“Is there a better way to experience the beauty of nature than by sleeping in a tree house on some sunny stretch of Caribbean coastline surrounded by the jungle?” asks Emilio Heredia, owner of the Papaya Playa Beach Resort and the man who collaborated with Design Hotels to create Papaya Playa Project in Tulum, Mexico. This wasn’t a rhetorical question, for Heredia is a man of action, not rhetoric. These words were part of a larger personal challenge to create something that bordered on the impossible—a 100-room, multi-villa property on the beach and in the jungle that, yes, also includes a tree house.
Heredia is on a spiritual path to personal enlightenment that he embarked on over 30 years ago; a journey of betterment through the study of yoga, karate, the Tao, and corporal psychotherapy. “My main hobby is living with intensity,” he modestly explains. Despite his love of the transcendent, his feet remain firmly on the ground (or in the sand, to be more accurate). Heredia’s university degrees in electronical engineering and finance ensured a successful stint as chairman of various financial institutions in New York and Mexico in the early 2000s, but this ultimately left him wanting to connect with the world on a deeper level, inspiring him to create the Papaya Playa Project.
Principally because of Heredia’s business savvy and his spiritual awareness, Papaya Playa Project appeals so strongly to members of the creative community as well as those who yearn for original, unmediated experiences in nature. “For some, it’s taken a little time to understand what we call ‘barefoot luxury’ or ‘primitive sophistication’,” says Heredia. “What’s interesting is that in the end, most of our guests leave having had an experience that has awoken their awareness of nature.”
Papaya Playa is essentially a keystone to reaching happiness for Heredia, which he defines as “going beyond the paradox of confusion, beyond all individual illusion, and leaving without judgment, being free, and loving all and everything.” Papaya Playa Project is inimical to this “individual illusion” that he speaks of, which is why one finds communal spaces that encourage collaborative thinking, such as an amphitheater on the beach that acts as a platform for sharing, readings, lectures, performing art, and beyond. “We are all a part of the same Mother Earth,” he says. “To feel we are separate has brought us heartache, but to know we are one brings us joy and peace in our hearts.”
As well as dedicating his life to his own spiritual awakening, Heredia knows the importance of sustainability, social responsibility, and giving back to the local Mayan people. “My aim is to help preserve Tulum for the generations to come,” he explains. “I chose Tulum because I wanted to be in a beautiful place that demands human respect for the planet and all living beings. To me, that respect is very important—some of those beings we can see here, like animals and plants, but others are more subtle, such as the different energies of Earth.”