Signature checks into… Chablé Resort & Spa
Traveller: Annie Biziou
Address: Tablaje 642, 97816 Chocholá, Yucatán, Mexico
Date: May 2017
Best for: Modern Mayan opulence at the heart of the Yucatán jungle.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a shaman who could dream up Chablé Resort & Spa; it took 12 years to transform this crumbling hacienda into an enchanting contemporary retreat. Hidden in a wild expanse of rainforest, Chablé is Mexico’s newest – and perhaps most indulgent – inland boutique hotel. Set within easy reach of Mérida, the Yucatán Peninsula’s colourful capital, Chablé is Virtuoso accredited and a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World.
The Signature factor
This serene tropical hideaway takes ‘over-the-top’ to new heights. If the only spa on earth fronting a sacred freshwater cenote sinkhole doesn’t entice you, perhaps the world’s most extensive private collection of tequila will.
Image credit: Karyn Millet Photography
A former 19th-century sisal estate stands transformed under the keen eyes of Mexican architect Jorge Borja and interior designer Paulina Moran, whose previous endeavours include Mexico’s stylish Hotel Esencia and Colombia’s colonial Casa San Agustín. The result is a seamless blend of old and new, where a meticulously restored rambling hacienda sits comfortably alongside swish minimalist architecture. Chablé is devoted to wellness in the broader sense of the word; you can start the day with morning meditation washed down with green juice, and sink into an evening of decadent tasting menus devised by acclaimed Mexican chef Jorge Vallejo, paired with a flight of tequila and a stint in the cigar room.
Image credit:Del Sol Photography
Arriving late in the steamy, frangipani-scented night proved a treat in itself, with the ramshackle pastel cottages of Chocholá village giving way to a winding jungle road. Chablé Resort’s tall gates reveal 300 hectares of landscaped grounds, where soft lighting illuminates flowering mimosa trees among crumbling archways and fireflies hover above the lawn. Reception is housed in the original hacienda, complete with imposing wooden doors and encaustic tile floors. Outside, horse troughs brimming with water lilies serve as reflecting ponds beneath a colonnaded verandah, which is furnished with live-edge tables crafted from wood harvested on the hotel’s grounds. A speedy check-in with the courteous staff, and one iced mango juice later, and I was in a golf buggy en route to my casita. It might be just a few months after opening, but the service is remarkably smooth.
Image credit: Oli Anderson
To call it a room would be an understatement. Chablé’s slick, futuristic casitas are a triumph of pale limestone, shrouded by vines and banana palms. Candlelit steps lead to a large terrace with a daybed and a dining table for two. The crowning jewel is an infinity plunge pool edged with glittering white quartz borders, set beneath a single hammock. Heavy teak doors slide away to reveal a cavernous bedroom, with a king-size bed draped in gauzy cottons, a cloud-like couch and a chunky writing desk. The use of natural materials is enhanced with floor-to-ceiling glass inviting dappled forest light inside. There’s an indoor-outdoor rainforest shower in the bathroom, laden with Chablé’s own amenities, and a spacious dressing room to hang clothes (make sure they’re light enough to combat the humidity – guests are offered two complimentary pressed items per day). Each morning, I awoke to a symphony of tropical birds calling from the canopy, a peach sunrise sky overhead and an ‘eye-opener’ of fresh coffee and pastries waiting on the terrace.
Image credit: Karyn Millet Photography
Aside from Chablé’s 38 casitas, there are two sprawling abodes – the Presidential Villa and the Royal Villa – each sleeping up to six guests. The Royal Villa is the larger of the two and spans 930 square metres of dazzling design complete with three bedrooms, a butler kitchen, private bar and dining room, a spa suite, a private gym and an outdoor pool with a Jacuzzi. The structure was built around old ruins, so the sharp lines of the swimming pool jar pleasingly with a dilapidated wall tangled with strangler fig roots.
Image credit: Del Sol Photography
On my plate
Food is a serious affair at Chablé; every menu was devised by young chef Jorge Vallejo, whose critically acclaimed Mexico City-based restaurant, Quintonil, was ranked 22nd in 2017 The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Local ingredients are key, with fruit, vegetables and herbs grown in Chablé’s own Maya gardens. The most formal option is Ixi’im, where you can graze on blue crayfish or deer tartare in a suave glass dining room carved off stone ruins, surrounded by the owner’s collection of 5000 vintage tequila bottles. Breakfast, lunch and a more casual dinner can be found at the poolside Ki’ol, where I devoured excessive amounts of citrusy guacamole under an enormous mimosa tree strung with bamboo lanterns. Those taking the wellness ethos very literally can dine in the Zen-like spa restaurant, where raw becomes more appealing than ever with elaborate plates such as squash blossoms served with ibes bean paste and macadamia nut cheese.
Highlights from the mini-bar
Cartons of coconut water jostle among glass bottles of still and sparkling water in the mini-bar and there’s a mason jar of strong cacao-coated nuts if you’re peckish, but housekeeping will happily cater for requests.
I wish I could take home…
A suitcase full of wild orange bougainvillea and the call of the jungle at dusk. I adored the spa therapists’ sassy blue linen jumpsuits, designed by Bianca Bejos, and temporarily believed I could take home the spa manager’s serene, light outlook on the world. As for tangible items, guests have been known to love Chablé’s style so much that they have ordered crates of locally made furniture and handthrown ceramics from the concierge.
Image credit: Alfredo Azar Photography
The spa is fundamental to Chablé’s experience, and no expense was spared here. Sweeping creamy stone paths are flanked with perfumed flowerbeds and Brazilian hardwood walkways lead between a minimalist restaurant, a series of glass jungle-view fitness rooms and a hydrotherapy circuit. There’s an awe-inspiring swimming pool lined entirely with petrified wood, while a crescent of low-slung contemporary treatment rooms staggers downhill to the spa’s core: the freshwater cenote. (A dip within is said to reverse the effects of ageing.) A wooden deck with yoga mats encourages stretching and meditation beneath the trees, which proves the ideal precursor to one of Chablé’s holistic treatments. The menu embraces ancient rituals and I couldn’t resist drifting off under a haze of aromatic herbs and organic oils during my Mayan Herbal Compress Massage. Chablé’s gorgeous spa manager has truly harnessed the spiritual, mystic philosophy of this location.
In the heat of the day, the best course of action is to haul yourself from your hammock and wander through the rusty wrought iron gates to Chablé’s sprawling pool, where curved edges mimic the organic shapes of the cenotes and handsome emerald-coated jaybirds watch on from the palms. A pretty line of shiny blue bikes awaits guests keen to explore the grounds alone, while a vast list of sporting activities is offered, including tennis, salsa and aqua fitness. For something a little more unusual, try your hand at cigar rolling, submit to an indulgent chocolate and tequila tasting, or embark on a temazcal ceremony, a curative experience combining chanting, fire and tea, led by a visiting shaman.
Chablé’s concierge arranges tailored excursions taking in the surrounding region. Hop into an air-conditioned van and make for local town Chocholá, where grandmother Doña Eneida reveals the secrets to her legendary authentic cooking with fresh corn tortillas, roast chillies and tangy salsa. Tarzan wouldn’t be out of place at one of the 300 hidden cenotes in the vicinity, where you can swim and snorkel among tree roots in the thick of the jungle, while the ancient Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá and Uxmal reveal a spiritual past within easy reach of the resort. For a taste of modern culture, the colonial city of Mérida has a burgeoning foodie scene and the fascinating mansion-turned-museum Casa Montejo.
Image credit: Kenny Viese Photography
Prix Versailles 2017 “Best Hotel in the World” for Architecture & Design
Ahead Americas Awards 2017 “Best Landscaping & Outdoors”
Travel + Leisure “The 68 Most Exciting Places to Stay this Year”
Conde Nast Traveller “Hot List 2017: The Best New Hotels in the World”
Virtuoso Best of the Best 2017: “Best Virtuoso Newcomer” nominee
None that the hotel is willing to disclose.
The service is so personalised that you’ll be exceptionally well looked after regardless of upgrades, though it’s a good idea to do some research before your stay on your preferred activities. The Chablé owners might be new to the game, but there are already whisperings of forthcoming openings elsewhere in Mexico.
During a sudden sideways storm, rainwater slipped under a gap beneath the heavy hardwood doors into my casita. But I was far too busy splashing around in the plunge pool to complain, particularly given that housekeeping appeared in seconds to mop up the flood.
I had stayed a little longer – you need three nights minimum to make the most of Chablé’s magnificence, and longer still if you’d like to soak up the surrounding area.
Where to find it
by Annie Biziou
Based in London, Annie Biziou is an experienced travel and lifestyle journalist in pursuit of sunnier climes. She has a penchant for far-flung destinations, intimate boutique hotels, unusual wilderness experiences, tip-top spas and the life aquatic. Annie can be found posting on Instagram at @anniebvp.