With its high-desert beauty, the Land of Enchantment is the ultimate spa lover’s escape.
As the sun sets over the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, soft, languid clouds put on a technicolored show. Purple folds into gold, and the moment feels private, an intimate performance just for me, the scrub brush, and a mournful coyote in the distance. I sip my Gruet Blanc de Blanc—a lovely New Mexican sparkling wine—and sink into the blissful isolation. That is, until I feel a tap on my shoulder. “Sir, your massage is ready,” says my masseur. Ah, that’s right. I forgot. I came to Santa Fe for a spa getaway. The Land of Enchantment is already working her magic long before my first salt scrub. Well done. WEEKEND DELIGHT: Santa Fe might be only 600 miles from Dallas, but it feels wonderfully foreign in so many ways. Its high-desert terrain, snowcapped mountains, and moderate summers (the average high is a mere 86 degrees) are far different from scenery-challenged, balmy Dallas. Yet the natural beauty is only part of Santa Fe’s appeal. A mecca for both fine art connoisseurs and foodies alike, Santa Fe is both indulgent and wonderfully laid-back. Birkenstocks supplant Manolos. Rustic casitas outweigh McMansions. And though you won’t want for fine dining options, the hottest table in town is Santa Fe’s Farmers Market in the historic rail yard district, where each Saturday you’ll find food artisans and hungry throngs serenaded by a string quartet. THE RIGHT TOUCH: But I’ve come to Santa Fe first and foremost for its famous spas, some of the best in the United States. One of the finest and newest is The Spa at Encantado, an Auberge resort only 10 minutes north of Santa Fe. This oasis of privacy and luxury practices the Ojo Caliente purification ritual, steeped in New Mexico’s indigenous healing traditions. Each spa service—whether a sacred stone massage or blue corn and honey renewal wrap—begins with this five-step ritual, which includes a cactus-fiber-cloth exfoliation, eucalyptus steam, outdoor rainwater rinse, and restorative wrap. Long a favorite with Santa Fe guests for its adobe-style architecture, the RockResorts Spa at La Posada has recently undergone a $6 million, resort-wide restoration. One of its more popular signature spa treatments is the Spirit of Santa Fe, a journey through the four directions of the Native American medicine wheel, featuring a blue cornmeal and tobacco scrub, cedar wood oil massage, sweet grass tea herbal wrap, and ceremonial sage tea. Those with a foot fetish can indulge in the Raw Earth Pedicure, with its fizzing mineral foot soak, raw sugar scrub, and volcanic clay foot mask. I have a thing for chocolate and can never pass up La Posada’s famous chocolate-chile wrap. This decadent treatment is almost good enough to eat—emphasis on the “almost.” Yet Santa Fe’s most celebrated spa is its least indigenous. Ten Thousand Waves exudes a Japanese sense of serenity and is one of the city’s oldest day spas. It eschews treatments that the spa claims are “more suited for the dinner table” and instead focuses on traditional Asian therapeutic treatments, including Yasuragi head and neck massages, Indo-Asian hot oil treatment, Japanese organic facials, and both private and public hot baths. One 106-degree soak under the crisp, star-filled Santa Fe sky and you’ll be planning your next visit. That is, if you can tear yourself away. —TODD JOHNSON
The Tides Riviera Maya isn’t the over-the-border escape you’d expect.
Yes, we know. You’ve vacationed in Mexico before. And you’ve probably done so on the Riviera Maya, because this seemingly endless stretch of resorts is less than an hour by cab from party-all-the-time Cancun. But the Tides Riviera Maya is different. Upon arrival, a shaman cleanses you with a chant and some incense—just one of the Mayan traditions incorporated into the guest experience here. The friendly staff then shows you around the barely landscaped, jungle-filled property, an indication that the Tides is interested in preserving the earth on which it sits. Winding paths lead to the casitas, spa, or tucked-away spots for reading, writing, and painting—reflective spaces meant to inspire creativity. More evidence the Tides wants its guests to share in the tree hugging: signs requesting that you keep the doors closed when the AC is on and rituals such as Nature’s Call, during which guests can plant a commemorative tree. SWEET DREAMS ARE MADE OF THIS: In each thatched-roof casita, a white, gauzy canopy shrouds the bed, which is strewn with rose petals; heck, rose petals even adorn the roll of toilet paper. Separating the sleeping quarters from a private patio, replete with hammock and plunge pool, is a heavy screened door that keeps out the bugs but lets in the sounds of the jungle. A hardwood “carpet” feels nice underfoot when you get in and out of bed, and, in the morning, coffee and croissants, still warm from the oven and served with tiny jars of jam, are delivered right to your door. BODACIOUS BARBECUE: No doubt you will enjoy every meal at the on-site restaurant, La Marea. But you must make time for a barbecue on the beach. The feast goes something like this: tortilla soup, poured ceremoniously into the bowl; a parade of sea creatures—lobster, scallop, fish—served with drawn butter and divine turmeric aïoli; lamb chops, tenderloin, and chicken breast, all wonderfully charred from the grill; chorizo and cheese, served bubbling on a hot skillet; homemade coconut, guava, or chocolate ice cream; rich drinking chocolate spiked with vanilla and cinnamon. All of this, combined with an ocean breeze, cool sand beneath your bare feet, and flickering torches, will surely intoxicate you, as will those tequila-infused cocktails. Just make sure you’ve got the little flashlight on your room key, or you may never find the way back to your casita. WHAT’S COOKIN’: If you prefer to learn while you eat, cooking classes are offered to groups of eight or more at Casita Maya, an outdoor Mayan “kitchen” constructed of tree branches and palapa roof, where fish or meats are cooked in the earth, in a pit oven filled with hot stones. The lesson begins with homemade guacamole and tortillas, and would-be chefs partake in refreshing elixirs such as rice, watermelon, or cucumber and mint while their classmates stuff and fry empanadas. Following appetizers, volunteers chop tomatoes, bell peppers, and red onions, which are then combined with seasoned black grouper, covered with achiote marinade, and wrapped in banana leaves. The fish and vegetables are placed in the ground, covered with leaves and wood, and cooked for about 30 minutes. When the fish is done, it is pulled out of the earth and served with rice, so students can enjoy the fish of their labor. SERENITY NOW: These days, any resort worth its salt has a spa, and the Tides’ spa does it Mayan style. To keep the energy flowing, everything is curved so there are no hard corners, and the intoxicating fragrance of copal soothes your senses. Try the lava shells therapy, which is a bit like a hot rocks massage. Although the spa itself is rather small, the wellness program there extends beyond the treatment rooms. Couples can participate in a fertility ceremony in the Mayan Fertility House, or those who can take the heat may want to crawl inside the temascal, a primitive mortar-and-stone hut, symbolic of Mother Nature’s womb. In the therapeutic and mystical temascal ceremony, water is poured over extremely hot volcanic rocks so steam and herbs can purify body and spirit. The whole experience is highly meditative, almost otherworldly—and unlike any other along this stretch of beach. —JENNIFER CHININIS