Early this summer, along the Caribbean beach paradise of Tulum, Mexico, chaos shook the famed tourist destination to its core. More than 16 hotels, shops and private residences were evacuated by force after a lengthy legal battle with the government over property rights.
Despite the shock to this hip, bohemian town, the future is slowing starting to look up for this popular destination on the Mexican Riviera. While negotiations are continuing with the government and Judges are beginning to reverse several evictions, development in the area is booming.
I was recently in Tulum for a friend’s birthday celebration, and almost every hotel was sold out. This was hardly the gloomy, boarded up town I was expecting to see. To be fair there were businesses and livelihoods horribly affected by the evictions, but the tourists are still coming back in droves.
I have been visiting Tulum for many years. My first visit was in true backpacker fashion, no air conditioning, camping beds and mosquitos were my frequent enemy. That all quickly changed through the years as new boutique hotels opened with luxury accommodations at affordable rates, the fashionista and yoga devotees continued to flock from New York and Europe. Celebrities were frequent and so were the international press. I quickly discovered charming new hotels with spectacular customer service, gourmet chefs and designer furnishings.
I also discovered an enormous rush by entrepreneurs to get in on a resurgence of popularity in the area, including the recently announced $700+ per person pop-up restaurant Noma Mexico from Danish chef Rene Redzepi. The famed chef along with Mexican American chef Rosio Sanchez will make waves as one of the most expensive restaurants in the world and catering to the very wealthy. Noma Mexico will open for only seven weeks later this Spring.
This Summer I found myself falling in love all over again with Tulum. I am impressed by the resilience of the locals, the creativity and passion to create new exciting options for high-end luxury tourists while also maintaining numerous inexpensive options for the budget traveler.
My favorite discoveries this year include some of the very best boutique hotels you can find anywhere in Mexico. These include new properties like Nomade, Nest and new developments from existing resorts like Jashita, Sanara and Be Tulum, including high-end luxurious offerings never before offered in the area.
Located overlooking the tranquil and reef protected Soliman Bay, Jashita Hotel has been one of my favorite properties throughout all of Mexico. While I was visiting, a major A-list celebrity had their advance team working on preparations for a total resort buyout for a family retreat.
As part of a major resort makeover, Italian hotelier Tommaso Marchiorello has launched what is possibly the most luxurious offering in Tulum, a $12,000 nightly, two story penthouse with private swimming pool and bartender. Aside from the penthouse, Jashita also added a stunning adult swimming pool and beachfront units. I toured the new penthouse and it is spectacular and nothing like you would ever imagine in this bohemian paradise. Tommaso’s father’s wife Monika Pardeller is the interior designer and true soul of the hotel. His sister Allegra also has the ultra popular Once Milano boutique and her acclaimed linens are used throughout the hotel, including a pop-up store in the lobby.
We celebrated a magnificent birthday dinner set up on a private deck overlooking the beach. The hotel catered a sumptuous lobster dinner for our large group and Tommaso surprised us and the rest of the hotel’s guests with a fire dancer performance and music. What a special night and such an honor to experience a resort with such first class service and love for their guests. This truly is a family affair.
I spoke with Tommaso about the hotel’s new offerings and his thoughts on the future of Tulum. “It was an emotional decision for my father Enrico and his wife Monika to tear down their private beachfront Villa Jasmine that they’d built in 1993” he says, “It was a house full of memories, where they saw their daughter Jasmine grow every year, but our vision for the future was to supersede what came before in every way. The new building and swimming pool started May 2015 and was unveiled last December.”
“The Jasmine penthouse and the adjoining 1001 terrace is a superlative reflection of Jashita’s aspirations, realized for our most desirous clients,” he says, “Jasmine’s 1001 pool/bar terrace has an 8 meter by 4-meter glass infinity pool and stunning panoramic sky-high views of the bay. The pool terrace is accessible to all our guests but can also be rented with the penthouse – with or without its own private bartender.”
“Tulum has always been a magical place, from the dawn of time – a beach town that inspires a different way of thinking. Its ability to blend art, design and culture with a deep appreciation of its beautiful natural environment, and to inspire and attract creatives from all over the world, are the cornerstones of its success.” he continues, “As a family of perfectionists, we are always looking for ways to improve the hotel and our guests’ experience. In terms of projects to come, we are planning an exciting new adventure in the town of Tulum, which will appeal to the type of families and groups who enjoy Jashita’s luxury and aesthetic.”
Another longtime favorite of mine is the inviting and ultra-hip Be Tulum Hotel located across from one of Mexico’s most luxurious spas Yaan Wellness. The hotel is the brainchild of the handsome Argentinean architect Sebastian Sas.
In 2017, Be Tulum will debut a large addition of new luxury villas with private pools. I spoke with Sebastian about the new development and his thoughts on the future of Tulum. “Over the past 8 years betulum has grown with time and with more people, so I felt the need to create a bigger and more meaningful space for our friends and guests from all over the world” says Sebastian Sas, “We have carefully curated every single aspect of the hotel and have created what we call a luxury barefoot experience. With the new development, we are taking this concept to the next level.”
“The new development is inspired by nature. It is the simple and meaningful ways of enjoyment with the highest standards of design. All the materials we use are 100% natural, the wood we use is 100% recycled, and every detail of the hotel has been placed with purpose. betulum has changed, now the suites are more spacious and we tried to recreate the feeling of being at home. Each suite has a private pool and a private terrace, and the suites also have bed boxes that we call an inner space for the guest. Each of the second-floor rooms have their own rooftop so they can watch the stars and enjoy the magic of the Tulum sky. We maintained the privacy between the rooms, but inside there is a whole new world for the guest to discover.”
When discussing the future of Tulum, Sebastian says, “I see how the evictions affected the image of Tulum and it is going through tough times. We want to preserve the magic of Tulum, protect their people and the nature, there are more initiatives towards sustainability, and you see how the locals and the hotel’s restaurants and business owners are shifting to the ideal of keeping Tulum safe.”
“In our properties, we are also implementing sustainability initiatives, and our goal is to become 100% sustainable, we are looking at new ways to approach energy, water and food. I have been invited to participate in an interesting project to preserve the Sian Ka’an land Tulum, and while there is not much to say yet, I believe the shift in hospitality is toward a light construction with light elements and materials, with very low impact on the ground and the ecosystem, while still maintaining high levels of comfort. It’s all about the experience.”
The new Nomade Hotel is also the creation of Sebastian Sas and is located adjacent to Be Tulum. The 35 casitas invite you into a bohemian chic atmosphere filled with hammocks and private retreats. The crowd is strictly high-end and is filled with beautiful people from all over the world. All casitas have private terraces and are located steps away from the stunning sandy beach. While yoga enthusiasts still flock to Tulum, this tranquil and relaxing hotel offers up an escape while not pushing any specific agenda. All guests eat together at communal tables and the restaurant features amazing vegetarian food.
This hotel has become quite popular with celebrities and fashion designers with its glamping style tents, ocean front rooms and barefoot sensibility. Don’t expect televisions in the room, this is truly getting back to the simple pleasures of life and healing yourself with a high-quality escape from civilization.
The small, intimate Nest Hotel has been frequently highlighted as one of the most beautiful retreats in Tulum. Beachfront individually styled bungalows featuring rustic, minimalist comfort, stunning designs and objects d’art are just a few of the enticing features that keep Nest among the most sought after new boutique hotels. The ocean view Tower rooms with private rooftop decks are my favorite.
I spoke with owner James Chippendale, a philanthropist and former music industry executive who opened the boutique hotel in December 2015 along with business partner Juan Carlos Gasca.
“There are some very exciting things happening in Tulum” says James, “Tulum is slowly maturing. The food offerings, boutiques and a few hotels are becoming more refined. Just a few years ago the guests visiting Tulum where happy with just a tent on the beach, a cold beer and fish taco but that has changed. The new visitor is expecting a higher level of service that comes along with the more seasoned and sophisticated traveler, but still within the rustic, bohemian vibe. Our design and mantra are Natural Simplicity. We strive to provide a luxurious level of service while providing them with modern, simple accommodations.”
“We have just finished an extensive update remodel to update our systems and refine the rooms and offerings we provide our guests. I was determined to buy as much as possible locally and from local vendors. I spent 3 months traveling around Mexico looking for just the right pieces. We visited the shop of these amazing woodworkers outside Coba where we found pieces they had created and we customized them to our own. But the best finds came from an unlikely place, their discarded waste. We found amazing objects that we cleaned up, with several ultimately being the centerpieces to some of our designs.”
“Several trips to Merida landed us most of our kitchen supplies and textiles and a few beautiful lamps, but it was after digging through dozens of old warehouses with the most beautiful antique furniture in San Miguel that the NEST look came together Those unique pieces that would set the tone for NEST. Lastly, I sourced my bedding and my soaps and lotions from local vendors down to buying my custom Mezcal from my friend Guido who lives in the pueblo. I never stop looking for just those right pieces for the house to give it that at home feeling.”
New York Art collector Lio Malca recently opened the heavily art-centric boutique hotel Casa Malca(formerly Casa Magna) set along the most private Tulum beachfront and featuring 36 suites and rooms. The property was built by Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar in the 1980’s. The new design and large guest rooms include concrete floors and decadent velvet drapes. The enormous collection of contemporary art is what stands out with the new remodel including works of Kenny Scharf, Rafael Gomez, Keith Haring and more. It is, however, the brand-new secret underground swimming pool that has inspired much conversation. Located beneath the hotel’s main pool is this private and exclusive homage to the mysterious and elaborate past of previous tenants.
I personally stayed at the hotel when it was only open to friends of the owners in 2014 and now the new remodel makes this one of the coolest and most unique destinations available in Tulum.
The Sanará Hotel is a story that began when Daniella Hunter was traveling through the Riviera Maya while working as an underwater photographer in 2000. The former Londoner decided to relocate with her family and partner Charlie Stuart Gay, a well-known music manager, in 2012. While exploring the Mexican & Mayan culture, the couple chose Tulum as the continuing healing part of their journey. Along with partner David Woolfson the Sanará Tulum hotel opened its doors December 2014.
Located on Sanará’s beach side of the property, just slightly back from the beachfront, the resort offers a new 3 bedroom Beach Villa featuring a stunning downstairs luxury suite with master bedroom and separate spacious living and dining room, and a 2 bedroom suite upstairs. Internal villa staircases and doors allow the Villa to be rented primarily as a 3 bedroom Villa, or separately as luxury ground floor and first-floor suites. The Villa can be booked for 6 adults for $1,710 nightly.
Also newly built is the Sanara Jungle compound including Rooms and Apartment Suites which are privately positioned on the hotel’s jungle land across the road from the beach. Each Jungle Room with its own private bathroom includes a luxury king-sized bed, air-conditioning, fan, safe and sliding doors that open onto a glistening pool and waterfall.
The Sanara Jungle Villa is set back enveloped by a natural green garden. This Villa is made up of 2 interconnecting two-room apartments, each with a king-size bed, private bathroom, living room with kitchenette and super-size deck. The villa roof terrace offers a stunning sunset view looking back over the jungle canopy with waterfall, private walled gardens and swimming pool.
I spoke with owner Charles Stewart Gay and he tells me; “The success of Sanara Tulum as a high-end curative boutique hotel has been embraced by both the community and the guests that we impact. We employ over 65 staff for only 19 rooms, suites, wellness center, yoga studio and our restaurant, which means Sanara luxury service is felt by guests.”
“There seems to be a conscious boardroom going on every day with very interesting visitors to our Real Coconut Restaurant, whose dairy, grain and gluten free plant based recipes, by Daniella, have now been so embraced that we are launching The Real Coconut product line as well as opening restaurants with USA mega companies, Whole Foods and WeWork.”
“Our Sanara Yoga studio was built right on the beach as a gift for all Tulum yoga visitors and consequently we have attracted world class instructors” he continued. “Even the Ministers and people of neighboring Belize have embraced us so much that Daniella and I are now directors of The Belize Sustainable Development Corporation expanding Sanara eco-tourism with agricultural initiatives.”
As for the future of Tulum, Charles says, “Apart from the beaches and the great collection of boutique hotels, I think one of the most exciting developments I see are the culinary offerings. There is now a selection of world class eateries.”