Wildlife Watching on a Fascinating Journey Through Mayakoba

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 dockElectric 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.

Mayakoba boat tripWe 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 tourIt 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 turtlesWildlife 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 MexicoEco-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 beachNature 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.

Mayakoba_cenoteThe 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!

You can get a full flavour of the wildlife in Mayakoba here in our video with a splash of swimming pools and gourmet cuisine thrown in. Our eco getaway was an incredible experience and one that I’d recommend to anyone. By staying here, you’re investing in the local community and wildlife and that’s a great feeling.

  • Wow! You saw loads of wildlife how fab! The birds were beautiful weren’t they? I saw some gorgeous bright blue ones but I’m not sure what they were. I also these really interesting creatures which I’d never heard of before, sounds mad but they were like a cross between a cat and a squirrel! I saw loads of them right by our room. I only saw one iguana but we were on a mission to avoid them cos my friend is terrified of them.

    • Do you think that the creature you saw was a coati? The iguanas were really cute, they keep themselves to themselves and they seem to love sunbathing!

  • James Batt

    Super piece Suze, and some great photos ! Yes, that is certainly an Anhinga, and you may notice the blue eye shadow which can be seen on these birds during courtship. The ‘host of birds swimming by’ are American Coots, by the way. But by far the best photo is your Great Blue Heron . . . wow ! So glad you enjoyed your visit 🙂

    • I’m so glad you liked the piece, James! We can’t really match up to your amazing photos but Paul and I gave it our best shot…pardon the pun. I’ll amend the text to state that the host of birds are American coots – that’s very helpful!

      • James Batt

        So nice to read and see a luxury travel blog which is about the destination, rather than the blogger ! (you know who they are 🙂 )

        • That’s very kind, I do throw in a few personal pics from time to time but I love to share the destinations with my readers

  • Wow, looks like you had an amazing time. The heron is beautiful, and I love the coati!

    • The coatis were such interesting animals, I saw a few at twilight too but they quickly hurried off into the undergrowth. It was an amazing experience to see them and all the other wildlife

  • How amazing to have all that incredible wildlife on your doorstep! You’ve done some brilliant wildlife spotting tours lately 🙂 xxx
    Lucy @ La Lingua | Life, Travel, Italy

  • Wow, this place looks amazing! I would love to go on that nature trail…looks so beautiful!


  • What a beautiful place and sights. I wish I could escape there even if it was just for a couple of hours!

  • Laura Lynch

    Wow, I’m definitely going to stay there and do this eco tour next time I’m in the Mayan Rivera. We always go just for the sand and sun, but you can only really take so much of that. You got such great photos of so many things. I love it!

    • It’s nice to do something different isn’t it – especially if you already know the area well. Glad you liked the photos

  • I’m seriously impressed by the wildlife at Mayakoba and how great that you got to see so much of it too Suze! A lot of work and money has clearly gone into making this resort as eco-friendly as possible which is great and I love that they’ve produced an artificial reef to prevent any erosion

    • It’s fantastic to see how they have preserved both the coastline and the mangroves. Now even more wildlife is there than before!

  • Marlene Marques

    What a beautiful place! And the wildlife is amazing. Looks super peaceful and relaxing and I bet this place conquers the heart of birdwatchers.

    • Yes we’re not really birdwatchers but even without binoculars and any particular knowledge you can see so many of them

  • Coleman Concierge

    What a beautiful location. Love caves. Love bike tours. Love boat tours. Perhaps what is most important to me is that they are eco conscious. We have a choice on where we travel and I would much rather contribute to a company that is working for the Earth.

    • That’s a very good point and this place really seem to care about the environment but also about their employees too

  • Radi

    I love visiting Mexico… always a great idea. I haven’t visited that same part of Mexico, but am looking forward to it one of these days.
    Happy travels!


  • Your pics make me wanna go there now! as an avid birder and wildlife enthusiast, Mayakoba sounds like my kinda place, hands down. So many pretty water birds and wow you have some incredible shots there.

  • Buddy The Traveling Monkey

    Wow, the fact that the amount of species has increased so much is amazing! You always hear the opposite, so it’s good to see that they’re actually helping the ecosystem there. I guess they deserve all of those awards!

    • I was surprised to hear how much the wildlife has increased, imagine how much more there’ll be in a few years if they carry on like this!

  • Suze what a great trip! I love all your wildlife pictures especially the blue heron! The video was amazing too it just looks lovely there.

    Gemma x

  • Maddy Morgan

    Your photos are absolutely stunning- enough to make anyone want to book a trip here! I would love a holiday where I could go on such beautiful hikes around nature. I love seeing animals in their natural habitat too so would be a great place to visit!

    • I’m glad that it’s inspired your wanderlust, Maddy! It’s a wonderful place to visit

  • Karla Ramos

    This is such a great place to visit. I like there are a lot of animals around . This is definitely interesting for me.

  • Elisa Subirats

    fantastic pictures! one must have a lot of patience to photograph wildlife so double congratulations, lol. nice place to stay and relax for a week as well

  • Mayakoba is beautiful and your pictures make it even more stunning! I loved all of those bird pics and very curious to know about the lens you guys used for clocking them…

  • Carol

    You have such gorgeous photos…especially of the wildlife!!! We are going to Cozumel this December for three weeks. I will make sure we get to this eco park!!! Thanks.

  • Those coatis are pretty cute aren’t they? We first saw one in Tulum (at the ruins), then saw many more on our most recent trip to Costa Rica and Panama. Mayakoba looks like it has lots to offer beyond luxurious places to stay :-).