The shell motif just keeps going inside.

By Susan Hall Mahon
August 13, 2019
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When you think of iconic beach house rentals, visions of shingled Cape Cod cottages or clapboard houses on stilts might come to mind. These are coastal and classic, but this seashell-shaped abode takes 'iconic beach house' to the next level.

Casa Caracol was designed for an artist by his architect brother

Casa Caracol, ‘The World Famous Seashell House,’—yes, an actual house that looks like two seashells—on Isla Mujeres, Mexico, might be one of the most surprising, glee-inducing structures we’ve ever dreamed of jet-setting off to.

The Airbnb rental is right across the street from the sparkling, azure Caribbean, minutes from the best beaches on the island, and a world away from humdrum hotels and run-of-the-mill rentals.


Casa Caracol sleeps four, rents for $299 per night on Airbnb, and is comprised of two shell structures. The small nautilus shell houses a king bed and bath and is linked to the large shell via an alfresco sitting area. Inside the tall conch shell is another sitting area, kitchenette, and half bath on the first floor. Upstairs via a spiral staircase (but of course), is the master bedroom with king bed, bath, and a balcony with views of the sea.

One of the bedrooms with sculpted shell details in the headboard; inset: detail of headboard
A shell-bedecked bathroom, with conch shell-as-faucet detail

The shell game is strong indoors too, with spiral headboards sculpted right into the walls, shell-shaped soap dishes, and large shells converted into faucets and shower heads.

The property is gated, has a pool, and is managed by the owners, who live next door. It’s recommended that visitors rent a golf cart upon arrival to the island in order to get around and explore.

Casa Caracol sits across the road from the Caribbean

A charming local legend goes that the shell house was not an architectural masterpiece but an actual shell, enormous in size, and filled with enough meat to make ceviche for the entire island. The tale playfully continues that the shell was sold to an expat who took up residence inside.

The truth is not as wild, but still alluring: the real story is that architect Eduardo Ocampo wanted to build a vacation house for his brother Octavio, an artist. Inspired by the many seashells found on the island, he designed and built a shell house, complete with a door where the mouth of the shell would be.

It’s the ultimate beachcomber’s fantasy, and we’re ready to shell out our vacation fund and plan a visit.