Spread across 750 acres, it’s located on the outskirts of the sleepy Mayan town of Chocholá. That doesn’t seem like an obvious choice for a top-class resort and spa, but it all makes absolute sense once you walk through the grounds and see the faded colors of the walls of the former hacienda and relax in the spa that’s been constructed around their own tranquil ‘cenote’ (natural pool).
Health and wellness is central at Chablé, from the spa through to the on-site activities, which range from meditation, yoga and morning ‘gratitude ceremonies’ to energizing salsa lessons. Good health is also at the heart of the food, with a menu designed by acclaimed chef Jorge Vallejo, whose Mexico City restaurant Quintonil is ranked 22 in the 'World's 50 Best Restaurants'. He’s drawn heavily on organic, seasonal ingredients, many coming from Chablé’s own gardens. For Mexicans, healthy and happy living might also include a few glasses of Tequila; Chablé's owner, clearly a big fan of the national spirit, displays his own massive collection of more than 3000 bottles in the hotel’s signature restaurant, Ixi'im, which is expected to soon be recorded as the ‘Largest Collection of Tequila in the World’ (judged according to the number of different labels, not just bottles).
The resort is a seamless integration of the ruins of an 19th century hacienda and the surrounding jungle with the luxurious, modern design of the accommodation, common areas and facilities. These dedicated design choices are what has seen Chablé awarded the Prix Versailles 2017 award for ‘Best Hotel in the World for Architecture and Design’ at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. But I’d have to say that the hospitality and warmth with which the staff perform their daily activities here is also worthy of an award; it's noticeable from the very first person welcoming us upon our arrival right through to the end of our stay.
Arriving down the long driveway into the sedate grounds, our car is valeted and our bags taken. Check-in goes smoothly and we are led past the Casa Principal (main house) into the grounds. There are big inviting nests hanging from a few trees, with comfy seats decorated with turquoise pillows, and a bright yellow new cigar house located nearby. Passing under a crumbly stone arch, rays of sunlight pass through the trees; from that moment on, a tranquil, calming atmosphere overtakes our senses.
We stay in one of the 38 secluded villas spread throughout the verdant jungle. Our ‘private piece of forest’ is incredibly quiet, with only a few butterflies and birds for company. The bright blue of our own private pool and a white hammock hanging over the shallow end is instantly relaxing. Surrounding the infinity pool, there’s a large veranda with a modern set of chairs, an outdoors bed with turquoise pillows and a breakfast table. It’s easy to stretch out and relax, looking out at the jungle and the banana trees, occasionally visited by Yucatan jays, hummingbirds and parakeets.
Inside the casita, the feeling of simultaneous openness and privacy continues. The living area is spacious, full of light and completely surrounded by jungle ‘gardens’, easy to admire through the tempered glass; it is almost like getting into a bubble immersed in nature. The interior is a mix of pristine whites in different textures, from the walls and curtains to the limestone used in the flooring. There’s a big bed with a towering dark wood headrest rising up to the ceiling, the bed framed by white curtains. A cozy atmosphere is created with the use of handmade Yucatán textiles that ornament the bed and the embroidered throw pillows on the sofa.
Everything we could want is here, with a large TV, an iPad linked to the central audio of the house to listen to our pick of music, a well-stocked fridge and a jar full of nuts and sugar-coated cacao seeds (a new favourite). There’s also a smart desk that transforms into a make-up table. What really makes the casita stand out is the beautiful artworks throughout, from ceramic plates hung and framed in the living room to soft-colored paintings inside the bathroom.
The bathroom takes up a large portion of the casita, continuing with the outward-looking tempered glass walls, so that waking up in the morning and brushing your teeth at the his-and-hers green ceramic sinks and suspended mirrors, you feel immersed in the jungle. There are also indoor and outdoor rainshowers, the outdoor shower surrounded by plants to provide privacy while enjoying the stars.
On our way to dinner at Ix’im (meaning ‘maize’ in Mayan), we enjoy a spectacle of fireflies on the lawns. The remains of the hacienda’s old henequen-processing room is now restored with modern floor tiles and lots of glass, with the walls dominated by brightly lit cabinets filled with the owner’s colourful tequila collection; we are greeted with a sample of Chablé Reposado, their own brand of tequila.
We sit on an open terrace to enjoy the warm night and the mainly organic and seasonal tasting menu of modern Mexican cuisine, Jorge Vallejo’s ideas executed by chef Luis Ronzón. A starter of handmade corn tortillas tastes great with beans, red onions with habanero sauce. Each dish throughout the night is perfectly cooked. From an appetizer of shrimp with avocado and lime foam to creamy rice with stone crab, squash and chili, its hard to choose a favourite, but the trout from Michoacán, served with granny smith purée, chamomile foam and manzano chili, is outstanding. I swap the menu’s standard deer tartare for roasted chicken breast with beets and almond ‘pipian’, and don’t regret the decision one bit; it’s delicious. The atmosphere inside the restaurant is lovely and peaceful. Waiters are attentive and helpful, without being intrusive, allowing us to enjoy the meal at our own leisurely pace. We finish with a Mamey (a local fruit) split with double cream cheese ice cream and ‘rosita de cacao’ crumble, before making our way back down the softly illuminated paths to our casita.
Breakfast is served over at open air restaurant Ki’ol, next to the main swimming pool, which resembles an oasis, complete with palm trees and pristine turquoise waters. Everything from the flavored butters to fresh bread is handmade. I particularly enjoyed the avocado toast with Tabasco pepper and Celestún salt, along with the recommended juice of the day, while the pea casserole with eggs is a novel and tasty way to start the day.
We spend the day relaxing by and in the swimming pool, which has two little waterfalls, as well as biking and strolling around the grounds, passing a playful statue of ‘Timo’, a boyish figure, by famous Mexican sculptor Rodrigo de la Sierra, and stopping to look in on the recently born baby deer in an enclosure.
The Casa Principal’s living room and bar is a pleasant place to spend time, with colorful floor tiles, comfy yellow sofas and more modern artworks, from wall-filling paintings to a glass dome containing little ceramic skulls. We spend some time in the library here too, which has books on Mexico, art, travel and architecture.
In the evening, we make our way across to the large cenote, the focal point of the spa, where there’s also a wooden deck for outdoor yoga and meditation. Treatment rooms are inside cabins built from local wood, decorated with more local textiles, most of them looking out onto the water of the cenote. Mayans considered such natural pools sacred, a source of restoration for the body and soul. Before our treatments, we spend time in the Jacuzzi and sensation showers of the hydrotherapy circuit, looking up at thousands of bright stars above. The choice of treatments, or ‘Journeys’ as they’re called here, is vast, ranging from the ‘Temazcal’ (like an ancient sweat lodge experience) to our choice, a Mayan herbal compress massage, where the herbs, mainly produced in Chablé’s own Ka’anches garden, are mixed with organic oils and applied to the body with a deep tissue massage. It’s one of the best and most relaxing massages I’ve ever had.
On the final morning, while enjoying my avocado toast, I find myself feeling thankful, healthier and more relaxed. Next time I feel the need to get truly away from it all, I’ll know where to come.
Visit website for more information: http://chableresort.com/
Price for dinner at Kiol starts at 80 USD inclusive of beverages and 100USD at Ixi’im inclusive of beverages
Spa prices starts at 180USD for 60 minutes massage