Sat. Oct 1st, 2022

Over the past few years, Riviera Maya’s reputation as a fine-dining destination has risen like the cream of coconut milk. A slew of properties dedicated to the art of the meal, with the help of Mexico’s celebrity chefs, are luring travelers headed south of Cancun to stop short before Tulum. The latest entrant to cement that status: La Casa de La Playa, the 63-suite offshoot to Hotel Xcaret Arte. Small, intimate, and striking in its sympathetic concrete-wood-and-glass design, the property competes with the entire Yucatán coast for best new food-focused, even design-forward, hotel of the year.

La Casa de La Playa’s attention to exquisite levels of detail spans the spacious villas, all with ocean views, steam showers, volcanic stone hydro-massage tubs, and plunge pools across which handmade hammocks hang in lazy beckon. Inside each room, a wall-mounted orb aquarium, a mini conservation unit, houses local translucent jellyfish pulsing through glowing blue water like circulating stars. These touches already set this upscale property apart from its competitive set. However, it’s the additional indulgent details that put La Casa de La Playa in the running for the region’s best new hotel.

Starting with a trio of 24-hour tasting rooms dedicated to showcasing the country’s culinary arts.

A Mexican chocolate bar, Chocolateria, offers nearly every form of cacao, from hot cocoa, truffles filled with bright raspberry or passion fruit, dark and milk chocolate bark, ice pops, and of course, churros, welcomes passerby at any hour of the day.

The mezcal and tequila bar, Bodega Mezcaleria, stocked with the country’s artisan labels, remains open for sipping from sustainable coconut cups while straddling a saddle seat, whether on a noon or midnight whim.

A temperature-controlled concrete-and-glass wine cellar and bar called Cava helmed by local sommelier and educator Pável Martínez Aguilera, offers six-flight tastings of the country’s more elusive labels, any of which guests can grab gratis to take to the pool or their balcony.

Of course, the restaurants are what truly establish the caliber of this all-inclusive, from the 8-course dinners at Estero, a concept designed by Virgilio Martinez of Lima’s famed Central, to lunch at Tuch de Luna by Mexico’s most famous female chef Martha Ortiz, or dinner at Lumbre, a delicious ode to the cuisine of the north from Daniel and Patricio Rivera-Rio.

Once you’ve eaten through the food at La Casa de La Playa, you can meander down a stone tunnel, one with serious ancient Mayan vibes, to lagoon-ringed Xcaret Arte to dine at any of the 9 concept restaurants with the flick of a water-resistant wristband. La Playa de La Casa guests can also dine alongside the Río Azul cenote in Xcaret park, lit by floating candles and set to a live guitarist, in a setting worthy of The Bachelor’s most romantic repasts.

When not gorging on high-brow tacos and handmade tequila, guests are swimming above the beach in an elevated architectural concrete pool. At the end of the lane, a peek-a-boo glass bubble showcases the powerful waves crashing against the rocks below as reminder of one’s thrilling aerial position.

For a small property, there’s plenty to do. Hit the gym fitness center, one that’s filled with new Technogym equipment and is spacious enough to shame some studios in New York City.

Go for a Mayan massage in the Muluk Spa, after which therapists draw back the curtains to reveal the candy-floss blue of the Caribbean.

Every moment, every angle of La Casa de La Playa, from service to design, is perfectly orchestrated to showcase the connection between humanity and nature. And for the ultimate display of that relationship, La Casa de La Playa guests have privileged access to Xcaret’s famous nature parks with a guide who ushers them to the front of the jungle zip lines, underwater river walks, and amphibious ATV tracks.

This Mexican jungle retreat may be small, but it’s big on ideas. I look forward to tasting and experiencing what they dream up next.

Rates vary by season but average $1500 per night for 2 adults. Book here.

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