Long enamored with the mystical aura of Tulum, Kendall Inman, a Dallas-based Ayurveda health counselor and yoga and meditation teacher, moved to Mexico to open a nourishing retreat center. With the help of local architecture and design firm Jaque Studio, that initial idea for an uplifting, solitary lodge sprouted into Jungle Keva Tulum, a boutique hotel in direct conversation with its lush backdrop.
Construction is abundant in Tulum, much of it sadly at cost to the environment, but Jesús G. Acosta, Jaque Studio’s founder, wanted to take a different, more thoughtful approach.
"We built around the trees," he points out, preserving 70 percent of the site’s vegetation in the process. Additionally, considering the tropical weather, all areas, except the reception and maintenance room, were raised by almost three feet, which helps to combat flooding and insects.
Covered in greenery and organized by stone paths, the grounds are reminiscent of a jungle village. Making your way through the property, a social area is found at the end of a passageway, past the reception and lobby, with a dining room and yoga pavilion cantilevering over the pool. When it's time to get some rest or take a solitary break, guests can retreat to one of five different lodges.
"It ends quietly," Acosta says of the layout, noting the allure of practicing yoga asanas over the water.
Mexican materials, as many of them as possible sourced locally, were a priority for Jaque Studio. Acosta wanted a warm, natural palette that complemented the environs, and his search for materials "that aged with dignity and added character" led to chukum. This once-lost ancient craft embraced by the Mayans is a durable, waterproof stucco that incorporates resin from its namesake trees, indigenous to the Yucatán Peninsula.
Elsewhere, chukum is used for the hotel’s centerpiece infinity pool—flaunting turquoise water that echoes the Caribbean Sea—planted in the middle of the garden and elevated to avoid disturbing the trees.
"Many pools are located at the front of a hotel but we put it in back so there is more privacy and you don’t feel observed. We didn’t want a busy place that’s lined with chairs," says Acosta. Instead, two sapote trees magically spring from the pool, adding a cocooning sense of intimacy.
Inside the open-plan, double-height guest lodges, chukum also graces the striking square-shaped bed bases. Concrete floors undergo a technique where "we remove the top layer to see the different aggregates, the sand and the gravel, and it doesn’t have the usual gray color. Sand here is white," Acosta explains. "When people come into the room they think it’s marble."
Furnishings are earthy and minimalist, including light bulbs that hang from dangling ropes.
Crowning the lodges are palapa-style roofs, crafted from the dry grass zacate, which provided Acosta another reason to delve "as deep as possible into the identity of the area."
On the interior side, underneath the wood structure that holds the zacate in place, plywood modules were installed for structural consistency. Petate, a fabric woven by hand in neighboring Puebla from dry palm leaves, is glued to the modules to add an "elegant, contemporary" touch.
An indoor-outdoor bathroom, inspired by those Acosta encountered in Kerala, India, is another highlight. Chukum makes its way here, too, onto the walls and sink, accompanied by Mexican travertine marble with a slip-proof matted finish. Says Acosta, "Taking a shower while looking at the trees—it is a special connection to the surroundings."
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Builder/General Contractor: Ceiba Immobiliara
Structural Engineer: HAL Ingenieria
Landscape Design: Entorno Taller de Paisaje