Mexico’s Costa Maya: green on the beach

1 June 09

| Costa Maya Verde |

Frigate bird soaring above the Costa Maya, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Mexican marketeers call this stretch of their Caribbean the Costa Maya. Just 4 hours’ drive south of Cancun, it’s a world apart. Quiet, with the tourist infrastructure still minimal (this won’t last). But the weather is just as warm, the sand as silky, and the tropical vistas glorious. The clear waters are calm and shallow, protected by the Banco Chinchorro—the same reef system divers flock to in Belize (only Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is larger).

Beach view from Balamku Inn in Mahahual, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Balamku Inn: beach view

In the heart of the Costa Maya is the town of Mahahual. If much of it looks new, it is. Horrific Hurricane Dean took out much of this area in 2007. Among those who hunkered down and rode out Dean’s 19 hours of hell is Alan Knight. He and wife Carol Tumber are transplanted Canadians who built and operate Balamku Inn On The Beach, a few miles down the winding, sandy road that hugs the coast south from town. They lost “everything not nailed down” and then some—including their thatched roofs, a 60′ Royal Palm that narrowly missed crashing into the main inn and many of their solar panels. But they survived, and so did their “ecological hotel”—one of the few green lodgings on the beautiful Costa Maya.

A combination of solar and wind energy continue to power Balamku. Its 9 guest rooms are all right on the beach, in circular palapas and 2-story buildings situated to maximize natural ventilation. They’re airy and tastefully turned out, with tile floors and colorful Mexican art. In-room toiletries are aloe vera-based. Natural cleaning products and biodegradable laundry detergent are used exclusively. Captured rain water flows into your shower and sink, and then goes out to constructed wetland.

Toilets to save the reef

The units even have specially designed composting toilets (looking at them, you’d hardly guess) based on a Swedish system. “It was adapted by a Mexican biologist,” Alan tells us, “who, as a diver, recognized the sad reality of waste leaking into the sea and destroying coral reef.”

Room at Balumku Inn in Mahahual, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Balumku Inn: airy and tasteful

He continues: “In this part of Mexico, the water table is just feet below the surface. So septic systems are a hazard to this environment. Properly installed septic tanks require a leach field, which is impossible on the beach. Otherwise they should be treated purely as holding tanks and pumped out regularly, which rarely happens here.”

Recycling is also standard to the green regimen here, even though government-funded recycling programs are few and far between. Food waste is composted and eventually adds nutrients to the gardens.

Do what comes naturally

Balumku Inn in Mahahual, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Guest rooms: circular palapas

A full breakfast is included with your stay, served in the main inn and featuring organic fruit from the property, homemade granola and organic Chiapas coffee. While you’re there, check out the local art, clothing and jewelry in the small gift shop, and perhaps offer a donation for the community work Alan and Carol do in Mahahual, in health care and education and projects like a garden for local kids on Earth Day.

And then do what comes absolutely naturally here. Wade or snorkel or just splash about in the bath-temperature waters. Kayak. Book a lovely massage on the beach. Arrange a dive on the reef or deep-sea fishing trip. Take a deep breath. Ahhhhhhh….

Previous post:

Next post: