While a stunning setting is a common attribute among most memorable spas, not many can claim their own cenote, a sacred site thought to be a portal to the Mayan underworld. Chablé (Chocholá, Mexico), however, is centered around a natural spring-fed sinkhole. In fact, the cenote, is a focal point for numerous healing journeys offered at Chablé Spa. According to spa director Carmelina Montelongo, it’s what helps set the spa apart. “Its waters are magical and powerful at the same time and considered a source of eternal youth,” she says. “Part of what gives our spa its unique essence is its duality—that eternal dance between two opposite forces that strengthen each other,” she says. Spa consultant Amy McDonald, owner and CEO of Under a Tree Health and Wellness Consulting, found it to be one of the most challenging aspects of conceptualizing the retreat. “Because we wanted to really reflect the traditional Mayan rituals and cosmology, we had to dig deeply to represent and express the dualities we wanted to, such as the convergence between intangible and tangible, spiritual and material, traditional and contemporary,” she says. “Additionally, being that the spa is quite a large feature for the property, we wanted to make sure it was the main attraction and could sustain a variety of wellness programs and packages with integrated experiences.”
In creating the treatment menu, Montelongo considered what spa-goers seek when they visit. “We’ve learned that our typical clientele likes simplicity,” she says. “They value the reduction of complexity that is reflected in the fact that they do not need to make too many decisions among several offerings. Less is always more for them. They love silence and being in contact with nature. They are always looking forward to having heart-to-heart experiences with people from the community.” According to McDonald, the spa menu is designed to represent the Tree of Life, the sacred symbol of Mayan cosmology.
Upon arrival, spa-goers are invited to enjoy the spa’s hydrotherapy circuit, which includes a vapor steam room, a dry sauna, a salt room, a Jacuzzi, and a cool plunge pool. Each treatment begins with a consultation and an opening Mayan ceremony. The ceremony takes place in the Caracol Maya (meaning snail or shell in Spanish), a stone sculpture found at the entrance to the spa that represents the connection between the human being and the cosmos. The space is also referred to as the seashell due to its spiral shape. As guests enter the seashell prior to their treatment, a therapist follows behind with a burning mix of herbs that are grown on property. The therapist then performs a Mayan chant acknowledging the four cardinal directions and energetic alignment while additional staff members outside the seashell play traditional Mayan instruments, such as the conch shell and drum. The treatment times are staggered so each guest can experience the ceremony.
According to Montelongo, guests often gravitate to one of three Spa Journeys: Fountain of Youth, Tree of Life, and Heaven on Earth. Each provides a different energy and aesthetic outcome based on guests’ feelings and life stage. The temzacal, an ancient Mayan sweat lodge tradition, also takes center stage with each of the journeys featuring its own temazcal experience.
Inspired by Mayan traditions and the life-changing role shamanism plays, the treatment menu is thoughtfully infused with both cultural and natural elements. The most popular treatment is the Balance Healing Ritual ($340, 2 hours), which is one of the Tree of Life services. It was originally created to relax tight muscles and provide tension relief. However, it is often requested for its ability to balance emotions and remove blocked energy. Connecting to the healing properties of the earth, it features a Mayan Herbal Compress Massage with Sound and Stone Healing and a nourishing head and scalp massage. “We were aiming to create an authentic representation of Mayan healing traditions from the region and to honor the sacred healing environment, and to help with this, we invited Bonnie Baker, a strategic consultant for Under a Tree in Mexico, to work with us,” says McDonald. “We knew that the cenote around which the spa was built was a deeply revered space, and we wanted to highlight the timelessness and connection that the traditional cultures had with the natural environment and the cosmos. We wanted to create a luxury experience that felt effortless and genuine, providing treatments and activities to balance the body and inspire wellness.”
In choosing the product lines for the spa, Montelongo and her team focused on selecting organic brands with clean actives and natural and sustainable ingredients, such as AgaveSpa, Body Bliss, Margaret Dabbs, Naturopathica, and T’zikal. “Behind each of these brands is a story that we want to share with the world,” says Montelongo. According to her, it was important to partner with brands that share the same beliefs and philosophy as the spa.
Beyond culturally inspired treatments, the spa also offers a host of engaging activities, such as Reiki Healing, Hybrid Muscle Training, Zen Meditation, and more. Hamak Yoga is a unique offering that relies on a hammock to support the body while it stretches, flexes, and promotes the flow of energy to activate joints and strengthen muscles. It takes place on the Cenote Platform, a space dedicated to meditation and yoga that is situated alongside the sacred sinkhole.
With the spa still in its first year-and-a-half of operation, Montelongo and her staff are busy tackling various challenges. One of their greatest pertains to the initial assessment or wellness consultation each spa-goer undergoes upon arrival. “We need to have a greater focus on customization and personal connection with a proven method,” says Montelongo, who is also focused on taking advantage of changing paradigms. “The wellness tourist is starting to shift beyond properties to destinations like ours, where more authentic, complete wellness can be experienced,” she says. “A place surrounded by nature with access to healthy, organic food, and happy people from the community working for the destination retreat, contributing with their wisdom and traditions. The future of this type of business is a giving-back and community-building model where we must soon concentrate our efforts and resources.” That’s why in addition to the 30 full-time employees on staff, guests will also find Monica Simone, a part-time onsite medicine woman who leads meditation sessions and performs the temazcal ceremonies, spiritual therapies, and more.
“Moreover, in a world that is becoming more mental and stressful with more digital and media overload, we foresee there is much growth potential for helping people get less anxious and happier,” says Montelongo. “Wellness for the mind will be one of the most profitable business challenges in the near future as it once was medical tourism, and we need to quickly tap into this opportunity.”
Quick Facts: Chablé Spa
32,000 square feet; 15 treatment rooms
Products & Equipment
Agave Spa, Body Bliss, Earthlite, Jade Yoga, Living Earth Crafts, Margaret Dabbs, Naturopathica, PM Linos, Technogym, T’zikal
Jorge Borja, principal, Grupo BV (Cancun, Mexico)
Paulina Morán, founder and principal, Paulina Morán Interiors (Cancun, Mexico)
Amy McDonald, owner and CEO, and Bonnie Baker, strategic consultant, Under a Tree, Health and Wellness Consulting (Tucson, AZ; San Miguel de Allende, Mexico)