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The sound of beating drums and the scent of copal incense filled the air in a cabana by the sea, where four hands masterfully kneaded away all my knots — and worries. My 80-minute Kukulkan massage at the new Ventus at Marina El Cid Spa & Beach Resort rivaled the many spa treatments I’ve experienced, and it also added a sense of place that’s sometimes lacking at resort spas. But at Ventus — the recent addition to El Cid’s Puerto Morelos resort and marina complex in the Riviera Maya — Mexican culture is celebrated and imbued into the property’s offerings.
The white, modern buildings of 290-suite, all-inclusive Ventus sit right beside the hacienda-style Hotel Marina El Cid Spa & Beach Resort, and guests are free to wander between the pools and eateries at both properties. Stylish Ventus adds a sophisticated element to the overall compound, while the original hotel’s pools and restaurants have a more family-focused vibe.
At Ventus, the adults-only pool — with its two huge hot tubs — is convivial, while the main free-form pool, which forms a water-filled courtyard between the buildings, has room enough for lounging, mingling and serious swimming. Water flows outside the swim-up suites as well, beside terraces with woven Yucatecan hammocks.
Mercado de Dolores, a stylish food court featuring seven different types of cuisine, and Aromas, its adjacent pastry and coffee shop, are at the heart of Ventus. The killer baked goods at Aromas range from flaky cinnamon rolls in the morning to chocolate confections after lunch and crunchy chocolate-chip cookies and gelato throughout the day — and they’re part of the all-inclusive plan.
At the mobbed Mexican food section at Mercado de Dolores — named for the matriarch of the El Cid family — I sampled two of the five ceviches on display at the fish counter, plus cochinita pibil (marinated pork) and pickled onions. I then moved along to the choose-your-own-veggies salad bar before grabbing a beer (or two). I could have followed all that with pizza from the Italian counter or caramel crepes at the dessert area, but the cookies at Aromas satisfied all my sugar cravings.
My favorite meal, however, was a traditional Maya dinner set in a peaceful garden beside the spa’s temazcal (domed steam lodge). Along with a mezcal tasting, waiters delivered long trays of Mexican botanas (snacks or appetizers). Offerings included Oaxacan tlayudas (tortillas covered with refried beans, meat and other toppings), Yucatecan salbutes (deep-fried tortillas with shredded meat) and gorditas (savory pastries) stuffed with corn. That selection was followed by a slice of caramelized pumpkin sweet enough to drive all thoughts of cookies from my mind.