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Budget Travel Magazine 2007

While kayaking the short distance from Balamku to a nearby reef for an afternoon of snorkeling, consider the vagaries of life: You wouldn't be here now if, in 2000, a road-tripping Canadian couple hadn't missed the exit for Punta Allen. That's how Alan Knight and Carol Tumber ended up in Mahahual for the night. (Alan thought it might be pronounced "ma-ha-ha.") The next morning, they met someone with beachfront land for sale and made an offer on the spot, despite the fact that they'd only been dating for about a year.

Balamku opened in 2003, and Carol calls it "a small, totally ecological retreat." pointing out that even the soaps and shampoos are biodegradable. There are two individual whitewashed palapas and a trio of two-story palapas (with a suite on each floor) for a total of eight rooms. They're all decorated with Mexican art¬work-paintings, sculptures, and masks-and most have wireless Internet access. A breakfast of fruit, eggs, pancakes, and Chiapas coffee is served in the bright dining room.

The hotel doesn't do dinners, but two restaurants highly recom¬mended by Alan and Carol are less than a five-minute walk away. 011-52/1-983-839-5332, balamku. com, from $75, includes breakfast.

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