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A Retreat with a View

by Nora Zelevansky

Ixtapa’s New Wellness Destination by the Sea

Cala de Mar is all about the view.

For all the rituals, treatments and self-care seminars at the world’s most elaborate wellness retreats (including this one), nothing quite rivals the peace of gazing out over an endless ocean. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to experience it while reclining in a hammock on the deck of your palatial suite.

At this exquisite cliffside Ixtapa hotel, they understand that: The Pacific Ocean pulls focus in every space, including 59 guest rooms, each with its own private infinity plunge pool.

It’s no surprise: Cala de Mar was first conceived as a barefoot luxury hotel in 1999 by Guillermo Simon, who fell for the wild and untouched seaside setting. After he died suddenly, the property sat in disuse. In 2008, high-end hotelier Capella took the reigns. When it left the Americas, in 2017, the stars aligned: Simon’s daughter, Maria Elena Checa, felt called to step up.

Cala is more than a passion project; it’s the realization of a father’s dream by his adoring daughter. The place vibrates with Checa’s dedication and love. No detail has gone unconsidered. From the outset, she envisioned an authentic wellness-driven destination that would combine indigenous rituals and Mexican traditions with modern well-being techniques. “Wellness is something that, as a family, we are continually cultivating, so why not share that passion with our clients?” she says. “I cannot think of anything better than feeling completely healthy and relaxed during a beach vacation.”

With help from Ines Saavedra, curator of wellness events, in 2018, Cala began to offer seasonal wellness retreats, with an emphasis on local traditions. “A big part of what makes these retreats so special is how powerful nature is in Ixtapa,” Checa notes. “While the surroundings provide so much of the energy, to be able to incorporate local traditions and locally grown food in this unspoiled setting makes for a breathtaking and deeply introspective experience.”

She and Saavedra (who grew up vacationing here, and whose brother owns Loot, the local social epicenter, hipster surf shop and café) recruit sought-after experts, often from Mexico City, like quantum-healing therapist, Haru Escarcega; qi gong practitioner Constanza Carando; and Checa’s own meditation teacher, Cristina Babatz, a professor at Universidad Iberoamericana. Checa also enlisted Babatz to teach meditation—with regular refreshers—to the hotel staff, so that they might truly embody the property’s mission. “Meditation is a discipline like violin or ballet,” says Babatz. “It requires practice, but then the benefits are numerous.”

Guests can customize wellness-focused stays anytime, but the official four- to seven-day retreats have themes from intention-setting to cleansing. At El Capricho Spa, patrons are served cantaloupe and watermelon aqua frescas and cacao tea after unique services like the Amusgo Herbal Massage, where a poultice of local dehydrated flowers and herbs is kneaded—with custom oils—on trigger points to eliminate toxins.

But the pièce de résistance at Cala is the Jatsima temazcal, a traditional sweat lodge for shamanic Aztec healing ceremonies. Wellness seekers gather in the hut for chanting and purification, as the guide combines rosemary, basil and lemongrass from the on-site garden with steam from pouring water over hot rocks.

Of course, it all comes back to the water: The temazcal experience ends with a special meal on a cliff overlooking the sea. Retreaters also partake in shamanic cacao and fire ceremonies, yoga sessions and morning and twilight meditations on the Wedding Deck, which juts out into the ocean. At night, waves crash against nearby boulders, giving a sense of nature’s power. In the daytime, sun hits the dappled water and is reborn as frenetic speckles of light like TV static, hinting at hidden messages. calademar.com

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