“What? You’ve never heard of El Pueblito before? Why, they are famous ruins in Cancun, Mexico!”
OK, maybe not so famous. Also, not so ruins, either. In reality, El Pueblito, which translates simply to “The Little Village” is the remnants of what used to be a thriving beach resort in the Hotel Zone of Cancun, sandwiched between a giant modern hotel and the Playa Delfines public beach.
I like to call them ruins, because my wife, Becky, and I had the opportunity to explore the well-weathered grounds, although some might use more accurate terms, like whatever “trespassed illegally” translates to in Spanish.
The guard who was casually waving his well-sharpened machete in the air when we got near the end of our little adventure didn’t need words to be menacing. And it might have worked, but Becky was way ahead of him, already worrying out loud about the current state of amenities in Mexican jails. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
We started out by casing the joint in the usual fashion… err… I mean, we stepped over a small chain meant to keep out only the timidest of tourists and headed up the worn cement block ramp to the deteriorating main entrance, which was artfully walled off.
Not being easily deterred, we found a nearby not-so-safe decorative ramp next to a sheer drop and climbed that to reach a glassless window. It’s weird how much freakier doing these things is now that we have kids. Anyhow, we carefully crawled through the opening to gain access to the lobby with a central abandoned courtyard.
Side rooms were full of debris, next to bathrooms in sad states of disrepair. We kept quiet in case of zombies. You know what I mean if have you seen The Walking Dead, or, even more appropriately, Fear The Walking Dead.
We headed out of the courtyard towards the sounds of the ocean, still wary of zombies. Or just homeless murderers. Whichever.
Becky stopped to pose in front of the less-than-pristine pool waters at the top of the chain of little pools that lead down towards the ocean. The place is in such ridiculous disrepair that it was all I could do to prevent myself from spinning around just taking photos of everything.
OK, so maybe I did that, too.
Although the landscaping was clearly quite the draw in its heyday, we were intent on getting a view of the guts of the place, so we wandered around in an attempt to select the best decaying corpse of a building upon which to intrude.
This one looked nice, so we casually wandered inside, continuing to be wary of existing “residents” that might have returned from their beach murdering activities.
We even found a suite at the top of one of those railingless stairs that had all kinds of interesting reading materials. The suite had been abandoned without the owner having the chance to claim their belongings. And yes, I’m curious about what’s on some of those VHS tapes, too, but who owns a VCR anymore?
I didn’t take a photo of it, but even their wedding album was still there in the next room. Creepy, indeed.
The hotel was definitely all about safety, though. Who wouldn’t want to sit on the edge of this sexy hot tub, especially if you’ve had too much to drink?
But seriously, though… what the heck happened to this place?
The Glory Years
Opened in the 1970’s or 80’s (it seems to depend on who you ask), El Pueblito was once a thriving resort – a little village if you will. Here’s how it used to be described on Ye Olde travel websites:
El Pueblito Beach Hotel is an all-inclusive resort located on the best beach in Cancun, is the perfect enclosure combining a traditional Mexican atmosphere with the vanguard and ecological development of a cosmopolitan environment. The colonial style architecture and traditional activities will make you live the experience of a Mexican atmosphere in the Caribbean.
Thanks to The Internet Archive Wayback Machine, you can even check out the El Pueblito website from a decade ago. The web was still new then, so try to cut the poor web designers some slack, will ya? Strangely, if you go back another 7 years to the first version of their site, it has a more contemporary entry page.
Anyhow, in 2005, it looked like this (taken from an airplane because photo satellites weren’t cool yet):
The missing resort on the left side of it is conspicuous in its absence, and the colorful buildings, well-populated party decks, and crystal blue pools provide a stark contrast to the desolate zombie playground it has become.
Here’s how the grand entrance used to look:
The now-barren lobby was once literally full of life, and rather garden-like:
The place was bustling with activity during the day, just like any other resort:
You can’t tell from the overhead photos, but there was actually a cement waterslide that came all the way down to the lowermost pool from the middle of “The Village,” which actually has a decent amount of elevation as you head away from the beach.
Wilma The Destroyer
As is evident from the photos above and even the zoomed in satellite image at the top of the post, the complex looks almost post-apocalyptic, dull brown dirt in place of vibrant green grass and the once-blue pools either completely dry or half full of ugly brown mud.
Frankly, I think the downfall started with their promotional video, which is hilariously bad at best. The random model poses will make you squirm in your seat and wince because you feel rather sorry for them. I recommend watching it at double speed.
The reality is that Hurricane Wilma descended upon El Pueblito, along with the rest of the Yucatán Peninsula in October of 2005. They had plans to rebuild by mid-2006 but instead closed forever later before 2007.
Back in the present, Becky and I were exploring, walking between buildings, when a Mexican guard waved and yelled at us from near the beach. We’d been spotted! Once the guy’s partner started waving his large knife in our direction, we decided to comply and walked down next to the water slide. We would totally have ridden it down, but, sadly, it was dry as a bone.
Once we met up with him, I tried to speak with him, but his Spanish was heavy and mine was worthless, so all I really understood is that he wanted us out of there and that they were planning to demolish the place soon, so it’s likely we will never even see its ruins again if we ever return to the area, which is kind of sad.
The graffiti was impressive, even if I have no idea what it said (and sure, it might even express ideas that are less than civil, but it certainly is lively!)
Take a look at the El Pueblito sign. Someone risked his or her life to climb up there and steal the “Beach Resort…” part of it but somehow had enough respect to leave the “el pueblito” letters intact. Or they were just too difficult to remove. Nah, I’m sure it was all about respect.
Thanks to the following websites for information and photos from when the resort was in significantly better condition:
Dave’s visit: http://www.davesdomain.ca/elpebleto
A site with tons more detail if you’re interested: http://www.moderndayruins.com/2013/10/el-pueblito-beach-resort-cancun.html
Otherwise, all photos of the resort in its current condition were taken by me, with the help of my lovely assistant, Becky, who also happens to be my wife, because I’m a seriously lucky guy. Thank you for being an awesome travel partner, Becky!