Tablaje #642, Chocholá, Yucatán, México, C.P. 97816
Nestled in the Mayan jungle, 25 minutes from the Yucatan capital of Merida, Chablé Resort and Spa preserves the soul of an 18th century hacienda, bringing modern luxury and comfort to its crumbly, colorful walls and a fine spa that's built around the property's own private cenote.
There are plenty of old haciendas across the Yucatan region, built during the "green gold" era, when wealthy industrialists turned native henequen plants into valuable rope and twine. Some have been abandoned and fallen into disrepair. Others have been turned into upmarket hotels and restaurants. Chablé, though, takes that idea to a whole new level.
In a region around Merida filled with hacienda hotels, Chablé still manages to stand out with the level of luxury, the quality of service, and the respect for nature in the design. Architect Jorge Borja and designer Paulina Morán clearly put great effort into finding a way for the 38 ultra-modern casitas to coexist with the pristine jungle and the remains of the hacienda, as well as developing a spa around the property's own private cenote (natural pool). The harmonious way it all works justifies Chablé's win for the Prix Versailles 2017 at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris for "Best Hotel in the World for Architecture and Design."
Chablé's located outside the sleepy Mayan town of Chocholá. After crossing forgotten railway tracks, you'll drive down a dusty track, through an immense wooden security gate and into the walled grounds of the hacienda where staff greet you by name and take your bags.
The hacienda's Casa Principal, or Main House, remains the heart of the property, containing a check-in/concierge area, a bar, library, living room, business center and boutique. The restored building keeps the same structure and façade of the old days, but the interiors are stylish, plush, and modern. A peaceful library has shelves filled with books on art, travel, and architecture, including big National Geographic coffee table books. The inviting bar and lounge area has floor tiles with traditional local patterns in bright and happy yellow, plus wall-filling modern paintings, shiny metal lamps, and chunky yellow armchairs. At one end, there’s a gleaming bar area, shelves well stocked with colorful bottles.
A small walk across the lawns takes you to a yellow cigar house, where welcoming "nests" hang from a few of the trees, containing turquoise pillows for lazy afternoons. There are fountains just outside the main house, too, with lilies on the ponds, and a terrace with chairs and sofas to read a good book or admire the appearance of Timo, a bronze sculpture by Mexican artist Rodrigo de la Sierra.
The resort has two restaurants, the signature Ix'im, housed in the hacienda's old machines room, and Ki'ol, the more casual poolside restaurant. Menus were designed by chef Jorge Vallejo, whose Mexico City restaurant, Quintonil, is ranked in the World's 50 Best Restaurants list. The food uses plenty of seasonal and organic ingredients, much of it grown in Chablé's own gardens or kaanchés (raised platforms), an ancient Mayan technique.
Ix'im's walls and corridors are lined with tall glass cabinets proudly displaying hundreds of bottles of tequila, part of one of the largest and most varied private collections in the world (more than 3000), which includes hand-painted bottles of Los Catrin. There's also a chance to sample their own smooth Chablé Reposado at the brightly lit bar. Through the evening, waiters were helpful, explaining the details of the menu, but not intrusive, allowing us to enjoy the experience at our own pace. Executive Chef Luis Ronzon, a protégée of Vallejo, serves up Mexican cuisine that uses traditional ingredients and dishes but always with an inventive modern touch. Early courses included an appetizer of shrimp with an avocado and lime foam, then a refreshing quelite salad with quintonil (both local herbs), with roasted tomatoes and cheese from Tabasco. Among the mains, I chose beef shank with local squash and cegueza, a thick maize-based soup that's rich in flavor.
Wellness and health are key at Chablé, with yoga and meditation on the activities menu, and that's certainly reflected in the food, though a few too many dishes are served with foam, tiny jellies or other modern techniques that sometimes-put creativity ahead of taste. An appealing-sounding chocolate cake with guava and avocado, for example, was served looking like biscuit crumb, the cake prepared, frozen, and then "deconstructed."
Lawns on the walk back to the casitas are filled with fireflies. Each casita is set in its own piece of jungle, and they’re incredibly quiet, with privacy ensured by a thick surrounding of greenery. A personal swimming pool has a white hammock hanging over it, and there’s a veranda with a modern patio set, a white outdoor bed, and a breakfast table. It’s difficult to decide what does it more justice, night or day. By night, amber LED lights surround the pool and candles illuminate the banana trees, while in the daytime, you can spot Yucatan jays, hummingbirds, and parakeets while enjoying your morning Eye Opener :coffee, tea and pastries delivered to our door).
Inside the casita, the feeling of openness continues, though there's the comfort of a central AC system. The living area is large, full of light and surrounded by lush green, easy to admire through the tempered glass while sitting on a big white sofa. It's like being inside a bubble of comfort, immersed in nature. The interior is a mix of pristine whites in different textures, from the walls and curtains to the flooring. There's a big comfy bed at the center, framed with white curtains. There are local touches everywhere, including handmade Yucatan textiles on the throw pillows, as well as a range of art, from framed pottery to contemporary collages, plus soft colored paintings displayed in the bathroom.
Everything you could need is here, from Havaianas flip-flops to an amount of towels that not even an entire family could use. On the technology side, there's a large smart TV, a surround Bluetooth system, and an iPad linked to Spotify. There's also a well-stocked fridge with local beer and soft drinks, all complimentary, and a jar of sugar-coated cacao just waiting to be picked at.
The bathroom area's is about as big as the living room, continuing the tempered glass walls. It's a special feeling to wake up, go into the bathroom and see rays of light touching the green leaves and bouncing against the glass. As well as green Yucatan-style ceramic sinks, there are spacious indoor and outdoor rain showers. Showers with an open sky aren't uncommon in the Mayan Peninsula´s luxury hotels but Chablé again goes the extra mile, with its bright turquoise seat standing out from the leaf-colored walls, like a work of art.
Your breakfast awaits at open air Kiól, next to the swimming pool, which is surrounded by palm trees. There's tasteful design even in the smallest details, like ceiling fans that resemble folded dry leaves. Bread and varieties of butter and jam are all homemade. The menu features healthy smoothies and a juice of the day, along with creative options, such as Hibiscus flower enchiladas with green salsa and macadamia cheese.
Lunch is in the same area, with filling main courses, such as the delicious catch of the day with bean salad, Chaya leaf and fennel.
It's easy to spend mornings and afternoons swimming, reading in one of the big beds next to the pool, or taking a stroll or bike ride around the grounds, visiting baby deer in their enclosure on the way.
Chablé's spa has shallow channels of water flowing around the building and eye-catching details, like a hammock braided with henequen fiber. The focal point of the spa is the cenote, with emerald waters surrounded by trees and roots. There's a wooden deck for yoga and meditation, with one double room and 12 single treatment rooms in the main spa, overlooking the cenote, all built from local wood and with touches of colorful local textiles. The choice of treatments, or journeys as they’re called here, is vast. I chose a Mayan herbal compress massage, using herbs grown in the ka’anches, mixed with organic oils, then applied as a deep tissue massage, which raises the bar for spas very high.
Chable's definitely a place for health and wellness lovers looking for a hidden getaway without sacrificing comfort, luxury, or glamour. Geographically and philosophically, it's far, far away from the all-inclusive, 'fiesta style; resorts of Cancun and Playa del Carmen. So far away, in fact, it's out of sight of most other hotels.
Web Address: chableresort.com/
Total Number of Rooms: 38 Casitas and 2 Villas
Published rates: $795 to $1,210 double (plus 19% VAT and mandatory 10% additional service charge)
Review and photos by Andrea Moreno.