Now for a break from kittens, beaches and scrumptious Italian food, how about a little lesbian S&M from Mexico?
(Boy, I bet that lead got your attention. If not, keep reading.)
Seriously, I had a travel experience that will never make “Lonely Planet” or the Los Angeles Times. Penthouse? Almost. That’s why I’m writing this here. The famous literary magazine (Hey, it does have fine writing, too!) loved the tale I told of a trip I took to a hotel that specialized in erotica. You’ve heard of hotels that cater to families and pets and football fans. Welcome to Playa del Carmen where the Reina Roja Hotel caters to sex. Sadomasochism. Pool-side fornication. Lighting out of a brothel. The Reina Roja, while also functioning as a regular hotel, invites anyone to explore their sexual fantasies — or find fantasies you never knew were legal outside Nevada.
In the fall of 2014 I spent two nights at the Reina Roja after a week of luxury in a luxurious timeshare on the beach. The editor scheduled it for publication in the spring of 2015. However, the story fell victim to a writer’s worst nightmare. Last winter the magazine got sold, the editor left and the new editors can’t find a place for it. They gave me the go ahead to send it to my readers.
So below, with some modifications and personal notes added, not to mention a little more sexual innuendo, is the story behind one of the most erotic hotels in the world. And if any of you ladies out there are interested in lesbian S&M, I’m your man:
PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico — The fluorescent red light bulbs shined through the dark haze of the hotel lobby. It was late morning on a sunny October day in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula yet the lobby was as dark as a cave in a Scandinavian winter. As I received my room key at the front desk, the odd, piercing red lighting illuminated a tall glass case next to me. Pleasure gels. Condoms. Body paint. The hotel’s theme was as subtle as the giant photo of a voluptuous blonde’s mirrored images — or were they twins? — staring down at the lobby wading pool behind me.
The bellman walked me past the pool as I glanced over my shoulder at mannequins dressed in law-enforcement hats and lingerie sitting in makeshift jail cells. I saw a four-poster bed with Jack Daniels pillows. The elevator door opened to a floor-to-ceiling photo of a smoking hot brunette in a swimming pool, her legs tantalizing apart, staring at me behind shades. The door closed behind us and I asked the tall, husky bellman named Yuri, “Do your eyes ever adjust to the red lighting?”
“I still haven’t gotten used to it,” he said. “I’ve been here two months.”
We took the elevator up one floor. The hallway was all polished wood and lined with potted plants. The lone lighting was the natural light from the windowed roof and the red neon room numbers that glowed like electro grams in an emergency ward.
He opened my room’s door and asked me, “Do you want to party or take it easy?”
“Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday night,” he said with a grin. “Big party upstairs by the pool.”
It was my introduction to the Reina Roja Hotel, the pride of party-hearty Playa del Carmen, Mexico. More than 1,000 years after the Mayans here ruled one of the world’s great civilizations, Playa del Carmen has something else of which to boast. It has Latin America’s most erotic hotel. That’s not exactly establishing the world’s most accurate calendar, but the ancient Mayans didn’t have as much fun as the Reina Roja guests have, either.
Established by Mexico City architect Alejandro Alarcon and opened New Year’s Eve 2009, the Reina Roja’s stated theme is “Awaken the Senses.” The black and red theme runs throughout the hotel with rooms featuring giant photos of bikini-clad women and Mexican pornography on TV after midnight. Six theme rooms, running at $200 a night, range from the benign of the Origenes Room, made from native wood, to the off-the-charts Erotica Room, featuring a black leather couch — with chains — and wall-to-wall photos of lesbian sadomasochism.
But Reina Roja management — and guests — point out that it’s also a normal hotel, with the same features of the others lining Playa del Carmen’s beautiful beach 40 miles south of Cancun. It’s also environmentally friendly. One of its theme rooms is even called the Green Space Room. The naked lesbians are nowhere to be found. In their place is wall-to-wall synthetic grass.
“The concept is defined by ‘adult contemporary,’” hotel manager Robert Gomez told me in a conference room, the only space I saw without a breast or a whip. “That is the concept. Because some people are thinking we are hard core. We are not hard core.”
I stumbled onto the Reina Roja the year before on a vacation. I was walking down the street one block off the beach and wondered what mannequins were doing dressed in black leather and jack boots hanging out on the balconies. I walked in and the inside was lit up in so much red light it looked like a radioactive bomb. I learned the Reina Roja is a normal, highly rated hotel, complete with restaurant and laundry service, but could be a pleasure palace if you want it. It is not a brothel. It’s just lit up like one.
My room was subtly sexy. Like the rest of the hotel, its theme was heavy fire-engine red and jet black. There was a red bedspread, a red curtain hiding a small gravel balcony and a red drape in front of a hallway window. A black sash across the foot of the bed offered contrast. The young blonde in a string bikini in a photo that stretched past the width of the bed offered a reality check. Coming back to a sexy hotel room alone is worse when you crawl into bed below a goddess in a bikini. It doesn’t help that at midnight a TV channel called MaxPlus starts showing videos of hot babes doing 15-minute strip teases.
It was still rainy season so the hotel was dead. But on that morning the sun shined brightly and I made my way up to the rooftop pool. It stretches about 25 meters but it’s only deep enough to swim for about 10 of them. It morphs into a wading pool, perfect for a couple to slosh around during parties. Or they could go where I was: a queen-size, four-poster bed right next to the pool. I saw one young Mexican couple lying back in the water talking as he took long drags from his bottle of Corona. Within 15 minutes, she was straddling him, dry humping him and nuzzling his neck. He somehow managed to concentrate enough to finish his beer.
“This hotel wakes up your senses,” Perez said. “Relax. Party. Crazy. Crazy life. La vita loca. The hotel maintains this: You wake up.”
Perez is a tall, burly 43-year-old Venezuelan who’s quick with a smile and handshake to guests which he resembles more than a product of corporate Latin America. He worked for the InterContinental chain and the Spanish hotel chain, Melia. The essence is the same. He still promotes the hotel strengths. At the InterContinental you boost the breakfast buffet; at the Reina Roja the full-length movable mirrors. So it’s the same, almost.
But Perez pointed out the contemporary theme goes beyond eroticism. The Reina Roja also has a nautical theme. Fishing nets hang over the hand railings and boat handles adorn the roof-top garden and lobby areas. It’s labeled “Ship and Chic.”
“It’s why we talk about contemporary adult,” Perez said. “The adult has an open mind. The adult is free. They’re relaxed.”
The clientele is primarily couples — both straight and gay — with about 80 percent coming from Mexico and the majority of the rest from Europe. But it has attracted its share of offbeat guests, attracted to Reina Roja’s open-minded outlook like rabbits to lettuce. There was the 50ish woman who dragged in her 60ish husband by a dog collar. He spent the entire weekend barking. One couple in their 70s requested the Erotica Room. Then there was the woman from Guadalajara who checked in carrying her octopus husband.
True story. She married an octopus found in a supermarket and even after it died, she carried it everywhere, holding it with the hand that still sported a wedding ring.
“They were there to celebrate their marriage,” said Daniela Suarez, the hotel sales manager. “She loved octopus.”
The pair then give me a tour of the theme rooms. Most are fairly tame. Besides the Origenes and Green Space rooms, there’s the Playa Room with a beach theme and the After Hours Room with the enclosed space behind the bed for private dancing.
Then comes the Erotica Room.
“Prepare!” Perez warned.
At the foot of the bed was a jet black couch, complete with chains. To the side of the bed was a white jail cell just big enough for two couples — plus an octopus or two. But what jumps out at guests more than any red lights are the photographs. From floor to ceiling, from wall to wall, are photos of women plundering each other. Women in black leather teddies and thigh-high dominatrix boots tie others in chains. They masturbate blindfolded women with vibrators the size of dough rollers. Cunnilingus. Penetration. No orifice appears safe.
They’ve toned down the S&M, however. Management learned S&M is a specific taste not shared by the majority of hotel guests. They swapped the leather and whips on the mannequins for lingerie. They even took out some red lights. The Reina Roja is only exotic if you want it.
Myself, I’ve had wilder nights at the Des Moines Marriott. The beaches in Playa del Carmen are still busy in October but the Reina Roja had only a few stragglers, couples and one very lonely, oversexed journalist. I saw no one at the pool; I saw no one at the bar. It was just me and the bikini babe on my wall. I’m real normal sexually. My creepy factor is very low. I don’t get excited seeing photos of a woman getting violated by a sculling oar.
I tracked down some past guests and they all had positive reviews with mixed reviews on the tall tales or eroticism.
“We were looking for something interesting, weird, but we didn’t want it too weird,” said Greg delNero, 44, a musician in Emeryville, Calif., who visited with his girlfriend for three or four nights and wound up returning for more. “We were skeptical at first. You see the pictures, the mannequins. The theme is kind of cool. Based on people’s experiences, it seemed like a decent hotel.”
Olivier Auvray, 35, a Paris banker, went for his wedding party and even brought his 65-year-old mother.
“The Reina Roja, you think it’s like an erotic hotel because of the decorations,” he says. “But the people there, they don’t do a lot of stuff. We were surprised. We were a little bit scared. I was with my mom and other old people but there was nothing crazy.”
But there certainly can be. The sexual vibe gets absorbed in the raging hormones after a few hours. Auvray said two of his wedding guests had sex with American tourists, one next to the pool. The swimming pool is as wet outside the water as it is in. Louis Gonzalez, 45, a Sony Music employee in New York, said he went to one of the legendary pool parties. By 2 a.m., he said everyone was naked and in the pool. At one point, he left the fray to find a bathroom. He stumbled onto a couple having sex. Their eyes met.
“They were cool about it,” Gonzalez said. “They weren’t freaking out. I was just trying to go to the bathroom and a guy had this girl from behind. It was hilarious.”
Anyone interested in the Reina Roja are advised to book well in advance. Their 63 rooms for this past January’s high season were sold out by July. And be advised.
Watch where you walk.