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First Look: Casa Pueblo Tulum

Right off the bustling main avenue of downtown Tulum, a 20-minute drive or bike ride from the beach road hotspots, an unassuming grey-cement building sits shrouded in a jungle of leafy plants. A simple chalkboard sign lodged in gravel is the only indication that something more might be found inside. This is Casa Pueblo, Tulum’s chicest new boutique hotel and the first venture into hospitality made by Derek Klein, a local tastemaker, creative entrepreneur and founder of the wildly popular restaurant-cum-nightclub Gitano.

Largely credited with—and condemned for—catapulting its sleepy, bohemian home onto the international party scene, Gitano opened on Tulum’s beach road in 2013. It continues to draw steady crowds as one of the must-visit spots, but Klein sold his stake in the lounge two years ago, in the hopes of recapturing the magic that his original creation, like a Frankenstein, has since lost.

The unconventional location in Tulum town is the first sign that Casa Pueblo presents a different animal from its beach road competitors, which a recent article in New York Magazine’s The Cut chastised for their lack of environmental responsibility and proclivity for bad house music. Though the absence of sand and sea can be a drawback for some, the pueblo location offers adventurous travelers the opportunity to explore a different side of Tulum and interact with locals, outside of the confines of a resort. Though there’s no shortage of tchotchke shops and tourist-friendly bars in town, it feels a world away from the scene of the beach road, providing an escape for those who wish to avoid the crowds in favor of exploration.

The design of Casa Pueblo upholds this same principle of immersion: the rooms are minimalist almost to the point of asceticism, encouraging guests instead to lounge, work and mingle in the public spaces. Especially enticing are the terraced outdoor restaurant, saltwater pool and back patio, all of which is enclosed by chalkboard-esque brushed cement walls that create a private oasis, secluded from the bustle of the street and made all the more atmospheric by an abundance of sunshine and charming décor like tropical plants, local textiles and bright yellow fringed pool umbrellas.

In the mornings, sleepy travelers pad down from their rooms to the restaurant, Lovely’s, which doubles as a Soho House-style café and common workspace, for a first taste of the warm Tulum breeze and perhaps a quick dip. They are joined by the local creatives and jetsetting influencers, bright-eyed behind MacBooks, who come for the strong iced coffees and WiFi while they plan their next setlist or Instagram post. Klein’s dogs, Blue and Lovely (the restaurant’s namesake), preside over it all, serving up their cutest looks to new arrivals in exchange for perfectly cooked bacon.

When evening sets, strings of bare light bulbs and flickering candles set the space aglow with bohemian allure, and people gather for meditation sessions, live music and impromptu dinner parties.

The all-day kitchen deliciously combines local flavors with Mediterranean philosophy. The food is decadent without being heavy—thanks to fresh, healthy ingredients—and standout items include the eggs Benedict, the coconut-yogurt granola bowl, the fried goat cheese and zucchini fritters, the homemade pita bread with hummus and tzatziki and the avocado toast. There is a small but well rounded wine list, as well as some delightful cocktails; don’t leave without trying the turmeric-ginger-citrus mezcal margarita (besides, it’s practically a health tonic). The exciting new addition of a wood-burning oven also means that guests can now order Neopolitan-style pizza anytime after 1pm.      

The restaurant, kitchen and bar all surround a striking open-air atrium with black-and-white tile floors, plant and water features and handmade pottery and textiles from Yucatán and beyond, which lend pops of green, eggplant and burnt orange to an otherwise monochrome palette. The atrium is the beating heart of Casa Pueblo, and it is what makes the property truly feel like a home.

The 16 guest suites are fanned around it, over two floors, and they provide a soothing respite from the high-color, tropical world that waits outside. Though quite comfortable, spotlessly clean and top-notch when it comes to the essentials—a Luuna memory-foam mattress dressed in Parachute Home linens, New York City-approved air-conditioning and a walk-in rain shower with LoredAna products—the rooms are otherwise bare and lack basic amenities like a closet, a mini bar, a television, speakers and a hair dryer (available upon request). They are also lacking a certain level of privacy: floor-to-ceiling-windows face both the atrium and the street, and they are far from soundproof (pack earplugs—the neighbors like to party). If no robe and slippers is a deal breaker, this may not be the right fit for you. Others will agree that this spareness is part of the property’s magic: leave your phone charger behind and head out in a linen tunic, face bare and hair wet, in the hopes of drinking whatever is in the water that makes the patrons of Casa Pueblo so attractive.

Indeed, it is the effortlessly gorgeous community that congregates at Casa Pueblo that is the real reason to stay here. At the center of its solar system is Derek Klein, whose gentle, chino-clad presence cannot conceal his creative vision’s strength. It shines through every detail, from the painstakingly sourced artisanal ceramics to the poolside playlist that strikes a bewilderingly perfect balance of Samba, Jazz, Mexican ballads, the Beach Boys and contemporary electronic music. Klein has an instinct for creating the atmosphere that people crave: natural and homey, with just the right amount of style and sex appeal. It is what made Gitano so successful, and it is what keeps him at the top of the list of “Ones to Watch.” With the help of his co-founder, Omar Rodriguez, and his co-designers, Mike Moser and Jaime Aramburu, Klein and his colorful crew of nomads and expatriates have established a stronghold for the community that first attracted travelers to this spiritual center, and as their motto—and WiFi password—states, all are welcome.

If you’re looking for the “Real Tulum,” you may just find it here.

Contact Indagare to book a bespoke trip to Tulum. Our expert trip designers can secure reservations at top hotels like Casa Pueblo, as well as provide dining, shopping and touring recommendations.

Read our full Casa Pueblo hotel review here.

– Elizabeth Harvey on May 3, 2019

Quotable

Casa Pueblo became an opportunity to create something that would channel the bohemian lifestyle originally inherent to Gitano’s early years, a place my friends could come to and experience what Tulum was initially all about.
~ Derek Klein

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