Ricardo Santa Cruz is an entrepreneur, real estate developer, innovator and business leader in Mexico with over 20 years of experience. Ricardo is the CEO and one of the founding partners of Xala, where community and sustainability are the driving forces behind the project’s mission.
We caught up with Ricardo to hear all about Xala.
How did it all start?
In 2006, I began acquiring parcels of land in Xala. At that time, Xala’s 3,000 acres were broken up into 68 different parcels owned by 68 different families. After consolidating the first 600 acres with little money left, I met my current business partners Jeronimo and Juan Bremer in 2008 who had just started a real estate investment fund. With the additional capital, we were able to finish consolidating the 3,000 acres of Xala, form a significant partnership and develop other master-planned communities like Mandarina together.
What makes Xala different from other developments in Mexico?
Xala is not a resort; it is a community of people that are coming together to live in a place that is truly integrated with the local population. We are actively involved in major conservation efforts and because of the size, scope and diversity of programs created as part of the project, it allows for its residents to contribute their talents to areas they are passionate about. Xala is a place where people come to live out their dreams.
Another big differentiator is that we donated land and had the government build an international airport that literally borders the property so once you land no further transit time is required.
Tell us about some of the hotels we can expect to see?
We expect the first of the hotels to open in late 2023, which we are incredibly excited about as it will see us collaborating with a renowned hospitality brand known for its dedication to wellness. The public can also expect an additional hotel opening towards the end of 2024 and the development of private residences.
What will the gastronomy offering be like throughout Xala?
Xala will enjoy fresh seafood cooked and seasoned by the chefs who best understand traditional recipes; ceviche, fruit, classic recipes, and sauces, celebrating each emblematic local ingredient such as lime, chilli, corn, avocado, and tomato. Each ingredient is inspired by the land, the sea and the culture.
Xala will have an intimate, colourful and eternally fresh menu that changes with the availability of each season. We´ve teamed up with renowned chef and environmental advocate, Alice Waters, who will be putting in her edible school, the first of its kind outside the US. International food with global influence from international chefs and classic comfort food will make Xala a prominent cuisine destination along Mexico’s Pacific Coast.
How important is sustainability and the environment when creating Xala?
The concept of Xala is rooted in the utmost respect for our planet and the creatures that inhabit it. We seek to create harmony in our modern society and conserve the local natural landscape. Additionally, I feel that Xala is disrupting how we traditionally think about travel, as it serves to educate people about conservation and social inclusion while embodying a forward example for community development.
At Xala, we have a dedicated environmental team who not only oversees Xala’s protected natural areas, the Ramsar wetland sites and turtle sanctuary but are also spearheading larger environmental initiatives like no fishing zones and ridge to reef restoration projects for the region.
Xala sounds like a dream holiday destination. What luxury leisure options will be available?
With a total surface area of 3,000 acres, five miles of undeveloped beach, a turtle sanctuary, beachfront residences, two boutique hotels, a 300 acre USDA certified organic mango plantation, two estuaries that allow for kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding, world-class surfing, equestrian centre, skate park, pump track, 20 miles of mountain bike trails and many other amenities; at Xala you literally get to wake up each day and choose your own adventure without having to leave the property.
How will Xala interact/benefit the local community on the West Coast of Mexico?
A significant amount of what we’re looking to do at Xala and a lot of what we’ve been spending our time on involves looking at local art and artisans to bring authentic cultural aspects to Xala Mexico.
When you create a new destination like we are at Xala, where you start with a large blank canvas of 3,000 acres of land surrounded by pristine natural resources and marginalised communities, you get the opportunity to create a new way of developing. The best way of achieving this goal is to develop in a way that restores and improves the environment. And by helping the lives of the surrounding area’s marginalized communities flourish by participating in the growth of the development and abundantly employing individuals who bring with them their unique skillsets, traditions and experience with the land.
The Xala With Heart initiative aims to provide activities that extend to the local community by offering play spaces for sports, a community centre for artistic and cultural activities, and programs to promote the overall well-being of the community.
These objectives allow the individuals who will come and live in this new destination an opportunity to take pride in becoming part of a sustainable, meaningful community.
What are your top three destinations to travel to and why?
I have travelled to over 85 countries and for me, money spent on travel is money very well spent. I could not narrow it down to three destinations as each one has given me an opportunity to learn more about other cultures and more about myself. Sometimes the most incredible takeaways have come from places that I would not necessarily want to travel to again but that will always hold a special place in my heart because of what they taught me.
What other exciting projects are you working on?
I am currently solely focused on Xala although there are a few projects I am eyeing up so stay tuned.
What is next for Xala?
After 15 years since I began my journey on the Xala project, it is now time to open its doors to the world. Xala is a gift of which I am happy so many people will be able to enjoy.