Hotelito Desconocido (“Little Unknown Hotel”) on Mexico’s glorious Costalegre was a pioneer in the eco-luxe category and garnered its share of recognition and celebrity guests for its innovative (at the time) blend of green ideas (no electricity, natural and local building products) and jungle chic (outdoor bamboo showers, nesting turtles). Last year, Condé Nast Johansens recognised Hotelito Desconocido as one of the best destinations in the world and last month the same group recognized the hotel as one of the best green properties in the world. The hotel has even featured on Conde Nast Traveler magazine’s “Room with a View” page.

But Hotelito Desconocido hadn’t had a real renovation in the 12 years since it opened and, frankly, during a recent stay at the hotel  (in actor Gary Oldham’s favorite room) it was showing—like a once beautiful and fashion-forward woman now wearing a dress both out of style and threadbare.

“Hotelito Desconocido had become a myth,” says Gonzalo Noguera-Rodriquez, marketing and sales director for the hotel. “We had a big name but the original dream was really dying and the concept was being copied by lots of hotels all over the world.”

Originally conceived by Italian fashion designer Marcello Murzilli, the hotel was purchased by new Mexican owners in November of 2007 who immediately started setting a new and improved course for the hotel. They recognized that the challenges faced by Hotelito Desconocido call for drastic measures and on May 4, 2009 the hotel shut its doors for a seven month, $20 million dollar top-to-bottom reinvention—one of the most exciting projects I’ve heard about lately.

The 24 existing bungalows will be torn down and replaced with 27 bigger stand-alone bungalows, all on stilts over the hotel’s bird-filled lagoon. Those wonderful outdoor showers will remain, supplemented by Jacuzzi tubs in all of the bungalows and also private plunge pools in seven uber- bungalows. Each bungalow will be much larger (one will have two bedrooms) than the existing bungalows and each will have an area for in-room treatments from the spa which will also be recreated in a huge new state of the art building.

A four-minute row boat ride away, on the beach side of the property, the 12 existing hotel-room style accommodations will disappear as well, replaced by just three villas with 3-4 bedrooms each. The beach pool will also be re-created and a hot tub added along with a second pool situated on the beach to allow the sea to fill it during each high tide.

Happily, some of the most unique and charming aspect of Hotelito Desconocido will be retained and even enhanced. Each bungalow will continue to be named after one of the playing cards in the ubiquitous Mexican board game Loterias. The hotel’s successful Olive Ridley turtle egg collection, incubation and release program will get an infusion of cash to create a new Biocenter and add a second marine biologist so their existing turtle expert, Danny, can have some help finding, rescuing, raising and releasing the thousands and thousands of baby turtles that pass through his hands every year.

One prays they also keep the coffee flag guests simply raise above their back porches to summon their preferred breakfast beverage every morning.

The hotel will also nod more aggressively at environmentalism using solar and wind power to fuel necessary appliances like refrigerators and fans while still relying on candlelight at night. When all is said and done, Hotelito Desconocido management plans to try forGreen Hotel certification from the Green Globe organization.

The new Hotelito Desconocido, a member of Mexico Boutique Hotels, will accept reservations starting in January 2010, so mark your calendars.


Our review of this hotel was originally published by iTraveliShop

Visit our Travel Features page and our Hotel & Restaurant Reviews page to see all of our freelance travel stories.

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