Inviting spas in Cuernavaca, Mexico
The following information has been summarized and updated from my book, Spas & Hot Springs of Mexico.
I recently had the hard duty of visiting three of Mexico's world-class spas. There are about a dozen spas and hundreds of hot springs throughout the country, and these are among the best. Something that has changed at the spas in the last year was that they all provide tiny slippers that didn't fit my huge feet and a combination G-string and diaper that didn't fit either. I found these articles annoying. The slippers at the Coycoyoc were the best.
Mexican spas are considerably more laid-back than their European or American counterparts. This is a plus and a minus. You certainly won't miss the towel Nazis common in European spas. These are women who make dadgummed sure that you don't put your bare feet or any other bare part of your anatomy down in the steam rooms and other common areas. You also won't have an exercise dominatrix who will force you to do more calisthenics than you like.
The downside of this more casual approach is that you don't get as much of the "spa experience" as you do in the States. One woman complained to me that she missed the being together with a group that took classes and exercises together and bonded. That is an integral part of spa-ing. I have had the experience at other spas and it generally leads to lifelong friendships and the sharing of the most intimate details of your private life. The Hosteria Las Quintas has made an effort to create a group experience by having a special table set up for those on the spa program in the dining room and giving the spa-goers name tags. This was appreciated by everyone I talked to.
Hosteria Las Quintas
The Hosteria Las Quintas was my first stop. I've known this spa since they first started and it is still one of my favorites. Tucked away in a quiet corner of the city, it has the unique advantage of being close enough to Cuernavaca that one could get away and visit the many historical sites via a short taxi ride.
My first visit there was one of the best experiences in my life, even though I was alone, which says a lot. Afterwards, I met Mike Zamba, the former editor of the Mexico City News and now online editor of Citiview for the Dallas Morning News. He's been a friend of mine since he was a nobody. He slept on my couch when we were both newly divorced, so he's a good reference point. He saw me and immediately said, "What have you done? You look ten years younger!" I didn't pay him anything to say it, either. The services are excellent and the pampering is superb. This is an excellent place to rejuvenate
My last visit was almost as good as my first, and they have added services and upgraded their facilities. I say "almost" because the masseur who gave me a shiatsu massage was not as good as others I've had. He seemed distracted, but maybe he was having a bad day. Even though I told him I wanted to use the whirlpool tub, sauna and steam afterwards, I had to fill the tub and turn on the steam and sauna facilities myself. It wasn't that much trouble, but in the future they might consider doing this for their patrons.
Their masseuses and masseurs are well-trained and use Swedish, shiatsu and lymphatic drainage (improves circulation to the extremities) techniques. They can treat you with fangotherapy where they cover you with "detoxifying" Dead S ea mud, or exfoliate you with a scrub of oatmeal, apricot, honey and Dead Sea salt applied with a loofah sponge. All their beauty products are high-quality natural products, or come from Europe or the Middle East. My favorite was when they slathered my belly with algae (supposed to help you lose weight). To top any of the above off, they can deep clean your face with several methods including hydrating, nourishing, deep-cleaning, acne, age spots and alfa-hydroxy-acid peels. Then they wrap you in a plastic sheet to cook all the toxins out of your body. When you're done, they'll lead you to thallasotherapy treatment where you sit in a huge bathtub-shaped Jacuzzi with powerful jets and sea and mineral rich water. Thirty minutes later you'll be clean, detoxified and energized. I was. Promise not to tell my bowling team, but I followed that with a facial, manicure, pedicure and haircut. There are worse things than lying in a comfortable chair with cucumber slices on your eyes, while three women work or your hands, face and toes.
Hotel guests can use the steam room and sauna. The sweat areas are segregated by sex. The outdoor jacuzzi is by one of the pools. They have a complete exercise facility with fitness programs integrated into their services. The gym on the third floor has a fabulous view and cardiovascular equipment such as Life Cycle, Stair Master, Nordic Track treadmills, free weights and universal equipment.
With every package, guests receive a medical evaluation by a board certified doctor on staff. They also have a sports medicine doctor and nutritionist who provides full body composition analysis including fat testing, nutritional analysis and a personal exercise program via a computer program called the Fitness Analyst. The same doctor can provide services as a personal trainer on a per hour basis.
They also offer ecological tours of the area, including the lagoons of Zempoala, the "Thousand Waterfalls of Granada," the caverns of Cacahuanilpan, Las Estacas Natural Waterfall, an archeological tour of Xochilcalco and a city tour of Cuernavaca.
It is a full service spa. They offer a weight loss program and can provide a vegetarian diet if you request it in advance. All their food is low fat. Their restaurant offers a special spa menu withfresh salads, pasta, fish and vegetables and low-fat international and Mexican food. Contrary to popular misconception, Mexican food doesn't have to be greasy to be good. Their spa menu lists the calories of each entree. Alcoholic beverages are available. There is also a complete beauty salon.
They offer spa packages of 2, 4 and 7 nights. Included are meals, a suite, and a variety of their services, based on the package you request. All packages include medical evaluation, suite, three meals a day and round trip airport transfers. Transportation from the Mexico City airport can be arranged.
Mision del Sol
My second stop on this grueling tour was the Mision del Sol, only a half-hour from the city. This is a New Age style spa. They also offer all of the standard spa treatments as outlined above, but include more. They have a temascal, or sweat lodge, Yoga, Tai-Chi and a truly spiritual atmosphere. The massages were among the best I have ever had, in any country — including Sweden. They also use only first-class beauty and health products from Europe.
To give you an idea of their focus, I'll quote from their promotional information. "Mision del Sol is a project that has been developed during many years in order to encompass many different approaches of the physical aspect — related to the human body — the mind and the spirit. 'Resort & Spa' does not enclose the whole project. The right word will create itself. The new era of Aquarius which will last 2000 years, just like the past era of Pisces (from the birth of Christ onward); especially the Uranium constellation during the coming seven years and Pluto in Sagittarius will bring about very profound changes for mankind."
That should give you an idea of the sort of place it is. They are sincere in the belief that the body and soul must both be nourished in order for mankind to live in harmony. If that philosophy appeals to you, then this could be your place. If it does not, then you would be better served at one of the more utilitarian spas. They express their concept of a spa like this: "At the spa, water treatments and massages help clean and detoxify the body. They also contribute to expand it. The human body is made up of 85% water, just like the planet Earth. The Mision del Sol Spa is a space of light and love created for you."
Following on that concept, there is a varied vegetarian menu, although closet carnivores can get their poison by asking the waiter, but it is required that you do this in a low voice and act sheepish. Yoga and Tai-chi and other existential exercise methods are the preferred physical therapies. Concerned about the environment, they have installed a state of the art water treatment plant so that much of the water they use can be recycled. Additionally, the construction of the buildings was done with the most natural materials possible -- adobe (which is sun-dried brick), wood and stone. The accommodations are pleasant, but not luxurious. The grounds are beautiful and restful.
The resort is set in a county setting, with a Southern California look to it. The pool has a mosaic sun in the middle and is perhaps the most beautiful pool I have ever seen. The rooms are simple and elegant at the same time, and each has a balcony. There is a meditation palapa with a Zen-like design. There are seven stones partially buried in the sand with cushions spread around so that one can meditate in peace and comfort.
The temascal is a must. At three PM exactly, workers unload several wheelbarrows of steaming rocks in the center of the amphitheater. Everyone sits around and sweats in unison. Water is poured on the hot rocks to create more steam as needed. The scent of eucalyptus fills the air. It could be a fine experience, but sometimes the group insists on talking, which ruins the meditative aspects of it.
Also disappointing was the lack of organization. I showed up for a Yoga class at 7 a.m., as did a few other folks. We eventually figured out that the Yoga teacher was doing Tai-Chi out by the pool. Once we got out there, it was an uplifting experience, but it would have been nice to know in advance. The organization is new and very professional, and I feel sure that they will improve these little drawbacks as they mature.
Spa packages are from four to eight days.
The Hacienda Coycoyoc was my last stop. It is the most organized of the group. I have to admit that it comes the closest to a structured spa without losing its casual Mexican atmosphere. It seemed somehow more elegant than the others. It should. It has been a first-class resort for years and is owned by the Rivera family, whose most famous son was named Diego.
This lovely old hotel has been one of my favorite places since I first set foot in it. In fact, I once drove seven hours at breakneck speed to spend a night here. Serene, filled with an ambiente of Mexico of yesteryear, one gets a sense of history and a glimpse of eternity just being here. The hotel is a restored 16th century Dominican monastery that was turned into a sugar plantation before its present incarnation as a luxury hotel and spa.
It is the grounds that make the place. After your first walk through the fortress-like entrance you feel like you have left the world outside behind you. The grass is lush, the trees enormous, the plants meticulously manicured and always a riot of color. The three pools are large and two of them are heated. They do have a rich mineral content, but an analysis was not available. It should be the same as others in the area.
The spa is really world-class. In addition to the services mentioned in the beginning of the article, they have steam, sauna, pressure shower, Swiss shower, Evian shower, Jacuzzi and regular showers. They have a hydrotherapy area that has different temperatures and pressures. The ever-present loofah scrub is also available, as are mud baths and seaweed baths. Their massages are first-rate and include sports, Swedish and anti-cellulite. The alpha jet capsule is a unique experience — quite an attraction. There is a well-equipped Nautilus gym and a jogging track. Their health and beauty products are also first class and come from Europe.
The alpha-jet capsule was my favorite experience. It is a space-age body capsule that look like a large egg. You lie inside and your body is treated to heat and vibrations. Only your head remains in the outer world, but you breathe ionized air, smell aromatherapy and listen to music therapy that promotes alpha level relaxation. It's probably the closest thing you will experience to entering the ethereal plane. An attendant slips goggles on you that emit a series of flashing lights. Meanwhile soft jazz comes through the headphones built into the unit. Before long, you are in an alpha level sleep. I was properly skeptical at first, but they had to awaken me when my time was up. I don't know where I had gone during my thirty minutes, but I swear I visited other planets. I was weak as a kitten and had to be led by the hand back to the dressing room. You might say I was relaxed.
The hotel is noted for its golf course. The restaurant is elegant with al fresco dining and vegetarian cuisine is available. Spa packages are from one to seven days. Tips and taxes are included.
If you are stressed out and want to get away for a healthy lifestyle change, you can do no better than to visit one of these spas. To make a reservation at any of these or other spas in Mexico, call Spa World Reservation Service, 1-800-321-4622, or leave at note at Roads Scholar Press's web site. at www.mexicomike.com, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about these and more than thirty other spas and hot springs in Mexico, please order my book, Spas & Hot Springs of Mexico, from Roads Scholar Press, 2022 Amy St, Mission, TX 78572-9223, phone 210-580-7760 or 1-800-321-5605. It costs $16.95 USD plus $3.00 shipping in the U.S. For foreign orders, please add $5.00 shipping. Canadian customers should send a money order, not a check, please. American Express is gladly accepted, as well as MasterCard and Visa.