By far the best-looking hotel in Celestun is the Hotel Manglares. It is painted cheery colors and has enough palapa to assure you that you are somewhere tropical. The design is adorable and the whole property is well-laid-out, with two medium-sized hotel buildings, several cabana units, a pool (complete with swim-up bar) and a casual-but-classy looking restaurant – all stretched along the resort’s broad sandy beach.
We are here by accident. The Hotel Manglares is on my “do not stay” list, due to the number of negative reviews on the internet. However, we couldn’t find the hotel I was searching for and so we drove through town until we ended up here. The other lodgings we passed on our way through town did not look very promising.
On the other hand, the Hotel Manglares LOOKS lovely. And the woman who ran our inn in Merida said when she stayed here it was a bit “tired,” but nice . . . “and surely they have freshened it up in the years since.” Surely.
Since we are here anyway, we might as well check it out.
The place feels deserted.
We manage to communicate well enough with the bored-looking young lady in the office – she speaks no English, but we figure out that she has a room available at a very reasonable price.
She shows us the room. It is large and airy. It has two king-size beds, a dresser, desk, TV, bedside tables, a large (clean) marble bathroom, lots of electrical outlets, built-in storage, and air conditioning. Best of all, it has big sliding glass doors that open onto a deck and sweeping views of the sea.
It looks great; much better than I was expecting.
A side door that connects to the adjoining room is open and I peek in. Housekeeping hasn’t finished getting that room made up, as the sheets are still rolled to the side. It looks as if someone just got out of bed.
It seems odd that they left it like that with the doors open. I mull over it as we head back down the stairs to the office. The place seems deserted. Something isn’t right. It looks nice, but maybe we should check some other places.
So we drive back through town. We still can’t find the place I am looking for, so we check another one instead. It is not nearly as nice or clean as the Hotel Manglares and we are sick of driving around trying to find a place that seemingly can’t be found. The Hotel Manglares it is.
Back at the hotel, the young woman in the office hands us the registration forms to complete, notifies a maid, takes our cash, and hands us the remote controls for the air conditioner and TV.
We haul what we will need for the night up to our room, close the still-open door to the adjoining room (which still has not been made up), and head into town for a bit of lunch and sightseeing.
When we return to the hotel, the stairs have been swept and the pigeon droppings washed away. (Do they only clean as needed?) Back in our room I open the door into the adjoining room – the door on the other side is still open, the bed still unmade. I close the door again, wishing it had a deadbolt. Why hasn’t the room made up and why were the connecting doors left open? It’s like a crime scene where you don’t want to disturb the evidence. At least now there is another car here; we are not the only guests. (In the morning we will realize the car probably belongs to the night watchman.) I try to keep the recurring thought “Bates Motel” at bay.
As the sun sets, we wander the broad beach that unfolds just behind the hotel’s cabanas. Aside from some young vaqueros practicing their skills with a lasso on the beach next door, the beach is deserted. The whole hotel seems deserted, although there seems to be a light on in one of the cabanas.
Where is everyone?
We tour the grounds.
There is a gorgeous pool slowly filling with sand. That pool leads to the perfect beach restaurant, with floor-to-ceiling glass doors and a swim-up bar to serve the pool. The glass doors are open and the tables ready to be set, but all is dark. It is as if we stumbled upon a stage set. I look around for cameras – perhaps they are filming a movie? But there is only the sea, the sand, and wind in the palms.
We wander back to our room through the manicured lawn that surrounds the cabanas. The cabanas are attractive and welcoming, with porches and big windows.
The gardens are healthy and filled with blossoms.
It seems as if every visual detail was carefully considered, from the carefully tied joints in the railings to the perfectly matched shells used as groundcover in the gardens.
This place should be packed . . . except NOTHING – aside from basic cleaning and landscape maintenance – appears to have been done in years. The palapa roofs have deteriorated nearly to the point of collapse; the ground floor rooms are filled with boxes; lightbulbs around the grounds, in the stairwells, and in our room are missing; there are no screens in any of those big glass doors, even though this beach is famous for its mosquitos; and the bedding, while clean, is so threadbare that one of our pillow cases has a rip in it and one is transparent (there are four small, lumpy pillows and the other pillow cases are in better shape). It’s as if someone built their dream hotel and then just walked away and left it all to rot.
I imagine a tragic tale of a mentally unstable son and the aristocratic father who wants to ensure a future for his son by building him a beautiful resort. The son is protected from the world and the father and his friends come here to relax. Paying guests provide a steady income stream. But when the father is suddenly dies in a terrible accident, the son is left here alone to become increasingly deranged and his father’s dream crumbles around him.
When I ask a local resident what is going on at the Hotel Manglares, all he will say is: “The owner has his own idea of how things should be done” as he twirls his index finger at his temple in the near-universal sign for “crazy.”
If you are visiting Celestun, the Hotel Manglares is located right on the beach at the edge of town. As a drop-in during low season, we paid less than the internet discount rate for a room in the hotel section of the property. We found our room more than adequate for the price (clean and comfortable, if a bit threadbare). While it was a little creepy to think we might be the only guests, we didn’t really feel unsafe. Although no English-speaking staff was available when we checked-in, there was someone there in the morning who spoke English. However, don’t count on finding English-speaking staff. WiFi is available in the rooms, but be sure to ask for the code when you check-in, as the office closes about 5 pm and we didn’t see any hotel staff after that time. My local contact told me that the restaurant is good when it is open, but didn’t seem to have any idea when it might be open – but again, we were not there during the peak season.
If you are looking to invest in a resort somewhere tropical and you don’t mind mosquitos, you might want to find out what is going on at the Hotel Manglares. Apparently the hotel was built in 2005 and changed ownership by 2009. Whoever built it really made an effort to do everything right, as it is a beautiful and well-designed property with wonderful details. When we visited this fall, it appeared that the property had not yet deteriorated to the point where there was structural damage, although it looks like that point isn’t far in the future. Right now it seems like a relatively modest investment and good management could quickly turn this place around. Of course, there will still be mosquitos.
You can read more reviews and book a room here (or somewhere else): Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor.
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