Mexico has been a spa destination ever since media stars began
recuperating at Rancho La Puerta in the tiny Baja town of Tecate in
1940. Residents of Mexico City have long escaped to Cuernavaca,
seeking pampering and seclusion at several of the area’s well-known
Today, city residents are learning to combine spa escapes with
their daily routines. In Mexico City, the Gran Melia Mexico Reforma
recently opened the city’s largest hotel spa with a full gym, an
enclosed atrium-roofed pool edged with three whirlpools and a
comprehensive spa and beauty salon.
Lawyers and politicians from nearby offices stop by to work out
in the gym and spa, while tourists recuperate from grueling
sightseeing sessions with relaxing massages.
“Here, within the city, you have culture, art and pampering,”
said the hotel’s assistant director of marketing, Manuel
Montelongo. “We found our guests enjoy the combination.”
Every destination in the country from Baja to Cancun seems to
have some sort of spa experience available these days. According to
Claudia Najeras, president of the Mexico Spa Association, roughly
50 destination spas have opened in Mexico and more than 150 hotels
include spas in their facilities. Some merely turn offices into
treatment rooms while others construct free-standing facilities.
Treatments using local ingredients and native techniques are all
the rage, and spa directors take creative leaps to provide new and
Take the “tequila and sage oil” massage at the Apuane Spa at the
Four Seasons Punta Mita, for example. Who knew tequila had healing
properties? But the massage is a popular treatment at the lavish
resort north of Puerto Vallarta.
These upscale spas attract savvy travelers accustomed to being
pampered. Acupuncture, crystals and Ayurvedic principles are among
the treatments available at Las Ventanas in Los Cabos, where, spa
director Carole Sullivan said, clients want to “open their hearts,
chakras and minds to a different level of spa experience.”
Spirituality and personal growth are emphasized at many Mexican
spas, especially those that include a temazcal experience.
A temazcal is a beehive-shaped sweat lodge similar to those used
by Native Americans. Some claim the temazcal originated with the
Aztecs, others say it came from the Mayans. Every spa has its own
ritual surrounding the sweat bath.
At Ceiba del Mar, Maroma and Ikal del Mar, three top spas in the
Riviera Maya south of Cancun, a conch shell blows to announce the
beginning of the ceremony. The pungent scent of copal incense
drifts through sea breezes as the leader bows in the cardinal
directions while chanting. Inside the sweat bath, the leader asks
each participant to meditate silently; sometimes the sound of drums
fills the air.
“The temazcal is like the womb of mother earth,” said Margarita
Roca, who conducts the temazcal ritual at several spas around
Cancun. “It’s all about energy forces, expanded consciousness and
Serious spa clients check in for a week or more at Paraiso de la
Bonita Resort & Thalasso, where the 22,000-square-foot
Thalassotherapy spa has been certified by the International College
of Thalassotherapy in France. The technique uses heated seawater to
encourage an exchange of minerals and toxins. Its healing
properties are well known in Europe, and it’s catching on in
Mexico. During the Underwater Affusion Massage, the client’s body
is suspended in water while the therapist performs the massage; the
balneotherapy treatment takes place in a multi-jet bath.
Unfortunately, the abundance of spas in Mexico has created a
shortage in qualified therapists. The most expensive places tend to
have first dibs on the best masseuses, manicurists and
The requirements governing therapists are far less stringent in
Mexico than in the United States. The Mexico Spa Association is
working with the Secretary of Tourism to establish standards for
spas. “We look at where they are educated and where they have
worked,” said Montelongo.
Regardless of the lack of qualified therapists, the spa movement
in Mexico shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.