I knew I’d arrived at my kind of boutique hotel when the bell boy pulled my bags past a retro VW Beetle.
It had been cut in half and covered in beautifully painted sea shells for maximum impact.
Such were my first impressions of Live Aqua Boutique Hotel, situated in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.
I follow the bell boy into the spectacular atrium, and the entrance is proof that boutique hotels aren’t necessarily small.
All sixty rooms surround this large courtyard - overlooked by a huge mural created by Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra.
It’s a homage to the French post-impressionist artist Douanier Rousseau’s ‘The Dream Painting’.
The bright, multi-coloured frieze depicts a lady reclining in the Yucatan jungle.
The mural covers the entire length of the 15-metre wall, and beneath sits the appropriately named El Mural restaurant.
This is a chic, minimalist hotel, incorporating in its design various types of stone, wood, and bamboo, as well as relaxing water features.
Art and antiques are subtly poised around the hotel.
An antique fisherman’s canoe from Mexico’s Lake Pátzcuaro hangs on the wall near the lifts and is half the length of the five-story building.
Another hugs the infinity pool on the top floor and a third is in the shallow water fountain in the reception area.
The top floor is where the cool hip people of ‘Playa’ hang out and enjoy the chilled-out music.
The mesmerising infinity pool has a view over the Caribbean Sea and is surrounded by comfortable sunbeds and cabanas.
It’s serviced by obliging staff, while the bar itself has been decorated in brightly coloured Mexican floor tiles, giving it a feel of a Hacienda.
Enjoy one of their signature cocktails while watching the sun set over Playa Del Carmen below.
Here you will also spot the remaining half of the VW Beetle, a creation by artist Anthony Patti, initially used in Tommy Hilfiger’s stores for his Surf Shack Collection.
There’s two choices for lunch and smaller type meals on the top floor by the infinity pool.
The bar serves lighter traditional Mexican food or, for a more substantial meal, head to the tapas sushi restaurant next to the pool.
For dinner, I’d encourage you to try the Dai Restaurant on the ground floor: let yourself be spoilt by the head chef Juan.
The small modern restaurant offers a good selection of Asian fusion dishes, and the shrimp dumplings were delicious.
On the ground floor, they also offer a small deli for light snacks and coffee.
The stunning rooms in the hotel have a contemporary Mexican feel with an excellent choice of minimal designer furniture, while the larger suites are a good size.
The gym is compact but has everything you need for a good work out, while the spa is small but adequate, offering a steam room and excellent masseurs.
As the hotel is located on the 5th Avenue, away from the sea, guests have favourable entry rates to Mamita’s Beach Club, two streets away.
You pay a fee equivalent to £6 per person, which can be redeemed against food and drink, and also includes a sunbed and umbrella.
However, the beach is quite narrow and not the best in the area.
The adults’ only all-inclusive Live Aqua Boutique Hotel is the perfect hideaway in Playa Del Carmen and not to be missed.
It’s located on the north end of 5th Avenue, Playa Del Carmen’s thriving, main hub, itself packed with bars, restaurants, shops, outdoor cafés, coffee shops, dive centres, and tour operators.
Live Aqua Boutique Resort offers visitors exquisite restaurants, stylish guestrooms, a rooftop infinity pool, contemporary art, and the authentic elements that make for a truly wonderful holiday.
With its minimalistic architectural, creative spaces, and relaxed feel, it is the highlight of any break in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
Find out more on the official website.
Words and images: Mark Hakansson