4 tips to consider before building on Yucatán’s Gulf coast

Xacumbé, a contemporary three-story beach home in Chicxulub, Yucatán, follows the rules. Photo: Leo Espinosa

Few things are as enjoyable as a terrace overlooking the sea. But when it comes to maintaining that view year-round, there’s a lot to take into consideration if you want to keep your slice of paradise in the best possible condition.

Architects around Yucatán are fluent in beach development. They know the best seasons, materials, and layouts to get the most bang for your buck while minimizing headaches. 

After building Xacumbé, a contemporary three-story beach home in Chicxulub, Garibay Arquitectos offers four tips to begin your thought process.

1. Build around the sun 

Perhaps you’d like your master bedroom to have a view of the sunrise. While this may be stunning, it will also mean your suite could be overwhelmed by the sun’s rays later in the day. Consider that there’s likely a good in-between point in terms of positioning. 

When it comes to the Yucatán’s Gulf coast, architects will often recommend that your property faces north, which here usually means the sea.

Xacumbé plays around the sun to ensure the best views and temperature. Bedrooms look north — some to the sea, others to semi-indoor gardens. This positioning faces the beach, but shies away from direct light and ensures optimal airflow.

Pay special attention to the placement of skylights and large windows. They may be visually striking, but will also heat the room considerably.  

2. Rely on sturdy materials

Wood décor, steel pieces, and lovely linens are all part of the minimalist beach aesthetic. But when it comes to maintenance, these materials have a hard time standing up to the coast’s salt and humidity. If you’re planning on living in your beach house all year, you may be able to get away with your selections with constant care and maintenance. But if this is a seasonal home, get robust materials.

Faux woods are relished around Yucatán because they withstand humidity and are inexpensive to replace. But if you’re keen on having the real deal, be sure to purchase local woods like tzalam or ciricote. These materials are more likely to defy the region’s weather and are often treated to endure these conditions further. 

For outdoor pieces, it’s synthetics all the way. Materials like aluminum, fiberglass, and resins give off a clean aesthetic without breaking the bank — and they are known to resist the intense sun of the Peninsula.  

3. Storage, storage, storage

What is the best, safest way to close up for a couple of months? Covers and sleeves for outdoor furniture might not cut it. Consider assigning a specific space so that you can store and protect all your outdoor valuables. This may mean appliances, furniture, or even a watercraft. Think about placing storage close to where your furnishings are usually stationed. You will save on back pains from lugging around heavy items, as well as costs associated to floor maintenance and damaged décor.

4. Embrace nature

Many new homeowners are taking a stand to protect nature. Building is inherently destructive, so whatever we can do to help the land recover is a worthwhile effort. Think of the nature that existed on your plot before a shovel hit the sand. What we are trying to say is: plant it all back! Seagrapes, beach lilies, and pool tsakam, a protected cactus known for its stunning white flowers. 

These are all beautiful endemic species, perfect for creating a captivating private garden.

Xacumbé favors the environment, not just in the outer dunes, but in a series of indoor “jungles” built around existing nature. With Yucatán’s minimalistic palette — which favors chukum, a beige plaster made from tree resin, and natural stone — splashes of green are a welcome break in the landscape.

Have a deep discussion with your architect before building and let them know you need ample space for palm roots and seagrapes.

The Yucatecan coast is wide, and wonderful plots still await. Begin practicing your beach development conversation skills and you’ll ensure an architectural gem on the shore.

A version of this story originally appeared in Yucatán Magazine’s print edition. Subscribe here.

Veronica Garibay
Veronica Garibayhttp://yucatanmagazine.com
Verónica Garibay Saldaña is a Mexican columnist, communications major, and poetry enthusiast. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
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