The Chablé siblings have a thirst for discovery and decadence, each with their own distinct style: as luxury spa resort Chablé Yucatán chants with a shaman in a pre-Hispanic temazcal (sauna), beachside boutique retreat Chablé Maroma basks on Punta Maroma’s much-praised playa, gets anointed with floral oils in the spa and acquires a taste for fine Mexican dining. And, after a day of cenote diving and Mayan-ruin admiring, free spirits can cosy up in their jungle-swathed private pool (swimwear optional…)
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £797.42 ($1,058), including tax at 29 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of $2.00 per room per night on check-in.
Rates usually include à la carte breakfast, with an omelette station, in-room coffee or tea with bread each morning, daily activities, soft drinks from the minibar and entry to the spa and gym. Guests must pay an environmental fee of 20 pesos too.
You needn’t leave your bed to be massaged with herbal compresses or be wrapped in seaweed – a spa therapist will come to you, as requested.
At the hotel
Private beach, spa with a hammam, gym, laundry, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: private pool and terrace, TV, coffee-making kit, a minibar and air-conditioning.
Our favourite rooms
Built of stone from Xucun Village and marble quarried in La Galarza town – with hand-carved sinks and palm weavings from local artisans – each of these jungly nests is pervaded by a true sense of locality. Each one is a winner, with oodles of space in which to play, peekaboo indoor-outdoor showers and a greenery-shielded private pool that almost begs you to skinny dip. If you’re travelling with friends or la familia in tow, you'll be comfortably housed in the three-bedroom Presidential Villas.
Chablé has two placid pools. One is a heated infinity pool overlooking Playa Maroma with a bar and servers ferrying light bites – shrimp and lobster tacos, suckling pig – where you won’t have trouble bagging a sunlounger. The second is an adults-only heated Jacuzzi, part of the vast hotel spa.
Spa spoiling comes naturally to Chablé Maroma: in its adults-only, 17,000sq ft palace of pampering, treatments take a cue from the leafy and sand-dusted surroundings. Journeys inspired by ancient Mayan rituals involve floral balms, citrus and frankincense oils, coffee and tobacco scrubs and locally quarried quartz crystals – plus hip herbal Naturopathica potions. It’s a bit of a romantic, too, accommodating couples in five of its eight deliciously scented cabins. There’s also the Jacuzzi, a plunge pool and a sauna, and the fitness centre has serious Technogym equipment, and healthful snacks and juices are served post workout.
Bring your look-at-me water-baby wear for the pool, and a sturdier swimsuit (and waterproof shoes) for splashing about in a cenote.
The ground floor of the hotel and casitas are roomy enough for wheelchair users; staff are happy to help, if needed.
Over-fours are welcome, but the hotel's best suited to tweens and teens. Up to two kids (US$75 a night) can sleep in the villas. Babysitting is US$20 an hour (plus the cost of a taxi: US$20 before 10pm, US$30 after) and must be booked a day in advance.
Food is locally sourced and organic, and cleaning and bath products are green, too. Local artisans have been handsomely rewarded for their contributions to room decor, too.
Bag a seat on Bu’ul’s terrace and be soothed by the susurrus of the waves.
Shed your beachy trappings for dress-up, date-night spot Bu’ul.
The hotel has three places to eat. Bu’ul – helmed by chef Jorge Vallejo – is the innovative fine-dining joint, housed under a shaggily thatched roof and boasting a sea-view terrace. Vallejo was lured to the coast from much lauded Mexico City restaurant Quintonil, and brings his unique brand of mod-Mex fare with him. Using locally harvested ingredients, he’s refined regional favourites: chilli-inflamed relleno negro stew, lobster with habañero, coal-baked Oaxacan chocolate fondant… And, his menu’s accentuated by an extensive wine cellar. Your second option is Kaban, which is more laid back and where the chef’s happy to tailor dishes to little ones, too (as well as to whip up vegan or gluten-free dishes). Fish is freshly caught, flatbreads have homegrown toppings and clams are cooked up in front of you. And in the Raw Bar, you’ll pile up small plates of oysters, octopus tacos, fish and mango ceviche, stone crab and other deep-sea delicacies.
The Raw Bar isn’t just a spot for under-the-sea-style snacking – here high-quality mezcal and tequila are shaken up with fresh herbs and fruits, for an apéritif – or anytime-itif – for those who’ve outgrown shooters.
In Kaban, breakfast is served from 7am to 11am, then lunch and dinner run till 11pm. Dinner in Bu’ul is from 6pm to 11pm. Poolside snacking is available from 9am to 5pm, and you can sip cocktails at the Raw Bar from 12 noon to 11pm.
A range of local and global dishes are served in room around the clock.
Carretera Federal Cancún – Tulum Km. 51
Playa del Carmen
Sublime spa stay Chablé Maroma occupies a coveted beachside perch in Punta Maroma, along a golden stretch of the Riviera Maya, just north of Tulum and Playa del Carmen.
Cancun International Airport is a 30-minute drive from the retreat. You can fly direct from the UK and major cities in the US; most flights from Asia and Australasia stopover in the US. The hotel can arrange transfers, on request (US$140 for a one-way trip, US$280 return).
There’s free parking and a valet onsite. With Playa del Carmen’s vibrant nightlife a 15-minute drive away, and Tulum’s Mayan monuments an hour’s drive away, it’s well worth acquiring some wheels during your stay.
Worth getting out of bed for
The hotel’s private stretch of Playa Maroma’s soft sands and calm waters – safe for paddling and swimming – are just steps away. The beach is deserving of its reputation as one of the world’s most beautiful and it’s privy to views of the world’s second largest reef (just pipped at the post by the Great Barrier Reef), which you can sigh over from a palapa-shaded sunlounger. The spa is the hotel’s headline act, with must-try traditional Mayan rituals, all-natural unguents and a soothing sauna and Jacuzzi. You can join yoga classes here or hit the gym, too.
Beyond the hotel, you can go fishing with the chef for a very fresh dinner or trek into the jungle. Further south, explore the ruins of the Mayan Empire: Tulum’s majestic mediaeval cliff-top fortifications, the mystical Chichén Itzá complex and Coba’s climbable ziggurat. Beguiling blue cenote pools await, too – try Chaak Tun, where stalactites dangle dramatically overhead. Other pulse-quickening water-based pursuits include kayaking, catamaran sailing, kitesurfing and parasailing. For scuba-diving and snorkelling take a day trip to Cozumel island, or head to low-key paradise Isla de Holbox, to spy flamingoes and sea turtles. Between Tulum and Playa del Carmen, Akumal village hosts a turtle hatchery, too. Visit in October for the best chance of egg-cracking action.
Stop to snap a selfie by the arched, attention-grabbing Portal Maya Statue in Playa del Carmen’s Parque Fundadores. There’s also a bandstand for live music and a pirate-ship-shaped playground here. Try to catch the daredevil Papantla performers, who spin upside down on ropes suspended from a pole.
There’s little in the hotel’s immediate surroundings, but chef Vallejo will keep you well-fed. For dining out, your best bet is Playa del Carmen. Imprevist serves up duck confit on vanilla-infused mashed potatoes with caramelised figs, and lobster ravioli in a silky fennel and prosecco cream. Basic Foodie transcends its inauspicious name to offer freshly baked organic sourdough, gourmet sandwiches and sweet treats (matcha buns, strawberry tarts, gingerbread). Unassuming caff, Lonchería de Doña Maria has gained a cult following for its traditional snacks: empanadas, tamales and panuchos (a Yucatán delicacy of chicken- and black bean-stuffed tortillas with vegetables), and Babe’s Noodles & Bar has slurpable dishes and spring rolls with inventive fillings (cheese with mango-mint sauce, shrimp with peach and maracuya). For an excuse to dress up, or at least wear something more substantial than a bikini, the Sundowner Yacht Club has classic cocktails, an elegant menu and sunset views that live up to its name.
From the rooftop of Thompson Playa del Carmen, you can spy a soothing vista of sea and sand. Pair this with a pick from the lengthy cocktail or champagne menus (we’ll have a potent Cozumel Coral, with tequila, mezcal and rum, thanks; or the bellini with passionfruit and lemongrass), and you’re set to stay till late.
Chablé Maroma, a restful beachfront retreat along the Riviera Maya, is the kind of hotel that ruins other hotels for you. Its approach to laid-back luxury feels so effortless that it’s easy to forget how exceptional its service and amenities are. Don’t all hotels have a terry-cloth-covered chaise in their villa bathrooms for guests to rest on after choosing between an indoor or outdoor shower? Don’t all hotels have a picnic basket of coffee and breakfast pastries waiting outside guests’ doors each morning? No, they don’t. And it’s this top-drawer spoiling that puts Chablé at the top of our list of really-nice-but-not-too-pretentious hideaways.
Chablé is the last leg of our eight-day Mexican tour. We start in vibrant Mexico City, with its Frida Kahlo-esque colours, kitschy luchadores, and gastrointestinal roulette of street tacos. Leaving behind the city for the beach, Mrs Smith and I take the road less travelled to a certain little-known, never-before-Instagrammed, yogi-luring destination called Tulum – maybe you’ve heard of it? Three days and six açai bowls later, we are sad to leave our hammocks for our final stop. We brace ourselves for the usual traits of resort vacations: fighting for beach chairs, themed restaurants, the odd swinger…
The first sign that this will be a very different experience is the lack of any sign at all. If you’ve spent any time in the Riviera Maya, you’ve come to expect grand entrances with enormous Roman columns or extravagant Vegas-style fountains fronting all of the resorts you pass. Chablé, however, takes a different approach. After a nondescript turn off the highway, a 10-minute drive down a winding road surrounded by towering jungly foliage, and numerous questioning glances from Mrs Smith, we arrive at a grand open-air lobby. As soon as the van doors open, a staff member appears bearing cold towels and a refreshing grapefruit-mint juice that tastes like a holiday distilled. Despite arriving hours before check-in, we’re immediately shown to our villa.
The property is a sprawling maze of run-wild-yet-perfectly-manicured greenery, white-paved paths, and minimalist casas that look as if they were swiped from the set of Castaway. On finding our villa, which is labelled with both a number and corresponding Mayan characters, Mrs Smith and I ascend the stairs to our private patio – complete with a plunge pool and day-bed. With a wave of the key, the 10-foot wide wooden doors slide open and disappear into the wall, revealing our weekend pied-à-terre as if by magic. Like the resort around it, the room’s aesthetic is one of clean, modern comfort, and there’s space to spare – our jaws drop as we walk into a bathroom the size of our New York apartment but with twice the showers.
Not ones to waste a minute in the sun, Mrs Smith and I drop everything and run to the pool. Imagine our surprise when we have our pick of sunloungers at both the pool and beach. Once we settle on one, staff rush over to set up our chairs, somehow already knowing our names. Our chairs are beside the enormous L-shaped pool, but we’re facing the private beach and reaping the benefits of the ocean view. As spa novices, Mrs Smith and I emailed with the hotel ahead of our stay to choose the best treatment. We settled on a 30-minute ‘stress-reliever massage’, although truthfully there was not much stress to be relieved by this point in the day. Before we begin, a member of the staff leads us in a meditation, with delicious-smelling incense, quiet Spanish chanting and low horn blow that reminds us of a shofar, an ancient musical instrument used for Jewish religious ceremonies. Somehow, this all works together. After our restorative massage, we are brought back to the lobby to enjoy some cocoa tea.
After a perfect night’s sleep, thanks to the cloud-like king-size bed and effective black-out curtains, we begin the next day with the hotel’s charming ‘eye-opener’: a picnic basket left on our deck with coffee, pastries, and a personalised itinerary of the resort’s activities that day. We forego snorkeling and cheese-tasting to work on deepening our tans before we head back to snowy New York. We soak up the final rays of sun poolside as we’re offered frozen grapes, horchata, and a refreshing facial mist. An ingenious designer has lined the pool with wavy tiles in different shades of blue. From what we can see in our chairs, the colours blend together to perfectly match the ocean. As we doze in and out of our sun-induced naps, it’s hard to tell where one ends and another begins.
Chablé is laidback yet incredibly thoughtful at the same time, beautiful yet understated, with relaxed yet attentive staff – and it’s nailed the seemingly impossible balance between luxury and simplicity.