Healing Harbor

Unlike many Mexican vacation towns that have enticed tourists with shimmering beaches and inviting surf for mere decades, Zihuatanejo, Mexico, has been a haven for centuries. In pre-Columbian times, one tribal leader is said to have constructed a rock barrier on Playa Las Gatas, which still exists today. There, he gathered the women and children of his tribe to the sheltered harbor, where they could frolic in the gentle waves and sleep beneath the stars on the soft sand, remaining safe and secure while the warriors went to battle. As such, the charming area became known as Cihuatlán, and later Zihuatanejo, which means "place of women" in the Aztec language of Nahuatl. Spanish conquistadors also searched for the legendary beaches, believing the area to be an Amazon mecca, where beautiful women draped in gold and precious gems could be discovered. Today, thousands of years later, this charming Pacific coast fishing enclave still holds an exotic allure, even taking a turn on the big screen as the perfect beachside paradise in the film "The Shawshank Redemption." In the movie, Tim Robbins's character, Andy Dufresne, shares his dreams of opening a small hotel on the pristine shores of Zihuatanejo.



In real life, vacationers who pine for incomparable beachside beauty can make their dreams a reality at The Tides Zihuatanejo. There, along the beaches of Zihuatanejo Bay's serene Playa la Ropa, they quickly discover the romantic, secluded appeal of this luxurious resort. Amid tropical gardens and inviting azure pools, 35 guest rooms and 35 suites provide visitors with an intimate and luxurious escape. Adding to the property's quixotic allure is The Spa at The Tides Zihuatanejo.

The entire property exhibits a decidedly Mexican flair, featuring terra-cotta-tiled casitas and thatched palapa cabanas throughout, and the spa, which unveiled a renovation in December, fits easily into the resort's aesthetic. The open reception area allows guests to enjoy soothing sea breezes during check-in, and the nine-treatment room spa features colorful Mexican dresses displayed on the walls, while coconut water and fresh mangos provide a tropical twist. "We wanted to embrace the local culture of Mexico and create a sense of place," says Liz Ratcliff, corporate director of spa development for Kor Hotel Group, parent company of The Tides. "We believe the spa is the heart and soul of the property."

Clockwise from top left: The Presidential Suite features a plunge pool and a large open-air living area that is ideal for in-suite treatments; prior to services, clients can chill out in the spa's cozy relaxation room; the resort's Beach Suites feature stunning views and large terraces.
Clockwise from top left: The Presidential Suite features a plunge pool and a large open-air living area that is ideal for in-suite treatments; prior to services, clients can chill out in the spa's cozy relaxation room; the resort's Beach Suites feature stunning views and large terraces.

Once inside the spa, it becomes readily apparent that the resort's seaside locale is at the heart and soul of the menu, which takes inspiration from—and helps battle the negative effects of—the sun, surf, and sand. All treatments are performed using custom-made Osea products, an organic marine-based line that was developed exclusively for all Tides resorts. Many of the treatments also pay homage to the ocean's bounty. The Tides Signature Lava Shell Therapy ($150, 60 minutes), for example, is a seaworthy spin on hot stone massage. It uses smooth shells that are heated from the inside by combining algae, minerals, saltwater, and sea kelp. "Our guests love it," says Ratcliff. "It is our best-selling treatment. The concept and sustainability of the treatment definitely creates curiosity, not to mention how amazing the shells feel. It is a perfect fit for The Tides."

The Tides Signature Lava Shell therapy is the spa's most popular treatment.
The Tides Signature Lava Shell therapy is the spa's most popular treatment.

Several other treatments help spa-goers tackle issues they may face during a beach vacation, such as sunburn, breakouts from sunscreen, jet-lag, and more. Sun Undone ($110, 60 minutes) involves the gentle application of freshly picked aloe vera, baja lavender, and organic chamomile to help heal irritated, sunburned skin followed by a cooling sea mineral body mist and hydrating Ocean Lotion application. Meanwhile, the All of Me Body Wrap ($130, 60 minutes) is imbued with pure marine-harvested red algae that help promote detoxification and encourage the absorption of amino acids, minerals, and vitamins. Other ocean-inspired options include the algae-and marine essence-infused Sea Luxe Healing Cocoon ($130, 60 minutes) and the stress-reducing Sea of Life Facial ($175, 90 minute).

The resort features several open-air palapa-style buildings, which add a distinctly Mexican flair.
The resort features several open-air palapa-style buildings, which add a distinctly Mexican flair.

Though the spa itself is enticing, many choose to enjoy in-room treatments, taking advantage of the balconies and terraces with large plunge pools that can be found in the 35 Lagoon and Beach Suites, which provide a "perfect setting for treatments," says Ratcliff. There, any massage on the menu can be performed alfresco, while manicure and pedicure services are available in all room categories. Beachside massages are also offered for those who can't tear themselves away from the sound of the surf.

The resort's charming beaches and tropical setting make alfresco treatments a popular choice.
The resort's charming beaches and tropical setting make alfresco treatments a popular choice.

But the Tides spa experience goes beyond the treatment room, thanks to the welcoming and accommodating support staff and the magical hands of the therapists. "I can't tell you how many times I hear from guests that they received the best massage they have ever had in our spa," says Ratcliff. Indeed, all 15 full-time staff members have been trained to adopt The Tides Spa mission of taking guests on a journey of self-discovery. "Using a combination of sensory awakenings, physical endeavors, and spiritual nourishment, all of our seaside retreats celebrate the power and grace of the natural world—and our place within it," reads the credo.



For those seeking total immersion, a true destination spa experience, complete with healthy dining and fitness options, can also be created. Along with traditional spa services, complimentary daily yoga classes, organic cooking lessons, surfing instruction, and more are available, as are several healthy-themed weeks. First is the upcoming Yoga Retreat, a five-day, four-night extravaganza that debuts Oct. 3 with celebrity instructor Tom Morley, who has worked with such stars as Reese Witherspoon and Helen Hunt. The retreat emphasizes both personal contemplation and social interaction through yoga, dance, and other celebrations of life. The package (ranging in price from $2,100 to $4,400, depending on room selection and occupancy) includes morning and evening beachside yoga classes, healthy gourmet meals, a daily massage at the spa, a lululemon athletica gift bag, a closing night "Sense of the Night: Yoga Meets Dance" beach celebration, and transfers to and from Zihuatanejo airport. Ratcliff says the event will be the first of many that establishes The Tides Zihuatanejo as Mexico's number-one yoga destination.



Already on its way to becoming a top spa destination in Mexico, The Spa at The Tides Zihuatanejo will get even closer to this goal in 2010, when a brand-new spa is scheduled to be built. Ratcliff says the new spa will "celebrate a connection to nature and will focus on couples." Highlights will include a lap pool; an organic juice bar; four private cabanas; indoor-outdoor yoga pavilions; co-ed extended lounge spaces; a manicure and pedicure suite for two with an outdoor garden; two hydrotherapy rooms; four multipurpose rooms; two deluxe couples' suites with private outdoor tubs and showers; and two ultra-deluxe couples' suites that include a private pool, an outdoor yoga and stretch pavilion, a stream shower, an indoor/outdoor lounge, a private dining space, and more. Adds Ratcliff, "It's going to be gorgeous."

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