Mukan Takes You To The End Of The World. Internet Included.
A journey to the end of the world requires an overture, and the trip to Mukan, a resort way out on the edge of the Si’an Khan Biosphere Reserve in the Yucatan, offers a great one: A one-hour ride in a six-seat outboard panga through vast shallow lagoons and mangrove-walled channels.
The world is all sky, all water, the land just lengthy mascara marks, most of it vast mattings of mangrove trees. The skipper is local and knows the channel blindfolded, which is heartening when you see a channel marker consisting of a life jacket impaled on a driftwood pole. He knows how to choreograph the ride, slowing down coming into a curve because there’s a Great Blue Heron around that bend. It remains stock still as the boat passes within feet of it.
In Mayan, Si’an Khan means “origin of the sky.” This intricately woven marine tropical eco-system (528,000 hectares and 120 kilometers of coastline) is home to 300 species of birds, big and little cats (Jaguar, Puma, and Ocelot), six species of sea turtle, manatees, and of course, crocodiles. (No swimming in the lagoons.) Here, you can use that over-used travel-writer word ‘pristine.’ In many parts of the reserve, it still applies.
So what’s a resort doing out here, if this place is so pristine?
Well, the Mayans named it, so people have been out here for a long time. There are two towns, Punta Allen and Punta Herrero, and a scattering of small homes and hotels, among them Mukan, which were grandfathered-in when the Biosphere was established in 1986. Living out here, much less running a hotel, is a logistical D-Day. Once a week a truck drives down from Tulum delivering supplies, and a few times a week the hotel sends its truck to Tulum, a kidney-rattling two-hour drive just to get to paved road, to pick up perishables. (Guests have to make the run if the weather precludes a boat-trip.)
What you get here is simplicity, with a pleasing hemline. The hotel consists of a main house (five rooms) and four bungalows closer to the beach, all air-conditioned. Among the deft touches in such a faraway place are walk-in showers, a wood-fired oven, source of the lunch pizza (choose your own ingredients), and the grilled fish at dinner, the perfect catch. There’s a small spa, a muscular yoga program (beginner, power, Yin, restorative, Nidra, all of it free), bone fishing and bird watching excursions (extra, of course), the usual beach toys, and a trim but cool rooftop plunge pool and bar, a great place for post-dinner star-gazing.
But the allure here is the beach with sands so finely ground that I’m still trying to brush a few grains out of my keyboard (a nice souvenir), the on-shore breeze, and the license to do nothing but sit and walk the beach and have fun in those moderate waves. One bit of trip prep: Load up your Kindle, but if you don’t get to it, you can order books from the beach.
Which brings THD to the funny challenge posed by Mukan. The first thing the owners did when they obtained the place in 2016 was to install a powerful Internet connection. (The tower is the first thing you see as you approach the dock.) They come here to get away, but they run a business empire, so they have to be in touch. But that’s also why some very powerful business figures (THD promised not to name names) have bought out the property for corporate meetings and family trips, for which the resort is perfect.
“Better than your connection in New York, I’ll bet, boasted Jonathan Blue, one of the owners, and he was right.
So you’re at the end of the Earth seeking to disconnect, and Mukan is offering you exactly what you’re running from. But you’re not running and you know it.
The robust Internet here is why there’s that wide-screen TV in the room. (Note that there’s no cell-phone coverage. That’s different.)
Granted, it’s a challenge. Most people flunk it.
“They love the idea,” says Nicolas Dominquez, a partner in Hamak Hotels, which manages the hotel, “but within 20 minutes they’re up at the desk asking for the password.” (Keep an eye on the brand because it is redefining luxury in Mexico (and elsewhere in Latin and South America)–THD actually thinks that what Aman was to Indonesia in the ’90s, Hamak is to Mexico today.)
So go to Mukan. You’re off the map, and you’ll find out if you’re really ready to disconnect. If not, vamp on Instagram. You handle your conscience.
ARRIVING: Fly to Cancun and meet the hotel SUV for the 90-minute drive to the dock in the Biosphere Reserve. Then the disconnect begins.
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