I arrived in Riviera Maya in need of TLC. My skin was dry, itchy, and uncomfortable from the harsh winter, and my mind was racing and stressing from the nonstop mania that is New York City.
I checked into my room at the exclusive, eco-luxe Fairmont Mayakoba, surrounded by flourishing mangrove trees with canals woven throughout. Hello sun, scuba, strawberry margaritas, and what I craved most—the spa!
Yes, after ten minutes or less, I marched myself directly to the Willow Stream Spa, a 37,000-square-foot space with 20 treatment rooms, where I immediately signed up for an hour-long Honey in the Heart treatment: a body mask and massage.
The spa incorporates many traditions of the local Mayan culture, and most ingredients are sourced on-site. Honey is taken from hives on property; the services are managed by local women. I also learn that in the Mayan traditional bath ceremony, honey signifies the sweetness of life. Life has been so chaotic lately, that I was touched by this simple ethos.
I also learn that in the Mayan traditional bath ceremony, honey signifies the sweetness of life. Life has been so chaotic lately, that I was touched by this simple ethos.
The multi-level, earthy space was airy and immaculate with walls made of glass. There was no shortage of cozy nooks to perch yourself for some self-reflection, while looking out over plush green surroundings. It felt like a real escape, worthy of daylong lounging. The architecture was modern, with a Grecian stone exterior, best appreciated from the rooftop pool (lap-friendly and luxe).
A group of women in the locker room moaned over how delicious the signature smoothie was: a homemade pineapple and chaya concoction (chaya is a local herb full of antioxidants). Naturally, I tried it, too. I wanted to have another, and then another! It was that good.
My treatment began with a grainy, honey mask that aimed to equally exfoliate and hydrate. Exactly what I needed! My entire body was doused in it, limb by limb, for about 20 minutes. I felt my tight winter skin loosening up, and falling off. Good riddance!
Next, the therapist re-visited her original starting point and wrapped hot, steamy towels on every inch of me from the neck down. This felt nice for the first minute but cooled down quickly. Since there’s much ground to cover, by the time she finished toweling, it felt too damp, like I was wrapped in just-used beach towels. Feeling the slightest bit chilly in a spa service is a personal pet peeve—but overall I was very relaxed and happy. Luckily, the room was toasty, so that helped.
The therapist turned on a warm shower and I was asked to rinse. I did, and it felt divine. My skin was the smoothest and silkiest it’s probably ever felt. Back on the table (how did she transform it so fast from the wet mess?), my body melted from the massage. It could have been longer, but I’m grateful for now-supple skin. The service finished with a sip of honey, which warmed my heart with Mayan sweetness.
For a skin fix, I’d absolutely recommend the treatment; the softening results were dramatic and long-lasting. However, if pure stress relief is your aim, stick with a traditional massage. Either way, Willow Stream Spa is the perfect start (or end) to your vacation at Fairmont Mayakoba, a delightful destination that you’ll never want to leave.
Rachel Shelasky is a Brooklyn-based writer and entrepreneur who loves Thai massage, dabbling in meditation, and finding new exotic destinations. She reports on spas, health trends, and hotels for BlackBook, Real Simple, SpaFinderWellness, and Women's Health. Her business, hollywoodfourth.com, produces branded apparel for a diverse clientele.