Coqui Coqui’s Scents of the Yucatán
To discover the true identity of a region, one must first consider its nature. The flora and fauna that thrive within its borders, the climate and topography that harbor such life, and the cultural behaviors and attitudes that they inform and inspire; these are the keys to embracing a place in its purest form. Such is the fundamental philosophy of Coqui Coqui, with luxuriously rustic spa residences across the Yucatán, including a boutique and perfumery, and an array of signature fragrances and bath products, all of which embody the unique native essence and tropic energy of the peninsular Mexican state.
It is tempting to think that very energy was at work when Coqui Coqui co-founders and fellow expatriates Francesca Bonato and Nicolas Malleville first happened upon each other in the coastal Yucatán town of Tulum in 2003. “I was walking down the beach, and a girl dressed all in white, with a turban on her head, approaches me,” Bonato recalls. “She invites me to a ‘spa,’ which at that point was just a safari tent on the beach. It was really pretty hippie. I thought ‘Yeah, why not?’ so I ordered a tea from the little handwritten menu, and the man who brought it to me was Nicolas. It was a coup de foudre. We fell in love.”
Before long Malleville had built a proper house and spa on that small parcel of beachfront land, which the couple eventually began renting to cover expenses for its upkeep; it would become the first of four residences they now manage in the region. “The guests liked that it was so intimately decorated in our own simple aesthetic, and that we had all our own products at the spa.” The couple consciously chose to stock the establishment with natural products that made use of local materials and indigenous craftsmanship, rather than mass-produced, imported goods. “We weren’t going to buy shampoo at the supermarket, so we found a guy here that makes incredible shampoo by hand with the pulp from locally cultivated aloe vera plants. We decided to bottle it to use at the hotel and spa, and to make it available to the public.”
Francesca’s Tour of Tulum
For Bonato, “Tulum is the beach. Respect the natural rhythm of life here and then you will understand it better. Wake up at six with the sun and observe the beach in its natural state. From the palms, to the cenotes, to the dolphins, even huge turtles depositing their eggs on the beach in summertime—you need to see this beautiful spectacle to truly experience Tulum.”
“Sleeping and breakfast is at Coqui Coqui, but my favorite restaurant is the nearby Hartwood.” Chef Eric Warner sources flavorful, fresh local produce and ingredients—including seafood fished from the waters off of the Coqui Coqui residence—and prepares them without gas or electricity, using a traditional wood burning oven. “I love his philosophy, that the way he prepares the food takes time and patience. It’s really the opposite of fast food.”
For shopping in the area, Bonato is partial to another of her brands, Hacienda Montaecristo. “We have an incredible selection of all these natural gauzes, natural leather, natural burlap, and everything is hand-colored and hand-cut. Really beautiful products, and we sell them from this wonderful safari tent located just across the street from Coqui Coqui.”
At Coqui Coqui, everything is Mexican. Nature gives everything within a locality a unique sense and identity, so our fragrances reflect the different places that we landed and decided to open the residences. Francesca Bonato
The brand’s fragrances were born of the same concept, blended at their flagship perfumery in Valladolid with a commitment to native ingredients and artisanal production. “At Coqui Coqui, everything is Mexican. Nature gives everything within a locality a unique sense and identity, so our fragrances reflect the different places that we landed and decided to open the residences. Coco Coco, one of our best sellers and the first perfume we created, is created from three different coconuts that grow on the beaches of Tulum. Then from the Coba residence there is the Menli, which is mint and lime, and there is the Eucated, made from eucalyptus and cedar.”
Each Coqui Coqui location represents a significant destination from the cofounders’ journey around the peninsula. When the founding residence in Tulum was damaged by a hurricane, the couple was displaced to Valladolid, where they soon bought a house. “We loved that it was this sleepy colonial town, no foreigners. It was so genuine.” Soon enough they had established additional residences in Coba, a more adventuresome jungle locale midway between Valladolid and Tulum that appealed to Malleville’s botanical interests, and in regional capital Merida, which offered the best doctors during Bonato’s pregnancy.
Fate brought them to each successive location, much as it had brought them together in Tulum to begin with, but it didn’t take long for the duo to see the unique virtues and possibilities of each new site. “We put our flags on the map in a very simple way, and it turns out to be interesting as a path for our guests, to be experiencing the beach, the jungle, the colonial town, and then the elegant city.” It is this eagerness to explore, embrace, and commune with one’s natural environment, along with a respect for traditional customs, that defines the accommodations, amenities, and products of Coqui Coqui. “It’s really going back to our roots, a healthy and simple way of living—but it’s not forced. Because here, life is just like that.”
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. Nicolas Malleville