Luxury Stays in Mexico and Latin America can be that much more local if you choose a property that provides a certain immersive experience of the place you are visiting. Two such places: Chablé near Merida in the Riviera Maya and Casa San Agustin in the Old Town section of Cartagena in Columbia fit the bill, as both offer rare remnants of the rich and sumptuous local traditions that comfort the body and feed the soul. Both belong to an intriguing chain of boutique, exquisitely designed properties known as Hamak Hotels.
Luxury Stay in Mexico: The Way of Chablé
Chablé is the latest stamp of luxury in the Yucatan near the preserved 15th century Spanish colonial walking streets of Merida. Chablé opened in 2015 on 750 acres surrounded by ancient Mayan forests less than 30 miles southwest of Merida, and near the preserved sites of great Mayan ruins that make this land so compelling.
While location is a draw for Chablé, what’s more inviting is the design of the resort, which recently received the 2017 Prix Versailles award designation presented by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Union of Architects to the structures that have the most remarkable interior and exterior architecture.
Such feats are experienced in accommodations defined by minimalist uses of rough-hewn limestone and rich dark woods complementing ample dimensions of wall-length windows and accenting the glass-walled bathrooms with freestanding stone tubs. Each of the 40 stand-alone villas possesses its own hammock-strung patio terrace with daybed opening to a private plunge pool. Expect the unexpected here: fresh flowers, handmade turndown treats, a complimentary mini-bar, and coffee and pastries left each morning on the terrace.
Guests cross the gates and follow a lantern lit path into another century upon check-in. The 18-century main house is a hacienda restored to the grand scale of the era welcomes guests into the Chablé world with hand-made tile floors, wooden beams, soaring ceilings, and an inviting veranda overlooking verdant lawns and gnarled, ancient Parota trees. The resort is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World.
The Spa and Cenote comprise additional Chablé resort elements that capture the sense of place but remain unparalleled in what immersive luxury resort experiences one might find along the Riviera Maya.
The 14-room spa surrounds a large cenote. These clear freshwater limestone sinkholes are common in the Yucatán Peninsula and a must for any visitor that comes this way. They cannot be fabricated. Rather, they are a gift from nature and many believe harbor special powers in the water and earthy vibrations.
A 40-page spa guide outlines all the fitness classes, meditation and yoga sessions, even special programs in Rieki and dance. Treatments may incorporate Mayan healing rituals or such unusual approaches as Janzu water massage or temescal sweat lodge ceremonies performed by a local shaman. Also find three plunge pools, a steam room cave laden in gold tiles, and a saltwater “floatarium.”
And when its time for cocktails and dinner guests can head to Ixi’Im where they can sample from the resort’s collection of more than 3,000 bottles of tequila and learn famed Mexico City chef Jorge Vallejo the secrets of creating perfect tortillas and chocolate.
Chablé is located just minutes from the Mayan town of Chocholá, a wonderful starting point for wandering through textile shops, markets, and authentic eateries. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
A Cool Luxury Stay in Cartagena: Casa San Agustin
Travels to Latin America should include some days in Old Town Cartagena. Colombia – a veritable open-air museum of a city that became a UNESCO protected world heritage site in 1984. It’s also the location of Casa San Agustin, a Hamak Hotel that opened in 2013 and wraps visitors with the perfect blend of old and new in an impeccably restored 17th century mansion.
The city itself, on Columbia’s northern coastline, was a busy trading port in its day. The Spanish settled the town in 1533 and it still shows the confluence of European, South American, African and Caribbean cultures in its traditions, foods, architecture and cultures.
Staying in and exploring Old Town is easy and most immersive with a stay at the Casa San Agustin, a member of Leading Hotels of the World.
Find 30 suites and guestrooms in what are actually three restored manors that share a stunning brick courtyard and pool. Each accommodation is its own design and opens to a view of the street or garden. Some of the rooms and suites enjoy shared gardens, or private plunge pools, and may display some of the original elements, such as wood-beamed ceilings or frescoes.
Linens are Frette and iPads are presented to guest upon request. Wi-Fi is freely available throughout and bicycles are at the ready for guests to ride through the medieval streets surrounding and onto the beach areas.
Dining at Casa San Agustin is also a treat. The Hotel’s Alma Restaurant presents destination dining that is popular among guests of the hotel and city residents as well. Chef Heberto Eljach brings in his personal interpretations of refined Colombian dishes: he serves a signature ceviche with fish, octopus, and shrimp tossed in spices and sour cream, topped with pork rinds, and served with roasted arepas. The Cartagena-style seafood chowder is well recommended – a soft medley of lobster, shrimp, octopus, prawns and mussels, using coconut milk and a mound of fluffy rice. Colombian-style bouillabaisse, as house-cured meats and fresh seasonal produce are always on the menu.
Cocktails, too, turn into extravagant elixirs with bruja twists of classics and the use of flamboyant flames to unleash the powers of special ingredients.
Easy ambles from Casa San Agustin are the ambient walking streets and intriguing attractions within the 15th century walls that protect Old Town Cartagena. Among the starred stops will be the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas built by the Spanish and marked by a dark, humid labyrinth of subterranean tunnels. Also visit Getsemaní, Old Town Cartagena’s bohemian center where artful graffiti accents the walls and buildings. Just beyond is Parque del Centenario, inhabited by sloths and pint-sized monkeys.
Cartagena’s Centro District brings worthy museums to add to a day’s activities: the Museum of Modern Art Cartagena that displays the works of Colombia’s top masters, the Museo del Oro Zenú that looks at the local uses of gold for mystical and practical applications; and there is the circa 1612 Cartagena Cathedral that crowns Cartagena’s skyline. Contact: email@example.com
Three More Hotels from Hamak in Mexico
Currently open, Mukan – a hidden gem on the Yucatan – is the only luxury resort property in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere on the eastern coast of the Yucatan peninsula. The resort is ideal for multi-generational takeovers as there are endless activities for all ages. Featuring just nine luxe lodgings, the resort is 20 minutes outside Tulum with no neighbors in sight. www.mukan.com
Connecting guests with the history and colonial architecture of Puebla, Mexico – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – Cartesiano offers a local mansion experience without sacrificing 21st-century creature comforts. From their posh home base in one of 78 guest rooms and suites, housed in two historic and modern buildings, including a XVI century colonial house, guests may venture into this charming city. Puebla is home to 365 churches and a famous antiques market, and renowned for its Talavera pottery. Within the hotel, two fine dining restaurants focused on rich regional flavors, a rooftop pool, a library and the serene Spa at Cartesiano await guests after a day of exploring Puebla’s 365 churches, famous antiques markets and Talavera pottery, or venturing farther afield to Cholula pyramid, Tepoztlan or Taxo. www.hotelcartesiano.com
Opening August, 2018, Chable Maroma on the Riviera Maya is an exciting new addition to Maroma Beach. Just 35 minutes from the Cancun Airport, Chable Maroma will feature seventy suites with private pools and moon showers. A member of Leading Hotels of the World, the resort will feature beach water sports, a 17,000-square foot spa, and three restaurants. www.hamakhotels.com
Kurtz-Ahlers & Associates– Curator of undiscovered luxury travel locales with insider info and news from our worldwide portfolio of hotels, wellness retreats, and eco-resorts. View our portfolio on our Online Directory.
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