The Ruins of El Pueblito

“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.

Satellite Image of El Pueblito
The back (beach-facing side) of El Pueblito, between another hotel and public beach
Satellite image of El Pueblito from the front
The front (street-side) of El Pueblito – entrance and lobby prominent at the bottom

Ghost Town

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.

Ramp to El Pueblito
Becky walks up the “ancient” ramp to the grand entrance to El Pueblito.

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.

El Pueblito Entry Stairs

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.

El Pueblito 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.

El Pueblito Courtyard Exit

 

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.

Becky by the El Pueblito Pool

OK, so maybe I did that, too.

IMG_20180215_124713.vr

It works better if you have a VR headset or even a plain old 360-degree photo viewer like the one built into Google Cardboard (also available for iPhone users).

El Pueblito Pool
Seriously, how are there not zombies here?

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.

Who needs railings?
Railings? We don’t need no stinkin’ railings!
Stairs without railings
OK, maybe we do need some stinkin’ railings.

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.

Becky at the end of an El Pueblito hallway
Becky, ecstatic with my choice of mossy hotel rooms

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?

Room of reading materials

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?

Hot Tub 4th Floor
Four floors up and there never was a railing. But the view!

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):

El Pueblito Aero
El Pueblito – look at all its majesty!

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 Grand Entrance to El Pueblito
Doesn’t that warm glow look inviting?

The now-barren lobby was once literally full of life, and rather garden-like:

The Glorious El Pueblito Lobby
The foliage and fountain are captivating, but check out those sombreros!

The place was bustling with activity during the day, just like any other resort:

El Pueblito Pool Volleyball
Who’s up for a game of pool volleyball? These people were, in 2005.
El Pueblo Bursting with Color
It used to be so colorful!

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.

El Pueblito Water Slide
Who wants another cement water slide concussion? I do, I do!

 

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.

Thanks, Wilma.

Machette

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.

Art

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!)

Final thoughts

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.

20180216_122111

Thanks

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!

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