Casa Malca, a Boutique Hotel in Tulum, Riviera Maya, Mexico

Casa Malca, a Boutique Hotel in Tulum, Riviera Maya, Mexico

Located in the coastal area of Quintana Roo (Mexico), near the pre-Columbian archaeological site.

Visiting CASA MALCA in Tulum on the Riviera Maya, Mexico.

Webster Dictionary describes the word “Magic” as “The art of producing illusions by sleight of hand, mesmerized, dazzled, in a state of awe.”

Casa Malca, Mexico
The magnificent front entrance

 No words can adequately describe Casa Malca, set in the tangled Caribbean jungle of the Riviera Maya. This is a spectacular setting for a laid-back luxury hotel, famed for its owner, Lio Malca, an internationally known collector of contemporary art. 

The walls, floors and outside area are displayed with a curated, museum quality collection of artwork, sculpture and decorative items, placing it above and beyond  any of the other Tulum Hotels. 

With its own private beach, excellent restaurants, and two swimming pools, it is the ultimate in laid back luxury for the modern traveler seeking a unique experience.

Casa Malca, Mexico
It is in there, somewhere

Getting there

There is no name and no number indicating one has arrived at Casa Malca. It was difficult to find the gate because it was constructed of bamboo and vegetation to blend with the natural habitat.

Approaching the end of the narrow road lined with eco-hotels and bars, I thought I was lost, when the GPS announced, “You have arrived.”

I stopped the car and parked it safely on the side of the narrow road. There was a guard at the gate, and he gave me permission to enter the property.

Casa Malca, Mexico
Alice, are you looking?

Walking slowly, taking in the beauty of the natural jungle setting with dappled sunlight peeping though the towering trees, I approached the entrance of the main building where the magic heightened.

It was an Alice in Wonderland experience and I questioned if it were real.

The Backstory

Casa Malca comes with a provenance: it was formerly the home of the Colombian drug lord and  narco-terrorist, Pablo Escobar. He was known as the most powerful and most feared man in Colombia for the ruthless way he ran his life.

Pablo Escobar
The notorious Escobar grinning for his mug shot

His main occupation was dealing in heroin and he was the principal smuggler of heroin into the United States. His business generated a huge amount of cash, some of which was invested in international real estate.His estimated worth in 1993 when he was gunned down and killed, was $30 Billion dollars, but it could have been more.

When I was in Colombia about four years ago, visiting Pablo Escobar’s ransacked apartment in Medellin, the guide who was telling me about Escobar said in passing that he owned a beach front property on the ocean in Tulum and there were rumors that he used to visit it secretly arriving in a  helicopter.

Never did I ever think I would get to see it. Sure enough, four years later when I was in Tulum, I visited Casa Malca,the former home of Pablo Escobar which is now a beautiful art filled hotel developed by Lio Malca, an international art dealer.No one seems to know the exact story of how Lio Malca  gained possession.

The story I was told was that Lio Malca fell in love with this property. It was horribly neglected and in probate and  Mexican Law made it very difficult  to unravel the details. But with patience and good lawyering, Malca succeeded and became the proud owner after Pablo Escobar.

The Casa

Entering The Casa, i walked over handmade Persian rugs, on either side of the entrance a floor to rooftop curtain was attached and on closer inspection, I became aware that the curtain was made of old wedding dresses – yes, two entire drapes of wedding dresses joined to form a curtain.

To add to the fantasy, chairs were suspended in the air on chains. The building was three floors high, with an entire wall covered in strips of bark that encased the front door.

 

Casa Malca, Mexico
Suspended sofa

This was beyond anyone’s imagination, except perhaps the owner, Lio Malca, a New York City Gallerist and Art Dealer who created the interiors and produced the art program that is so essential to the design, using artwork from his own personal collection.

The door was slightly open, and I went inside.  “Inside” revealed a cube of space to match the outside height of the building, with a skylight at the top to let in the natural light.  Rich purple velvet curtains were hung from the top and against this a three-seater antique sofa was suspended high up in the air.

Casa Malco
Kaws sculpture

The walls had original artwork and there was a quirky KAWS sculpture, as if to greet the guests when they arrived.  Yes, I was Alice in Wonderland because this was not real, it was magical.

History of The Casa

The house that is now a hotel, was purchased by Lio Malca when he was searching for a holiday home in Tulum and “rescued” it from nearly twenty years of being abandoned and exposed to the ravages of the jungle climate.

Casa Malca
Beautifully appointed guestroom

Using local craftsmen and local materials, the original home was totally refurbished and renovated to be Mr. Malca’s own private, personal holiday home. When it came to the furnishings, the fabrics used were pesticide free organic cotton and rayon made from Bamboo. There were eight bedrooms en-suite, and soon enough there was a steady stream of friends and business associates coming to enjoy his hospitality in Tulum.

The Bedrooms

The bedrooms, with polished concrete floors and hand-made Oriental rugs scattered on the floor, feature floor to ceiling velvet drapes in shades of chartreuse and royal blue. The beds are made up with the finest Egyptian cotton bed linens and each one has its own original art collection. Large windows capture the views, which are either ocean or jungle and hammocks for relaxing are everywhere.

Guest suite
Ocean view

The ultimate room is “the Malca Suite” with a roof top terrace and spectacular views. Service is flawless and friendly. No room service, but there is bottled water and a Nespresso coffee machine in each room.

The Art

Having successfully completed the first refurbishment, Mr. Malca decided to turn his home in an eco-friendly sustainable boutique hotel. The original home became the main building of the new hotel with the eight bedrooms en-suite, the reception area, restaurants and bar. Altogether with additions there are now a total of forty-one rooms, that have spilled over into new buildings that were added on and correspond with the original architecture.

The ambiance of the hotel feels like one is visiting someone’s private home, a little eccentric, decorated with casual abandon, but at the same time, it is a style of decoration that is bold and original, using neon colors in the furnishings.

Integrated into the design is a selection of artwork from Lio Malca’s private collection, displayed both inside and in the surrounding “jungle.” It has the effect of a living breathing gallery. The artwork required careful selection because of the climate and only specific artwork could withstand the heat and humidity.  The “Gallery” is also rotated regularly, so that if you return you are likely to see different artwork.

Casa Malco
Art abounds in the entry to guestroom

Fine Dining

There are three restaurants:

Ambrosia
  • PHILOSOPHY, with a sea view, serving sustainable fresh fish and local organic produce, Mexican Food with a European twist
  • THE BBQ MARKET GRILL serving cuts of meat or the catch of the day prepared on an open grill.
  • AMBROSIA, specializing in ceviche, a more casual space paneled in wood, saved from the renovation of the Casa, featuring Keith Haring artworks. Even the bar is an art filled space and the seat covering on the chairs is copied from Keith Haring designs.

This leads to…

Snack at the bar

THE BAR cocooned in wallpaper imprinted with Keith Haring’s iconic black and white figures is both quirky and surprising.

The Swimming

Underground and indoor pool
Beachside pool

There are two swimming pools, one is outdoors with a view of the ocean and the second one indoors immediately underneath.

This is the Caribbean coastline and Casa Malca has a 600’ frontage of private beach, with powdery white sand, aquamarine water and frothy white waves lapping the beach. Clothing is very casual and informal both day and night.

In summary

This quote found on the Casa Malca Website sums it up best of all:

“WE ARE ALL ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE. CASA MALCA IS FAR MORE THAN JUST GETTING AWAY FROM  IT  ALL. IT IS ABOUT RECONNECTING WITH YOUR SENSES.”

Information:

  • Tulum, located in the Yucatan, is close to several historic and archaeological sites nearby and for those who can tear themselves away from this idyllic haven, visits can be made to the 13th Century Ruins of Tulum, Xcaret, Sian Ka’an Biosphere and the Grand Cenote. It is also close to excellent snorkeling and diving on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef that is rich in fish species and corals.
  • Room Rates: From $500 and up.  Please check rates.
  • Address: Km 9.5 Carretera Tulum – Boca Paila
    Tulum 77780, Mexico
  • Phone number:  +52 1 984 167 7154
  • email:  reservations@casamalca.com | info@casamalca.com
  • Website: http://www.casamalca.com/

 

Written by phylonthego

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