Discovering 40 Cañones, A Secret Hotel on the Costa Maya


Making the journey to the Mexican Caribbean town of Mahahual, CJ Travel Editor Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon finds a secret boutique in Mexico

I’M ONLY five minutes away from the bustling Mexican port complex of Costa Maya. Yet it feels a world away.

Most of the passengers from the three mammoth cruise ships that have docked here this morning have marched like ants along the long pier to the purpose-built compound at its terminus. Here stores sell everything from talavera figurines to Tanzanite jewelry; you can pose for photos with people dressed in traditional Mayan garb; and the ocean-front pool is swarming with sunburned bodies cooling off in the shallows.

But, on the advice of a friend, I’ve hopped a $3-per-person, thatch-roofed jitney along a dusty and rutted road into the sleepy village of Mahahual. We get off at the third and last stop, right in front of 40 Canoñes, a boutique hotel and restaurant that’s been here for more than a decade.

And from the moment we enter the restaurant and sit down in leather bucket chairs with a front-row view of the ocean just across the street, I know I’m in the right place.

The feeling is confirmed as I watch coconut palms laden with green nuts sway in the breeze, a breeze which carries the joyous brassy sounds of salsa with it. Young women in bikinis and shirtless guys in board shorts amble down the middle of the street, casting longing looks at the Mexican feast that soon appears at our table: a whole fish, crisply fried; guacamole and chips; shrimp fajitas, sizzling on a cast-iron skillet.

“It’s nothing fancy,” my new friend had warned me, referring to the casual pace and simple, bohemian vibe of the 15-year-old establishment, where wooden swings are suspended from the bar and colorful glass hearts decorate the dining room.

But I can get “fancy” on the ship I’ve just disembarked from, I tell her. I can choose from more than 20 restaurants, and be served everything from veal shank to vegetarian lasagna by smartly dressed wait staff, eager to please me.

Yet I’m perfectly content to be here, enjoying life’s simple pleasures: a good meal, good company, and a good view. I take a sip of my cerveza and sigh contentedly, knowing one thing for sure:

Fancy is overrated.

Click here to book a stay at 40 Cañones.

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