Boutique resort is an oasis on the Riviera Maya

ceiba del mar


Ocean views are inspirational at the intimate Ceiba del Mar, a traditional-style Mexican hotel anchored by a holistic aromatherapy spa.

ceiba del mar

The spa’s wet area offers a granite tiled hot tub and cool plunge pool.

Peace and quiet, wrap­ped in a sense of pl­ace. That, in a Mexican nutshell, is what you’ll find at the newly rejuvenated Ceiba del Mar Spa Resort.

Located within walking distance of Puerto Morelos, a pretty little fishing town on Mexico’s exceedingly popular strip of coast known as the Riviera Maya, the intimate, traditionally Mexican-style hotel is the perfect choice for travellers wanting all the region’s attractions minus the hustle, bustle and noise often found in the larger more touristy resorts.

As I write this story, it’s exceedingly quiet at this mid-January moment. Recently reopened following a major upgrade, the 88-unit boutique resort is just now beginning to see guests trickling back. Not to be selfish, but that’s one of many things I really like about this boutique resort — it’s not over-crowded. There’s no getting up at sunrise to save a pool-side lounge chair or beach palapa, and no waiting in either of the two a la carte restaurants, where service is prompt and staff is genuinely anxious to please. I also like the fact that its traditional Mexican decor gives a welcoming sense of place.

Except for the coastal winds blowing exceptionally strong this week, the place exudes a quiet calm and sense of wellbeing totally in keeping with a spa or wellness vacation. I’m using this quiet time to catch up on reading, walk along the beach, breathe in the sea-salt air, work out in the gym, and just simply “be.” Of course, I also want to spa.

ceiba del mar

Spa treatments at Ceiba del Mar are holistic, comprising essential oils and fresh herbs.

The spa’s inviting lobby with its colourful Mexican decor, dramatic display of white tiger lilies and wall of glass overlooking a central garden courtyard creates a delightful sense of arrival. Beyond the lobby there’s a well-equipped gym, a relaxation lounge, seven treatment rooms and a wet area with granite tiled whirlpool and cool plunge pool. Spa director Gloria Guerrero calls this a “holistic aromatherapy” spa.

She says the philosophy is to use the best chemical-free natural products to help guests achieve balance and harmony. All treatments are designed to use therapeutic herbs and essential oils and a tool called a biotensor — think of it as a divining rod for weakened body parts.

Guerrero and her therapists use it to check vital energy. If, for instance, a client says she experiencing back pain, the biotensor can help identify the part of the spine that might be lacking vital energy thus causing the pain. Special essential oils are then chosen to help restore the vital energy that has been reduced in that specific area. I was momentarily skeptical but she proved it by picking up a sensitivity — a result of running — in my knee and ankle. It’s used in all treatments, she says, to help diagnose and prescribe.

She says the “best” treatment is the Balsamic Massage (nothing to do with vinegar) but it’s not recommended for a first treatment because, she explains, “its intensity could infuse the body with too much vital energy and cause headaches.” For me, she recommends the Top’Nikté — the Mayan word for “cocoon.”

The 90-minute treatment ($130 US) begins with two Mayan purification rituals: a welcoming foot bath followed by a cleansing with copal incense. Out comes the biotensor which leads to the conclusion that I could use a good blend of lavender, rosemary and geranium to relax and treat any internal inflammation of knee and ankle.

The massage is followed by a wrap with hot towels infused with peppermint. I can see the flecks of the green herb on the towels as they are wrapped snuggly around me — this is where the cocoon comes into play. During the 20 minute wrap there’s a face and scalp massage. It’s a very nice treatment. Afterwards, I feel simultaneously relaxed and refreshed enough to make the 20-minute stroll along the beach to Puerto Morelos.

Things that exceed expectation typically enhance one’s sense of well-being, and that’s the case with Ceiba del Mar.

Anne Dimon is a spa and wellness travel writer and founder/editor of Sign up for the free newsletter and you could win a free visit to an Ontario spa.

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