In a sea of Playa del Carmen hotels, Mahekal Beach Resort stands light-years above the rest. Guests will enjoy the rare combination of a luxury resort experience with authentic Mexican history. The resort’s palapa-style bungalows (some of which sit just feet from the ocean’s edge) were originally erected by a family looking to house passing backpackers who needed a place to stay—and each year they grew the property. Decades later, the totally reimagined suites have artisan-stenciled floors, rain showers, plush bedding and pristine décor. Outside of oceanfront bungalows, guests have their very own plunge pools. And a beach “butler” is on call to help with everything from lounge chair setup to mescal recommendations. Noticeably missing are TVs—there’s just no reason to spend a minute inside.
The resort, which sits between an immaculate stretch of beach and the Riviera Maya jungle, has four pools, including an infinity pool that looks straight into the ocean. In addition to beach and poolside lounging, guests can take snorkeling tours of the world’s second largest coral reef or indulge in a treatment at the resort’s brand new Mayan-inspired Revive Spa. For meals that range from light bites to elaborate dining, guests can choose between three on-site restaurants. The newest is Fuego, a Tulum-style bistro with a menu of offerings all cooked to perfection in a wood-burning oven.
If you’ve been to the resort in the past, there’s one big reason to visit again. In addition to creating Fuego and Revive Spa, a recently completed $16 million renovation touched nearly every element of the property, from room updates and additions to 4,500 square feet of events space to a deluxe fitness center.
For an insider’s perspective, Mahekal General Manager Julian Smaldoni gets candid.
The most requested room:
Our Ocean Front Palapa King (room #2).
What makes it so special:
This room sits directly on the ocean, mere steps from the sea. It has a beautiful palapa roof, very spacious with a King sized bed, private plunge pool, unobstructed views of the ocean and a terrace with hammocks. The bathroom features a large two-person rain shower, decorated with artisanal ceramic sinks that mirror the blue of the Caribbean Sea and river stones covering the rain shower floor. It is a very romantic and special room that our guests love.
The rate for the Ocean Front Palapa King with Plunge pool starts at $455 per night plus 19% tax.
Your personal favorite:
My personal favorite, which is a new room this year, is the Beach House Palapa.
I love that this room features unobstructed views of the Caribbean Sea, with Cozumel island in the distance and the sandy beach decorated with palapa umbrellas. Also, the Beach Houses have a roped off private beach area complete with a beach “butler” who stops by daily in the afternoon with two Coronitas, chips and house-made guacamole and salsa. It’s the perfect room for honeymooners and special occasions.
Music’s most famed bachelor, Jason Aldean, tied the knot at Mahekal in March 2015 to former American Idol contestant Brittany Kerr—numerous A-list wedding guests stayed on-property, including Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson (who officiated the wedding), as well as everyone from Heidi Klum to Adam Levine and VS Angel Behati Prinsloo.
Mahekal offers an Artisan Palapa where guests can paint pottery with Juliana, a local master of her craft. Her family’s pottery painting business started at Mahekal 23 years ago, when her father came to Playa del Carmen to sell his hand-crafts. Mahekal gave him permission to put his small Artisan Palapa on the beach, and later Juliana and her sister, Victoria, took over the growing painting business. The painting lessons at the Artisan Palapa allow Julianna and her sister to teach guests to paint the same way their parents taught them.