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Kailuum, Yucatan, Mexico trip 1993 November

  • Submitted by: Sopelak
  • Website: None Available
  • Submission Date: 04th Feb 2005



Regretfully, much of this article is outdated because of a hurricane a few years after the article was written which wiped out Kailuum. Further details are attached at the end of the article.




Kailuum is a unique cross between a hotel and camping - called sometimes a "camptel." It is located on the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico about six miles north of Playa del Carmen on the coast. For current rates, more information, or reservations call Turquoise Reef Resorts at 1-800-538-6802. When we went it cost about $80/day for two people including the sleeping accommodations and breakfast and dinner.

We had heard about Kailuum through word of mouth, as it seems most people do. It has been there for I think about 18 years but its end appears to be nearing as there has been some difficulty in renewing the lease of the land. So, like so many natural areas, development may be soon on the way. Hearing glowing reports and being afraid to miss our chance to experience Kailuum - we rushed to schedule a trip. We stayed there for a week ending on Thanksgiving Day 1993. I hope we will get the chance to go back.

Some people fly into Cancun and rent a car or schedule with Turquoise Reef to be picked up at the airport. We flew on Continental from Dulles to Houston then to Cozumel. We took a cab from the airport to the ferry landing (about $6/2 people) then a ferry to Playa del Carmen (about $10/2 people) then a cab to Kailuum (about $10/2 people).

When we arrived after the cab bounced down a long unpaved road we were greeted as three osprey flew overhead. We were first given a tour.

There is a shop of crafts from the area with unique jewelry, quite a selection of amber, as well as scary and odd wooden masks and carvings. X is pronounced as "sh" in Mayan so the sign in front of the shop is "XOP."

There is a long, large thatched roof structure where meals are served. The floor is soft white sand and there's no electricity so lanterns hang from the ceiling and are also on the tables. There are some tables for 4 people but many seat 8 people so there's opportunity to meet other guests. The dining area seats about 100 people. There are walls part way up, but from the waist up it's open air for a view of the ocean right outside. There are canvas shades that can be pulled down in case of wind or rain. At one end of the dining area there's a bookshelf of paperbacks that can be borrowed as well as games and also information about the ecology of the area. The dinner menu is posted in the morning so in case it doesn't appeal to you, you can make arrangements to eat at a restaurant down the beach a ways. Breakfast is served between 7 am and 11 am. Dinner is at 7 pm.

At the other end is a circular area which is the honor system bar. At any time of day or night you can get a soda, beer, or make yourself a mixed drink. Bottles of purified water are provided and ice that's safe to use. There's a bulletin board with a piece of graph paper with the guest's names listed down the side and thumbtacks. A soft drink was one peg (a box on the graph paper representing 75 cents), a beer was two pegs and mixed drinks three or four pegs. You served yourself and moved the thumbtack down the graph paper and settled up at the end of your stay (no credit cards or personal checks - cash or traveller's checks accepted). Lunch was available for around $5 or so and there was a small choice of guacamole or a burger or a chicken filet sandwich in this area. Before dinner there would be some sort of snack food available free at the bar - such as chicken wings, ceviche, chips and dip, or popcorn.

There's a small "fleet" of rental VW bugs available. Since they're all standard and we needed an automatic we couldn't take advantage of the convenience. Many times people would pool together with new acquaintances made over dinner and head to the ruins packed 4 to a VW bug for the day.

There are two groups of restroom facilities. Each of them have about six sinks with mirrors and bottles of purified water. These are under a thatched roof but not private so you'll be brushing your teeth and shaving in front of others. The sign above the sink says "XAVE" (remember the "X" is pronounced as "sh" - "shave"). There are about 4 huge shower stalls. Each has a door for privacy and part of the room is tiled with a drain and a shower and the other part has hooks and shelves for your things. There's plenty of room for two (actually more than two). We had a bit of a problem at times with water pressure and with not having enough hot water but generally it was OK. The sign says "XAUR." There are about 5 or 6 toilets each with it's own wooden door for privacy. The toilets are regular flush toilets but "THE BOX" is where all paper products have to be put (including used toilet paper). Surprisingly it DIDN'T smell bad - this whole area was constantly kept clean. The sign outside the toilets says "XIT." There's no electricity in this area so at night each toilet stall has a lantern and there are lanterns in each shower stall and around the sinks and also lanterns lining the paths - effective and also romantic.

There are 40 tents, some right on the beach overlooking the ocean. Each tent is under a thatched roof (palapa) and has two hammocks to relax in under the thatched roof. The tent itself is a canvas with zippers and screens and panels that can be raised. In the tent there's a platform with a regular double bed with sheets and pillows and all. On either side of the bed is a wooden crate with a lantern on each side. At one end are about 3 more wooden crates in case you want to take some things out of your bags. The tent was roomy and with the screen versus panel option to adjust for the four sides we stayed very comfortable. Each day someone comes in and sweeps out the sand, empties the trash, changes the sheets, and provides fresh towels.

We were assured that security was no problem. The Mayan workers have no interest in the guests belongings. What about the other guests? I guess no one's ever had a problem and neither did we - if the "real world" were only so trustworthy.

There's a constant breeze off of the ocean so it was warm and sunny but not humid or unpleasant during the day. At night we closed up the tent partially and got under the blanket and we were comfortable and cozy. There wasn't a big mosquito problem but I did have a number of sandflea bites on my feet one day. The main things to remember to bring are a flashlight or two, sunscreen, and bug repellant. Of course you'll want to bring a camera, bathing suits, hat,...

We loved the constant sound of the waves and found that very soothing. The water is clear and warm and there's snorkel and scuba rental if you're into that. The stars are bright and fill the sky. We could literally watch the sun come up over the ocean. Mostly we walked on the beach and relaxed in the hammocks and read and swam. Walking down the beach we were glad to see no people but we were disturbed to see a rather large amount of trash (we heard it washes up from the cruise ships dumping).

The food was absolutely wonderful! For the dinners we had - roasted chicken in honey with liquor poured over it and flambed (quite dramatic), chicken mole, shrimp curry, shrimp fajitas, pork roasted in banana leaves in a pit Yucatecan style, and an eggplant parmigiana. For desserts we had fresh fruit with a rum sauce, bananas with chocolate sauce, carrot cake, chocolate cake with creme de menthe sauce, flan, and pineapple with a liquor sauce that was flambed (again, quite dramatic). One night we had spinach salad but most of the nights there's a homemade soup such as onion soup, potato soup, tomato soup, mushroom soup, or lime soup (chicken based). Breakfasts had fresh fruit, granola, and something hot such as French toast, juevos rancheros, bean burritos, or some other kind of egg omelette type of thing.

One day we took a cab to Playa del Carmen and rented a car for the day (an automatic). We drove to Tulum which is a fortress/city right on the ocean then we went to Coba which is inland. Both are worth seeing and the two sights make a great day trip. Go to Tulum in the morning before the tour buses and when it's cooler. Wear a hat and sunscreen because it's all open there. We bought a guidebook to Tulum and Coba and overhead some info being told to guided groups. The admission price is about $5/person but we avoided the many people pressing us to take an individually guided tour for an extra $15 or more dollars - I don't think it would be worth it. Coba is less populated and a much bigger site. Most of the walking is on paths under trees. There's a chance to see some butterflies and hear or maybe see some birds here. There are a couple of very tall pyramids that can be climbed here. The tallest is 12 stories high with a great view on top. It's a steep climb and a bit scary coming down. Be especially careful if the stones are wet - don't expect handrails!

The age range at Kailuum was from newlyweds in their early twenties to couples in their seventies. Everyone was unpretentious and casual and friendly. Shorts and barefoot was the typical dinner dress. In the Playa del Carmen area and on the beach at Kailuum topless was OK. There was a group of six that came together and they played the games and drank a lot. Some couples would take their rental car into Playa del Carmen to walk around in the shops and go to other bars. Others of us were content with the privacy and the romance and going to bed early and waking up early and reading and relaxing.

This isn't the place to go for dancing and dressing up and flashy affairs. If you need your hairdryer and can't live without a TV then this probably isn't for you. Otherwise - I hope you have a wonderful time and I'd love to hear of your experiences.

sopelak@merck.com


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The following update to this article was sent by Charlie Bloomer in April 1997:
Saw your article regarding Kailuum. I have just returned from visiting the site and thought you might be interested in what's there.

The short answer is "nothing." After sustaining severe damage in a hurricane two or so years back, Kailuum has apparently been totally razed. There remains only beach north of Posada del Capitan Lafitte. Not a trace remains. I was left with only memories of my three stays there. Signage on the highway indicate that a Mexican developer, Huarte, is seeking international partners for some sort of mega-resort more on the order of Cancun and Puerto Aventuras.

Lafitte remains, although with fewer cabanas. Felipe is still the divemaster at the dive shop, though.

Joan has moved the Xop to Playa del Carmen. She is still, at 68, very much the wild woman. She celebrated her birthday by getting her nose pierced, a jaguar tattoo on her leg, and dying her hair bright red. I learned from her that the owners of Kailuum are developing a "fishing village" resort further south, but she had no details.

We should all shed a tear for the end of Paradise.

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