Monday May 23, 2022

Eco-Hotel in Mexico Offers Sculptural Treehouse

Tulum, a small town on the Riviera Maya in Mexico, was recently recognised as an independent municipality and is carving an identity for itself that embraces both traditional Mayan culture and modern ecological ideals. At its heart is the Papaya Playa Project, a resort that has carefully preserved 93% of the original jungle around it in a region where 5% is more typical. It pitches itself heavily as a green and holistic tourist destination for today’s high-tech but alternative artisans. Project director Emilio Heredia describes it as “barefoot luxury“.

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 New and Old

A public-private partnership (PPP) helped to install solar energy panels, promising to make the resort self-sustaining and 99% free of carbon emissions by December 2018. Yet when it comes to the buildings, low-tech traditional Mayan styles and materials are preferred. The hotel is built almost entirely of local timber, with their pillars often merging imperceptibly with the still green jungle in which they nest. Many roofs are thatched with local palms, while a traditional technique to cool building interiors is borrowed from the local Maya. Called “chukum”, it involves coating with a local tree resin known for its insulating qualities.

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 Jungle Treehouse

Guests can now spend the nights in a timber treehouse that nestles just above the jungle canopy and beneath the stars. Its curved contours take inspiration both from local Mexican traditions and from the naturalistic forms celebrated by Anton Gaudi (

Señor Heredia said that raising the building allows the plants around it to grow, so it does not interfere with nature. He added that the aim of the project was to respect all of the animals and plants of the jungle.

The structure is raised on tall stilts and reached via a spiral staircase. Tree branches intertwine with structural beams and penetrate walls.

Although architecturally striking, major treehouse developments have also been constructed in places as far apart as Sweden, Cape Town and Sri Lanka, whilst timber frame housing has been gaining a solid market share in countries at all latitudes. If you’re contemplating a timber framed building project, contact a timber frame construction company such as for guidance.

There are plans to extend the Tulum treehouse with additional bedrooms. The site also has a simple A-frame timber chapel overlooking the ocean that is very popular as an exotic location for romantic weddings.

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