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TRAVEL Climbing the Banyan Tree in Mexico
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times

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The Banyan Tree Mayakoba in Riviera Maya, Mexico, makes for an extremely relaxing getaway. A three-hour direct flight from O'Hare Airport to Cancun just flies by.

Traveling light is the only way to go these days, and having your transportation set up before arrival is vital. The pushy cab drivers tend to overcharge in a crowded airport in Mexico, so beware. The language is not usually a problem, since most locals here speak English. The locals appreciate U.S. money, but currency will go further if it's exchanged for pesos.

The frustrations and stress of civilization will quickly fade away with the seclusion offered in this property and the ( usually ) beautiful weather. There are 116 private villas with unique layouts. Infinity pools are offered on the roof or at the entranceway along with jacuzzis in many of the rentals. Choose from large one bedrooms to three bedroom family residences just depend on personal needs. Having a separate workspace is a brilliant idea offered in a separate building but in the villa at the same time. The high-vaulted ceiling and modern decor of the bedrooms give a feeling of spaciousness. Asian-inspired robes and large towels are on hand to enjoy the outdoor bathtub that can be drawn and waiting for guests upon request. Candles are placed in niches on the wall to complete the romantic vibe.

All that love can work up an appetite so hop in a buggy and eat some meat at The Tomahawk Den. Guests can choose from a variety of steaks right from the tray before being grilled.

For breakfast, the buffet at the Oriente is astounding. Made-to-order omelets and quesadillas as well as a mountain of fruit are served. Here, one can take a cooking class to learn the simple steps for making delicious guacamole and ceviche.

Everyone was must book a night at HAAB. It is a total immersion experience into Mayan culture, with performers who dance on the table; additionally, pork is cooked in an underground grill. Sip tequila, wine and beer during a multi-course meal, and then finish things off with S'mores in the fire.

Saffron is the signature restaurant on the Banyan Tree property, combining Thai cuisine with a wooden deck over the water.

Right by the lobby there is La Copa, which has cozy cabanas to enjoy and a tranquil nearby pool bar that guests can swim up to. You don't even have to leave your villa, as a barbecue can be planned for the right price.

Bicycles are numbered and left at the front of the villas for trips to the beach or any of the other properties. The Sands Beach Club takes visitors right down to the water. With a catch-of-the-day feature at this restaurant, diners can pick out their fish to be prepared.

The Mayakoba may also be explored, with a boat ferry tour leaving throughout the day; also, people can kayak through the waterways. There are massive gold courses along these scenic routes with tennis, racquetball, and jogging track for outdoor activities. If you are a bird-watcher, there are more than 200 species in the surrounding area.

Head indoors for a rainforest spa experience that mixes fire with ice in treatments then leads right to a hot tub and powerful jets of water. Personal or couple massages are the next logical step with women that can work those kinks out with their elbows.

Take a road trip out to Tulum, a pre-Columbian Mayan walled city along the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. There are tourists and iguanas in every corner there, but with a little patience it can be quite peaceful and breathtaking. There is a nearby town where souvenirs may be purchased and performers work for pesos.

This is a gay-friendly destination that is made for couples. Getting a new date in through security is not an option, so head outside the wall for these types of excursions.

The staff in general are so helpful and are honestly friendly so there is not a feeling of people just going through the motions in the resort. Can't find the bathroom? They will walk you over to it and not point. The chefs and managers are extremely knowledgeable and good at what they do.

The Banyan Tree is a wonderful place to recharge, either solo or with a special partner in an environment that is safe, exotic and warm.

Reservations can be set up and prices can be found at .

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