Mayan dining at Banyan Tree Mayakoba

Banyan Tree Mayakoba introduces an ancient Mayan dining experience 

If the traditions of the ancient Mayans interest you, then head to the award-winning resort, Banyan Tree Mayakoba that’s located in the heart of a 650-hectare resort enclave, built between lagoons and the Caribbean Sea, 40 minutes south of Cancun and 10 minutes north of the lively Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

Banyan Tree Mayakoba has introduced HAAB, an immersive outdoor dining experience that brings to life the ancient culture, customs and cuisine of the Mayan people.

Hidden in the jungle, close to the resort, it is the first dining experience of its kind, commemorating how the ancient Mayans cultivated their food in agricultural fields and forest gardens, allowing guests to actively participate in the narrative.

Earth, wind, fire and water

HAAB takes its name from the Mayan Zodiac, an integral part of the Mayan calendar and culture, inspired by the four basic elements of earth, wind, fire and water.

These elements envelop guests throughout the dining experience, guests sit on the earthy forest floor, surrounded by water features and fresh Caribbean Sea air, while playing an interactive role in the preparation and cooking of the indigenous cuisine over an open fire pit.

The HAAB experience at Banyan Tree Mayakoba begins at sundown with a Mayan ritual that pays tribute to the sun for another beautiful day and signifies the start of night.

Adorned in traditional garments with colourful ornamentation, feathered headdresses and face paint, Mayan warriors arrive at the resort by canoe through Mayakoba’s mangrove-lined waterways, or stride into the lobby to escort awaiting guests to HAAB’s intimate forest garden, led by the light of burning torches and the sound of beating drums.

The warriors ignite HAABs four fire pits, signifying the cardinal points of north, south, east and west, and pray for the next day.

Throughout the dinner, they regale stories of Mayan history and culture, explaining the origins of their calendar, its meaning and characters, as well as traditional customs, crafts and age-old knowledge of astronomy.

Guests are greeted with warm sopes – an authentic Mexican appetizer made of fried corn dough with freshly harvested vegetables and slow cooked meat – served family-style; paired with a traditional drink flavored with xtabentum, a flower that grows wild on the Yucatan peninsula with origins tracing back to ancient Mayan time.

This customary beverage is presented in a jicara, a small, artfully decorated wooden jar made from the fruit of the calabash tree.  Refreshing, flavoured waters incorporating locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients such as lime, orange, hibiscus flower and lemongrass are also available, alongside signature cocktails infused with local Mayan liqueurs such as huana (rum with guanabana fruit), XTA (rum with aniseed) and kalani (coconut liqueur).huana (rum with guanabana fruit), XTA (rum with aniseed) and kalani (coconut liqueur).

As dinner unfolds, guests indulge in traditional dishes inspired by the bounty of local ingredients, such as aguachile ceviche made with fresh fish and shrimp, dressed in an avocado sauce. Other specialty dishes include lime soup with tender, pulled chicken; spiced pibil suckling pig; locally-caught fish wrapped in banana leaves; and tortillas filled with chayote, a special Latin squash, and other native minced vegetables.  To complete the extravagant dining experience, simple yet decadent traditional desserts include a choice of savoury sweet potato tart and banana flan, as well as skewered marshmallows for roasting over the open flame, served with chocolate and cookies.

HAAB is open daily for dinner, starting at 6:30pm and caters for 16 guests.