A Serene Escape from Cancun's Crowds
By Ellen Umansky
Cancun conjures up many images, but seclusion isn't one of them. If you're looking for equally beautiful but less touristy spot on Mexico's Caribbean Coast drive an hour and a half south of the popular resort town, past the riot of high-rises and beaches so crowded they often resemble a tropical Port Authority, and you'll come upon Tulum on the Yucatan Peninsula.
There on a narrow strip of land, with stretches of white sand on one side of the road and a nature preserve on the other, you'll find a series of small, individually owned hotels built to blend into the stunning surroundings. The area possesses a serenity and charm that Cancun probably had decades earlier before the developer got to it.
Our particular destination was Zamas, a 15-room resort owned by a couple from San Francisco and one of the first hotels to open in Tulum, in 1993.
Although we had friends who highly recommended Zamas, we were a bit apprehensive before we arrived. Its website warned guests to bring a flashlight to navigate the grounds at night; it also described the hotel's bungalows as "comfortably furnished", and "architecturally designed to reflect traditional Maya style," which seemed like potential code worlds for "rustic and run-down."
But Zamas's literature wasn't white-washing the truth, and in fact, it downplayed the hotel's many charms. Located on a crescent-shaped beach, Zamas boasts nicely appointed cabanas painted in bright colors, a lovely open-air restaurant, and dozens of hammocks and palapas, or thatched-roof huts.
The hotel runs mostly on solar power and does not have air-conditioning (nor TVs or phones in the rooms), but during our stay, when daytime temperatures climbed to the high 80s, the nights were comfortable, cooled by the ocean breeze.
Zama's restaurant, ¡Que Fresco!, is justifiably well known on the Yucatan Peninsula, with people coming from miles down the dusty road just to eat there. With an inventive take on traditional Mexican fare, it features dishes like roasted fresh fish with olive salsa, lobster quesadillas, and terrific wood-fired gourmet pizzas. One night, as we sipped margaritas at the open-air restaurant, we noticed some familiar faces sitting nearby: Sam Shepard and Jessica Lange. Apparently, we weren't the only ones aware of Zamasís easy charms.
- The New York Sun