Roots of the Riviera Maya

By Evelyn Theiss / July 16, 2012

It is nature that draws visitors to the beautiful Riviera Maya, in the southeastern Yucatan Peninsula. But the rich Mayan history—and proximity to the ancient pyramids at nearby Tulum—is what keeps them coming back.

The El Dorado Seaside Suites has brought Mayan culture into its new N’aay (“Mayan vision”) Spa, with indigenous Mayan ingredients and authentic treatment rituals at the 30,000-square-foot spa sanctuary. In addition to 14 suites and treatment rooms, the spa includes a hydrotherapy lounge, a clay room and an ice room. The latter is kept at 61 to 64 degrees Fahrenheit—very refreshing post-sun, or after a warm whirlpool bath—and equipped with ice cubes and chilled towels to stimulate the circulatory, lymphatic and immune systems.

The idea of N’aay is “to offer guests a personalized sensory and cultural journey,” says El Dorado spokesperson Mandy Chomat, by incorporating ancient Mayan healing traditions, as well as aromas, textures and flavors, into the treatments. Guests arrive on a pathway lined by 13 stone-carved Mayan animal totems, at an entrance designed to blend with the surrounding rainforest. They are greeted with a chilled drink that incorporates star anise and chia seeds (chia provides a powerful blend of Omega-3s and fiber), and an aromatic compress of cold anise or lemongrass.

Guests can sip detoxifying mint chlorophyll water as they relax in the whirlpool or the lagoons. Later, they can experience the delicious contrast of a cold aromatic green tea, sprayed in a fine mist on warm skin in the sauna.

Rosemary (for relaxation) or lemongrass (for vitality) are available for guests to choose as the primary aroma for their spa treatments. By doing so, they also set an intention for the experience they seek.

Among the traditional Mayan ingredients used in the spa are coffee, chocolate and freshly grown local plants and herbs. Included are the tepezcohuite plant, known for its skin-healing properties and used in the spa’s signature “Relief After Sun” treatment; and rosemary, transformed into an aromatherapy oil that is used to treat muscle aches and cramps. A menu of regionally inspired treatments includes the Kukulkan Four-Hand Massage (a mind-bending indulgence), a Sacred Obsidian Stone Massage, a Tropical Coconut Body Wrap and Exfoliation, or an After-Sun Tepezcohuite Body Balm. No matter which treatment you select, don’t skip the N’aay Temazcal ritual, or the “prehispanic” ritual steam bath. According to Mayan tradition, each purifies body, mind and spirit simultaneously.

Since El Dorado draws many couples, the Spa created a “Barber Corner,” a separate space where men can indulge in salon amenities and treatments.

Guests who stay in the El Dorado’s exclusive Casitas Royale, which is nestled along the beach in a secluded area within El Dorado, have their own N’aay spa, with many similar treatments.

In each of the spa treatment rooms, the décor and artwork are also designed to provide a sense of Mexican culture. Blue rooms signify agave, Mexico’s native plant, which is known to be rich in regenerative properties; dark chocolate evokes “cocoa,” offered in the form of a body mask and bath that leaves skin silky; and green connotes the forest herbs used in a detoxifying body wrap that’s designed to remove impurities and nourish sun-dried skin.

But it isn’t just your skin that is nourished here. The El Dorado kitchens are famed for their use of fresh, local and sustainable produce; and they have expanded an onsite Greenhouse to provide it. At 100,000 square feet, there’s nothing else like it in the Riviera Maya.

The Greenhouse celebrated its first harvest in August 2009, and it has produced 120 tons of crops annually since then. It doesn’t just supply food to its own resort, but to three high-profile neighboring resorts that consider its produce the freshest in the region. El Dorado’s Chef Pierre Mourez plans the menus daily with fresh produce from the Greenhouse.

“Learning” tours for resort guests, local residents, community organizations and surrounding schools include tasting fresh vegetables right off the vines, as well as cooking seminars.

During the seminars, Chef Mourez and his team explain the benefits of cooking with organic ingredients, then walk guests through an interactive cooking demonstration that shows them how to prepare fresh dishes, such as a candied cherry tomato and herb salad, or the grilled filet of sea bass with habanero marmalade.


Tequila Mango Ceviche 


14 ounces firm white fish filet or shrimp, diced

7 ounces firm tomato, seeded and cubed

7 ounces white onions, finely chopped

1 bunch fresh coriander, finely chopped

Fresh juice of 3 medium sized limes

• jalapeño chili pepper, finely chopped

Splash of dark tequila

1 medium sized mango, peeled, seeded and cubed

Sea salt, pepper


Mix all ingredients and rest for 10 minutes before serving

Evelyn Theiss

Evelyn Theiss

Evelyn Theiss is a print and online reporter who has covered everything from national politics to fashion in her journalism career. Now, she's a health reporter whose beat is nutrition and wellness. But this Midwesterner has found the greatest inspiration for her own journey to well-being at spas--whether those spas are in the U.S., Europe or Asia.
Evelyn Theiss

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