Francesca Bonato, Owner, Coqui Coqui Tulum


"My husband and I met here in Tulum in 2003. I was staying at a place nearby, and for my birthday I asked the receptionist to suggest somewhere cool I could go that was more authentic. She told me, 'Go to Tulum for the beautiful ruins—and the beach is fantastic.’ So they dropped me off at the ruins by myself and I started walking, and I walked and I walked and I walked and suddenly I saw a tent. There was a bathtub under it and a sign that said ‘Massages.’ It wasn't at a hotel, nobody was around—nothing. And then Nico [Malleville] appeared and he served me coffee. It was love at first sight!

I moved to Tulum as soon as I could and we decided to build a little house. It didn’t turn into a hotel [Coqui Coqui Tulum] until our friends and family started asking for rooms and a place to stay. So suddenly we built a guest room, and then another. We just keep making it bigger and bigger [laughs]. We have seven rooms now, a little restaurant, the boutique, the spa, and the reception area. It’s super little and we’re packed year-round. I think we are somehow a little responsible for Tulum becoming so popular in the last few years. We've always brought down a lot of people from the fashion industry through Nico, and we just shot the catalogue for Hacienda Montaecristo here, which is the accessories line I have with my best friend. From there, people just keep coming very naturally, all through word-of-mouth.

We also have a perfumery—it’s the essence of the hotel. Really, there was Coqui Coqui Perfumes in one house and then the rest of the hotel is a coincidence. Nico loves perfume and really wanted to do it. The 11 fragrances are meant to evoke places—Nico wanted some to represent the Yucatan Peninsula, and we also have some that represent Europe and Latin America, where we're from. The Orange Blossom, which is one of our best sellers, is the signature smell of the hotel. I still use Chanel No. 5 though—it’s been my perfume since I was 14 years old. But I like to alternate; I’m in love with the Coqui Coqui Fresh Roses. Nico did it two years ago because he was like, ‘I’m a perfumer. Can I please make a perfume for you because you always wear Chanel No. 5?’ [laughs]. So he made Fresh Roses and I love it.

I am very shy, so for me putting on makeup means getting attention. I prefer not to have much makeup on, but I am getting older... [laughs] So I'm trying to take care of my skin more because I like to just use a day cream for everyday life rather than makeup. Though after seeing how my skin reacts to the sun—I used to be super, super light—I added a few other things. In the morning, I put on Avène Soothing Hydrating Serum, or Estée Lauder Perfectionist CP+R Wrinkle Lifting Serum. La Prairie Anti-Aging Emulsion is a great day cream because it has a sun protection—I have a lot of freckles so if I didn’t have protection in my daily cream, the sun would be too much. So I will use La Prairie or I will alternate with the Avène Cleanance Emulsion. There’s also this Melissa complex balm get from a man who makes honey and creams in Valladolid made out of pure Melissa oil and honey. It’s very calming, and it absorbs quickly—you can even use it on cold sores.

At night I use Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair. I love it. I need something that dries and doesn’t leave my skin oily because it's very hot here. After the shower when I am getting ready for the evening, I can put the Night Repair on and it absorbs in without feeling sticky or oily . I’m also trying to put the Advanced Night Repair Eye around my eyes, but I think I only remember to use it once a week. Other than that I use Avène Gentle Purifying Scrub in the shower, also about once a week. I just do it quickly on the neck and the face.

For makeup, red lipstick is my favorite thing. Right now I’m wearing NYX Matte Lipstick in Bloody Mary. I love a shiny lipstick, but I wear it only at night, of course—for the day it’s too much. Eyeliner I do every day now because I’m 35 and it helps [laughs]. I feel more proper and like I'm taking care of myself when I wear it. My blush is either Chanel Rose Cache Blush in #31 [ed. note: discontinued] or the NYX Blush in Red. Then I also like the Chanel Translucent Powder Compact in NaturalI don't usually do my nails, but if I do, I'll use NYX Girls Nail Polish—it’s the same color as the lipstick. Sometimes I'll do the OPI Lincoln Park After Dark or I do Chanel Frenzy. My colors are always the same. I wear black, white, pale pink, or sometimes a wine color. That’s also the palette of my store.

We’ll either have something on the eyes or on the lips or on the nails, but we're not getting dressed up every day. When you live here you can’t have a lot of makeup, or your hair fixed all the time... It’s a simple life."

—as told to ITG

Francesca Bonato photographed by Emily Weiss on January 27, 2014 in Tulum, Mexico.

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Dr. Beautiful Marie-Thérèse

    Loveliest natural beauty! Coqui Coqui is devine! Thank you ITG for the cool feature!

  • The Minx

    her hotel is amazing looking! and she's incredibly beautiful :)

  • bijoux

    what a dreamlike way to meet your husband! It's like a child's story come to life- and a perfumer! I love the idea of a hotel created out of an increasing number of spare bedrooms. Oh, how can I go back to the drudgery of my desk here at work after reading this?!

    p.s. NYX is taking over my makeup bag with their simple, chic, inexpensive products.

    • Lindsay Sue

      Every time I walk into Ricky's I walk out with NYX product. I'm so obsessed with their butter glosses! And their eye crayons. So much makeup! So little time!

      • Jay Kanderi

        Now eye crayons are on my list!!

  • greygrey

    i'm wearing the tobacco cologne right now!

  • Miss Y.

    Great story! Although I wish there was more on her shelf (another makeup minimalist, yawn) and she would've told us a bit more about the perfumes...

  • nurdzpiration

    Loved the story behind how the hotel came to be!

  • Emma Hager

    I was unsure as to where the origins of this Tulum Hajj really lain. At first I was sure it was via songstress Lykke Li's instagram, as she has spent the past few years vacationing and writing there on and off.

    But it's totally gotta be this woman and this hotel.

  • Lauren

    Oh, you know, just wandering through Mexican ruins and then BAM! A male model appeared and we fell madly in love and got married. NBD.

    • bluesky557

      Right? It's like a romance novel come to life.

    • Vicki

      Life is so unfair isn't it?? lol

  • charmystique

    She's living such a dreamy fairytale!

  • Mia

    I'm hoping to honeymoon here in January, so I thoroughly enjoyed reading this beautiful back-story about the hotel. I can't wait to experience such an amazing place!

  • Clever Girl Reviews

    I would love to know what sunscreen she uses!

  • Jessica Rose

    Stunning...such natural beauty.

  • susu

    Her husband is sooo beautiful!!!

  • Nicole B.

    I love the mix of Chanel and NYX! She is so beautiful and has such a wonderful story.

  • anita rivas

    I want to know what the white bottles are with the gold caps?

  • Rtenbrink1

    Loved how scent is weaved into the story. It's hard to branch out form a signature scent- but it can lead to lovely discoveries!

  • crisdelrincon

    Once, I visited Tulum but I didn't know about this place. I had celebrated my birthday in Playa del Carmen four years in a row, Hopefully, next year won't be the exception. Definitively, I'd visit Coqui Coqui, and I'd buy perfum.It would be lovely to meet Francesca and practice my Italian.


Avène Soothing Hydrating Serum
Estee Lauder
Estée Lauder Perfectionist [CP+R] Wrinkle Lifting Serum
La Prairie
La Prairie Anti-Aging Emulsion SPF 30
Avene Cleanance Emulsion
Estee Lauder
Estee Lauder 'Advanced Night Repair' Synchronized Recovery Complex II
Estee Lauder
Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye
Avene Gentle Purifying Scrub
ULTA Beauty
NYX Matte Lipstick
Nyx Cosmetics
NYX Powder Blush
Chanel Poudre Universelle Compacte Natural Finish Pressed Powder
Nyx Cosmetics
NYX Girls Nail Polish
OPI Classics Collection Nail Lacquer, Lincoln Park After Dark
Chanel Le Vernis Nail Colour