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Inspired by the Recent Pop-up Phenomenon Around the World in the Form
of Retail, Art and Gastronomy, Design Hotels Launches the Ultimate
99 Cabaña Pop-up Camp with Papaya Playa in Tulum, Mexico

December 2011
- Our decade has been described as the Turbulent Teens. In reaction to uncertain economic dynamics, unparalleled original solutions in the space of art and design have cropped up, one of the most popular being the pop-up retail and art phenomenon. An instant success, the idea plays with exactly what we are looking for right now: functionality, value, story and innovation. While this concept has been around for a while, Design Hotels™ Founder and CEO Claus Sendlinger sees its shift to hospitality as a natural and inevitable progression.


Introducing, PAPAYA PLAYA, A DESIGN HOTELS™ PROJECT hitting Tulum, Mexico from December 6, 2011 to May 5, 2012. Having sought far and wide for a place to create an authentic, nurturing experience, the 900 meter stretch of oceanfront paradise cocooned on the Caribbean coast of the Mayan Riviera was the perfect spot. Together with Emilio Heredia, owner of the existing Papaya Playa beach bungalow resort, Design Hotels™ is initiating the ultimate pop-up camp. Claus Sendlinger explains: “Our idea was to create a transitory, yet deeply culturally-rooted experience and we couldn’t have dreamed up a better place to make this happen. Capitalizing on the natural environment and multicultural character of Tulum, we quickly put together an international team of real visionaries, each enriching the experience with their own food, music, design or wellness concept. The enthusiasm and creative energy of everyone involved enabled us to renovate the camp and put together a holistic program within a very short period of time.” So come December, the authentic-pleasure seekers have a new raw-luxe camp they can sink and rub their feet into. Ninety-nine cabañas have been renovated by the Design Hotels™ creative team. Integrating local materials and building techniques, they encourage its residents to soak in the warmth of the elements, both physically and mentally. The separation between man and nature diminishes in these rustic spaces while the perception of small indulgences – like high thread count sheets, flowing mosquito nets and thick towels – is heightened. The ultimate luxury in most of the cabañas, is the private porch, where hammocks gently swing guests into sync with Tulum’s laid-back rhythm.

THE RURBAN MANTRA -- a rural setting with an urban spirit The Papaya Playa Project experience is not a typical beach holiday. Together with a group of like-minded partners, Design Hotels™ is staging a communal playground, offering a raw, white canvas for a community seeking reconnection with nature and within themselves. KaterHolzig, the most recent offspring of Berlin’s legendary Bar 25, will serve up seasonal local food from the grill and fresh breads from the custom-built clay oven. To guarantee that the cuisine retains its creative flair abroad, they’re bringing their head chef from their popular Berlin restaurant for the course of the project. Their Beach Shack bar & lounge and the Papaya Recording Studio will be the epicenter for their international network of DJs and performing artists. Making sure the legacy of Mayan rituals are duly celebrated, an event series will take place around each full moon. These are curated by Mamapapacola, the creative agency known for their offbeat ideas, together with the events arm of the Kater-Holzig team. 42°RAW, already making waves in organic gastronomy, will provide nutrientrich, food-on-the-go. The Mini Super boutique brings together the best products from international artists and designers to create a unique and ethical shoppers’ delight. It specializes in eccentric finds from solar-powered gadgets to unusual jewelry designs, beach wear, accessories, erotic toys and handicrafts from the region and beyond. To complete the holistic circle, So Happy Neo Spa will use Mayan shaman secrets to pamper body, mind and soul.


All communal areas like the restaurant, bar and beach club encourage a feeling of solidarity within the Papaya Playa community and are a cultural playground for food, music and spontaneous action. An important theme of the project, integration here is about being glocal – a fusion of global and local. Inspiring and being inspired, original thinkers come  together to perform, present or simply communicate in their chosen fashion. There’s a natural amphitheater on the beach which will play stage to those willing to share and experience with international music, readings, inspiring lectures and more. Guests can also reserve the space for private events. Being hooked up to the best DJs in the world, means music is definitely a focus here with impromptu jam sessions in the sand, relaxing ambient tunes at the spa as well as all-out parties from time to time.

A longing for the real, simple and above all, sensory: to consciously feel the coarse texture of sand, hear the sounds of the whole ocean in a seashell or open oneself to the energy of a place where ancient culture and a modern creative spirit merge. Located in the heart of Mayan mysticism, Tulum offers the perfect dose of nature, leisure and spirituality. It is a place where small boutique hotels are the norm and where constructions are commonly simple cabañas on the beach. In the recent past, Tulum has become a destination in its own right, separating itself from the bigger tourist attractions in the area, Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Known for its verdant forests, pristine white beaches, azure waters and the only major Mayan ruin along the coast, Tulum is one of the world’s best beach destinations. As such, it has caught the attention of the international creative community who thrive in this environment where inspiration is infectious and simple pleasures are rediscovered luxuries. Emilio Heredia, owner of Papaya Playa and a local who cares deeply about the region and its future shares his thoughts about the Project: "I chose Tulum because I wanted to be in a beautiful place that is full of nature, respect and the values I grew up with. My aim is to help preserve that for the generations to come. I envision Tulum as a sustainable destination with responsible tourists and tourism providers, where business owners play an active role in urban planning and cultural conservation. When I met Claus Sendlinger I knew that Design Hotels™ was exactly what I was seeking for Papaya Playa and for Tulum."

As the name suggests, So Happy at the Papaya Playa Project goes beyond the usual wellness offerings, with the aim to nurture the mind just as much as the body. Living slow is at the heart of the concept where SLOW stands for Sensual, Laidback, Organic and Wise. Known for their mystic powers, Mayan healing practices are an important component of the spa’s menu. Experienced local shamans and guest healers from all over the world use ancient techniques of self-transformation and the natural powers of the earth. So Happy is a vibrant indoor and outdoor space on the beach where guests come for the entire day. In addition to massages and beauty treatments, yoga, tai chi, meditation and gyrotonics, the juice bar serves up healthy snacks, teas and fruit smoothies. There’s also water sports equipment available from kayaks to snorkelling gear. While mom and dad get the full “SLOW” immersion, the caring staff keeps kids entertained at the playground and through a variety of wellness and learning programs.


The mission of the Papaya Playa Project is to build and support a community greater than its own, and with this in mind, guests are encouraged to explore the region’s rich culture and pristine nature. Knowledgeable staff are always at hand to arrange guided tours and provide recommendations about the archeological sites, the Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the best places to dine, shop, hang out as well as various day and nighttime activities. This stretch of the Mayan Riviera is particularly a diver’s paradise. Primely situated on the second largest barrier reef in the world, Tulum offers world class diving only minutes away with an additional unique offshoot for the adventurous diver: cenote diving. Cenotes are spectacular caves that form part of an underground river system offering some of the best cave diving found anywhere.

Encouraging creative work as well as play, the Papaya Playa Project invites innovative companies, entrepreneurs, betapreneurs, freelancers and free-thinkers to take advantage of the ultimate green workspace. Set amidst the wild flora and fauna of Papaya Playa’s jungle, the unconventional office is available free of charge for qualifying businesses who want to profit from this experimental and communicative environment. Applications are welcome from all trades, whether a start-up or long-established business, but it must have a strong sustainable, cultural, environmental or social focus.


The 99 cabañas are all ecological and built with local materials. Their simplicity and no-frills furnishings lend them their special charm. Renovated by the Design Hotels™ creative team, fresh colors, cozy beds with highest quality sheets and thoughtful details make for a comfortable stay. Approximately half of the cabañas are outfitted with private bathrooms and the others share a central bathhouse. A highlight of the newly renovated communal bathhouse is its own bath concierge offering guests plush, fresh towels and a selection of indulgent bath products.
  • 1 Casa Kater, a private house set amidst the flora and fauna of the jungle with 5 bedrooms, an outdoor living room and a private bathroom featuring an outdoor shower.
  • 3 Casitas, spacious oceanfront living with stunning views, a private terrace and a large private bathroom.
  • 21 Oceanfront Cabañas with private bathrooms, solid structures perched on a rocky ledge with stunning views and private terraces.
  • 32 Oceanfront Cabañas with shared bathrooms, mostly wooden structures perched on a rocky ledge with stunning views. Most have private terraces and guests have access to a communal bathhouse.
  • 16 Garden Cabañas with private bathrooms, solid structures located slightly back from the beachfront with garden or partial ocean views and private bathrooms.
  • 4 Jungle Cabañas with private bathrooms, modest solid or wooden cabanas set amidst the flora and fauna of the jungle with a modest private bathroom.
  • 13 Shared Jungle Cabañas, modest solid or wooden cabanas set amidst the flora and fauna of the jungle with access to a communal bathhouse. Each has two bunk beds and guests are allocated at the time of booking.
  • 9 Crash Pads, the most economical way to experience The Papaya Playa Project, these extremely basic wooden structures are set in the property’s jungle with either sand or wooden flooring with access to a communal bathhouse.
Restaurant & Bar by KaterHolzig
Overlooking the beach, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, the camp’s main restaurant features fresh, local ingredients that are whipped into flavorful dishes with an international flair. Pizzas and freshly baked bread are served straight from the clay oven, while just-caught fish, and a variety of meats are prepared on the open-air grill.

The Beach Shack by KaterHolzig
Located directly on the beach, with a bar and lounge area, The Beach Shack serves drinks and snacks from late morning until late evening.

Raw Food Bar by 42° RAW
Straddling a rocky ledge and spilling onto the Caribbean white sand, the Raw Food Bar serves healthy, plant-based snacks from late morning to late afternoon. A breakthrough concept in good food, nothing is cooked above 42 degrees Celsius to avoid denaturation of food and loss of enzymes and vitamins. Originating in Copenhagen, 42°RAW already has a huge following in Europe and will soon open its doors in New York.

Design Hotels(TM) represents and markets a curated selection of more than 200 independent hotels in over 40 countries across the globe.More than a collection of hotels, the company is a collection of stories. Each property reflects the ideas of a visionary hotelier, an "Original," someone with a passion for genuine hospitality, cultural authenticity, thought-provoking design and architecture. Each "Original" stands for the individual, aesthetic and service-driven experience that his or her hotel provides. Founded by Claus Sendlinger in 1993, Design Hotels(TM) offers its members insightful travel industry knowledge, from market trend consultancy to international sales representation. The company has its headquarters in Berlin and branches in London, Barcelona, New York, Singapore and Perth. For more information, please visit and


Design Hotels
tel: +49 30-8849 400 91
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Also See: Starwood Hotels & Resorts to Acquire 49.8% of the Shares of German-Based Design Hotels AG from Arabella Hospitality SE / December 2011

Nira Alpina, a Design Hotels Property, Set to Open in the Swiss Alps Near St. Moritz / October 2011

Design Hotels Hotel J in Stockholm, Sweden Opens 113 New Rooms and New Public Spaces / September 2011

248-room Hotel Lone, Design Hotels™ Opens in the Mediterranean Town of Rovinj in Croatia / July 2011

Hotel DeBrett in Auckland, New Zealand Joins Design Hotels™ as Part of the Oceania Portfolio / December 2010

Design Hotels™ Slated to Open the 201-room Nobis Hotel in Stockholm, Sweden / November 2010

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