Coqui Coqui Coba Residence & Spa hotel in Yucatán will unleash your inner Indiana Jones: this two-tower hideaway sits in an ancient ruined city with jungle, lagoons and caves as its playground. If Coqui could talk, it wouldn’t scream of luxury, it would speak softly about local stone, neutral hues, natural materials and an orange-and-vanilla-scented spa.
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A suede luggage tag each; GoldSmiths also get a bottle of Coqui Coqui cologne a suite
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability (US$60). Check-in, 3pm–8pm. Contact the hotel for instructions on how to check in after hours.
Double rooms from £286.62 ($392), including tax at 21 per cent.
Rates include a Coqui Coqui classic breakfast of toasted granola with seeds and crystallised fruit, homemade yogurt and bread, house jam honey, freshly pressed juices and herbal infusions.
A little pouch stuffed with potions from the Coqui Coqui perfumery is left in rooms as a welcome gesture. (You’ll appreciate this, as saltwater flows through the plumbing: keep your mouth clamped when showering.) The fragrant unguents will also get you in the mood for the hotel’s handsome spa, where clay, aloe, coconut oil and other natural ingredients star in treatments. Be mindful that the hotel isn't easily navigable for those with mobility issues.
At the hotel
Spa, gardens, library. (In common with its sister hotels, Coqui Coqui Coba lacks most mod cons, including TVs and plug sockets.)
Our favourite rooms
Survey the Yucatán jungle from the comfort of one of the King Palapa suites, accessed by a rope bridge and boasting a private terrace, king-size bed and an open-plan bathroom with a deep cement-cast tub. All rooms look over the lagoon.
There are two small, silver-blue swimming pools, designed more for cooling dips than Olympian aquatics.
Clothes and shoes conducive to skipping around ancient ruins. Bring binoculars, swimwear, snorkel and insect repellent for the jungle and lagoons.
Canine companions are welcome (you’ll need to pay a deposit), as long as they’re toilet-trained, kept away from beds, blankets and furniture, and watched over carefully by their owners. No pet food or accessories are provided, so bring your own.
Little Smiths can come too; for $150 a night, they'll get a bed, meals and drinks for their stay. Cots are $30 a night and babysitting can be arranged ($15 an hour) with 48 hours’ notice.
Dining is a sociable set-up, centred around one communal table. There are no set times for meals though, so guests can dine à deux, too.
You’re a Maya prince, you’re a Yucatán princess – dress accordingly. We’re thinking crisp white linen; burnished jewellery (and lots of it); brown leather sandals; a dash of spicy cologne.
Meals are served in a simple room on the ground floor. The fusion food encompasses Mexican, Argentinean and Italian influences. Sample dishes include chicken with lemongrass and rosemary, and tilapia with marmalade. Light lunches such as ceviche and salad, with tortilla chips and home-made guacamole and pio de gallo, are offered; breakfasts are typically Meixcan, with eggs and beans, washed down with French-press organic coffee or freshly squeezed juices.
It’s the Piranha Bar’s business to keep guests refreshed. It does so with panache, serving cucumber martinis, gin and lime, and Salty Dogs (a tart marriage of grapefruit and vodka, presented in a salt-rimmed glass).
Sit down for breakfast at 8am, and stay where you are until 4pm for lunch. Dinner hits the plates between 6pm and 8pm; drinks are served in the bar from 8am until 8pm.
Order dishes from the main menu to your room (or preferred sunbathing spot) between 8am and 4pm, and from 6pm until 8pm.
Fly into Cancún International Airport (www.cancun-airport.com), which is just under a two-hour drive from the hotel. Take your pick of airlines that fly direct from the US, including JetBlue (www.jetblue.com), American (www.aa.com) and United (www.united.com). From London, British Airways (www.britishairways.com) and Virgin Atlantic (www.virgin-atlantic.com) have non-stop flights out of Gatwick (www.gatwickairport.com).
Valladolid and Tulum are about 40 minutes away by car. Hotel parking is free. Drop your luggage off upon arrival and make use of the valet service. (Be warned though, the last half-kilometre leading to the hotel is bumpy and unpaved.)
Worth getting out of bed for
The pre-Columbian Coba ruins are on your doorstep – so visit them. The ruined Maya city sprawls around two lagoons, with sacbe (elevated roads and pathways) branching off from the central site. Look out for the cluster of pyramids, some of which stand 42 metres high, and the two long courts, once used for ball games. Apart from the ruins, there’s not a massive amount to do in Coba itself – the small village houses the local guides and their families. However, you can follow the sacred sacbe trails that snake through the jungle. Pack towels and swimwear for a spot of cave-diving at the cenotes, 6km away. Beach bunnies should drive to Tulum’s sociable, seductive stretch of sand, 40 minutes away (but worth it). To glimpse authentic Mexicana, drive to Valladolid, the same distance away. This lively, colourful town has an art gallery worth popping into at Casa de los Venados, a restored hacienda on Calle 40. For mid-day dips, Cenote Zaci in the centre of town should be on your radar.
There’s not much in Coba itself, so make the 44km drive to Tulum for food and drink. Hartwood on the jungle side of Tulum's beach road is run by two New York natives, and delivers contemporary American cuisine featuring locally sourced ingredients. Seafood and steak is served on cast-iron dishes and chunky cutting boards. Located inside the eponymous hotel, Posada Margherita serves hearty home-made pasta and wine from Chile, Argentina and Italy. Casa Violeta serves wood-oven-baked pizzas and freshly caught fish. Try the seafood platter, and sit at a table with a view of the water. NÜ Tulum's mod-Mexican is served alfresco at wooden pavilions; the food (shrimp and passionfruit aguachile, green ceviche, wood-oven-baked socarrat) is as enchanting as the environment.
Café Gaudi, a cash-only java joint on Avenue Tulum between Calles Alfa and Jupiter, serves delicious breakfast dishes and good coffee. Searching for memorable meat-free options? Stop here for lunch.
Knock back a few mezcal shots at stylish, palm-shaded Gitano in Tulum, or take your tequila on a swing at Pasito Tun Tun.
Emerging from the comfort of our air-conditioned bus (the best way to travel overland in Mexico) we found ourselves on a remote dirt track beside a lagoon in the roaring haze of the mid-afternoon sun. This was Coba, and half the town was under water flooded by unseasonably heavy rain. The track connecting us to Coqui Coqui Coba Residence & Spa – a chic boutique hotel and spa in the depths of the Yucatan jungle – was submerged in what looked like two feet of murky floodwater.
My panicked visions of wading knee-deep in muck with bags held overhead were thankfully dispelled when a cab pulled up and expertly (if bumpily) carried us through the water. Lining the roadside, kids perched precariously in trees while fishing and women peddled pretty hand-embroidered dresses.
Much like the Mayan ruins it’s modelled on, Coqui Coqui Coba Residence & Spa loomed large with rugged elegance beside its tall palms and taller twin pyramids, which are connected (much to Mr Smith’s delight) by a rope suspension bridge. In front of the property the lagoon – a shining, mirrored expanse of still water – shimmered and at our feet we noticed an undulating carpet of tiny, minuscule frogs. If Lara Croft and Indiana Jones united to create the ultimate adventuring power couple, this is where they’d honeymoon.
Welcomed by the smiling Vilandy, the sweet young Mexican woman who runs the property along with her gorgeous husband Celso, she showed us the ponds where they raise fish for the restaurant, and the yard where chicken roamed and vegetables and plants grew for the kitchen. Yep, that’s about as organic as it gets.
Quickly checking us in, Vilandy walked us through the Coqui Coqui signature scents that come from the hotel’s sister perfumery in the city of Valladolid. The rich aromas of the Yucatan Peninsula inspire all the perfumes, which is where former model and Coqui Coqui founder, Nicolas Malleville, created his select scent portfolio.
Reaching our airy, loft-like lagoon-facing room dominated by a huge elevated bed, our nostrils were again flooded with the heady, evocative smell of orange blossom. On the bed clad in crisp cotton sheets, was a goodie bag from the perfumery, stuffed with tobacco and orange blossom cologne and shampoo, coconut sun lotion and all-important mosquito repellent. Spanning the entire upper level of one pyramid, our secluded digs were the definition of jungle chic and accented with stylish, atmospheric touches such as hand carved wooden furniture, rustic woven fabrics, panama hats, crocodile window handles. Even the air conditioning unit was carefully masked by attractive botanical paintings.
French doors led out onto the vast stone terrace and we drank rose and mint tea as we watched the sun go down, sending pearlescent pink streaks across the sky. After time just spent in the bustling colonial city of Merida, we relished the wilderness and its natural soundtrack with the singsong chirp of geckos, crickets and the hectic chorus of the jungle birds. And, we happily resigned ourselves to a couple of days of pure, isolated luxury – because that’s what you come here for – along with the chance to sleep on some of the most comfortable beds in Mexico and indulge in spa treatments with the sumptuous Coqui Coqui products.
Venturing downstairs for supper, we found a beautifully laid, candlelit table waiting for us under the stars. As well as rearing and growing many of the ingredients, Celso and Vilandy also cook the simple, regional and as fresh-as-you-could-hope-for food. This meant fragrant, restorative lime and chicken broth with crispy croutons of fried tortilla, followed by fish cooked in a deliciously sour pibil marinate – a Yucatan specialty. Returning to our room, we ended the evening on our terrace overlooking the lagoon where we witnessed no less than three shooting stars in a flare of glitter. It’s that kind of place.
The next day began with a hearty breakfast of huevos rancheros (eggs and tomato sauce on fried tortilla) and wonderful homemade bread with papaya jam and explosively aromatic honey that Cecil’s father makes in the depths of the jungle. It set us up for an expedition to the legendary Mayan ruins just down the road.
Shuttled across the floodwater courtesy of a hotel vehicle, we hired ramshackle bicycles to tackle the 6km ruin site. Mr Smith clambered up Nohoch Mul ‘The Big Mound‘, which offers incredible views across the forest canopy, and I stayed well grounded with a cold bottle of Mexican coke (sweetened with cane sugar rather than refined corn syrup).
In the spirit of adventure, we opted to find our own way back to the hotel, and as we passed by the lagoon, I saw a craggy rock poking out of the water about two feet away that looked uncannily like a crocodile’s head. ‘Look at this creepy crocodile rock!’ I squealed at Mr Smith. But it was gone. Thirty seconds later, what was clearly not a rock re-emerged with its black, lifeless eyes staring right at us.
Lingering slightly longer than I should, I captured my Instagram-gold shot of the trip. Suddenly the hotel’s prominent crocodile brass work took on a whole new meaning. Showing Vilandy the photos, she was open-mouthed with surprise, calling Celso to see. ‘That’s a very big crocodile,’ she smiled nervously, wide-eyed. Welcome to the jungle, indeed.
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