Hotel Tour: Papaya Playa Project in Tulum

Tulum is a magical place. But not all of its magic comes in the form of sunshine, white sandy beaches, ancient Mayan ruins, and cocktails made with fruits fresh from the jungle—although those are year-round perks.

It’s a different kind of magic when you land there during low season, aka hurricane season. And that’s exactly what four friends and I got into when we arrived for a girls’ trip this last June.

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It rained. And a lot. Luckily for us, we were holed up at Papaya Playa Project (PPP), a TK-acre resort right along the beach. It gave us time to appreciate the hotel in a way we probably would have missed out on if all our days were spent blasting Stevie Nicks-fueled playlists in the sand. Although there’s still plenty of time for that. It’s just up to Mama Nature when you get to enjoy those virtually crowd-free beaches.

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Instead, in a twist of meteorological fate, the weather helped us see what makes PPP such a special place to stay in Tulum, which was once a hippy dippy village that is now a hot spot for New Yorkers and LA tastemakers. PPP is a resort that is all about creating a sense of community for all kinds of travelers.

Since opening in 2011, the eco-chic property continues to expand its accommodations. Some TK spots dot the jungle-clad grounds, ranging in simple casitas with shared bathrooms to luxury stays in ocean-facing cabanas and private homes with pools. If you can, nab a casita with a rooftop pool for 360-degree views of the jungle and the ocean. It feels like you’re sitting atop a giant coconut in all the right ways.

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When you’re not lounging on your deck, there’s plenty of places to laze around PPP. The restaurant is the centerpiece of the resort. A double-decker bar is backed by bartenders whipping up drinks that you can take to a section of overstuffed pink chairs overlooking the water, or down to a day bed on the beach.

The rustic, treehouse feeling dining room is where to sit for a proper breakfast, lunch, or dinner. But most of the time, you will find a crowd drinking and eating at the Beach Club, an amphitheater with seating right outside the restaurant. It’s also where a monthly moon party featuring some internationally known DJs takes place.

The event draws upwards of a thousand people on any given month, ranging from locals to travelers coming from other hotels. Even on a rainy day, the show must go on. We watched the staff improvise, setting up the event in the restaurant hours before the party.

As for the menu, it’s fresh and always changing—think ceviche, soups, tacos, and other tapas-style bites all made with fresh ingredients from local markets and even some produce grown on site.

One of the many perks of the stay is a continental breakfast. The complimentary fresh fruit platter, bread, and agua fresca is enough to keep you going through lunch. For more, jumpstart your day with a smoothie (the green smoothie is next level) or splurge with a hearty plate of chilaquiles.

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You can reduce any guilt factor on overindulgence with a yoga morning session that is also included in your stay. It’s also a must if you ever wondered what it’s like to meditate on a rainbow.

The outdoor studio is painted in bright, warm colors that glow as the morning sun streams in. The 8:30am session is open to anyone, but the studio only accommodates about 10 people so get there on time, and the instructor usually feels out the crowd to see how nimble you really want to get. Afterward, head down the steps to lounge in a colorful hammock for that ahhh moment of getting up and starting your day right.

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You can also keep the positive vibes flowing with a full-body massage or do some soul cleansing with a Temazcal ceremony led by a shaman. The ancient Mayan ritual is held in what looks like a stucco igloo where you sweat out impurities and align the chakras. If you can take the heat, it’s an invigorating experience.

Whether or not you want to tap into your spiritual side, you should check out the ancient Tulum ruins, which are a taxi or bike ride away. For transportation like the latter, you can rent your two wheels right on the property. Just flash your ID, sign a waiver, and the bike is yours for 24 hours as part of the resort fee.

In the end, though, the best part of our 3-night stay was the people we met on staff. Everyone is friendly, and passionate about what PPP offers to Tulum as a place for people near and far to come and soak up all that magic, rain or shine.

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