A minimal colonial retreat set atop a perfumery, Coqui Coqui Valladolid Residence & Spa stands out in this sleepy Yucatán town thanks to its frangipani-scented courtyard, thatched-roof spa and elegant solo suite. Kitted out with chandeliers, colourful tiled floors and thoughtful furnishings, a stay here is a study in sexy simplicity.
Get this when you book through us:
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 £345.98 ($450), including tax at 19 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.
Sniff and spritz your way around the on-site perfumery and lab, recreating fragrances made from locally sourced essential oils (the Franciscan monks were big fans). Pick up handcrafted accessories by Hacienda Montecristo, also sold in the perfumery. Surrounded by manicured vegetation, the thatched-roof spa has two treatment tables for massages à deux and two outdoor roll-top tubs for side-by-side unwinding. Try the skin-softening two-hour coconut and papaya body scrub, followed by a 90-minute stress-melting holistic massage.
At the hotel
Perfumery, gardens, library, stash of CDs and free WiFi throughout. In rooms: CD player, iPod dock and Coqui Coqui Perfumes bath products.
Our favourite rooms
This is an easy decision, since there’s only one to choose from. The Perfumery Suite’s drama begins at its entrance: an open-air staircase leading to a courtyard with a private plunge pool. This is not a stay for the unfamiliar/shy, as the freestanding roll-top tub sits boldly exposed to the rest of the room. A simple bed and the gilded chandelier suspended above it are the room’s focal points, and exposed beams break up the monochrome colour scheme. Doors lead to a private terrace with an oversized sun lounger and umbrella.
Flanked by trees and fragrant flowers, the rustic outside plunge pool has a weathered stone exterior and buckets of wild charm.
Set in the luscious green and tranquil garden, the spa is filled with the sweet-smell of roses. For full body relaxation, treat yourself to one of their rituals. Their two-hour Aloe Vera healing ritual is specially designed to replenish skin; starting with a cucumber and aromatic mint body massage, the treatments includes an aloe vera wrap and head massage.
Leave your cologne at home and pick up a bottle or two of the jasmine- or coconut-scented fragrances from the perfumery. Pack swimwear for a trip to the nearby cenotes, limestone pools linked by a system of underground caverns and rivers.
Smoking is allowed in the outside areas. Pets are welcome in the garden and on the terrace of the suite. Be mindful that the hotel isn't easily navigable for those with mobility issues.
Have a long lunch at one of the wrought-iron tables at the café in the leafy courtyard before wandering upstairs for a mid-afternoon siesta.
Leather sandals, khaki shorts and open linen shirts for Señor Smith, floor-skimming floral-print frock and a gardenia behind the ear for Señora Smith.
Soundtracked by French tunes, Café de Los Frailes is rustic and sweet with a thatched roof and seating inside and out. An antique glass cabinet serves as a countertop, holding a selection of pastries, cakes, coffees and teas for tasting. Two oversized vintage mirrors and an old oil painting of a voluptuous vixen grace the walls. More substantial meals are made by the Coqui Coqui’s chef and served in the courtyard or café – try traditional Mexican favourites such as cochinita pibil (spicy marinated meat) or ceviche.
Buy a bottle of wine at nearby dining den Taberna de los Frailes – located above the city's oldest cenote – to sip on the private terrace under a starlit sky, in lieu of the bar.
Breakfast is served from 8am to 11am; lunch is from noon to 3pm; dinner is 7pm until 10pm. The café is open from 8am to 8pm.
No room service but visit Café de Los Frailes for coffee, pastries and snacks between meals.
The hotel is located in the centre of Valladolid at the end of Calzada de los Frailes, the oldest street in the town.
Catch direct flights to the US and some charter services from the UK at Cancún International Airport. Manuel Crescencio Rejón in Mérida operates limited flights to the US with United Airlines (www.united.com), as well as domestic flights with Aeromexico (www.aeromexico.com) or Mexicana (www.mexicana.com) to Mexico City, where onward connections are available to cities throughout the US and Europe. Both airports are 90 miles away.
You’ll want a car to drive to nearby Mérida and the surrounding towns and cenotes – there are car hire desks at Mérida and Cancun airports. Parking is free at the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
A 45-minute drive to Chichén Itzá, one of Mexico’s most popular archeological sites, is a must if you’re a history buff. Tour the massive complex, and marvel at the impressive Kukulcán Pyramid (www.chichenitza.com); if visiting during the summer equinox, a nifty trick of the light makes it look like a serpent is slithering down one side. For less crowded ruins-trawling, head to the pyramids of Ek Balam, about 19 miles north of Valladolid, and pause at the on-site cenote for a post-history-lesson swim. Stop at the 16th-century Monastery of San Bernardino de Siena in the central town gathering spot, Sisal Square. Come back in the evening for live music at sundown in the square. Tour the Convent of San Bernadino to study religious artefacts. Tiled murals, pottery and paintings from local artists are on display 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.
Head to Taberna de los Frailes for traditional Yucatecan cuisine and views of the landmark convent of San Bernadino. The shrimp tacos al pastor are a standout dish (+52 985 856 0689; www.tabernadelosfrailes.com). The chequerboard-floored Casa Italia, five blocks from the main plaza on Calle 35, offers pizzas baked in a wood-burning oven and some tempting meat-free options. Try one of the daily specials and be sure to bring pesos as it’s cash only (+52 985 856 5539). For refined dining, try Hosteria del Marques, inside the Hotel Meson del Marques on Calle 39. Simply decorated with terracotta-toned floors and white-and-green linen-clad tables, this cavernous dining den is a go-to for regional dishes. If possible, grab a table near the fountain on the atmospheric patio (+52 985 856 2073; www.mesondelmarques.com). The in-the-know owners of Coqui Coqui Valladolid Residence & Spa also recommend a meal at La Casona, just three blocks from the hotel on Calle 39.
Run by the same owners as Taberna de los Frailes, Maruja Café y Galeria is great for breakfast, lunch or a glass of wine in the evening. Stock up on local jams and clothing made by resident artisans in the café’s shop (+52 985 856 0999).
At school, when the careers officer went around the class asking what we all wanted to be when we grew up, I now wish I’d stood up, flicked my hair back and declared, ‘I want to live above, and run, a quite exclusive perfumery in an average-sized Mexican town.’ That’s exactly what Coqui Coqui is, and although Mrs Smith and I had read all about our Yucatán getaway, it was all entirely unexpected.
Tulum, home to the Coqui Coqui beach resort, sits an hour-and-a-half from Cancun’s airport. But when we arrive at Coqui Coqui Tulum Residence and Spa, we learn that there are three domains in the Coqui Coqui empire: beach bungalow, jungle retreat, and colonial house. We are booked into the colonial residence, Coqui Coqui Valladolid Residence & Spa in a sleepy Yucatán town, another two-hour ride away.
Off we speed by taxi, through the dark jungle, only mildly reassured by the lucky goat’s foot hanging from the rear-view mirror and the Papal decals on the doors. This guy doesn’t take chances. By luck or skill, we coast into the town of Valladolid before it gets too late. It has the vibe of a Mexican movie set: a main square bright with fluttering piñatas, surrounded by a swarm of VW Beetles and populated by a cast of tanned and toned after-work locals, promenading old folk and margarita-laden servers. I like it here already.
We arrive at the appropriate Coqui Coqui, and are welcomed by its manager, Mario, into our home for the next few days. Its entry is not a lobby, but a shop. Or, rather, a high-ceilinged working perfumery with glass cases of bottles and candles, jars and bars of soap, instantly making me feel like a child who’s been told to keep his hands in his pockets. It’s like a Roald Dahl tale of toiletries.
Coqui Coqui Valladolid Residence & Spa – or Casa de los Frailes Residence as it once was called – is a hotel of one room. Mario shows us the way and hands us a small bag that Mrs Smith instantly clutches to her chest like a monkey with a coconut. She’s obviously seen what’s in it: a treasure trove of bath products made by Coqui Coqui using its pristine perfumes.
We take the keys and Mario leaves. We have been left in charge...
It takes a certain kind of confidence to be the only guests in a hotel of one room, and I wasn’t sure we had it. But less than 24 hours later, Mrs Smith and I are fragrant, relaxed and utterly convinced that we live above – and run – a quite exclusive perfumery in an average-size Mexican town. We spend the day on our balcony, slowly drinking Sol, and reading books that will make it to the big screen. Even the chiffon curtains do that billowy thing they do in the movies.
I meander downstairs to retrieve more Sol from the café’s kitchen. When I return back into the sympathetic coolness of the room, it suddenly hits me how breathtaking it all is. It’s something out of one of Mrs Smith’s extra-thick glossy magazines; a place I thought only existed in photo adverts for cosmetics, capturing Scarlett Johansson in a bath.
The star quality is contagious: I’ve already had two baths. I can never resist a roll-top, and this one gives the perfect panorama of our room. The furniture here all extends upward. Everything appears to be on stilts. Even the luggage rack is chest height. The bed looks like one of Dali’s elephants, with a little wooden stepladder to ascend onto it, which I have abandoned in favour of the oh-so-romantic and patented run-and-jump method. Two chandeliers hang low like glass-and-gold piñatas to heighten the effect. I’m fixed, standing under one, holding two bottles of the sunshine beer, and cursing the day I unknowingly took the wrong path and not decided to run a quite exclusive perfumery in an average-size Mexican town.
Breakfast is served in dreamy secret gardens that feel like they really shouldn’t be there. You can order pretty much anything. We have avocado on toast – who knew? Oh, you did? – coffee and loads of fruit. Sarah, the woman who serves it, tells us about the collapsed caves in town called cenotes where we can go swimming, and that tonight is Sunday night, when the town square really comes alive.
In preparation for the festivities, Mrs Smith and I indulge in some on-site spa treatments. Facials and mud baths are ordered and carried out by our old pal Mario. He’s good with his hands. The last man who touched me this much for that long took my appendix out.
Refreshed and radiant, Mrs Smith and I sit in a small bar called Maruja Cafe, Bar y Galeria, on the edge of the town square drinking margaritas and watching the after-workers and the old folk, now in their freshly pressed Sunday best, dancing together to a live band on the town hall’s steps, playing old Mexican favourites. This doesn’t feel like a film set any more. No movie plot has never made anyone this content. I’m even starting to recognise the locals. One battered green Beetle drives slowly past and I inexplicably wave at it. Hey guys! Remember me?
On our last morning, Sarah is followed into the garden by a two-month-old puppy. Could there be a better-scripted ending? And so we leave, comforted by the knowledge that, for at least couple of days each year, Mrs Smith and I can pretend to run – and live above – a quite exclusive perfumery in an average-size Mexican town with a puppy.
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