Travel

The Luxe Mexican Resort Right on a Mangrove-Dotted Beach

Written by: Megan O’Neill

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Published on: June 13, 2024

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I knew I wanted a tropical beach vacation. What I couldn’t have known was how a Mayan sacred-stone massage would somehow be more pampering, more life-affirming, and more of a body tune-up than a massage void of sacred Mayan stones. Or that a spiritual jewelry-making class led by a congenial shaman would be just the sort of inadvertent meditation my frenetic New Yorker nerves needed to soften. Or that I’d daydream about sitting on a sun-drenched patio, sipping café de olla, long after I’d flown home from Etéreo, Auberge Resorts Collection’s oceanfront paradise that sits atop a lush stretch of mangrove gardens on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.

THE SPA MOMENT AT CHECK-IN

The property, perched on nine acres of pristine beach and nestled within the private estate of Kanai, is an easy half-hour drive from Cancún’s airport (a crucial detail for travelers like me with small children), and the act of checking in practically qualifies as its own spa treatment. Every guest is assigned a guide to whom they can WhatsApp questions on anything from scheduling a Mayan cacao ceremony to planning an excursion to the cluster of nearby cenotes (geologically wondrous natural pools, some of which are inside caves—swimming in them is pure magic). As we sipped a hibiscus elixir, we were instructed to close our eyes and set an intention for our stay. A shaman presided with a piece of fragrant burning copal, a sacred resin, to energetically cleanse us of lingering anxieties. The three-minute meditation unstuck us from our spinning—did I remember to put up an out-of-office? Did we leave all the lights on at home?—and launched us into vacation mode.

THE ACTUAL SPA IS SPECTACULAR

The SANA spa, with its cool-to-the-touch white stone and sleek flourishes of wood slatting and pools, is largely alfresco. I meditated under a big umbrella by the plunge pool in the courtyard; floated in the cenote-inspired indoor pool, which felt like a baptism from stress; and nibbled on sweet, nourishing cacao date balls; supple dried fruit; the creamiest organic raw cashews; chocolate medallions while sipping hibiscus water. My massage involved jade and obsidian sacred stones, an oil that smelled of a thousand fresh herbs, and 90 minutes of hurts-so-good muscle manipulating. I drifted out of the treatment room feeling airy, nimble, and eager to preserve my moisturized, petal-soft skin. Which I did over the next few days, exfoliating and moisturizing like a fiend, then (always) finishing with hydrating mineral sunscreen.

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YOGA AND MAYAN MEDITATIONS

In the nearby gym and yoga space (where fitness masters like Taryn Toomey, founder of The Class, often hold retreats), I did a fantastically sweaty vinyasa session one morning, a Mayan calendar reading the next (the local astrologist was eerily intuitive), and a spiritual jewelry-making class where a shaman helped me string together a selenite-stone bracelet to suit my energetic disposition. I skeptically signed up for a family meditation session, which turned out to be one of the more incredible things we did on the trip: My colic-stricken four-month-old became uncharacteristically compliant and breastfed quietly for most of the session as our instructor methodically struck gongs and all manner of reverberating instruments, our bodies splayed out on the floor.

TO THE POOL AND BEACH

The stroll from your room to the beach and pools—there’s an adults-only one, another for everyone, and a one-and-a-half-foot-deep splash pad for the teensiest guests, along with plush poolside cabanas—is epic. A skywalk traverses the mangroves, waves stretch out before you, and sea breezes stir the mangroves below, their rustling leaves making the softest music.

MY FAVORITE ROOMS EVER

After splashing in the ocean, snorkeling, paddleboarding, eating shrimp tacos at El Changarro café on the beach, and playing demolition sandcastle over and over with my child, I was back at my room for a brief predinner reprieve. The studios and suites are dreamily atmospheric, with floor-to-ceiling windows, artfully draped textiles, a bounty of handwoven rugs, wood-carved wall accents created by famous Mexican artist Manuel Felguérez, and giant private terraces with your own plunge pool. The shower is its own spacious glass room—mine looked out on the mangroves—and the magnificent bathtub comfortably accommodated all six foot one of me.

The hotel works with organic Mexican beauty company Circe Brujería de Origen to design your own bespoke bath that they trick out with flower petals, essential oils, and skin-soothing botanicals of your choosing. After a steep in my tub, I got my skin in shape before traversing the mangroves to dinner.

My Predinner Routine

Less is more on vacation: First, I washed away the day, then moisturized, smoothed on a hint of sheer lip and cheek color, traced a gleamy flourish of iridescence along my collarbone, and doused myself in body oil.

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FEAST

There are two open-air restaurants: Che Che brilliantly blends Japanese cooking techniques with Mexican ingredients. We rhapsodized over a Japanese vegetable curry, lost our minds over yuzu-marinated ceviche, and almost ordered a second plate of scallops in mezcal-sake sauce.

Itzam serves up pure, luscious Mexican food. After nursing a perfect passion fruit mezcalita at the firepit, we migrated inside to a big, cushiony banquette, where we polished off juicy oysters garnished with charred jalapeño salsa, tumbada-style seafood rice—a succulent saffron-infused dish served in a scalding-hot skillet—and, for dessert, fresh-from-the-oven cacao churros.

We couldn’t help lingering after dinner. “Oh, just do it,” urged our waiter, when we told him we needed to turn in before the kids became obstreperous. “You’re here, under this sky, with your family all together. No one’s crying yet. Why not?” So that moment—sipping tequila under the stars—is another one I daydream about.