Responding to the Land:
Mayakoba

The Challenge

Sitting on 1,600 acres of ecologically-valued land, the Mayakobá resort destination required innovative planning strategies that focused on a more sustainable design approach as compared to much of what was being developed along the Cancun shoreline. In order to create a successful tourism destination that complied with the Mexican Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources 270 environmental requirements, the basic structure and functions of the fragile ecosystems were maintained through conservation and the integration of performance-based design efforts. Under this development model, preservation of environmental quality would in turn provide ecological and financial certainty to investors as well as social and economic benefits for the local population. The master plan created five hotel sites, a championship golf course and a system of freshwater lagoons and canals, along with the reforestation of mangroves and conservation of indigenous flora and fauna.

Impacts at a glance

  •  The unrivaled, culturally-sensitive Mayakobá changed the perception of hospitality along the Riviera Maya. The historically-influenced design repositioned tourism in Mexico as ecologically responsible.
  •  A multidisciplinary team of 80 specialists consisting of environmentalist, planners, architects, biologist, engineers, market analysts and golf course designers collaborated on the planning and design of Mayakobá establishing it as a new tourist development model that organically celebrates Mayan culture.
  •  In designing the resort community, an estimated $5 million was invested in research and studies to ensure the final design environmentally, technically, socially and culturally imbued authenticity.
  •  Before construction, 49 species of amphibians, birds, mammals, fish and reptiles were recorded. Currently this figure is up to 285 species. Additionally, over a 10-year period, the fauna population increased by 560%.
  •  During the initial 8-year construction span, some 228,000 plants from 40 families and 108 species were saved, documented, temporarily stored and then revegetated. Significant reforestation of landscape areas has occurred inclusive of nearly 3 million native plants that were propagated and grown right on property. The resort nursery now has about 306,000 indigenous plants to beautify Mayakobá’s unique landscape.
  •  The backbone of the environmental plan expands the natural pattern cenotes to create a connected system of canals and lagoons that improves the structure and quality of the mangrove forest and creates a high quality environmental experience for guests. The replicated ‘village of water’ is 13 kilometers in length with an average depth of 1.5 meters.
  •  In 2011 Mayakobá won the prestigious Ulysses Award from the United Nations World Tourism Organization under the Innovation in Enterprises section and garnered the award for Sustainable and Responsible Tourism Development. The resort destination has also been recognized by the Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources and the Rainforest Alliance as a benchmark environmental model for tourism in Mexico.

STRATEGY

Unique Solutions

 EDSA, along with a team of specialists, crafted a complex ecotourism model where natural and man-made systems intertwine to complement and enhance each another. The tourism development is based upon land conservation and integration of the natural resources.

 Influenced by historic Mayans inhabitants that typically settled inland, the master plan locates infrastructure behind the coastal mangrove forest maintaining stability of biological corridors. Hotels are located in previously disturbed areas while small pockets of low impact bungalows and amenities were placed behind coastal dunes as waterfront destinations.

 Distinguished hotels are linked by a unique aquatic ecosystem for transporting guests that also offers new habitats for wildlife and relief for coastal environments. This estuarine system is naturally functioning and improves water quality.

 Utilizing special planting techniques within and among the micro-channels allowed for mangrove restoration. The more than 148 acres of mangrove forests along the coastline now provide an important refuge for nesting birds as well as shelter for hatcheries of young fish and turtles.

 The resort’s golf course is built with an impermeable sub-base of sascab which is a local material that is highly compactable. This allows direct control of both stormwater and irrigation runoff which is treated re-use water from the Waste Water Treatment Plant. Together, the constructed water channel system and assimilation of nutrients from the golf course drainage has resulted in improved mangrove structure and productivity.

 A variety of measures were implemented to ensure continued sustainability including energy saving practices, local community engagement and administration of strong and well-documented sustainability policies and procedures.

 Focused on the guest experience, each resort employs its own biologist with whom guests can explore, learn and connect with nature.

For nearly 20 years, Mayakobá has recorded net gains in every measurable category. While the development continues to evolve, the critical component to its ongoing success remains the management and monitoring of its biodiverse ecosystems and the increased environmental services they provide