We’ve been around awhile now, and we know a lot of our readers might not have had the opportunity to experience our earlier issues. So we wanted to give you the chance to discover one of our favorite stories from our archive every Friday. Some of them feature actors, musicians, or artists who eventually made it big, talents we are proud to have tapped early in their careers. Some have brilliant writing, and some have beautiful photography. Some have both. But all of them are so great we thought they deserved a second chance. This week we present Magnus Berger’s personal Fall 2009 profile of hotelier Nicolas Malleville, owner of the Coqui Coqui chain of hotels in Mexico. If you haven’t planned your summer getaway yet, this might just inspire you.
HOTELIER NICOLAS MALLEVILLE LEFT BEHIND THE BIG CITY TO LIVE THE DREAM ON THE YUCATÁN PENINSULA, AND HIS COQUI COQUI SERIES OF PROPERTIES HAS DEFINED AN UNDERSTATED LUXURY. NOW HE’S BRINGING IT TO NEW TERRITORIES.
When you meet Nicolas Malleville, there are a few things that strike you—he has a charming Argentine accent and great style, and he is very handsome. Born in Adelia María, Argentina, he always dreamed of combining travel with his other passions: landscaping, interior design, and things that smell good. After spending many inspiring years traveling for work and fun, he decided to settle down on Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula, where he would buy his first piece of land, on the beach in Tulum. The idea was simple: to create a nice life in a beautiful place. In 2003, Nicolas opened the doors of the Coqui Coqui day spa, which eventually turned into a hotel, which eventually developed into a highly sought-after line of perfumes, oils, and scented candles.
Each time I go to Tulum, Coba, or Valladolid to visit Nicolas, there is the feeling of leaving everything behind. When I first went, there was no electricity in the rooms, just candles—which was great once you got used to it. Now they actually have cell phone reception, because “the Americans were complaining so much.” The Coqui Coqui location in Tulum is literally on the ocean, executed in rustic simplicity, but with great taste. With only five rooms, the hotel feels exclusive and intimate. “The scale is key to achieving what we want,” Nicolas says. “If we went a little bit bigger, a lot of this would be lost, maybe not in the treatment of the spa, but in the overall experience, in the sense that every room is different and everything is handmade. It’s more the feeling of something private and residential, but with the amenities of a hotel.”
I met Nicolas for the first time in the early 2000s, a while before he acquired the land in Tulum. He was so determined, and the message he wanted to convey was so clear. He knew it would take a long time to get there, but the idea was already in place: two hotels with spas and a perfumerie with a line of homemade fragrances and spa products. He now lives with his Italian girlfriend, Francesca Bonato, in Valladolid just down the street from his perfumerie, where they use indigenous plants like agave, plumeria flowers, and eucalyptus to make their own perfumes, massage oils, and candles.
He is now about to open a retreat in the jungle of Coba, and two new locations—one in Grimaldi, Italy, on the French border, and another in Córdoba, Argentina—will give Nicolas the chance to travel even further. But the philosophy remains the same. “It’s the Coqui Coqui interpretation of the local tradition and culture. It’s not meant to preserve history or culture like a museum. It’s about taking local elements, and, with the eye of a foreigner, coming up with something new.” Like the hanging bridge between the two pyramid-like structures in Coba, which feels more Indiana Jones than ancient Mayan, but adds a playful element nonetheless. “In the end it comes back to the basic idea of a good life, and if you do it Coqui Coqui–style, you eat well, sleep well, and smell good.”