A full moon cast a metallic sheen over the steel-colored Caribbean Sea. I sat on the sand, wrapped in a towel to keep warm from the breeze, a glass of white wine in hand and sides aching from laughter. Tears were still running down my face.
You could blame it on the wine, but I blame it on being blissfully happy, sitting with two unexpected friends and a happenstance journey we set off on together down the coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.
There aren't too many places along the Yucatan Peninsula coast where you can feel truly alone. But if you've got the time and the sense of adventure, it's worth the trip south. Way south. Like touching the border of Belize south. Here, hours past Tulum, is a stretch of beach called Mahahual, where you'll find the Almaplena Eco Resort & Beach Club.
The small resort is shrouded in the jungle and is the only hotel for miles. Sitting on its white, sandy shores I felt completely secluded. I was off on a road trip from Playa del Carmen with two friends on vacation from London whom I had met the week before. The three of us hit it off instantly, and we decided to continue the journey together. We arrived at the eight-room hotel unaware of what to expect, but once we were there we had no intention of leaving.
The eight rooms sit directly on the beach. The hotel truly embodies the indoor/outdoor concept, with terraces, balconies and patios. Hammocks are a given at this resort fringed in palm trees and powdery sand. It's barefoot and understatedly elegant.
The rooms are light and airy, with canopy beds, large windows and tasteful details like driftwood accents. The dining room/lounge area opens up onto an expansive patio, which is perfect for sipping one of their freshly made cocktails like a margarita or caipirinha. Breakfasts are included, which involves fresh fruit, eggs any style, granola and coffee. Lunch and dinner is a mixed menu of fresh ceviches, grilled meats and pasta (made in-house).
The lounge and dining area opens up onto the beach and doubles as a beach club, which is open for hotel guests but can also be accessed by the public. Visitors not staying at the hotel are limited to 20 per day to keep it intimate and ecofriendly.
The hotel does adhere to ecofriendly guidelines, meaning that rainwater is collected for daily use, cooking and drinking. A wind turbine produces the energy for the hotel. There are no air conditioners, and certain items like blow-dryers are prohibited. But none of this detracts from the charm, cleanliness and comfort of this true beach-meets-jungle find.
Almaplena translates literally to "full soul," and while the name might be corny, it fits the bohemian beach resort buried in the jungle of southern Mexico. But it's hard to deny the message when you've got your feet buried in the sand, doubled over in laughter, watching the moon shine down onto the Caribbean Sea somewhere along the Belize border.
Rates begin at $169; visit www.almaplenabeachresort.com