The villa had been in a lethargy for about ten years. Nestled in a compact jungle south of ancient Tulum, on a very fine sandbar, the same one that leads to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Nature Reserve. A very secret oasis. And for good reason! The white thick walls house were the property of a famous drug baron: Pablo Escobar, himself.
Behind closed doors
When the Colombian drug lord enters the Forbes 1987 rankingalongside Giovanni Agneli, it is for his huge real estate heritage and his patronage activity. His assets are estimated at more than $ 40 billion by critics in Washington. Famous for opening air routes between the Florida Coast and the Medellin cartel, under the nose of US Customs, Escobar provided drugs to more than 80% of the jet set market. At that time, in the late 80s, as he was at the top of his art, this son of a farmer and teacher acquired a property on the Yucatan Peninsula: Casa Magna, an ideal place to live out of sight. Surrounded by white and red mangrove vegetation, the spot was the perfect place to go green for a while, or perhaps discuss with Amado Carrillo, «El Señor de los Cielos», leader of the Cártel de Juárez and «partner in crime» of the Colombian, was wanted by all the police forces. With the fall of Escobar, at the beginning of the 1990s, the Mexican government seized the place and, in spite of the enormous potential that it conceals, left it abandoned, in particular because of its sulfur past. Casa Magna opens for the first time as an eco-resort.
New artsy atmosphere
When Lio Malca, the famous art collector, came in Tulum inDecember 2012, he immediately feels the call of the place. Three months later, he acquires the Casa Magna to transform it into a hotel he renames Casa Malca. Far from the Escobarian Hagiography, it preserves the splendor of its low architecture consisting of small thick walls villas with a full view of the Caribbean Sea. As in the recent past, the entrance to Casa Malca, through a wooden portico, is hard to find on the road to the biosphere reserve. No sign to indicate the name of the hotel: discretion first.
The presence of original paintings chosen by the owner (sometimes coming from his private collection) reinforces the atmosphere of uniqueness. Because Casa Malca is the temple of street art where Jean-Michel Basquiat (the collector trusts him since the very beginning), Keith Haring or the less known Kenny Scharff are here at their right place. Lio Malca’s successful bet is not only based on these American super stars, but also on more daring choices of works of the same lineage, such as the Brazilian Vik Muniz, Kaws or Marion Peck. The decoration of the 72 rooms harmoniously combines paintings and raw materials of the Mexican ecosystem in all their forms. It must be said that the average size of each room, about 70 m2, offers nice volumes to satisfy the «art dealer» and his curious hosts.
Organic, beautiful and good
The common areas are not left out. In the multiple red velvet folds of the lobby emerges three masterful Maya heads, slender and particular, illuminated by numbers of chandeliers with dangling pearl chimes. Like the rooms, the three restaurants reflect the collector’s universe. In the restaurant Ambroisie, where, the chef Jonathan Carbajal declines an “asiatico-fusion” talent, a maelstrom of recycled objects is displayed around a Haring masterpiece.
The bar is the opposite of the previous principle, as it is hard to be more graphic than a Keith Haring design, where men are linked in the form of a unique puzzle, on display for the joy of Instagramers who pose while sipping a natural juice.
And if you go to the Philosophy restaurant, it will not be to reread Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil while thinking about the illegal activities of Pablo Escobar, but rather for its very «ranchera» atmosphere and its local meals.
This hotel is not really one. It is rather a large holiday villa with charm and style where the concept of «sense of place» has taken its meaning thanks to the artistic orchestration skillfully punctuated by Lio Malca. It is a great success! Elle MacPherson and Leonardo di Caprio did not make a mistake by regularly visiting Casa Malca.
Carretera Fed, Av. Boca Paila km 9.5, Zona Hotelera Tulum, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
+52 998 502 0363