Spa and Zahra at the EcoTulum Resorts & Spa in Tulum, Mexico
A six-inch gap between a six-foot square of white canvas and the rough stick frame to which it is tied reveals a true-blue sky. I lazily watch wispy clouds float by. The canvas flaps rhythmically in the breeze. It shields me from the intense Yucatan sun. A golden butterfly catches my attention as it flits past. My eyes follow it to an orange flower where a hummingbird is collecting nectar. I sigh. I am totally relaxed. I am lying in a tub carved from a single tree trunk. Colorful flowers and rosemary float in the warm water that covers me. Only my face is exposed. Even though my ears are under water, I can hear the waves crashing on the beach twenty feet below the outcropping of rock where I am enjoying a Mayan Bath from the Maya Spa in Tulum, Mexico. My breath follows the rhythm of the surf.
Minutes earlier, my therapist massaged dark amber honey into my skin while I sat on a stool on a tiny deck overlooking the bright aqua Caribbean. Massive sea grape bushes shield me from view. I get into the tub, and Maria Luisa applies mud to my hair and massages my scalp. I slide down into the water and lie flat. Maria Luisa loofahs my body and rubs my feet with stone to smooth them. I think about nothing. I am in the moment. There is no past. There is no future. There is just now, the sky, the clouds, the breeze, the butterfly, the hummingbird, me and Maria Luisa. I sigh again.
Maria Luisa tells me about the meaning the Maya associate with the colors of the flowers floating in my bath water. Red represents the East and is the unconditional love we have in our lives. Yellow represents the South and is abundance. Violet is West and is transformation. White is the North and is the place of the spirit. It is time to get out of the bath. I dry off, and Maria Luisa massages a lotion in my skin. She instructs me to gather all of the flowers from the bottom of the drained tub. She asks me to think of a wish for myself - not my family or anyone else - just me. I take a minute to find a wish, then gather the flowers and take them to the edge of the deck. I make my wish as I toss them into the sea.
Zahra - My husband and I stayed in cabaña #15 at Zahra, one of three EcoTulum resorts. The 22 Zahra rooms and cabañas are clustered on a small property between two sandy beaches. The cabañas are based on the traditional Mayan style, with thatched palm roofs, and some are raised on stilts above the sandy beach. EcoTulum offers Zahra as ideal for travelers seeking less of a rustic jungle experience, while still being able to enjoy the natural beauty of Tulum. Some rooms are sea view, while others look out onto a tropical garden patio. A few are near the restaurant. Cabaña #15 faced directly onto a beautiful beach framed by large rock outcroppings.
While Zahra is less rustic than its sister property, Cabañas Copal, it is not your usual spa accommodation. There is no air conditioning. There is a ceiling fan, but the electricity is turned off at 11 pm. There are bugs (hence the mosquito netting). The water from the tap is not potable. Toilet paper cannot be flushed. None of these things are problems as long as you go with a spirit of adventure and are prepared. I brought a portable, battery powered fan, a flashlight, lots of extra batteries, mosquito coils, bug spray with DEET (we used them as a precaution at night, but we were not bothered by bugs at all), bottled water (a water cooler with bottled water was available in the cabaña), and toilet paper went into the trashcan.
The cabañas are very close together. Without air conditioning, we left every window open. Other guests were fond of chatting on the swinging beds behind our cabaña. At first, we were worried that they would stay up talking late into the night. However, no one seemed to stay up later than we did.
We had a great time. No electronic
gizmos - no laptop (there is an Internet cafe and wireless internet access if
you need it), no phone, no TV, no radio. We spent our time sitting on the beach,
reading, swimming in the sea, going to the Maya Spa, eating and talking to each
other - a true luxury.
Maya Spa - The Maya Spa is as unique as the rest of EcoTulum. The facilities are rustic. Treatments are performed in huts. Since the Maya Spa is located in Cabañas Copal, which is clothing-optional, a person or two who opted for no clothing may be encountered on your way to the spa. We only encountered two such couples - one lying on the beach between Zahra and Azulik and another snorkeling.
The Maya Spa opened about 2 1/2 years ago. Its first therapist, Daniel Pool Pech, is an authentic Mayan shaman. He learned his techniques through his dreams, where lights came to take him where he was shown massage, energy, and herbal therapies. He is often told that through him, a spirit heals a person of some illness or disease. That set the tone for the spa. The other therapists specialize in energy healing, indigenous physical and spiritual healing techniques, medicinal plants, crystal therapy, lucid dreaming, reiki, and more. Services include the usual and unusual:
Jeff opted for the usual - Swedish Massage with Roxana, which he thoroughly enjoyed. I opted for the unusual - Mayan Healing Massage with Daniel, the local Mayan shaman. Daniel did not speak much English and I speak no Spanish. In spite of that, we managed to communicate just fine. Daniel asked me to start face down for the massage. He started with a chant and energy work. He massaged my back, legs and arms and did what I would guess is similar to a chiropractic adjustment. While on my back, he massaged my arms and legs and midsection. Here he did an internal organ massage. I had one of those in Thailand and found it to be very unpleasant - probably because I tensed up. This time, I forced myself to be un-tense. Daniel put pressure on my abdomen with one hand and moved my legs around with the other. It was not unpleasant. When the massage was done, I felt great. I felt straighter and good in my abdomen (I guess I didn't realize I needed improvement there). As I write this three days after the massage, I still feel the same way. I have never had the effects of any massage last this long. I highly recommend a massage with Daniel.
Dining - The restaurant/bar at Zahra is open all day long and offers a nice variety on the menu including many vegetarian items. We also enjoyed the restaurant at Cabañas Copal. We found all of the meals at the EcoTulum Resorts very good. Fish, shrimp and seafood ceviche were our favorites. We ate fruit and vegetables and had ice in our drinks (things I have avoided on previous trips to Mexico) with no problems at all.
Azulik and Copal - The Other EcoTulum Resorts - Azulik offers 15 luxury hardwood villas with a spectacular sea view. This is a clothing-optional resort...perfect for honeymooners and couples seeking a relaxing, romantic vacation. Cabañas Copal offers 47 eco-rustic, candlelit, clothing-optional cabañas in the tropical jungle by the sea, ideal for the traveler who enjoys a rustic and ecological hotel in a natural environment.
The Mayan Ruins at Tulum - We spent one afternoon at the Tulum ruins, a wonderful archeological site only a few miles from Zahra. It was fairly crowded, and I knew it would have been better to visit when it first opens - before tour busses get there. We drove. Parking was $6 USD. We entered, stopped by a booth next to the large marketplace and bought what we thought was an entrance ticket for ~$2 USD per person. It turned out to be a ticket for the tram that runs the half mile between the market and the actual site. Guides are available for ~$35 USD - worth it, in my opinion. Find another couple or two to split the cost with. Once at the site, entrance tickets cost ~$4 USD per person (Mexican pesos only). They have done a lot of work on the site since I was there a few years ago. More areas are roped off, and it looks better cared for.
Tulum is a walled
city that stands on a bluff facing the Caribbean. In the early 1900's, the city
was named Tulum, which means "Wall" in Maya. It was originally called
Zama or "to dawn." The earliest date lifted from the site is A.D. 564
(the inscription on a stele) which places Tulum within the Classic period although
its heyday was much later (1200 - 1521 A.D.) during the Late Post-classic period.
Tulum was a major link in the Maya's extensive trade network. Both maritime and
land routes converged here.
copyright 2005, Julie Register