Mayan Beach Garden: A Coastal Retreat

Mayan Beach Garden 2
By Sydney Belle

As tourism in the Mayan Riviera flourishes each year, luxury resorts and a highway of loaded tour buses are slowly taming the wild frontier of Quintana Roo with its miles of deserted beaches and acres of impenetrable jungle. The once still coast is changing into a bustling vacation destination and retreats from the crowds are getting harder to find. However, on a recent trip to the Costa Maya, a strip of coastline stretching from Tulum to Belize reflecting the tranquility of the Mayan Riviera of years past, my friends and I stumbled upon a secluded hideaway 20 kilometers north of Mahajual – Mayan Beach Garden.

The town of El Placer is an area so secluded there is no signage for it on the main highway to Mahajual. It was purely by chance that we took a left turn into the unknown and found a quaint, beachfront bed & breakfast in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere. Mayan Beach Garden, owned and operated by Kim and Marcia Bales of Seattle, WA, is nestled on the undisturbed shore of El Placer Bay.

We pulled in late and with no restaurants nearby and no notice of our arrival we wondered about our next meal, but Marcia just smiled and said she would have dinner ready by seven. My companions and I enjoyed a simple yet delicious meal of seasoned tacos al carbon wrapped in thick tortillas that were handmade in Marcia’s kitchen accompanied by fresh guacamole and chased with cold, 10 peso beers. For dessert we enjoyed a moist homemade papaya cake drizzled with caramel sauce that could have been served in a five star hotel! Framed photographs of ruin sites throughout Mexico, Peru and Guatemala visited by Kim and Marcia decorated the walls in the dining room. They shared with us it was their love of ancient ruins that led them to their new home.

We retired to our cabanas and found them charming and most comfortable. They included king-sized beds with thick mattresses, large walk-in showers and hand painted sinks. The cabanas are beachfront and operate on solar power. Kim, an expert builder, designed each to catch the Caribbean trade winds so we were very comfortable without air conditioning. I delighted in falling asleep to the lapping waves rather than the hum of a window unit.

The next morning we sat on the beach just outside of our rooms to watch the sunrise when Ricardo, our hospitable waiter from the night before, greeted us with a smiling face and a tray of mugs filled with rich Chiapas coffee. How about that? Bayside service!

That afternoon, Marcia gave us a tour of her favorite snorkeling spot located on the northern end of the bay. We snorkeled through the most vibrant coral garden just 150 yards from the shore. Brilliant pink, periwinkle blue, bright yellow and orange –the reef was very much alive! We saw skates (similar to stingrays), schools of blue tang, large parrotfish, and several other species of colorful fish. We spent a good part of the day swimming around Marcia’s fantastic underwater garden. Upon returning from our snorkel trip, my sister, an avid birdwatcher, reported spotting blue heron, a falcon and a flock of green parrots while relaxing on the patio in front of her room. We had all taken pleasure in a quiet day appreciating the natural beauty of the Yucatan.

The group enjoyed farewell pina coladas on the beach and thanked everyone for their hospitality before packing up to leave. We all agreed we were departing much too soon, but we had certainly found a new refuge and would return. Admittedly, I was torn as to whether or not I should share our secret haven with others, but Mayan Beach Garden was just too good to keep to myself. For directions and a list of activities in the area, go to Marcia has built an extensive website with lots of information covering the Costa Maya. If you are looking for a place to explore nature with such activities as a boat trip through the Sian Kaan bioreserve, diving the Chinchorro Reef, or visiting the local monkey farm, or perhaps you just want to spend the weekend reading a novel, Mayan Beach Garden is the ideal retreat for you.

Sydney Belle


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