Playa del Carmen, Mexico: No kids allowed, and a camera chained to the bed
In recent years, Playa del Carmen has become increasingly popular with style-conscious travelers, and Hotel Básico, from the architectural firm Central de Aquitectura and interior designer Héctor Galván have created a hotel full of exuberant, ingenious, and witty touches, though the place never feels over-designed.
There are allusions to Mexican daily life (the soaring lobby is open to the street and doubles as jugueria or juice bar), industry (the drapes are rubber strips), and natural assets (most notably in the nautical references throughout the hotel). The latter might sound like a recipe for kitsch, but the execution is fresh. In fact, the top floor, open-air lounge that evokes the upper deck of a ship, two smokestacks included, would be a stunning space, even if it didn't afford lovely views of the Caribbean. Two mini-pools are perfect for margarita-sipping, if not swimming.
Mr. Galván has fashioned 15 rooms (from $205) in which a white-linened bed is not only the featured furniture in the room, it's practically the only furniture in the room, unless you count exposed pipes. Fortunately, the bed turns out to be a kind of Swiss Army knife: there are pullout drawers, a shelf for towels, storage beneath for stools, a minibar, water bottles, flippers, and a beach ball, and there's a Polaroid camera chained to the bed.
Básico gets the basics right, too, since it's furnished with a full stock of creature comforts including air conditioning, a flat-screen TV, DVD player, CD player, and free wireless Internet. A rubber tire that you can use to go tubing doubles as grab-and-go wall art. The hotel is not located on the beach, but guests get free passes to Mamita's Beach Club, a ten-minute walk, where there are lounge chairs and umbrellas as well as a swimming pool. Básico's staff is remarkably friendly, and that extends to pets, which are welcome, though children are not allowed.
Just as well: otherwise, you'd have to explain why that Polaroid is chained to the bed.