From Mayan rituals to the world’s largest tequila collection, design-led hotel brand Chablé has it all
Words by Jonathan Whiley
Chablé Maroma, Riviera Maya
So here I am in a screaming hot, pitch black sweat lodge, shaking a maraca as a woman blesses my placenta.
This is my first taste of a Temazcal ceremony – an ancient Mayan ritual used to heal body and soul – and, although I’m warned, I’m not prepared for the sensory overload.
Searing hot rocks are placed in a pit in the middle of a stone igloo as a local shaman chants offerings to the gods. The air is thick as a winter blanket and heady with mint and rosemary.
Two hours later, I emerge into the sunlight. My eyes struggle to adjust, but every other sense is heightened.
Weeks on and I can still recall the tiny daggers of the cold shower, the whoosh of early evening waves and the sugar hit of freshly prepared fruit.
For an ardent sceptic, it proves a powerful eye-opener. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised; Chablé doesn’t do anything by halves.
Its second opening in Maroma, unveiled last year, isn’t just another luxury beach resort among a slew that pepper Mexico’s Caribbean coast.
This is the Paul Newman of beach resorts; super-sleek and effortlessly cool. It might be a 30-minute drive from Cancún but it feels like an entirely different world.
In keeping with road signs for jaguar and deer, this 70-villa hotel blends seamlessly into its jungle environment.
Each thatched roof villa has its own plunge pool, sprawling bathrooms have indoor and outdoor showers, and the tiles of the beachside pool deserve their own Instagram account.
While it’s all about the fabulous beachside location and activities – a snorkelling and reef tour is a must – the small touches do not go unnoticed.
Staff go out of their way to assist; from suggesting made-to-order off-menu desserts to after-hours meals in the bar. The food is out-of-this-world.
A basket of potent coffee and pastries is delivered to your villa each morning and, as I write, I’m salivating at the memory of suckling pig tacos devoured poolside.
Every now and then you encounter a place you don’t want the world to know about.
Chablé Yucatán had me open mouthed from the moment I arrived; our golf buggy chugging its way through the lush grounds of the former sisal factory.
The first Chablé hotel in the Hamak Hotels portfolio, it took 12 years to develop this breath-taking Pablo Escobar-style hideout.
A 25 minute drive from the Yucatán’s cosmopolitan capital Mérida, the hotel opened in 2016 and earned the “gamechanging” label almost immediately.
Within months it was christened the “world’s best designed hotel”, picking up the prestigious Prix Versailles award, and countless other awards can be found in the library of the main house, a majestic 18th-century hacienda.
The duality of old world and new has been harnessed with exceptional love and care. Many of the original features remain; the former prison has been converted into a wine cellar for private dinners and a spa has been built around a cenote, a freshwater sinkhole.
Wellness is a central part of the offering and facilities include sauna, steam, hydrotherapy and a glorious infinity pool made from petrified wood from the Amazon.
There is even a bottle of Chablé’s own tequila to sip from shells in the spa – my kind of wellness. For a bigger hit, head to Ixi’im, which houses the largest tequila collection in the world (a cool 3,175 bottles).
The fine dining restaurant – named best designed in the world last year – is overseen by Luis Ronzón, righthand man of Jorge Vallejo whose restaurant in Mexico City is among the 50 best.
Luis manages all three on-site restaurants with ingredients picked from an organic Mayan garden, creating dishes such as hibiscus flower enchiladas.
There are 36 private casitas with hammocks strung above limestone plunge pools and glass-walled showers exposed to the Mayan jungle.
Mind blowing Royal and Presidential Villas cater for the A-list with cinema rooms and huge pools that wrap themselves around the ruins of the hacienda.
I’ve never been anywhere quite so cinematic or sexy; where fireflies sparkle like diamonds under the moonlight and colours pop like a Frida Kahlo painting.
Truly, this is a very special place. But let’s keep it our little secret, shall we?