Dramatic entrances are par for the course at Rosewood Mayakobá. Guests at this year-old property on Mexico's Riviera Maya, which forms part of the Yucatán's Mayakobá luxury enclave, enter the "lobby," an open-air pavilion with a sweeping modernist roofline, an arresting star-shaped cascading chandelier, and a waterfall that ripples down the stone wall of a spiral staircase. At the bottom of the stairs is an emerald green lagoon, where an electric motor launch offers a silent voyage into a labyrinth of canals.
It's this natural ecosystem of spring-fed water encased by a canyon of limestone that forms the theme of this charismatic resort. After entering one of the 87 lagoon suites (elegantly furnished in river-stone hues using materials such as woven leather, cane and local hardwoods), the curved walls and spiral layout funnel the visitor through marble-tiled rooms, each serving an increasingly intimate function. At the suite's center, having passed through foyer, kitchen, lounge, bedroom and bath, guests step through the shower and into a hidden garden.
Even the spa follows this stone-and-water theme. The focus of the 17,000-square-foot space, located on a private island, is one of the ancient cenotes, or underground limestone springs, that are found throughout the Yucatán and held sacred within Mayan mythology. Spa-goers can enjoy a deep-tissue massage, cleanse mind and body in a traditional temazcal sweat lodge, or simply float in the cenote.
For gourmands, Casa del Lago is the most sophisticated of the four restaurants: two menu standouts are the red snapper with sea urchin vermicelli and suckling pig with apple ravioli. The room's lofty dimensions and glowing, egg-like lanterns provide extra grandeur by night. It's the smaller spaces, though, that make you want to linger. A raw bar called Agave Azul is devoted to a 100-strong Tequila library. The cigar bar's 16 varieties come from the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Cuba (Cohibas). Coincidentally, the list also perfectly mirrors the taste of recent guest Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor of California.
This gentlemen's club vibe is no reason to snub Riviera Maya's excellent beaches. An entire community of 33 ocean suites is just five minutes away by electric cart (or a lazy 10 by launch). Here you'll find the same sophisticated accommodation, plus panoramic ocean views and a bohemian beach scene at the horizon pool and beachfront grill Punta Bonita, which serves lobster tacos and other upscale incarnations of traditional Yucatán cuisine.
For guests preferring bunker sand to beach sand, the 1,600-acre Mayakobá's El Camaléon golf course (designed by Greg Norman) is the first in Mexico to host a PGA tournament—on February 23, 132 PGA pros will tee off for the third annual Mayakobá Golf Classic. Even on the fairway, the draw of water is omnipresent: the water trap on the opening green, for instance, is an ancient cenote from which balls never, ever return.