Excepting childhood, I could lose a couple of digits and still count on one hand the weeks in my life I’ve spent barefoot. Xpu-Ha (ish poo HA) beach on Mexico’s Mayan Riviera was one of those weeks.
Aside from private homes, Al Cielo Hotel & Restaurant is one of only a handful of accommodations on the two-mile long beach. Its signature attraction is your “deeded” palapa for the length of your stay. Along with cushioned recliners with generous spacing between, these permanent umbrellas that blend into the landscape provide ample shade for those needing a break-in period to the Caribbean sun, and defined space for those seeking romantic—and somewhat regal—beach time.
With only four rooms (named for the elements), the hotel never felt crowded. And though they could be updated a bit and are somewhat dark inside due to the wood used, the rooms are cozy without feeling cramped. What we found slightly lacking was easily trumped: first floor porches right on the beach, hammocks in each room, and second floor balconies with unobstructed ocean views.
Most breakfasts we were the only diners, which reflected our quick adjustments to a general day/night clock, rather than a man-made timepiece—another beach vacation luxury. The restaurant is well known along the Riviera, and deservedly so. Lunch and dinner was a full European-influenced menu of critically-celebrated fresh seafood, poultry, and meat dishes. And although it’s unlisted, the chef made perfectly textured and seasoned guacamole upon request. (I couldn’t imagine leaving the country without one of its signature dishes.)
Given our goal of complete R&R, it was refreshing to find that there was only one other dining choice on the beach. About ½ mile south is Café del Mar. With only five Mexican-beer-branded plastic tables directly in the sand, this traditional casual fare café recalls a typical pre-Riviera establishment.