Story & Images by: Abbey & Steven Hoard; Edited by: Nikki Pepper & Michaela Guzy.

As designers we spend a considerable amount of time and effort creating ?things?, so when it came to our San Diego?wedding, one of the most important days of our life, no detail was too small.? After painstakingly creating our custom-designed wedding which followed a whirl-wind year and a half that included a surprise engagement with 100 of our closest friends, wedding planning, a full house renovation where we acted as architect and general contractor, and moving five times, one of which included a six week stint in a RV in our driveway, we knew we needed a honeymoon where we could just chill. We wanted something thoughtfully designed yet off-the-beaten path that we would return from refreshed and inspired rather than worn from hectic travels. After much deliberation and an exhaustive search we decided that Papaya Playa Project, a part of Design Hotels in Tulum, Mexico?was just what we wanted: intimate, tropical, comfortable, romantic, relaxing and enriching.

The bride, Abbey and groom, Steve.

After a stress-free flight into Cancun and an easy drive south on Mexico?s highway 307 through the grand facades of Disney-esque Playa del Carmen, we arrived to Papaya Playa Project, located on a secluded stretch of the Mayan Riviera.


Refreshingly undesigned, the minimalist resort is an assortment of individual cabanas respectfully and harmoniously blending with the surrounding beach and jungle. ?With something to fit every budget, the 80-cabanas stretch along the beach and range from private casitas with electricity and hammock-filled private terraces to modest shared jungle cabanas with a communal bathhouse.

PPP our casita 97 wtih Abbey

The hub of the resort is a terraced outdoor restaurant serving up an eclectic assortment of local and indigenous Mexican cuisine from the authentic wood-fired horno while the local house DJ fills the air with soulful beats reminiscent of Marcus Wyatt in the Heineken dome of Coachella?s past. ?On Saturday night, two guest DJs graced the natural amphitheater for a beachfront dance party ? we thoroughly enjoyed digging our toes in the sand while filling our souls with deep house.

PPP beach club restaurant terraces 3

Most days we lazily filled our afternoons with naps on the beach, playing in the surf, dipping in the plunge pool and indulging in our favorite snacks: Vegandillas, two small handmade tacos with grilled chopped mushrooms and onions in melted Mexican cheese, and fresh juices from the juice bar. Our favorite: Green Punch with kiwi, ginger, chaya, celery, cucumber and lemon. On occasion we enjoyed private yoga lessons and even participated in a Mayan flower dance class with a local shaman.

The beach club bartender at PPP.

PPP Abbey at the plunge pool

On the few days we felt ambitious enough, we ventured out of the resort to explore the surrounding offerings including relics of one of the world?s most ancient cultures at the Tulum ruins? located approximately seven km north along the coast. Despite not being the most grand ruins in the area when compared with Chichen Itza, they are certainly a photo op. We also visited El Gran Cenote, one of the many natural limestone sink holes that exposes the ground water below- popular with scuba divers due to their crystal clear waters and connections via the underground caves.

Tulum Ruins

During our stay we discovered and enjoyed a few good restaurants and shopping spots in Tulum along the beach road. For food we had an amazing fresh pasta feast at Posada Margarita, an Italian place among the palms right on the beach. Other nearby recommendations are Hartwood Tulum, an open air eatery and El Tabano, both serving local Mexican fare with the freshest ingredients. For shopping, the boutique and perfumery at Coqui Coquiis both high-end and distinctive. The playful shop at Papaya Playa had many beautiful locally made clothes and accessories.

Coqui Coqui Perfumery.

Abbey at Coqui Boutique

All and all, Papaya Playa Project provided a delightfully genuine experience ? rich culture, proximity to great shopping, food and history, a tranquil beach, friendly staff and amazing music. ?We will always think fondly of our first days as husband and wife in our blissfully romantic Tulum beachfront casita.


– See more at: