Quintana Roo, Mexico
If you want to LIVE in a jungle, this is your place. Pueblo SacBe is a private oasis, an eco village set in the Yucatán jungle, within the city limits of Playa del Carmen. You can buy a land plot here and build the house of your dreams. Or you can just visit for a hike or a party.
Alternatively, you can rent an airbnb place here, to try living in the jungle for a while. If you want to come for a walk, this would need to be arranged with a local resident (get in touch if interested). You can also rent Ted's palapa place for a party (see below). Or come to Bill's house on Sunday afternoons. He has an open house for pizzas, which he makes in his clay oven in the jungle (you will need to bring your own toppings and he will bake it for you). The eco project is located 8km north-west of the centre of Playa del Carmen. It is a large gated community of 54 hectares, with a density of 13.5 homes per hectare.
I come here from time to time with friends to spend a quiet afternoon walking the hiking trails. Our friend Ted is one of the co-founders and co-owners and he takes us for a walk. Several hectares have been set aside for trails and park areas, including an outdoor sports area offering volleyball. There are several cenotes integrated within parks for the residents and guests to enjoy. Furthermore, Ted has planted here a ceiba tree for me and my husband Rhod and another one for our son Rhodri. The tree was a gift from a local shaman to us when we renewed our vows at a shaman ceremony. We are now forever attached to those trees and to this place. Ceiba is a sacred tree of life for the Maya and it has become so for us.
What I enjoy most is the serenity of the place. During our walks we meet the locals at times, walking with their dogs; nobody seems to be in a hurry; everybody is relaxed. Or we walk on a trail to the house of a local art dealer who not only built an exquisite house with large windows to allow the jungle view to 'enter' the house, but also placed a lot of beautiful sculptures on the paths around his house, for all to enjoy.
The local residents have built some quirky houses here, homes of their dreams, all to their own taste, no building restrictions except for the common eco approach. There is a large house built as a small replica of Sagrada Família in Barcelona (still under construction) and a few other houses built in Gaudí Art Nouveau architectural style, known for its serpentine shapes, surfaces covered with irregular ceramic pieces (well, mainly bottles are used here), archaic appearance, wrought iron gates.
There are no limits to imagination. Mosquito nets are often used instead of windows, open terraces are used as living spaces, colourful bottles are embedded in the walls, some have outdoor showers and the jungle is generally integrated into their private gardens. One of the houses is made entirely from impressive wooden doors brought here from India, another one is a true tree house (owned by a Mexican actor). On one of my visits I met a Slovak artist living and painting here; on another a Canadian family who had just built a new pool and were so pleased with it. They come here for a few months every year; others live here permanently. The community is mixed; the residents are from Mexico, Germany, England, Italy, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, USA, Lithuania, Russia, Singapore, Columbia, Peru, Sweden, Norway, Spain, and Holland. Truly cosmopolitan and all eco-minded.
So how does the village maintain its eco sustainability? Solar panels or generators are used for electricity. Water is pumped out of the cenotes and supplied to the households every day but Sunday (the residents have to stock water for that day). Several hectares have been set aside for trails and park areas, including an outdoor sports area. A beautiful natural outdoor amphitheatre has been created above the Tohoku cenote as a forum for music and theatre groups. Ted sometimes plays here with groups of musicians. Local university and archaeological groups can study local flora and fauna and understand this special ecosystem. You can find the usual suspects of the Yucatán jungle here: Ceiba trees, Copal, Sapote, Baalche', Mahogany, Dogwood tree, the infamous Black Poisonwood tree called in Mayan Chechén and its antidote Red Gumbo Limbo (or Chacá in Mayan).
Commercial activities are on offer as well; one could open a restaurant or a gallery here, adhering to the preservation of the eco rules. Our friend Ted just built (in 2017) a large palapa in the middle of the jungle, which can be rented for private parties. Nothing like a party in the middle of the jungle! A palapa is an open-sided dwelling with a thatched roof made of dried palm leaves. Ted's palapa has a bar with a water sink and adjacent toilets. And we partied wildly here, I must admit.
Ted also has a garden here, he has planted some chili, aloe vera, basil and other herbs; you name it. He has an agreement with the government and when the beaches get inundated with seaweed, he trucks it here, mixes it with other ingredients and creates a fertile soil. He works closely with the local Maya and teaches them how to make a sustainable living from the jungle. Very admirable. It is his life project; you can feel his soul in it.
I already mentioned the parties. At times we come for a party here with friends. We combine it with pizza at Bill's house. Usually Ted and his friends play and sing music; a lot of people just join in either singing or dancing; it is a lovely feeling to see how the jungle liberates people and pushes them towards creativity.
How to get there:
You will need to drive here. From Avenida Constituyentes go north on Carretera Federal 307 toward Cancun for 5.5km. Turn left and back to the Guadalupana residential area. This turn is 0.5km past the intersection at Azul Fives and the Pemex. Go to the end of Avenida Xel-Ha, the main road through Guadalupana, then turn right on Avenida Paseos del Mayab. Go to the end of that road, then turn left onto the dirt road and continue until the gated entrance to the Pueblo SacBe.