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First Look: Mukan

Mukan, a nine-room beach retreat hidden deep in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere south of Tulum, looks, feels and runs much like the original eco lodges of Tulum.

The now famous—and some would say famously overrun—resort town is located only 22 miles north of Mukan, but seems to exist a world apart, especially since it takes a 45-minute boat ride to get to this new eco lodge. Built mostly out of local, natural materials, Mukan blends seamlessly into the Biosphere, which, at nearly 1,600 square miles, is one of Mexico’s largest protected nature areas. The setting of the seven-acre property is breathtaking: it sits on a spit of land between the ocean and the brilliantly colored Sian Ka’an lagoon, home to lush mangroves and Kermit-green tropical forests.

Related: Top Tables Tulum

There’s a totally private beach, with talcum-fine white sand and turquoise water. Five thatched-roof bungalows are hidden in the palm grove with meandering paths snaking in between. The main villa, which holds another five guest rooms and a stylish double-winged living room, has gorgeous indoor/outdoor spaces that run seamlessly into one another.

The guest rooms are very comfortable, if basic, in terms of design and amenities. Showcasing local materials, they come with smooth, dark-wood and stone floors, king-size beds, high ceilings with wooden fans (though air-conditioning is also available), and all have terraces or patios to take in the tropical setting. Bathrooms have rain showers and excellent water pressure, not always a given in this part of Mexico. None of the accommodations are overly large—the biggest bungalow is 571 square feet; the biggest room 440 square feet—but being indoors is hardly the point in this setting anyhow.

Related: Mexico’s Best Beach Resorts

There’s not a ton to do at Mukan, and that’s the point. The lodge offers a few excursions into the Biosphere (the team is working on expanding this menu), and there are yoga classes in the morning and a massage therapist on staff. But beyond that, days are generally spent lounging at the beach, with an occasional walk or paddleboard excursion (if the sea is calm enough).

Much like the old Tulum, Mukan runs on its own, very relaxed clock, so anyone requiring seamless, speedy service will not be happy here. Meals, especially, take a long time to appear, though when they do, the food is generally very good. The team is young, eager and lovely, and thanks to the intimate size of Mukan, everyone knows your name minutes after arrival. (It’s also the kind of place where you easily meet the other guests and might even end up having meals together.)

The management company that took over in December 2017 is the same that created acclaimed Esencia, on the Riviera Maya, so the potential of Mukan is enormous. Right now, the experience of staying at Mukan may still be uneven, but the setting is so spectacular, the staff so well-intentioned, and the location so remote that you can’t help but feel grateful to discover a place before the rest of the world does.

Who Should Stay

People who mourn the passing of the “old Tulum,” where serene seclusion came at the price of some creature comforts and, certainly, seamless service. Young honeymooners looking for serious downtime after a busy wedding, and couples needing to unplug and recharge. There are very limited activities on property, so for families with children, Mukan will be too remote and low-key.

Getting There

From Cancun, it’s a two-hour drive to and through Tulum, then another 20 minutes into the Biosphere, down a bumpy dirt road. At a non-descript dock, you are met by a simple, six-seater motorboat that will take you on a 45-minute ride across the lagoon.

Activities

There is no gym or spa, though a terrific massage therapist and yoga teacher is available. Activities are limited. The resort offers kayaks and stand-up-paddle boarding but since alligators live in the lagoon, you can only use these in the ocean, which, depending on wind, might be too challenging for guests. Mukan offers limited excursions into the Biosphere, including a full-day fishing trip.

The Bottom Line

Mukan has enormous potential and early growing pains will surely get smoothed out with time. But it will always be an eco-minded retreat in a secluded, tricky location, so this needs to be kept in mind. It is a good fit for laid-back, independent travelers, who are happy with the basics: a gorgeous beach, the soundtrack of rolling waves, a good book and the presence of a loved one.

– Simone Girner on March 20, 2018

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