Heavenly Spa at the Westin Resort, Cancun.
Westin Resort

Cancun and the Maya Riviera's Best Spas

Spanish for "Relax"
By Joy Hepp

A health-conscious, luxury spa vacation recommends itself in the Riviera Maya, given the region's mind-bending beauty and the relaxing pace of Mexican life in general. And so it should come as no surprise that some splendid spas have opened recently. Most feature some sort of temazcal, the ancient Maya equivalent of a sweat lodge, using herbal-infused waters.

Photo Caption: Heavenly Spa at the Westin Resort, Cancun.
Luxury spa at Le Meridien Cancun Resort & Spa.
Le Meridien Cancun Resort & Spa
In downtown Cancún, in the middle block of Avenida Yaxchilan, Xbalamqué (tel. 998/884-9690; www.xbalamque.com) has good-value accommodations as well as a day spa. The friendly, intimate spa is near a lovely little pool and surrounded by tropical gardens. Xbalamqué offers an unpretentious environment, a yoga room, and a full-service beauty salon.

Aqua (Km 12.5.; tel. 800/343-7821 in the U.S.; www.fiestaamericana.com) has raised the bar for quality, with a stunning, stylish, and sensual new hotel and spa. Sophisticated travelers appreciate chic decor, buzz, and the modern amenities. The intimate spa is among the hotel's most notable attractions, offering a blend of Eastern, pre-Columbian, and Western health and beauty treatments. Outdoor Pilates, Tai Chi, and yoga classes are held daily, and massage cabins are available on the beach.  

In the hotel zone, JW Marriott (Km 14.5; tel. 888/813-2776 in the U.S.; www.marriott.com) offers rejuvenating spa treatments in a huge Maya-inspired luxury spa facility high above the sparkling Caribbean Sea. It affords guests a high-quality health and fitness experience in Cancún's largest private spa.

Photo Caption: Luxury spa at Le Meridien Cancun Resort & Spa.
Hot stone treatment at the Heavenly Spa, The Westin Resort & Spa, Cancun.
Westin Resort
More Cancún
The gorgeous Westin Resort (Km 20; tel. 888/625-5144 in the U.S.; www.starwoodhotels.com) boasts Heavenly Spa, a full-service luxury spa facility. With strikingly austere architecture and an impressive use of stone and marble, the Westin is one of the most elegant resorts in Cancún. The high-class spa emphasizes its Yucatán inspirations with a signature Mayan Mystic Massage treatment.  

One of Cancún's most appealing spas is Le Meridien (Km 14; tel. 800/543-4300 in the U.S.; www.lemeridiencancun.com), which features the elegant Spa del Mar. The Spa of the Sea
Herbs and ingredients at the spa at Ceiba del Mar, Puerto Morelos.
Ceiba del Mar
Puerto Morelos
Small boutique hotel Ceiba del Mar's (tel. 998/872-8060; www.ceibadelmar.com) holistic and aromatherapy spa's signature treatment is a Top' Nikte massage (Maya for cocoon). It begins with a 50-minute relaxing massage, followed by a body wrap of soft cotton soaked in an infusion of aromatic herbs. They also feature Temazcal, an ancestral indigenous ritual created to purify and renew the mind, body, and spirit. The sweat lodge's steam uses herbal aromatherapy.

By contrast, the steam room at Desire Resort (tel. 998/872-8293; www.desirecancun.com) can get a little, er, steamy. Desire is an all-inclusive, hedonistic lifestyle resort and spa. The adults-only, couples-only hotel is clothing optional, except in places such as the dining room. My favorite of their traditional spa offerings is the hot-stone massage
The spa at Maroma Hotel in Playa Maroma.
Orient Express Hotels
Playa Maroma
The stunning beach at Playa Maroma, south of Puerto Morelos, is home to the Maroma Hotel (tel. 998/872-8200; www.orientexpresshotels.com), an exclusive getaway destination for the wealthy and well-known. The intimate Kinan Spa -- Kinan means "energy of the sun" in Maya -- offers a variety of relaxing treatments. Try the couples-only Aphrodisia Chocolate Invigoration, a very sensual massage.

Photo Caption: The spa at Maroma Hotel in Playa Maroma.
Spa treatment room at Fairmont Mayakoba, Playa del Carmen.
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen A few kilometers north of Playa, the Mayakoba (tel. 800/257-7544 in the U.S.; www.fairmont.com) is a new super luxury resort in the exclusive Fairmont chain of worldwide hotels. Inspired by local Maya healing traditions using indigenous plants and herbs, their Willow Stream Spa is renowned for its natural setting and for pampering treatments. They're also sensitive to sore muscles or sore feelings from the hotel's challenging golf course.

A pleasing day spa in the center of downtown Playa del Carmen, the serene Spa Itzá (tel. 984/803-2588; www.spaitza.com) is in a secluded garden in the Calle Corazon district on 12th Street, just off 5th Avenue. Their array of massages includes shiatsu, floor massage, deep tissue, lymphatic drainage, and their Itzá Special, a blend of deep tissue, Swedish, and shiatsu.

The Royal Hideaway (tel. 800/999-9182 in the U.S.; www.royalhideaway.com) is an all-inclusive resort on a great beach in Playacar, an exclusive planned community just to the south of downtown Playa del Carmen. Their beauty salon and spa offers French-trained estheticians to consult on skin care and a variety of indulgences such as Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massages.

Photo Caption: Spa treatment room at Fairmont Mayakoba, Playa del Carmen.
Ana y Jose Hotel & Spa, Tulum.
Ana y Jose Hotel & Spa
Along the incredible beaches in Tulum, Maya Spa Wellness Center (tel.  800/123-3278; www.maya-spa.com) is a holistic spa in idyllic surroundings. The rustic spa center features a Temazcal, a unique Maya sweat lodge ceremony that purges the body of noxious toxins. The spa's holistic activities program features yoga exercises, Maya astrology, corn readings, crystal therapies, and treatments performed by self-proclaimed local shamans who use indigenous plants. They also offer a lucid dreaming course and a flotation chamber. What a trip.

An early hideaway spot, 7km (4.5 miles) down the Boca Paila Road, is the famous Ana y José Hotel & Spa (tel. 998/887-5470; www.anayjose.com). This beautiful bungalow beachfront hotel was one of the first hostelries on the edge of the Sian Ka'an Biosphere. The hotel's modern rooms don't sacrifice the sense that you've gotten away from it all. Guests can enjoy the Om Spa's therapies, such as the Mayan Secret, a relaxing massage using clay mud from a cenote, followed by a fruit body wrap. As part of the mystique, they burn copal incense, used in Maya religious ceremonies.

Photo Caption: Ana y Jose Hotel & Spa, Tulum.