What do you do when a Women’s Retreat in San Miguel de Allende gets postponed but you already have your airline ticket? You go anyway! Since it was my first visit to San Miguel de Allende, mi amiga Bonnie Baker, owner of Mexican-based Satteva Spa and Wellness Concepts, hosted me for a private retreat and showed me the best of San Miguel de Allende and the community. She has been living in Mexico for ten years now, and our similar work in the sustainable spa industry gave us plenty to talk about along the journey.
With all of the attention on the Caribbean and Central America for places to visit and retire to, Mexico is in some ways undiscovered and overlooked. The resort and spa growth in Mexico has brought a new focus and many new options to discover for both tourists and locals. I have to confess, my retreat turned into sightseeing and exploring more than “retreating,” which was fun!
San Miguel de Allende is truly beautiful. The UNESCO site with its colonial architecture is gorgeous—vivid reds, yellows, walls, stones, courtyards, flowers, and art. Historic churches and buildings are a main attraction. The natural light and beautiful setting have long attracted artists and photographers. Everywhere you look, there is a photo to be captured, especially at sunset. With all the local expats and English-speaking tourists, it does make you feel like you are part of the vibrant local community. San Miguel de Allende has real Mexican roots with an international vibe.
With all of the attention on the Caribbean and Central America, Mexico is in some ways still overlooked. The resort and spa growth in Mexico has brought a new focus and many new options to discover…
You can explore excellent restaurants, art galleries, artisan markets, and organic food markets. Foodies would be happy here. Events, conferences, celebrations, and music add to the lively scene. Weddings and parades with giant Mojiganga puppets leading the way are a part of the culture and fun, but I could do without the firecrackers during celebrations. Streets are very uneven with tiny sidewalks, so bring your walking shoes and leave the high heels at home!
As part of my retreat, we visited spas, hot springs, organic markets, the art walk galleries, listened to live music, ate at excellent restaurants, and of course strolled through the artisan markets. The area is thriving and growing with new development, wineries, and organic farms.
The Rosewood San Miguel is a luxury resort and spa conveniently located by Juárez Park in the center of town. Sense, A Rosewood Spa, is one of the best and most spacious in San Miguel. I had the signature Mole Body Experience with indigenous ingredients: a sugar and mole spice scrub and massage. We had attentive five-star service from a friendly staff. My therapist, Rosalba, had a relaxing technique and wonderful touch. The spa has eight treatment rooms, a steam room, sauna, women’s, men’s and co-ed lounges. This is one spa I hope to visit again. The rooftop lounge has amazing 360° views of the city and is very popular at sunset, so go early!
Dos Casas Spa is one of the most unique and interesting spas I have been to—it’s a hidden gem in the Dos Casas Boutique Hotel. With only one double treatment room, it has a private changing room, steam room, hammam, and offers healing and holistic treatments. The Dr. Hauschka Facial was very rejuvenating, and my dehydrated skin soaked up the products as fast as Paulina, the therapist, could apply them! This is an exclusive experience offering privacy for one or two guests at a time.
The most amazing feature of the spa is an art piece named “Iris” designed by Mexican artist Ariel Guzik. The machine is sound wave vibrational therapy: When the wooden chime hits the two-foot long crystal cylinder it creates vibrational frequency that enters the center of the “iris” and creates a sound similar to white noise that elevates brain waves into a meditative state. I am impressed with the owner’s vision in creating this beautiful and unique spa designed by Satteva Spa and Wellness Concepts.
Spa Matilda is another top spa with a beautiful facility and apothecary bar. The spa is part of Hotel Matilda, known for its’ modern and artistic atmosphere.
San Miguel de Allende is also known for it’s natural hot springs. Escondido Place Hot Springs has numerous pools in a relaxing park-like setting. The hot springs originate from the nearby, extinct Volcano “Palo Huerfano,” the temperatures vary in the tepid to very warm range, and the facilities are rustic, so don’t expect squeaky clean and fancy. They are expanding with additional services, but in Mexico, the expectations are different for locals versus foreigners who are used to upscale standards. La Gruta Spa and the Mayan Baths are other hot springs in the area I did not get a chance to visit. I recommend reviewing the trip advisor ratings so you know what to expect and always bring a towel. Don’t go at spring break like I did. With more competition, development, and infrastructure, these places are improving their services.
I stayed at the LifePath Retreat Center, a bed and breakfast owned by Beverly Nelson, PhD, an expat and psychologist who has created a multi-disciplinary Wellness Center with a focus on alternative, somatic, and indigenous therapies. LifePath is down a quiet, quaint alley with beautiful terraces, rooftop views, yoga, and other wellness classes. Check out Antonio Elugardo’s yoga classes. LifePath is a good home base where many people who come to San Miguel de Allende stay every year so you can get a lot of insider tips. There are many other nice places to stay for a range of budgets. We met a few women who are traveling solo around the world, and it’s exciting to see so many like minds connecting globally and enjoying their new lifestyle with more independent travel, less stuff, and less worries.
El Charco de Ingenio, the botanical garden and nature preserve just minutes from the city center, is a peaceful area of biodiversity with one of the largest collections of rare cacti and desert plants. The plants were blooming while we were there in April, which is the driest and hottest time of the year in San Miguel. The Garden was named an “International Peace Zone” by the Dalai Lama on the Spring Equinox in 2005. Check out the traditional ceremonies and education offered regularly.
The library (Biblioteca Publica) is a cultural center and has one of the largest collections of English books in Latin America so no worries about being without a book to read. Classes and cultural events are held here.
One of the highlights of my stay was the live music at the Bistro Mi Casa restaurant in the Instituto Allende building. The food and wine were excellent. Gil Gutierrez, a famous Mexican guitarist and composer, and the Media Luna band played music that reminded me of the Gypsy Kings! I loved it so much, I went two nights in a row— thanks to the ladies I met at the retreat center who told me about it. In turn, I brought new friends the next night. Highly recommended!
The famous Temezcal (Mayan sweat lodge ceremony) will have to wait for the next Emerging Feminine retreat in 2018, hosted by Tara Grodjesk’s Living Wellness Retreats and Bonnie Baker of Satteva Spa and Wellness Concepts . Stay tuned for dates TBA.
Shelley Lotz has over 25 years of experience in the spa industry as an esthetician, educator, and entrepreneur. She is a major contributing author of "Milady's Standard Esthetics Fundamentals," a textbook for estheticians, and wrote "Green Spas and Salons: How to Make Your Business Truly Sustainable" (ViosSpaGroup.com).