Papaya Playa Project, in keeping with its natural surroundings, is low-key and laid-back. Opened in 2011, the hotel's founders conceived of the property as a place where “like-minded creatives” could slow down and connect with one another. To foster such connection, staff encourages visitors to unplug—literally. Only a few rooms have power outlets, and while both charging stations and Wi-Fi are available in the lobby, the temptation to go device-free is strong. Papaya Playa Project's founders are also committed to the larger community; to this end, they created an initiative known as “United for Tulum” to encourage slow and thoughtful development in the area. Guests’ basic needs are met, without extra frills. Rooms are simple in design and decoration, featuring high, thatched-roof ceilings, mosquito-netted beds, and colorful Mexican blankets.
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The Tulum section of Riviera Maya is a laid-back area that stands in direct contrast to hyper-developed Cancún. Here, locals and expats head up independent businesses, including boutiques that sell handmade clothes, crafts, and household goods. The beach and jungle meet each other, providing a sense of space just waiting to be explored. Visitors enjoy making a pilgrimage of sorts to the Maya site here, also named Tulum. While not as grand in scale as Chichen Itza, Tulum's oceanfront view is incredibly photogenic and unforgettable.
Need to Know
Rooms: 66 rooms, 3 beach houses (beachfront), 11 new casitas (like small suites), 5 “rustic” casitas; from $292. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: Restaurante Papaya Playa is the hotel's large restaurant; its menu is inspired by Maya traditions and other Mexican regional cuisines. Ingredients are organic and sourced from a local market. Spa and gym details: Offerings at the Chak Ek spa include a traditional-style temazcal steam treatment and shamanic ceremonies that are inspired by Maya culture and traditions. There is no gym on-site—staff encourages active visitors to use the beach as their fitness center—but yoga instruction is offered daily.
Who it's for: Yogis and minimalists who still want upscale services and treatment. Our favorite rooms: Casa Madera, ideal for groups or families, is a private villa with an ocean view. Freebies: Plenty of amenities and services are included in the room rate, among them coffee and tea service offered each morning in the library, a juice and fruit station in the lobby, and complimentary minibar items (alcohol not included).