Opening Shot

With a Tasteful Execution of the Yucatán Vernacular, Etéreo Transcends the Riviera Maya's All-Inclusive Kitsch

Indigenous materials, works by local artists, and faithful interpretations of Mexican cuisine imbue the new resort ensconced in a mangrove preserve with a holistic sensibility.


Location: Riviera Maya, Mexico

Designers: Migdal Arquitectos (architecture), Meyer Davis (interior design), EDSA (landscape architecture)

On Offer: The word “all-inclusive” gets used a lot on the resort-fringed Riviera Maya. What’s usually not included? Interesting architecture. That changed last winter with the arrival of Etéreo, a 75-room addition to the Auberge Resorts Collection. With architecture by Mexico City–based Migdal Arquitectos and interiors from New York’s Meyer Davis (Rosewood Little Dix Bay; Four Seasons Houston), the resort proves that hotel design can be at once sustainable, culturally authentic, and breathtakingly beautiful. The first property to open in the 680-acre Kanai development (which will eventually include a St. Regis, an Edition, and a fourth property yet to be announced), it combines indigenous materials, open-plan layouts, and works by Mexican artists — all seeming to float above a nine-acre mangrove preserve along a gentle arc of white-sand beach.

Standout Features: Etéreo means “ethereal,” and the concept of lightness is evident throughout the project. The revered late Mexican artist Manuel Felguérez designed the lattice screens in wood and plaster that recur throughout the property, creating intricate shadows and allowing sea breezes into the indoor/outdoor living areas. Public spaces are dotted with reflecting pools and shaded seating. The hushed spa is centered around a whirlpool tub illuminated by an aperture in the ceiling—like one of the area’s transcendent cenotes. Meyer Davis leaned into native materials, including lava stone, Tzalam wood, and chukum plaster, as well as works by Mexican artists and artisans.  

Just as the design elevates the Yucatán vernacular, so do the food and other operations hew to a spirit of regional pride that never feels contrived. The house wines and beers, the pop playlist by the pool, the rugs and sculptures sold at the boutique are all Mexican (and on a recent weekend, it seemed, so were half the guests). The cuisine, from poolside ceviches and beachfront tacos to the resplendent dinner fare at Itzam, is superb. All of it is connected by a system of boardwalks that protect the fragile mangroves and dunes—and make for the perfect Instagram backdrop. 

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