THE GRAND VELAS RIVIERA MAYA nestles in a mangrove jungle that spans most of the 206-acre property. On our way to the Ambassador Section, we rode past the Zen Grand Section with its family-friendly suites in the heart of the Yucatán jungle. A mile down the road, we came upon the two beachfront sections: Grand Class Adults Only and the Ambassador Family Friendly.
From the moment I checked in, the friendly staff treated me like royalty, always greeting me by name and with a smile.
After settling into the suite and enjoying an afternoon at the beach and the pool, I savored an amazing wild mushroom lasagna scented with black truffles at Lucca, one of the resort’s eight restaurants. Throughout my stay, I enjoyed meals at several of the restaurants, including Frida, the fine Mexican restaurant celebrating Mexican painter Frida Kahlo; and Azul, the beachfront buffet that made me rethink my previously unflattering opinion of all-inclusive buffets. The venue displayed the huge buffet selection like a work of art, and the food was always fresh and delicious.
On the morning of my spa appointment, I took the shuttle to the Zen Section for breakfast at Chaká. After enjoying French toast with tropical fruit salad, I took my waiter up on the offer of a mimosa to get in a relaxed mood for my spa treatment.
The expansive, 90,000-square-foot spa offers a calming sanctuary in harmony with the surrounding jungle. At times, as I walked through the spa, I forgot I was actually indoors and not outside in the jungle.
I arrived an hour before my scheduled facial for the spa’s signature Water Journey. This experience, a therapeutic hydrotherapy process, consisted of different water treatments at varied temperatures. My Water Journey began in a traditional woodlined sauna, where the spa butler offered me a chilled towel and cucumbers for my eyes and gave the option of staying from five to 10 minutes. After I enjoyed a toasty five-minute stay in the sauna followed by a relaxing rain shower, she led me to the Color Therapy Steam Room. The ceiling of the dark, steam-filled room was adorned with small, hue-changing LED lights reminiscent of a colorful starry night. I settled into a seat on the tiled bench that wrapped around the circular room and enjoyed the pore-opening, eucalyptus-scented steam.
I then headed to the Clay Room which, in contrast to the dark steam room, featured a large window offering a bright jungle view. I received a small bowl filled with thick clay to apply to my face and body, which felt refreshingly cool. Once the clay had time to work its magic, the spa butler came in to let me know it was time to use the handheld shower to wash off the clay, apply an aloe vera gel and proceed to the Ice Room.
I was a bit apprehensive about the Ice Room, but upon entering I was pleasantly surprised by how invigorating it felt. Tiny, sparkly blue tiles covered every surface of the room, conveying the feel of a frozen igloo. The room lived up to its name — it was freezing! With the help of an icy cold towel and a constant supply of ice flowing from an ice fountain, it definitely closed all my pores.
Next, the sensation shower offered a chance to warm up and wash off any remaining clay I missed with the handheld shower.
The spa butler then escorted me out into the magnificent pool area. She led me to the Sensory Pebble Walkway and instructed me to walk down the first path and back up the second path, and repeat twice. I gently walked through the warm, knee-deep water, enjoying the feel of the smooth pebbles on my feet. I happily got out and entered the second walkway, immediately realizing I did not listen closely to her explanation of this ritual. The frigid water I plunged my feet into took my breath away. It was so icy cold my feet felt like they were being pricked by a hundred pins. Once I got over the shock of that unexpected temperature change, the sensation changed from pin pricks to a strangely delightful tingle. I repeated walking the path, although I admit I was hesitant to enter the cold path, and I walked a bit faster the second time around.
I quickly exited the cold path and entered the warm pool area where a series of focused massaging jets relax different areas of the body. A water bubble bed and hot and cold plunge pools finished the amazing water experience.
And that was just the beginning of my spa day! Next, I was off to enjoy a facial.
Virginia, my therapist, ushered me back upstairs to the treatment rooms, asking my scent preference and gently placing my feet into a basin of warm millet seeds. After brushing off the millet seeds and placing my feet in warm slippers, she asked if I wanted the curtains opened or closed. I opted to keep them open to enjoy the feeling of being in the jungle. She asked me to disrobe, get under the sheets and gently sound the small cymbals to let her know I was ready for my facial. As I disrobed in front of the jungle window, I felt a little exposed and decided to hurry under the covers. In the process, I accidentally picked up the cymbals by the connecting string and loudly clanked them together. Fearing the door would open before I covered up, I leapt onto the table and quickly pulled the sheets up to my chin with my heart pounding. But my fear was unfounded; Virginia quietly rapped on the door to check on me and make sure I was ready for her to enter.
She proceeded with my Grand Reserve Facial, recommended for skin very dry, mature or damaged by the sun. A combination of Esdor wine-therapy products provided an intense antioxidant effect, at the same time helping seal in the natural moisture of the skin and soften fine lines.
My skin felt softer than it has in years, and I left feeling totally relaxed and ready for another day enjoying all the Grand Velas Riviera Maya had to offer.
Grand Velas Riviera Maya
Carretera Cancun Tulum Km.
62, Playa del Carmen, Municipio de Solidaridad,
Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo C.P. 77710,
tel 52 322 226 8689
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I had just taken off my sandals, stepping onto the white-sand beach for a late-morning walk to a secluded spot I heard about from a front desk clerk, when I glanced down and saw the time on my phone. It had just turned 11 a.m., which meant it was only 7 am back home, the perfect time to call and say good morning to by husband before he left for work. Not quite ready to head back to my room, I decided I’d test the WiFi signal and made the call as I continued walking toward the shoreline.
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