Mexican sunshine is transformed at every turn at laid-back leafy retreat Una Vida: you’ll find it streaming through rustic wood slats, tickled by palm-thatch roofs and mellowed by abundant tropical planting. Mid-pool is where you can really soak it up – and with R’n’R your only calendar commitment, you’ll have oodles of time to perfect your preferred lounging spot, disrupted only by the urge for refreshing Mexican plates from the hotel’s open-air kitchen or cooling cocktails from the palapa bar. Convivial evenings that end around the fire pit are a fittingly contemplative footnote to blissful poolside days.
11.30am; earliest check-in, 3pm. Earlier check-ins are free but subject to availability; there’s a 50 per cent room charge for late check-out, which must be agreed ahead.
Double rooms from £243.73 (MXN5,382), including tax at 16 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional room tax of 5% per booking on check-out and an additional government tax of MXN31.12 per person per night on check-out.
Rates are room only, but you can buy breakfast à la carte from $10.
Una Vida welcomes guests with disabilities: some ground-floor rooms and suites are wheelchair accessible, as are the restaurant and bar; you’ll just need wheels sturdy enough to handle the ‘breezeway’ paths around the grounds.
At the hotel
Yoga shala; temazcal (sweat lodge); bikes to borrow; laundry service; concierge; free WiFi in rooms and some communal areas (not property-wide). In rooms: air-conditioning and ceiling fan; coffee maker, and free bottled water.
Our favourite rooms
We love Jungle Studios, with their private courtyards and outdoor bath tubs. If you opt for a one-bedroom suite, request a ground-floor one, as these come with an outdoor tub and indoors, a double shower. Three-bedroom Villa Jacinta is Una Vida’s home-from-home option, sleeping up to seven, with a full kitchen, private garden and pool.
A heated, chlorinated pool is at the heart of the hotel: picturesque walled plant-beds jut into its oblong footprint, providing privacy between stretches of cushioned single- and double-day-beds at its perimeter; a family-friendly shallow area at one end is divided (underwater) from the main swimming space. The pool is beside a shaded outdoor living room and handy for the hotel’s palapa bar. Further dips are available in a private pool for Villa Jacinta guests, and in trough-like plunge pools with some of the Tropical King rooms.
There’s an unheated pool at Una Vida’s spa, plus therapy rooms for a choice of massages, including couple’s treatments.
Let the hotel’s look inspire you: textural pieces in neutral hues, made from natural fabrics (bamboo, linen, hemp), are complementary.
There are free-to-borrow bikes for cycles to town or the coast. And the hotel can arrange shuttles to the beach for a surcharge.
Welcome: one-bedroom suites each sleep two and a child, and three-bedroom Villa Jacinta is family-friendly. The hotel can arrange babysitting, too. Our view, however, is that there’s more of an adults-only ambience at this laid-back stay.
There are no let-downs at Ananda; Villa Jacinta stays come with a private dining palapa in the garden that’s sure to make every supper convivial.
Anything floaty or flowing suits the ambience of this laid-back stay; accessorise with sculptural jewellery, or throw in a vibrant-print sundress to shake things up.
There’s a healthy steer to plates at Ananda restaurant, where the cuisine is recognisably international and features Mexican favourites: start the day with baked-egg-topped chilaquiles; perfectly pink grilled tuna and salad for lunch, and poached chicken in a seafood broth for dinner. Even the lime-stuffed margaritas manage to look wholesome… Mirroring the indoor-outdoor design of the hotel’s rooms, the restaurant space is thatch-ceilinged and open to the grounds for lantern-lit dinners alfresco.
The thatched palapa bar at Una Vida faces the pool and has high stools beside its polished-wood counter, as well as lounge seating and takeaways to your poolside day-bed. As you’d expect of a Tulum stay, cachaça and tequila feature in its cocktail line-up, and by evening the scene is transformed with ornately paned pendant lights, counter-top candelabras and tea lights twinkling their welcome.
Breakfast is served from 8am until noon; other service times vary by season.
There’s no room service at Una Vida, but the kitchen kit in studios, suites and the villa give you the option to dine a casa – and Ananda’s all-day welcome is only a barefoot saunter away.
Una Vida is in a leafy compound just to the west of Tulum Pueblo (town) and a 15-minute drive from the coast
Cancun International is the closest airport, around a two-hour drive from the hotel; shuttle or private transfers can be arranged through Una Vida at extra cost.
There’s free parking on site at the hotel, including wheelchair-accessible spots.
Una Vida has bikes you can borrow – ideal for cycling into town or hitting the beach.
Worth getting out of bed for
You may find Una Vida’s relaxing superpowers detrimental when it comes to exploring beyond the tassel-count on your hammock… Yoga sessions, a temazcal sweat lodge and sound healing are all on offer a casa. For forays beyond the hotel, Una Vida’s concierge is happy to arrange customised tours of archeological sites such as the Tulum Ruins or the iconic Mayan pyramid at Coba, a 45-minute drive away. Accessible from Tulum Pueblo, sunbleached sands lapped by the aquamarine Caribbean Sea run south from Playa Ruinas to Playa Las Palmas. Inland, nearby snorkelling and scuba spots include a choice of cenotes: the turquoise pools and caverns of Gran Cenote; nearer Calavera (which has a rope swing), and L-shaped Cenote Azul, which has pools of different depths, and is 30 minutes north of Tulum Pueblo by road. Take a kayak tour through the teeming-with-life lagoons of Si’an Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Or experience Mexico’s natural wonders as immersive installations at Mystika, where Mexican heritage – Mayan culture, wildlife wonders and healing traditions – is celebrated through visual art.
In Tulum Pueblo, the seafood (and excellent ceviche) at marisqueríaLa Barracuda is best savoured on a terrace table shaded by a thatched parasol. Clever use of lighting and rustic details create a convivial welcome at El Asadero steakhouse, where a fusion of Argentinian and Mexican cuisines creates wonders such as steak tacos, as well as prime cuts cooked over fire. A more upscale option is downtown Tú, where work-of-art plates such as chilli-crusted tuna, grilled octopus and a choice of vegan options showcase seasonal Mexican fare.
Cloth-topped tables line up on a thatch-covered terrace at no-frills local brunch spot, Don Cafeto on Avenida Tulum. You’ll find clapboard-kiosk outposts of juice bar Matcha Mama down by the playa as well in town on Andromeda Ote.
A VW Beetle converted into a bar has brought notoriety to Batey Mojito and Guarapo Bar – a nightstop where there’s often live music and always mojitos muddled with fresh sugar cane and a lively atmosphere: it’s a decent espresso spot earlier in the day, too. Teleport to Marrakech at cinnamon-hued Saikuk, where a Moroccan-themed cocktail list includes a champagne-based Apasionado, black-beer-lime-and-coconut wonder Tepache, and Berber mojitos spiced with ‘Moroccan’ syrup (the restaurant’s rustic tagines are an antidote to the taco-weary, too).
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this jungle-shrouded bolthole in Mexico and unpacked their macramé plant-holders, wind chimes and singing bowls, a full account of their Yucatán break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Una Vida in Tulum…
Indoors becomes irrelevant at Una Vida in Tulum: rooms have jungle-framed terraces with swing seats or hammocks; studios and suites come with private gardens; the kitchen, restaurant, bar and lounge are all open-air; and its complex of thatch-roofed palapas and suites are linked by ‘breezeways’. So ubiquitous is the compound’s tropical planting that it feels more architectural than ornamental. Even when you’re starfished on your king-size bed, you’ll find that sun-dappled garden views tease for your attention. A yoga shala, temazcal sweat lodge, and an area dedicated to sound healing bolster this boutique retreat’s lo-fi appeal. Fare at all-day dining spot Ananda cherry-picks international and Mexican cuisines for wholesome, eat-the-rainbow plates – the freshness of their ingredients echoed in ambrosial cocktails at the lantern-lit bar. Town is only a cycle away (there are bikes to borrow); Tulum’s renowned beaches are within driving distance, and the hotel can arrange tailored tours to take in Yucatán’s bewitching cenotes or ancient Mayan ruins: there really is no need to stay indoors…