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In a world full of resorts dedicated to fine wine and dining, a stay at Cabañas Copal, the palm-thatched Caribbean inn and spa in Tulum, Mexico, is like luxurious camping. Breezy, moonlit, shaggy-chic, five minutes from the grandeur of the Tulum ruins, Cabañas Copal wraps the adventure, romance, and mystery of the Maya Yucatan in candle light and mosquito netting and presents it amidst kayaks, toucans and a magnificent sea.


Designed like a terraced garden, the 47 cabañas are bunched in little groves that have sea views, or are snuggled into the forest; and although they’re called “eco-rustic” (all cabañas are without electricity), the spacious beds, tiled showers, adequate hot water, and gobs of mosquito netting in most of the “Hobbit-y” huts is simple, but nothing near primitive. For the minimalist, though, there are two sand-floored abodes without baths serviced instead by the tidy bathrooms down the path, and the communal showers are a pleasant sluice under the coconut palms.


So well laid out is Cabañas Copal that the winding paths make the little nooks seem at once secluded and well attended. Palmetto glades hide pillowed hammocks for two, and, Look! There among the hibiscuses! Lo and behold, you come upon—just in time—two beach chairs perfectly placed for reading your latest beach read, clinking a Corona, gazing at the sapphire-blue sea, or, bare legs entwined, at each other.


The path from reception and greenery-walled restaurant wends past the spa, which offers a body loving pamper-fest of yoga, wraps of mud, aloe, or chocolate, an assortment of therapeutic massages—some at seaside—aroma and crystal therapy and traditional Mexican temezcal steam baths. Each service is performed by skilled masseuses and Maya shamans dedicated to their craft.


It is a spa, after all, and the Cabañas Copal balances the yin of lounging under your sun hat all day with the action-packed yang of biking to the ruins or into town, snorkeling the cove, or kayaking the mangrove lagoons of the Sian Ka´an Bioreserve just down the road. The reserve is crammed with wildlife such as nimble spider monkeys and 350 species of migratory and native birds with tours led by knowledgeable, passionate guides.


Cabañas Copal is one of three “sister” resorts strung along the beach. The restaurant, spa, rental, and transportation services of all three are available to spa guests. Each sister has her own well-honed, vertically integrated personality. There is the vivacious Azulik: “adult,” says the brochure, and you can’t see inside their gates; then there is Zahra, dowdy but serviceable, with a nice little cove and electricity until 11 pm. By comparison, Cabañas Copal is the coltish sister: as tangy a surprise as a fresh-off-the-tree mango.


Undoubtedly, even Paradise has logistical glitches. Although the paths are dreamily candle lined at night, it’s easier to avoid garroting yourself with a hammock or mashing an anole if you’ve remembered to bring a flashlight; and, in the morning as the sun comes thundering up, it may take a while for shower water to arrive, but, hey, relax, you’re only a few slow-motion, hair-swinging lopes from the Caribbean Ocean. The water’ll come. Everything’s fine at Cabañas Copal.

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