Distinctive details catch the eye at the entrance to Hotel La Semilla. // © 2015 Hotel La Semilla
Feature image (above): Breakfast is served in the hotel’s open-air lounge. // © 2015 Hotel La Semilla
As I traveled through the Riviera Maya on an exhausting two-week research trip, friend after friend in the tourism industry told me I had to check out a special little hotel near Playa del Carmen's busy Fifth Avenue. They all agreed it would suit my needs perfectly and impress even this weary hotel hopper. I'm forever grateful for their advice.
Near the end of my journey, I drove my dusty rental car into Playa del Carmen's artsy north-end neighborhood and parked just a block from one of the city's most beautiful beaches, across the street from a tiny driveway with a cluster of brand-new bikes. A porter appeared instantly and helped me sort through suitcases and grocery bags for the night's necessary supplies. Stepping through the sleek white foyer into a courtyard resembling a miniature tropical jungle, I felt instantly transported into a magical realm.
Hotel La Semilla, Spanish for “the seed,” is the brainchild of Alexis Scharer and Angie Rodriguez, two savvy entrepreneurs with considerable experience at exceptional hotels. They wanted their nine-room boutique inn to be absolutely unique and sublimely comfortable. Most of all, it had to blend into its natural setting and reflect the Mexican Maya culture of its surroundings.
Scharer and Rodriguez chose a narrow lot squeezed between quirky restaurants and businesses and designed a modernist building to house a hotel filled with both cutting-edge and old-world touches. Each room is carefully designed to feature antiques and oddities from throughout Mexico. One room is decorated with old leather suitcases and painted postcards and another features a classic manual typewriter, while others are decorated with frames holding old peso notes and Mexican lottery cards.
My room had a balcony nestled amid trees overlooking the courtyard, one of La Semilla's finest features. The owners carefully protected as many trees and plants as possible during construction, giving the property a sense of place not often found in rapidly growing Playa del Carmen. After a deep, dreamy sleep, I was torn between lingering on the balcony and joining other guests on the communal terrace for breakfast. Fortunately, hunger overcame my need for solitude. I strolled down the staircase beneath chandeliers and followed a narrow stream flowing past a tiny Maya hut sized perfectly for aluxes, or mythical Maya sprites.
A comfy jumble of tables, couches and chairs were arranged around tree trunks on the terrace, where a complimentary full breakfast is served each morning. I was perfectly happy with the individually brewed coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice and extraordinary homemade granola, but those narrow choices did not satisfy the chef. I ended up with eggs, toast and all sorts of accompaniments that kept me fueled for the entire day.
Feeling completely at home while reading my book and lingering over my feast, I ignored my fellow guests. Then I looked up and spotted a familiar face. It was one of those moments we frequent travelers treasure, when a friend from afar or long ago appears in the most unexpected place. Solitude gave way to a joyful sense of being at home among dear friends.
I claimed my room for another night and am looking forward to returning to this special hideaway. This time, however, I'll be sure to book my room at least two weeks in advance. The secret's out, and this little seed has blossomed into one of the Riviera Maya's most popular escapes.