By Cindy Loose
Luckily, the hordes are heading to the high-rise hotels crammed along the beaches of Cancun. I am heading south. Less than 40 minutes after putting my rental car in gear, I'm at a small resort of palm-thatched structures on a white beach that stretches between the ocean and the jungle on the Yucatan Peninsula.
I travel down the lightly traveled highway, just past the Mayan ruins of Tulum, and turn left off the highway to the "hotel zone" in the town of Tulum. The two-lane paved street dead-ends after 1-1/2 miles, and a road of packed dirt and macadam stretches to the right and left. Along this country road, about 20 small hotels are nestled between the jungle and the beach.
I come away with several favorites, each distinctive, ranging from funky-cool to simply luxurious... Hotel Zamas falls into the former category: funky in a good way, not in the moldy sense of the word.
Owner Dan Vallejo McGettigan saw this property, then an abandoned coconut plantation, when he came to Tulum for his honeymoon in 1993. He went home to San Francisco and returned a few days later to buy it... He first built the restaurant, living above it for a time, and since then has added eight wood and painted-concrete buildings with palapa-style, palm-leaf roofs. Most are two stories, with 15 rooms in all. "I built from inspiration," says McGettigan. He drew outlines of what he wanted in the sand, and Mayan builders followed his plans.
I need a flashlight to get from the restaurant to my room, which is dimly lit since the hotel uses solar power. But I don't want any lights this night in the hotel about a mile from the Mayan ruins of Tulum. I lie in the darkness in a hammock on the porch, watching the stars and listening to the ocean's roar, thinking that Mayan royalty had it so much better than the kings and queens of Europe in their drafty old castles.
- Washington Post