Papaya Playa pops up

Papaya Playa pops up

Luxury hotels are beginning to embrace the pop-up trend, and one of the first is Design Hotels’ Papaya Playa Project, on the Mayan Riviera.

Opening this week on a half-mile stretch of beach at Tulum, the camp is aimed at everyone from backpackers to free spirits with serious disposable incomes, attracted by one of the most beautiful, unspoilt places on the Caribbean coastline of the Yucatan Peninsula.

The 99 eco-cabanas range from spacious, sea-view casitas right down to basic ‘crash pads’, shared wooden bunkhouses with a communal bath-house from around ?15 a night. There’s also a five-bedroom house set in lush, tropical jungle, with an outdoor living room, which you can take in its entirety.

Temporary beach huts built for the holiday season are nothing new, but the stylishness of Design Hotels’ cabanas sets them apart. The structures are fairly simple, made from local materials such as wood and palm. Ethnic Mayan textiles – rugs, throws, cushions – bring flashes of bright colour to an otherwise simple, rustic interior. But the towels are fluffy and the sheets high-threadcount; billowing white mosquito nets create a canopy-bed effect, and floors of sea-green poured concrete add a sleek finish. Outside, hammocks are strung across the ocean-facing balconies.

The vibe is definitely backpacker, albeit a slightly more grown-up one, with lots of communal spaces for socialising. Restaurant Kater Holzig – the beach-bum cousin of Berlin’s Bar 25, an open-air, sea-view affair beneath a bamboo canopy – serves local, seasonal food and just-caught fish cooked on the grill and bread freshly baked in the clay oven, while organic snacks are created by 42?Raw. A fair-trade boutique sells beachwear, jewellery, gadgets and handicrafts; a spa provides treatments inspired by Mayan rituals.

There are cocktails and live music in the Beach Shack bar and lounge (impromptu jamming is encouraged, so bring your own bongos), plus a recording studio to encourage international DJs to swing by on world tours, in time for the full-moon parties being planned.

The resort is the personal project of Claus Sendlinger, the German founder of Design Hotels, who moved here with his family and decided to create a rough-luxe resort for the design-conscious traveller – one that would not ruin the beauty of the area with permanent, multistorey development. The camp is open until May 2012.

From US$25 to US$675.

Papaya Playa Project, Km4 Point 5 Carretera, Tulum – Boca-Paila, Quintana Roo, Mexico (

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