Ancient Healing

New spa settles in at Casamagna Marriott in Puerto Vallarta

By: Patricia Alisau

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The Heart Suite can accommodate couples.
Health and beauty practices of the ancient Maya may be the last word in spa treatments along the Riviera Maya, but a thousand miles away on the west coast of Mexico, a spa is unveiling the wellness secrets of a different indigenous culture.

The Spa Ohtli in Puerto Vallarta opened earlier this year with shamanistic treatments from the Huichol Indians, a reclusive tribe living in the surrounding sierra. Although their traditional yarn paintings and beadwork are sold in local shops, this is the first time their remedies for balancing the body’s energy have been introduced in a spa. Ohtli is the largest spa in the resort, measuring 22,000 square feet, and located in the CasaMagna Marriott hotel.

Ohtli means “path” or “journey” to peace and perfection and it began for me when I stepped down a dramatic staircase leading into a wide, open reception area with a black-and-white waterfall and a fragrant aroma. I was ushered into a small sitting room and drank the spa’s signature Aqua de Amor (Water of Love) to prep me for the treatments.

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The Ohtli Spa hydrotherapy circuit
includes foot baths and plunge pools.
Ready to try something new, I chose the Fire Opal Balancing Stone Therapy, a Huichol healing ritual. As I gazed down on bead art of a deer and peyote buttons, sacred symbols of the Huichols, spa manager Rosalia Flandes placed fire opals on my back, followed by a deep, warm full-body massage with heated, shiny black obsidian stones. After 80 minutes, I felt full of energy and ready for the evening’s activities.

Flandes explained that besides Huichol, the massages also incorporate elements of Aztec, Thai, Tibetan and Western polarity therapy. There’s even contemporary Rebirth Therapy on the menu, which is carried out in a pool of warm water.

Dry skin from overexposure to the Texas sun prompted me to sign up for a hydrating facial the next day. This had no indigenous ingredients but was good nevertheless, and used French creams and gels and a tiny wand that spread ions to the epidermis. Other spa treatments promised toning, moisturizing and elimination of muscle stiffness with a litany of tropical fruits.

The jazziest facility is the Heart Suite, which can accommodate couples, a girlfriends’ night out or celebrities seeking seclusion.

The Huichol treatments are part of the Marriott’s “Family Secrets” program launched last year to give hotel guests a behind-the-scenes look at local culture and traditions. Since the resort is in Mexico’s main tequila-producing state, it includes tequila packages featuring tastings of the hotel’s own brand plus an overview of the 60 other brands that are served on the premises. The award-winning chef also offers group and one-on-one cooking classes preparing classic regional dishes. Then there is the art walk along the boardwalk with a resident sculptor. I had the chance to do all these, too, but to me the spa experience was the icing on the cake.


Spa Othli
CasaMagna Marriott Hotel

Rates: Massages range from $65-$140; facials, $85-$130. Body wraps start at $60.Check with hotel for packages.

During the low season, hotel rates start at $189; suites from $379. Rates increase by 10 percent during the high winter season.