Sábila Spa & Villa del Palmar on Mexico’s Gulf Coast

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Sábila Spa & Villa del Palmar, Mexico

photos and story by Lisa Truesdale

As the airport shuttle bus wound its way along the curving roads from the town of Loreto towards Villa del Palmar, my fellow passengers and I chatted excitedly about our upcoming wellness-focused retreat. No one seemed to be looking out the windows, because there wasn’t really anything to see… yet. Then, as we rounded a corner, I heard an audible gasp of delight as the sparkling, crystal-blue waters of Danzante Bay came into view… and then another gasp, as our resort rose up in the distance, seemingly out of nowhere. It looked like a lush oasis in the desert—and that’s exactly what it turned out to be. Offering sand and sun, wellness activities, an award-winning spa and an environment that promotes pure relaxation, Villa del Palmar is a true escape from the everyday.

We began each morning with “soft yoga” in the private pavilion on the beach. Since we were visiting during the resort’s twice-annual Wellness Week (the next one is in December), classes were led by visiting instructor Beth Manos. The view from my mat couldn’t have been more different than the one I usually have inside my regular yoga studio. Yes, Downward Dog and Warrior Pose are even more refreshing and rewarding with such a stunning seaside backdrop. When it’s not Wellness Week here at Villa del Palmar, staff instructors offer regular yoga practice in the pavilion—just check the schedule of daily resort events that’s conveniently delivered to your door every evening.

Sábila Spa, Villa del Palmar, Mexico

After a light breakfast, it was off to Sábila Spa — one of the highlights of the property. The spacious, award-winning, 39,000-sq.-ft. space offers massages, facials, body treatments, manicures, pedicures, and an on-site meditation room. The wet area, boasting a peaceful mountain view through a towering wall of windows on the second floor, is open for daily hydrotherapy detox. Our helpful spa valet led us through each station as we experienced the dry sauna, the wet sauna, the cold-plunge pool, the whirlpool, and the Swiss shower—my favorite, with water coming at me from every direction. (The daily detox regimen is included for guests on the all-inclusive plan. For others, it’s $12 per day.)

“Sábila” means “aloe vera,” and the spa director, Claudine Riemer, is a fountain of knowledge about aloe and its time-tested benefits. Upon request, your spa valet will prepare you a soak in one of the soothing aloe tub, where you slather cooling, fresh-cut aloe all over your body. Or, you can ask to have the aloe cut to order and delivered for use in your in-room jetted tub. Claudine also arranges for short informational workshops about aloe, where she demonstrates how to cut it from the numerous aloe plants on the property and the best ways to prepare it for home use to help soothe sunburns. Her staff will also prepare and administer aloe treatments for guests who spent a little too much time in the sun.

The fully equipped fitness center is on the first floor of the spa—the ideal location, since we all know it’s easier to complete a grueling workout (especially on vacation) if you know you’ll be rewarded with a relaxing spa treatment afterwards. The fitness staff offers daily sessions; our Fitball and Circuit Training instructor for Wellness Week was visiting fitness trainer Rebecca Broxterman. If you’re up for some outdoor adventure instead of indoor training, head down to the private beach and ask for one of the resort’s paddleboards, kayaks, or pedal boats so you can explore the tranquil bay.

If you’re longing to go farther out into the Sea of Cortez, Danzante Tours, based at the resort, offers sport-fishing excursions, ATV tours, and four-hour boat rides to neighboring islands, complete with SCUBA diving and a box lunch enjoyed on an island beach. We were treated to the latter, and although “Baja’s Aquarium” just off the coast of that beach served up plenty of colorful sealife for the divers among us, the highlight of the trip was surely the hundreds of bottlenose dolphins jumping out of the water around our boat and the one whale—well past “normal whale season”—who put on quite a show.

Whether you’re a golfer or not, Villa del Palmar’s TPC course designed by Rees Jones is a must, even if you simply hike up to check out the incredible, see-it-to-believe-it vista from the 17th hole, gazing out over the rugged cliffs to the Sea of Cortez below. Resort staff can offer advice about the best times and routes for non-golfers to go exploring so they don’t get pinged with errant golf balls (or disturb the golfers’ concentration). A word of warning: Once you make it to the 17th, you’ll need at least 15 minutes to fully recover from the view that quite literally takes your breath away.

During our free time, when we weren’t lounging by one of the resort’s five pools (which, when viewed together from high above, form the shape of a beautiful sea turtle), we were dining on wellness options in one of the three on-site restaurants. The people in our group had a variety of dietary restrictions, but the staff was always up for the challenge, effortlessly (and deliciously!) accommodating gluten-free, vegetarian, or Paleo requests. The seafood tastes just-caught, the fruits and veggies are ultra-fresh, and the refreshing and inventive cocktails are always made to order.

“Even margaritas promote wellness,” quipped one of my companions. “Mexican tequila is made from all-natural agave, and there’s lots of fresh lime juice in here, too!”

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Lisa Truesdale is a Colorado-based writer and new contributor to Travel to Wellness.

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