This winter, the Riviera Maya is waiting with your ideal vacation.
As chilly temperatures and dreary winter forecasts take over parts of the country from the Midwest to the Eastern seaboard, savvy travelers start planning an escape to warmer climes. One getaway that should be on every traveler’s list: Mexico’s Riviera Maya.
While the East Coast of Mexico is admittedly home to many a Cancun all-inclusive (cue spring break partiers and cruising day-tripper crowds), there are authentic pockets with luxury resorts.
The best part of these less-trammeled locales? Crystal-blue Caribbean waters, endless sunshine—and world-class spas. With the global wellness trend reaching its matrix in 2016, here are two destinations ideal for health-conscious travelers ready to relax, reset, and return home in better shape than when they arrived.
Related: 5 Things to Do in Downtown Cancun
Nizuc Resort & Spa
The fact that it’s located just a 10-minute drive from Cancun International Airport may seem suspect to Nizuc novices, but fear not—the resort (a previous T+L It List winner) is set apart from the frenzied main beaches, making it a secluded oasis that even attracts an upscale domestic audience. Guest amenities include chauffeured golf cart transport (to get around the expansive 29-acre property); private butler service (especially helpful in booking reservations at the resort’s six restaurants); and access to the only ESPA-branded spa in Mexico (no explanation needed).
Treatments at the 30,000 square-foot-spa are inspired by traditional Mayan therapies, and range from a restorative Mayan Cacao massage to an exfoliating salt and oil scrub.
The essential indulgence, however, is the hour-long Thermal Experience—a five-step, guided hydrotherapy circuit. The progression alternates hot and cold to stimulate circulation (the order: steam room, ice room, sauna, cold shower, Jacuzzi, and freezing-cold soaking tub). Facilities are separated by gender (both men’s and women’s sides feature the entire circuit, for privacy), and the length of time spent at each step is completely customizable.
The effect is at once invigorating and calming, especially at the end, when guests lie on heated tile loungers and receive an arm, leg, and scalp massage from their therapist. By purchasing the treatment—which costs just $75—guests have access to the spa throughout the day, meaning you can return later to lounge by the private pool or treat yourself to another 20-minute steam.
After a few nights at Nizuc, you may not need more R&R, but since you’re already on the Riviera Maya, a trip to the wellness epicenter of Tulum is a must. After the nearly two-hour drive south, post up at one of the newest eco-retreats, Sanará (meaning “you will heal,” in Spanish).
While many Tulum resorts fully abide by the concept of minimal carbon footprint, at Sanará guests can expect a few choice amenities. Chief among them: air conditioning (not a misprint, few resorts offer it); a state-of-the-art yoga studio; a delicious gluten-free, vegan-friendly menu; customizable detox programming; an upscale clothing boutique; and a stunning Wellness Center with five treatment rooms.
Traditional Mayan healing principles are central to Sanará’s spa menu, and treatments also incorporate the use of crystals, lymphatic drainage, aromatherapy, and Ayurvedic massage. Therapists who conduct the Mayan therapies are experts—locals whose families have been practicing the remedies for centuries (the Craniosacral therapist, for example, has a cult following and even conducts healing retreats in the middle of the jungle).
Treatment to book: the Sobada Maya massage, which involves a technique that reads the body’s energy flow to find and release blockages in the abdomen through gentle bodywork. The effect will undoubtedly send you home feeling lighter—and isn’t that the point of vacation, anyway?