Isn’t it wonderful when a holiday comes with an added dimension other than sun, sand and sea? At Mayakoba, an eco-friendly luxury resort on the Riviera Maya in Mexico, the resort’s four luxury hotels were designed to integrate with the landscape. We had the pleasure of encountering a huge variety of wildlife in Mayakoba on a fascinating journey through its 250 hectares.

The Riviera Maya, which stretches for 75 miles south of Cancun, is home to a huge variety of flora and fauna as well as the second largest coral reef in the world. Mayakoba, which means “the city over water”, won the coveted Ulysses Prize for “Responsible Tourism Development” by the World Tourism Organization. It was the first resort in Latin America supported by the Rainforest Alliance and has a unique habitat of beach, sand dune, mangrove and jungle. Architects, biologists and geologists preserved nature and restored the mangrove area so well that wildlife has grown by over 500%.

Wildlife in Mayakoba – an eco boat tour

A lagoon system of artificial canals has been created over 13 kilometers and 25 hectares, connecting the four hotels together.

Mayakoba boat dock

Electric boats, many in a traditional Mexican style, transport you to the Andaz, Banyan Tree, Fairmont and Rosewood hotels in style. The Mayakoba Connection, as the ferry service is known, also connects you with El Pueblito, a traditional village square in the heart of the resort.

We were fortunate to experience a private wildlife spotting tour on board one of the Andaz’s luxurious boats. There are now over 200 species of wildlife in Mayakoba, compared to 70 before the canals were created. Birds, fish, crustaceans and reptiles all live together in perfect harmony. The first thing we noticed is how well the hotels and residences blend into the landscape.

Mayakoba boat tour

t was only a minute or so before we spotted the first wildlife, a host of American Coots swimming by.

Andaz Mayakoba boat tour

We were struck by this Anhinga’s bright blue eyes and striking feathers. There’s a beautiful book, Birds of Mayakoba with photos by James Batt. From this, I learned that anhingas have no oil in their feathers so they have to dry their wings after diving for food. James has kindly confirmed which type of birds we managed to photograph, as I wouldn’t have identified the coots for example!

Mexican bird spotting

We also admired a Great Blue Heron, a wading bird and expert fisher.

Mexican heron - wildlife in Mayakoba

As for these turtles, it looks like they are sunbathing, don’t you think? There’s also an alligator named Sophie whom we didn’t spot.

Riviera Maya turtles

Wildlife spotting around the resort

You can get around Mayakoba on foot or be picked up by a golf buggy if you prefer. We also borrowed their complimentary bicycles quite a few times and Paul spotted these coati on one of his rides. We’d heard about these little creatures before our trip and were keen to see some. A member of the racoon family, they’re also known as Mexican tejón.

coati Mexico

We soon realized that several iguanas had a favourite sunny spot at one of the road intersections and we managed to see them every day. We also came across one close to the golf course – apparently there’s also a family of monkeys that like to hang out there.

iguana Mexico

Eco-friendly white sand beach

There’s a stunning white sand beach at Mayakoba that has also been preserved by an artificial reef to prevent any erosion. You can walk from one resort to another yet it’s not at all crowded.

Mayakoba beach

Nature trail

A four and a half kilometer nature trail winds its way around the resort and has some fantastic surprises in store. The first of these was the cenote…These natural sinkholes are particular to Mexico and the result of limestone bedrock collapsing and revealing the water underneath. We were shown around by Mayakoba’s resident naturalist, who pointed out the bats on the ceiling and the eerily still water. It’s perfectly safe to go by yourself but you might want to bring a torch to get a good look at the inside.


The trail is mainly in the shade so if you’re feeling energetic you can cycle or even jog around it. As you can see, I had a momentary lapse and walked along this bit ????

Mayakoba nature trail

Around the trail and in the resort grounds we also came across some beautiful flowers and coconut palms. It really is like paradise!