This low-key boutique hotel on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula - the so-called Mexican Riviera - was set up by a couple of creative San Franciscans.

This low-key boutique hotel on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula - the so-called Mexican Riviera - was set up by a couple of creative San Franciscans. Most of the buildings are only one storey high and all are built in traditional cabaña style, with palm-thatched roofs and sand-coloured plaster. While the hotel's exterior is toned down and in harmony with its surroundings, what's inside is a playful mix of Mexican fabrics and bold, Latin colours. So while the beach is strewn with simple wooden loungers, you'd be hard pressed to find two pieces of furniture painted the same colour in the hotel's restaurant, Que Fresco.

Sitting back in a brightly coloured chair and listening to the bar's ambient soundtrack play in time to the waves, it's difficult to imagine anywhere in Mexico more serene. When the sun is shining and the sea is calm the only decision to be made is whether to sip a margarita or step into the water. And, if there's a storm crashing in, whether to roll out the hotel's Scrabble set or order a spicy Mexican hot chocolate and watch the waves pounding into the pale Caribbean sand.

Even if you're not staying here, it's worth trying to squeeze in for supper. The restaurant serves some of the best food in the country - as well as massive wood-fired pizzas, the menu includes big, wholesome dishes like grilled fish with garlic and lime served with fresh local vegetables.

LOCATION

Hotel Zamas, Tulum (book through 001 415 387 9806; www.zamas.com). On a quieter section of the beach-side strip that runs south from Tulum to Punta Allen, Zamas is close to Mayan ruins, cenotes (limestone springs you can swim in), nature reserves, lagoons and deserted beaches. A good pair of feet are about the only transport you'll need to get from your cabaña to the beach, or up to visit the ruins. For further afield, or into Tulum town, a taxi costs 35 Mexican Pesos (£1.65).

Time from international airport: the nearest is at Cancun, around 130km (two and a half hours) up the coast from Tulum. It is served mostly by US airlines, and some charters from the UK. A bus from the airport costs around 200 pesos (£9), a taxi 500 pesos (£23.50).

COMFORTABLE?

The 15 cabañas come in a happy jumble of different shapes and sizes. Some have sea views, some garden views but all have cool plastered floors, beds that sit on platforms made from colourful mosaic tiles and a comforting mix of Mexican throws, mosquito nets and, out on the balconies, hammocks. The cleanliness of the white-washed walls is broken up by the occasional smattering of folk art and colourful chairs and tables are provided just in case you want to play board games - or write a novel while staring out to sea (it's that kind of place, if you can work up the energy to move a pen across a page).

The bright mosaic tiles are repeated in the organically shaped bathrooms and huge walk-in showers boast almost floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the jungle-like vegetation.

Freebies: as much filtered water as you can drink.

Keeping in touch: there may not be any phones or TVs, but there is plenty of information about the local area to read up on. Otherwise, head into Tulum for phones and access to the internet.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Garden cabañas start at $65 (£38) and sea view cabañas (much bigger and lighter) from $100 (£59), depending on the time of year.

I'm not paying that: try the Hotel Diamante K (book online at www.diamantek.com), which has dorm beds from around 120 pesos (£5.50).

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