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Cozumel is famously beautiful, friendly, relaxing and fun. But being hip and avant-garde aren’t attributes usually included on the list. Enter the Hotel B Cozumel, with its splashy, lipstick-red lounge chairs and performances by celebrity DJs and musicians ramping up the island’s style. The cleverly decorated 44-room hotel isn’t like Cozumel’s many distinctive small properties. There’s a touch of South Beach and 1950s-era Acapulco in the mix. Young designers from Mexico City have taken the faded Hotel Fontan, a decades-old island favorite, and created a moderately priced retro remake of the original.
Located on the island’s north leeward coast, about eight minutes by car from the main plaza, the three-story hotel sits atop a limestone shelf above excellent snorkeling waters. The original edifice looks like a seaside motel built to withstand constant use and abusive salt air. The designers stripped the rooms to their most basic, then rebuilt new accommodations with economy in mind. Wood crates painted bright pink and stark white serve as night stands, and shelves and bright turquoise niches frame desks and televisions. Low platform beds sheathed in white sheets face sea views. Original bathrooms sport new fixtures, sand-colored tile and natural toiletries. Amenities and guest services include high-speed Wi-Fi access, flat-screen televisions, in-room coffee makers and room service. Some rooms have balconies, some with swinging hammock chairs called mecedoras. Handcrafted shawls, bags and pottery are scattered about — all for sale should guests find them tempting.
Beatriz Tinajero, the inspiration behind the Hotel B’s name and design, collected clever modern folk art in Oaxaca, Hidalgo and Michoacan as the room style evolved. As general manager of the Hotel B, Tinajero sees the hotel as a trampoline for young talents.
“The idea is to always be creative,” Tinajero said while proudly showing off fine details.
She has paid special attention to the rocky outcropping called Punta Beleza, where a wooden sundeck serves as a yoga studio, sunset bar and lounging area. There is no big sandy beach here, as this part of the coast tends toward rocky perches with ladders and stairways straight down to clear, warm water. Instead, blue hammocks dangle beneath a slatted wood canopy and lounge chairs are scattered around a horseshoe-shaped horizon pool above a tiny cove filled with tropical fish. Jacuzzi Blu, a red-colored whirlpool for eight, is especially dramatic with its underwater lighting at night.
The Costenito Bistro on an oceanview terrace serves 10 tasty ceviches along with contemporary cuisine with regional flair — think shrimp tempura with spicy habanero salsa. The Fontan’s original red, white and blue plastic chairs are clustered around white tables spiffed up with crystal and linens at dinner. Breakfast and lunch are more casual. Bar Bacan, the palapa shaded bar by the pool, serves fine mojitos and “mezcalinins” (like martinis, but made with mezcal) along with freshly squeezed juices. Cocktails and snacks are also served in the evenings at the Hammock Lounge, the nighttime version of the Punta Beleza deck, where entertainment varies from outdoor movies to casino nights. Restaurants and bars are open to the public and are popular with locals as well as guests.
Cozumel’s south shore hotels are closer to the reefs that attract the island’s most devoted followers, the thousands of scuba divers arriving each year. But the north shore has decent diving as well, and snorkeling along the coastline is fun for those who aren’t driven to see every creature in the sea. As an added bonus, eagle rays gather just offshore in winter. Scuba Du, an excellent dive shop with a few locations around the island, serves the hotel’s divers with fast boats to the reefs and also offers snorkel gear rental, dive lessons, kayak rentals and sunset sailing tours. Kite-surfing is popular along this coast and some of Cozumel’s best instructors hold classes near the hotel.
For Tinajero, who spent all of her childhood vacations in Cozumel, the island is the perfect place for a hotel that showcases modern and traditional Mexican arts and crafts.
“Cozumel is the most beautiful island,” Tinajero said. “You have real families and big traditions. You can feel Mexico here.”
Hotel B Cozumelwww.hotelbcozumel.com
High season rates start at $138 per night.