Back to Basics

Mexico’s spas offer traditional healing

By: Laurel Delp

Carolina gives each spa-goer a crystal to hold during treatments at Xcanatun, a beautifully restored 18th-century hacienda six miles north of the capital of Mexico’s state of Yucatan, Merida.

The crystal is meant to be carried from then on, she explains, and its power can be replenished easily if you leave it out for a day in the sun and a night under a full moon. Carolina is Mayan, and she’s studied Mayan healing techniques with her grandfather, a local healer, or shaman. Her quiet power inspires you to carry the crystal forever.

Spas in Mexico are at the forefront of the world movement toward indigenous treatments and the use of natural products. Who, after all, wants to travel to another country, another culture, and have the same treatments offered by the day spa back home?

In Mexico, particularly, with the Mexicans’ affinity for mysticism along with an ancient tradition of natural healing, it follows that there will be a unique approach to spa offerings. But another equally compelling draw for spas in Mexico is their gorgeous settings.

One of the newest spas to open is Maroma’s Kinan Spa. This 58-room Orient Express resort on the Mayan Riviera (22 miles south of Cancun) was the first resort in Mexico to open a temazcal, or ancient sweat lodge.

Kinan Spa is a spectacular indoor and outdoor collection of treatment rooms and pools, a yoga pavilion and a treatment tower for private massage with panoramic views of the rich Yucatecan tropical forest and the turquoise Caribbean. (New spa suites are scheduled to open this fall with individual massage towers.)

Your clients enter the Kinan spa through 15-foot-high hand-carved wood gares, and a 40-foot-high palapa roof covers the reception area and connecting hallway. Treatment rooms are decorated with stone floors, wrought-iron wall candelabra, wood-beamed ceilings and mahogany cabinetry.

Kinan also offers spa treatments in cabanas on the white-sand beach, including the signature God/Goddess Rituals ($400) a two-hour, two-handed extravaganza, which includes an herbal wrap, a grape-seed scrub, a plunge into the sea, then a chamomile rinse and a lomi-lomi massage.

On Mexico’s opposite coast, at the northern tip of the Bay of Banderas (about a 45-minute drive from Puerto Vallarta) the Four Seasons Punta Mita’s Apuane Spa has just introduced a Mexican green coffee slimming wrap (50 minutes, $150) to ease guests through the shock of appearing tanless in bathing attire. A new after-sun chilled body wrap is followed by a cool skin-soothing gel made from Mexican lilies (50 minutes, $135). Apuane is a Huichol Indian word describing flowing waters used in rituals. (Huichols are the white-clad Indians who make the work-intense beaded sculptures.)

The Apuane Spa is entered via a dramatic open courtyard surrounded by a thatched roof. Treatment rooms are lined around yet another open courtyard filled with flowers and greenery. To complement the spa’s use of local herbs, minerals and traditional treatments, the 150-room-and-suite resort has a cultural center where guests can read about Mexico’s traditional cultures and speak with experts.

Carved into a slate and quartz mountain overlooking a lake, El Santuario is composed entirely of natural materials and surrounded by 400 acres of natural preserve. The resort sits in Valle de Bravo, a 2½-hour drive west of Mexico City. And across the lake clients will find a 16th-century colonial town.

On the top floor of the curving resort is the 20,000-square-foot spa, where the waterfall at the entrance is echoed in interior “crying walls.” The spa’s main passage features a wood platform overflowing with water, and the 15 treatment rooms all have views of the lake or waterfall. The relaxation lounge also has lake views and a dramatic hanging copper fireplace.

Spa-goers can choose from 60 fresh ingredients to be mixed for treatments, including oxygen therapy, flotation, and temazcal and janzu treatments a technique similar to watsu, in which a therapist gently stretches the body while suspended in warm water.

At El Santuario, hiking, mountain biking and watersports add to the spa experience. But the signature indulgence is the Yenecamu therapy three hours on a pontoon in the lake, starting with a Mezcal body scrub, a tequila-and-aloe body wrap and then a massage ($150 per person).

Back at Xcanatun, all of the lotions and scrubs are made from fresh, local ingredients.

Here, the ideal treatment combination might involve a one-hour cibche wrap using milk-soaked leaves from a tree unique to the Yucatan reflexology and a shoulder massage ($50), with a Mayan honey and flowers massage, and top the treatment off with a one-hour massage using Yucatecan honey infused with the essence of local flowers ($55).

Massage is also available in the hacienda’s 18 antique-filled suites, and is followed by a drink of xtabentun, a Yucatecan liqueur made of honey and herbs.

And, of course, hang onto that crystal.


Commission: 10 percent
Carretera 307, Km 51
Quintana Roo, Mexico

Four Seasons Punta Mita
Commission: 10 percent
Bahia de Banderas
Nayarit, Mexico

El Santuario
Commission: 10 percent
Ex Hacienda San Gaspar Carretera,
Km. 4.5
Valle de Bravo
State of Mexico, Mexico

10-13 percent
Km. 12, Merida-
Progreso Hwy
Merida, Mexico