DEC 2016

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spa hopping [ 42 ] • DAYSPA • december 2016 My spa service, the Embracing Life Experience (110 min./$297), began with hibiscus iced tea and cucumber gazpacho served on a cabana balcony, which I enjoyed while my masseuse Nataly provided a foot soak, bamboo scrub and refl exology treatment. I was then escorted to the adjacent treatment room—a fantasy "tree house" constructed of twig walls, wood-plank fl oors and a palm-frond roof—to receive my body massage. A sliding wall off ered the choice of natural sunlight or fi ltered darkness, both allowing the soothing entrance of a warm breeze and the live soundtrack of ocean waves and seagulls. Although guests are encouraged to select one of fi ve massage treatments, I asked Nataly to choose her favorite. She opted to apply a heated bamboo roller to soothingly knead my knots into submission. "Bamboo has good energy and can go deeper than the hands," she explained. This bliss was followed by a gentle 30-minute facial. The pièce de résistance is Sea Spa's policy of allowing guests to use their cabana as a private retreat for an additional 60 minutes. I clocked some sunbathing time on the veranda's daybed and relished a cold beer and sea bass ceviche. Toward the end of my hour, an attendant gently woke me to serve peach crumble à la mode and a glass of dessert wine. Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Riviera Maya Many of Mexico's resort and destination spas consistently rank among the most impressive in the world. Case in point: The Spa at Grand Velas Riviera Maya (, located just south of Cancún. Opened in 2009, the $15 million showplace has become one of Mexico's most lauded spas, having scooped "Best Luxury Resort Spa: The Americas" by the World Luxury Spa Awards in 2014, as well as other accolades. Set in the Yucatán peninsula jungle, the property plays host to wild spider monkeys and coatis, often seen playing in the spa grounds' trees and viewed from the windows of its showers and treatment rooms. The facilities complement their setting by including a 40,000-square- foot Water Lounge that delivers a multiphase Hydrothermal Experience, enabling guests to experience water in every possible permutation from thermal bubble beds to an ice room. "The diff erent water elements help our guests release their emotions and tensions," says spa director Leticia Fernandez. "We try to off er 'wow points' throughout the spa." Well-hydrated and warmed by a cup of Tea Forte Honey Yuzu, I was ready for the new Bacal Massage (50 min./$236), a unique native corn treatment (bacal is the Mayan word for "cob") on the spa's Flavors and Traditions of Mexico menu. "We incorporate a lot of Mayan heritage into our spa elements," explained Fernandez. "We start treatments with the welcome ritual, based on the Mayan four elements. The therapist then says a Mayan prayer to ask permission to the gods to work with the guest's energy." My welcome ritual involved a dry buckwheat foot massage, hand cleansing, hot rocks, and the burning of copal tree resin incense to purify the air. Therapist Maria Cora then used a hand mill to grind dried corn into a gritty powder before mixing it with Mayan Melipona bee honey and copal oil to create a body scrub enriched with anti- infl ammatory sesquiterpenes. Post-exfoliation, I soaked in a soothing bath while six ears of corn were steamed in preparation for my essential oil table massage. The warm cobs were covered in copal oil, then used as tools to work on trigger points. The sensation was unique, the experience uplifting. ex p room COURTESY GRAND VELAS RIVIERA MAYA Water Lounge

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