Papaya Playa Project - Design Hotels - Tulum

Papaya Playa Project x Riviera Maya Film Festival: Spring Breakers Beach Screening

I actually wrote about a pop-up hotel called Papaya Playa Project last year, loved the location and concept and dreamt about visiting one day in person to blog about it. While spending time in Playa del Carmen, Mexico I hadn’t made the trip out to Tulum until Jennifer Fry, a friend of mine from AirBnB, took me out there for a day. She brought me to her favourite spot to relax and also work online, which just happened to be the Papaya Playa Project (by Design Hotels). Not until I was leaving did I realize it was a place on my list of dream places to visit! I also had a great excuse to return to PPP more recently for the Riviera Maya Film Festival. I spent another day soaking up the Caribbean sun and stayed to watch a screening of Spring Breakers, appropriately set right on the white sand beach. So below I have a gallery combining two amazing days at the eco-friendly boutique hotel. And then one showcasing the hotel at night and the film festival screening of Spring Breakers. at the Papaya PlayaProject

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Papaya Playa Project – A natural boutique hotel paradise in Tulum:

After being spoiled spending several months in Playa del Carmen, I was eager to take a break from it lol, so was excited to be checking out Tulum finally. Arriving at the PPP, you immediately feel more relaxed. And I comparing this to Playa del Carmen, not Cancun or New York City or something. While the beaches are public in Playa and Tulum, the location and length of the property give you extra privacy while there. So while the beach clubs in Playa are relaxing to the ametuer, for a professional beach lounger like me, they are now hectic compared to the PPP and Tulum. And the sand and surf are just a little bit better too, especially with the crowds missing.

Entrance to the Papaya Playa Project in Tulum, Mexico

The hotel was intended to be a “pop-up” boutique hotel, meaning temporary. It was designed to integrate and have the least effect on the natural surroundings, with eco-friendliness in mind. The result were natural, traditional designs mixed with more modern amenities and service. What I loved about it was it looked like it’s supposed to be there, unlike any traditional hotel, almost camouflage when you’re down the beach from it.

The Papaya Playa Project pop-up hotel in Tulum

The hotel stretches almost 1 km, but you’ll never know by looking at it.

Henning Schaub, the lucky German manager who’s currently stuck looking after the hotel, was very hospitable and showed us around for some photos and to check out the cabanas. There have a range of bigger, shared casitas and smaller cabanas. Some with bathrooms and some without. There is a big shared bathroom, but it’s a nice one, not like what you’d find at a public pool or anything. And it’s extra refreshing to have a shower with an open roof of the clear blue skies or starry night. Some cabanas sit in the jungle, some on the beach and some on top of a small cliff, which were my favourite.

Restaurant and DJ booth at Papaya Playa Project

Stadium-style seating so everyone gets the view while they eat.

Bar lounge at the Papaya Playa Project Tulum

Bar lounge looking overlooking the moon-lit Caribbean sea.

At the restaurant-beach club, you’ll only find good music spinning from their DJs. Not the usual overplayed EDM or reggae music from most beachfront hotels. Music was grooving but chill. Good smooth beats and classic funk and soul mixed in that even a fan of this type of music, had to SoundHound to find out the song names. You get to enjoy it from natural stadium style seating while you eat. or up at the bar, with a lounge overlooking the beach. On that note, there is no wifi in the rooms, only at the bar, restaurant, beach club and lobby. But let me tell you, after suffering through spotty wifi at tons of beach clubs (all research for my job, fyi) they have the best beach wifi I’ve ever tried. I was even able to brag on facebook about it from the front line of beach beds. With it nice and fast anywhere near the actual hotel.

Seared tuna burger at the Papaya Playa Project

Game-changing seared sesame tuna burger with wasabi mayo dip.

Everything we ate or drank there was awesome. From a green ginger smoothie to strawberry brown sugar mojitos, cerviche to burgers. And they had one of the best seared tuna burgers I’ve ever had. The price was about half what I’d pay for one that good back in Vancouver, where we are swimming in good seafood. And to eat it in paradise with such a pristine view, I’d have paid triple to enjoy tuna that tasty in that same seat. Note this boutique hotel is no longer a “pop-up” hotel, as it’s become too loved by new and return visitors alike. But don’t hesitate to visit, because who knows how long you’ll be around! (I don’t t mean that as a threat).

 For more this amazing pop-up boutique hotel, visit

Riviera Maya Film Festival Screening of Spring Breakers and After-Party:

A fan of the director and the stars of Spring Breakers, I was excited to be seeing it for the first time in the perfect setting. A big inflatable screen was set up right on the beach, with beach chairs and room to just crash in the white sand. The best part is the sand is so white and clean, you could be all dressed up for the party and not actually get dirty. Our new photographer and fashion-travel blogger Roz du Jour joined me again for another great luxury event.

Riviera Maya Film Festival at the Papaya Playa Project

beach theater getting setup for the Spring Breakers screening.

The video quality was good and considering that it was on the beach with wind, the sound was pretty good too. I was caught up at the bar so wasn’t able to get good seats, so I sat outside of the speaker setup, so it was a bit quiet for me. The movie was definitely not how the movie trailers dressed it up as. It was subtitled in Spanish, but if you didn’t know English well, the movie wouldn’t have made much sense I’m pretty sure. Or if you were as drunk as me, but I still enjoyed it.

Spring Breakers screening at the Papaya Playa Project

Wish all movies were played at the beach and about spring break…

Riviera Maya Film Festival after-party at Papaya Playa Project

This photo helps express how many colorful cocktails we had that night.

At the party afterwards, some stars from other movies from the film festival joined us, along with some tasty hors d’oeuvres and cocktails. Spring Breakers star Vanessa Hudgens was supposed to be the guest of honor, but didn’t make it. She’s half-Filipino like me, so I was planning to ask her if that means we automatically have to get married, but unfortunately didn’t get the chance. Probably for the best because they would have kicked me out and I’d have missed the party… For more photos of the party and guests, check out Roz’s afterparty post on

For more info on the Riviera Maya Film Festival, visit

Click an image below to open the full-size gallery:

Photo Credit: Roz Du Jour

Simon Gerard
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Simon is a luxury marketing consultant and editor at Luxury Branded. He writes about luxury brands, travel and lifestyle trends for our blog and our clients. He lives for travel and spends most of his time between Vancouver, BC and the Riviera Maya in Mexico. Follow him on Twitter: @S_Gerard and on Google Plus: +Simon Gerard