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A Blissful Wellness Retreat at Rosewood Mayakoba’s “Spa Island”

The resort puts an emphasis on mental and spiritual well-being, while sacrificing none of the luxury

Mayakoba lagoon and main bridge / Photo: Courtesy of Rosewood Mayakoba

It’s safe to say I haven’t treated my body like the proverbial temple so much as an amusement park, so usually the concept of a so-called wellness retreat and all it might entail—flavorless low-calorie/low-carb meals, patchouli oil, shots of wheatgrass juice, colonic irrigation, what have you—fills me with no small amount of dread. Yet something about the way that Rosewood Mayakoba presented its wellness experience just struck me as different: more of an emphasis on mental and spiritual well-being, while sacrificing none of the luxury. This appeared to be something into which I could really sink my teeth. So I did, and was not disappointed. Upon arrival at the Cancun International Airport, I was transported via a Cadillac Escalade to Mayakoba, a lush expanse of coastline on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, comprising a quartet of world-class luxury resorts by Andaz, Banyan Tree, Fairmont and Rosewood, as well as Latin America’s first PGA Tour golf course, the Greg Norman-designed El Camaleón. After checking in, I was taken to a boat that delivered me to the lagoonside dock of my Wellness Suite.

El Camaléon golf course / Photo: Courtesy of Rosewood Mayakoba

Located on what staff and frequent guests refer to as “spa island,” the Wellness Suites form a cluster of eight town-house-style cantilevered lofts along the lagoon. The primary suite offers a patio off the bedroom, a hall of closets, a dedicated vanity area, and an expansive limestone bathroom with a double vanity, rain shower, soaking tub and outdoor meditation pavilion-cum-treatment area with a reflexology fountain. On the main level are a large living room and dining area, another bathroom (with yet another rain shower) and a spacious lawn with a heated plunge pool and stairs leading down to a private dock.

After an afternoon spent exploring the suite, I was led to the spa cenote where, on an intimate dock, the resort’s director of culinary operations, chef Juan Pablo Loza, was waiting to prepare a Yucatán heritage dinner for me and a few other guests. After we each tossed handfuls of spices into the cenote—an offering to the spirits—the meal commenced. We began with a fresh and flavorful kampachi and tuna tiradito (with black aguachile, passion fruit and mint) and savory fried white bean polcanes with cabbage salad and toasted pumpkin seeds. A choice of entrees included beef tenderloin, fish fillet or cauliflower with green pipián and aromatic herbs and spices. I opted for the tenderloin that, in addition to being as moist and tender as I could’ve hoped, was given a zesty punch by the pipián, a green mole of sorts made from pureed greens and ground pumpkin seeds. Ending our meal on a sweet note was a caramelized brioche with walnut praline and pumpkin-seed horchata, served with a scrumptious cotija cheese ice cream, followed by coffee served with a presentation of wonderfully piquant Tabasco chocolates. Most definitely not a menu I’d have ever thought possible on a typical wellness retreat, and one that (if I had even a modicum of culinary talent) I’d try to recreate at home.

Dishes at Agave Azul restaurant / Photo: Courtesy of Rosewood Mayakoba

Upon returning to my suite, I found that the resort had covered my pillows with cases embroidered with my initials. On my last day, when I returned from breakfast to pack, I would find these on the nightstand, folded and tied with a satin bow, as a parting gift. Talk about your personalized touches!

The wellness portion of my stay commenced the following day in the Sense spa, where under a big palapa I met Daniel Seymour, the resort’s Ayurveda practitioner. Hailing from Guadeloupe and featuring a rich baritone, Seymour sounds like he should be doing voiceovers for car insurance commercials. Also, the man looks to be in his mid 30s, so you can imagine my surprise when he later told me, “I am 61.”

Three cheers for Ayurveda! I spent an hour with Seymour as he explained the basic tenets of Ayurveda, the power of breathing and how it impacts our minds, our emotions and our ability to self-heal. I’m all for oxygenating, and between his melodic voice and the sounds of nature, I was lulled into a delicious meditative state. Then it was back to the suite to shower and change for my cooking class and lunch at La Ceiba Garden & Kitchen, where guests were to receive personalized instruction in the art of making Yucatán-style salsa.

We were seated at the counter before large stone molcajetes and tejolotes, Aztec mortars and pestles formed from volcanic rock, and I learned how to make a sensational salsa. The class concluded with the chef preparing our group a delicious lunch of totuava (a large fish found in Mexico’s Gulf of California) cooked in root beer with a pinch of salt and wrapped in acuyo jacinta leaves.

Aquí Me Quedo beach club and restaurant / Photo: Courtesy of Rosewood Mayakoba

After a dip in my plunge pool, I returned to the spa for the Conscious Body Ritual, a holistic combination of five treatment types—acupressure, reflexology, aromatherapy, logotherapy and massage—utilizing 11 pure essential oils and specially designed remedies to eradicate deep-rooted stress. The goal is to restore balance and promote a deeper contact with your inner self. I left the spa feeling very blissed out, and didn’t stop smiling for the rest of the evening, which I spent snacking on an array of dishes from room service and trying each of my rain showers. All too soon, it was time to return home, physically, mentally and spiritually reenergized.