Hot Spot: Mayakoba
Near Cancun, Mexico, tour players and power couples are biking, boating and teeing it up at Mayakoba
In his 2000 Academy Award-winning movie "Traffic," director Steven Soderbergh used grainy film to separate the scenes taking place in Mexico from the U.S.-based storylines. Walking outside the airport in Cancun recently, I saw and heard the grain of Mexico.
The Avis agent warned me to pay close attention to the speed limit and buckle my seatbelt. I should not give the Mexican Federales any excuse to pull me over. And if they did, I shouldn't give them the bribe money they might be looking for.
Unsettled and unsure, I drove slower than slow along Mexico's Caribbean coastline and passed machete-wielding weed cutters in the center divide of the road. Forty-five miles later I turned off the highway, out of the grain, and into the golf glam that is Mayakoba.
Beyond Mayakoba's entrance you have a choice of two high-end resorts, the Fairmont (opened in 2006) and the Rosewood (opened in March). I sampled both resorts and played two rounds at El Camaleon, the Greg Norman course and host of the first PGA Tour event in Mexico in 2007 (and 2008), the Mayakoba Golf Classic.
El Camaleon does anything but disguise its distinct features. An ancient Mayan water well, or cenote (se-NO-tay), can be found in the middle of the first fairway with several more scattered throughout the course. These natural water pools are surrounded by bright green vegetation and a few indignant iguanas. El Camaleon also has exotic blue water, alligators and durable paspalum greens. My favorite hole was the 144-yard 15th that runs parallel to the ocean and plays down the coast toward Cancun.
The Mayakoba Golf Classic is getting positive reviews from tour players. "It's one of the few cases where we all stay on campus," says Fred Funk, who won the tournament in 2007 at the age of 50. "It's a good week. It's fun to run into other players off the course. The kids [his eight-year-old daughter, Perri Leigh, and his youngest son, Taylor, 12] have a good time at the pool--more than the ocean." So does Funk. "I was on the waterslide for a long time."
The Fairmont (401 guest rooms and suites starting at $279 a night) is a 2008 AAA Five Diamond Award winner, but the Rosewood (128 suites starting at $790 a night) is an even better lodging experience for couples looking for less noise, less group activity and more individual attention. The ratio of hotel staff to guests at the Rosewood is 5-to-1, versus 2-to-1 at the Fairmont. Every suite at the Rosewood comes with 24-hour butler service, an outdoor patio and a private "plunge" pool (a decent-size Jacuzzi without the massage jets).
Both resorts have several options for food. I recommend the restaurants by the ocean at each. Don't miss the fish tacos at the Punta Bonita at the Rosewood, which has a good pool scene for a quiet resort and relaxing reclining chairs on the beach. If I go back, I'll pass on eating at Casa del Lago. The dressy atmosphere, no view of the ocean and European cuisine seem out of place in Mexico.