Inside Hotelito, an Eco
When I landed on a small airstrip in Zihuatanejo, a coastal town in the Mexican state of Guerrero just south of Mexico City, it took me exactly 43 minutes to reach utopia. The road meandered through the town’s iglesias and carnicerias, stretches of farm and jungle land, and glimpses of chalk-white salt flats at the end of a wide lagoon, before bringing me to Hotelito, a new 13-room beachfront property on a 177-acre stretch of virgin iron-rich Pacific coast known as the Costa Grande.
Hotelito is the newest addition to the Modern Utopian Society of Adventurers (MUSA), a lifestyle project by Mexican architect Andrés Saavedra and Canadian entrepreneur Tara Medina that also includes standalone casitas and residences for sale. For a decade before they started building MUSA, Saavedra and Medina have been creating communal spaces and experiences in Zihuatanejo and Mexico City through their experimental festival, art, and music platform LOOT. Saavedra first came to this wild section of the Guerrero coast 20 years ago and knew that, as he puts it, it was his “dream property.” The utopia here is not in the gently swaying palms or in the swell that attracts surfers from around the world (although both are aplenty). It’s in the way things are done. Much more than a hospitality project, MUSA is a mindset: bringing together people who love adventure and who also want to do good.
Set in the coastal Loma Bonita area, the Hotelito experience starts at the minimalist lobby with an open-air layout and organic-shaped sculptures by Guadalajara-based artist Joselo Maderista. Stepping into the poolside Alba restaurant, the hearth of Hotelito facing Loma Bonita’s iconic surf, I heard tunes from Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass spun live by Mexico-City-based DJ Davo Penaloza, as my body started uncoiling from months of living at high speed.
There’s no set schedule at Hotelito. The idea is to simply be, as my personal concierge informed me, adding: “WhatsApp me with anything you need.” This level of intimacy sets Hotelito apart. In many luxury resorts, service can be impeccable, but it’s more difficult to feel rooted in the community. “You can teach a lot of things but you can’t teach love,” says Medina. “There is a word we bring up often, convivencia. It’s the idea of coexisting, sharing resources, and living in the company of others. This is our ethos.”
In my room, outfitted with an open-air bathroom and an outdoor terrace where I made full use of the personal plunge pool, I found that communal effort in the custom MUSA toiletries by Mexican skincare brand For All Folks, hemp-cotton robes by Mexico-city-based Descansa, hand-made textiles from the nearby state of Michoacán by Candor, and custom-made room fragrance by Izaskun Estudio Olfativo, designed to imprint the stay with hints of clove, frankincense, sandalwood, and musk.
At Alba, I tasted tiger’s milk ceviche by chef Rodrigo Serna, a Zihuatanejo native who also heads up a breakfast joint in town called Mole Negro. Chef Serna told me he’s happiest when cooking for family. The eight-course extravaganza at his open-kitchen Chef’s Table experience was packed with flavors like tart distilled local tomatoes inside a scallop bowl and delicate cocinero, a Costa Grande fish, sprinkled with salt from the nearby Las Salinas salt flats. But in addition to the sophisticated taste, the meal was comforting, akin to the ones I used to have at my grandmother’s table.
At breakfast, Saavedra and Medina—who reside at the property—told me that their aim was to impact the land as little as possible. Saavedra’s design firm, ASD, oversaw the creation of tropical modernist exteriors and interiors with locally found materials like concrete, Black terrazzo stone, and Parota wood. Mexico-City-based Fenix Farms helped create two on-site regenerative farms and a cooling rooftop garden. Initiatives including a freshwater bio pool, compost and soil regeneration, and an artificial reef to aid natural reef habitats add to the list of extensive eco-conscious credentials.
Hotelito possesses magnetic energy that makes it hard to leave the property—but if you must, there are a host of adventures to experience in the surrounding region. At dusk, I watched the newly hatched golfina turtles find their way to the ocean as part of the daily release by a locally run volunteer program, La Tortuga Feliz. At Hotelito’s adjacent site, Casa Musa, a private agave tasting is a chance to meet Zayury Jimenez, the female founder of Guerrero’s Mano y Corazón Mezcal. Further afield, guests can shop for sweet and chewy coconut candy, dulces de coco, that are shipped from the nearby town of Juluchuca all over Mexico. Hotelito’s surf instructors guide guests into the beachfront waves or host a day trip to La Saladita, where the world-famous left-hand break attracts both beginner and experienced surfers.
With Hotelito, Saavedra and Medina intend to create something unique in the hospitality industry: a place that feels less like a hotel and more like a gathering of people united by a common cause. Before the first guest ever checked in, they sat down with key community members to ask how MUSA could support them. “Sometimes, you start adding things that are not needed,” says Saavedra. “Instead, we listened to the community and acted on their feedback.” This kind of collaboration resulted in efforts such as adopting an existing reforestation program or installing fiber-optic cable in local schools. “We want to create a model community, one that is being built from the heart, and takes care of everybody and everything around us,” adds Medina.
Half an hour away from Hotelito, a Mesoamerican archeological site of Xihuacan provides some clues to this quest. According to archeologists, Xicuahan, which translates roughly as the “place of the people who possess eternity,” was the capital for Guerrero’s indigenous Cuitlatec people, their multi-cultural ceremonial center, a gathering spot from places as far as Peru, something of a sacred portal.
It is no wonder then, that this essence extends to MUSA. “There is an energy here,” says Medina. “You feel it in the land. It’s so strong that you feel the responsibility to not mess it up.”
Doubles from $400