is strong!
Once we treated ourselves we ventured to both the “jungle pool” and the pools with swim up bars. That’s basically how we spent the rest of the day and we then went off property to Nau Cocina Mediterranea for dinner. We were treated to a multi-course experience that had us raving! The highlights were the Gin & Tonics, which were amongs the best I’ve had in my entire life, the pulpo, which is the house speciality, and the “Chocolate Cenote,” which is an interactive dessert that will change your life!
Once we finished dinner we returned to our hotel because of the very early morning we had the next day. I mentioned Chichen Itza earlier, and we booked the early arrival tour through Viator. I highly recommend this tour because it gets you in super early to Chichen Itza and allows you to beat the crowd and the heat, but it also gets you back to your resort at a reasonable hour. When I was in Cancun for my first trip I took an all day tour and didn’t return to my hotel until around 8 PM. With this tour we got back around 4, which was great because we were still able to enjoy the resort, have dinner, and hit the town!
But now I’ll talk a little about Chichen Itza, though I certainly am no expert. I’m just good at taking photos. The monument, and really the city that surrounded it, was built by the Mayans very early on in their dominance. Now, I don’t want to say much more, because I may very well be wrong, so I will leave it up to you to learn when you decide to take a tour. I will say though, that you literally cannot come all this way and not go on a tour, so find the one that suits you best and get ready for a fascinating history lesson!
You also will no doubt be blown away by the impressive pyramids and ruins. It is a sight to behold, and even though this was my second time visiting I was equally impressed.
Once we concluded the tour we went back onto our bus and were taken to an authentic Mayan meal. From there, it was the lengthy drive back to Playa del Carmen and a shuttle to our hotel.
A lengthy day meant that the only logical next move would be to go to the pool, which is exactly what we did! We had a personal plunge pool with our palapa and from there we explored the 4 other pools on the Mahekal property.
My favorite of the 4 is without a doubt this infinity pool that overlooks the beach! No big deal, but this infinity pool was featured on Fodors as 1 of the top 10 infinity pools in the world! And I can definitively say it’s pretty great. The ocean is so close, the bar is just as close, and the entire vibe can go from peaceful to party, depending on what the hotel has planned for that time.
After a day of lounging the realization that we would soon have to leave this magical place began to dawn on us. As we dressed for dinner we thought of how fast the time had flown and how we don’t even know where it all went! We were so busy and active on this trip that we knew we had to make the most of our last night in Playa del Carmen. We made our way to Fuego where we were scheduled to have a magical dinner on the beach! String lights, fire torches, a rustic table, and basically two thrones were all set up for us as we faced the gorgeous ocean and placed our toes in the sand.
The food was once again amazing! I went for the lobster this time and my sister had the sea bass. We had several appetizers, have to give another shout out to the empanadas, as well as the various cocktails that they have available.
After a beautiful dinner, where we were extremely full, we frolicked back to our room and got ready to go out! The nightlife in Playa del Carmen is basically also lit, and that night was no different! Avendia 12 is where most of the clubs are located and we hopped from club to club while enjoying the mix of Top 40 and Latin music. Pro tip, don’t pay to get in to any of the clubs! You can easily get in to any of them without paying a cover, for both guys and girls, and one of the easiest ways is to get one of the promoters on the streets to let you in.