Richard Vanderlubbe, president of tripcentral.ca, recounts his relaxing – and slightly surprising – trip to the Finest Playa Mujeres Spa on his Mexico vacation.
WOW! That’s what I wrote on my comment card after experiencing probably the best spa experience I’ve had at an all-inclusive resort: The ONE Spa at the Finest Playa Mujeres.
The Finest Playa Mujeres is a relatively new hotel, open for about a year, run by the Excellence Group. It’s located just north of downtown Cancun on Playa Mujeres beach. The island is just off Cancun, Isla Mujeres (island of women), can be seen clearly in the distance, but the resort is on the mainland on a very nice white sandy beach.
While visiting in May, I decided to check out the spa for a touch of luxury on my trip.
My spa experience started with a hydro therapy circuit. I was a bit jaded about this having experienced many “self-serve” hydro therapy pools at other spas. This was a guided tour beginning with 5 minutes in the bright full window sauna. A comfortable headrest and towel placement made laying down better than typical saunas. From here, I was directed to a semi-private shower stall with a rustic bucket full of water. A few pulls on the rope gave a shocking dump of cool water that was invigorating. I can’t say I am a fan of cold water – I prefer hot tubs over pools, and for more, pools should be 88F! But I will admit that this was quite nice after the hot sauna.
I was then escorted to the steam room for a 5-minute sitting. One side was all glass so the room was quite bright which definitely added to the experience. I was brought a small dish of some crystalized “salt-ish” herb in oil and was asked to rub it over my arms and legs. I have no idea what it was, but it smelled great. The crystal was exfoliating but dissolved quickly. After a few more minutes in the hot steam room, I was escorted to yet another shower unlike anything I have ever experienced before. It had a large overhead square showerhead approximately one and a half feet square. The spa attendant pressed a button to start the shower and a magical mix of warm and cool water came down from overhead in alternating heavy and misty spray. The shower experience consisted of a few minutes of this crazy pattern of warm and cool waterfall and mist that had an oddly relaxing effect. My thoughts were lost into a nothingness that I rarely experience. I forgot where I was until the shower stopped.
From here I was escorted to descend a few stairs into waist high warm water, and asked to submerge myself completely for three seconds. I then ascended a few more stairs and was directed to an odd rectangular path of polished white stones where I was asked to walk in bare feet. As I walked, warm and cool water was sprayed up from knee height. The idea here was to massage the feet in a unique way. The stones did not hurt, but each step generated an upward almost electrical sensation into my legs and stomach. I was asked to walk this circuit three times before taking a few steps down into cool water.
Okay, it was COLD! I asked what temperature and I was told 20C but it sure felt like 10C! Once again, I was asked to submerge in this crazy cold water – and I did, obediently, even though I would not normally by choice. I happily climbed a few stairs out of that damn cold water and was escorted to a far more inviting large pool of warm water. Wading through it, I hopped up backwards on what looked like a shallow submerged metal piped mattress that allowed for a mostly reclined sit against warm water jets. A fantastic pillow made this very relaxing, and the jets caused my entire body to veer to the left against the wall. The spa attendant brought me a nice glass of cucumber water while I relaxed there.
When the jets turned off, he asked me to wade over and stand under a large overhead thalasso-therapy showerhead. This was to relax my neck and shoulders. A thin but heavy flow of water fell onto my neck and shoulders and it was heavenly. After a few minutes, another large overhead showerhead of a more traditional look sprayed powerfully on my lower back.
Next was an experience that I have never had, and I must pause to prepare any men by suggesting a speedo bathing suit might be more appropriate for this part of the treatment. I was asked to stand on a metal plate in a pool area about chest-high in warm water. The attendant started the process and walked away to get more cucumber water. All I can say is that I’m grateful he walked away. While the jets emanating from below were tantalizing on the feet and legs by being both fine and heavy, my loose bathing suit was not helpful for “the family jewels” in this water massage. Slow waves of heavy jets were uncomfortable in this regard until I figured out that I needed to just hold them for dear life – replicating a speedo! By the time he was visibly returning, the jets subsided and I could let go! The feet and leg massage was great, but in retrospect, this therapy might be redesigned a bit…or at least come with a warning!
Once the overhead and underneath in-pool showers were over, I was asked to step out and back into the cold pool! It felt invigorating, although again, unless instructed to do this, it would not have been my choice. Three seconds to submerge, I ascended and was led back into a mirror image pool of warm water and submerged again.
All of this had taken approximately 30 minutes. While it sounds like a lot of moving around in this written account, it actually flowed very nicely. Normally I get antsy sitting too long in a sauna or steam room, and bored by myself in jet pools. The process for this treatment at the Finest Playa Mujeres spa was well designed. At the start of this circuit, the spa attendant told me that it was a method of detoxifying by opening and closing the pores of the skin. I was smirking skeptically about process, but in the end, I was seated in a semi-reclined polished stone chair with a warm neck cushion. My body felt an amazing sensation – like it had been woken up. I felt electrified and very alive and at the same time, incredibly relaxed.
While sitting semi-reclined, I was given a head and neck massage using various aromatherapies. If I thought I was relaxed after the hydro-therapy, this was another level. I was left here for a few minutes before being escorted upstairs for my actual massage!
The Finest Playa Mujeres spa is quite large, spanning two levels with all glass windows. A typical stark contemporary look was offset by the green of palm trees and exterior design that brought a flash of colour to the view. I stood up and walked as if I was in “Zero Gravity.” The one complaint I would have is that men with size twelve feet don’t wear one size fits all spa slippers very well!
I couldn’t believe that I had another 50 minutes of full body relaxing massage coming my way. Not to undersell the massage – it was fantastic – but it was a great massage given by a talented masseuse that I’ve had many times in many spas.
On my way out, I was escorted to a resting area with four or five double mattress like beds and comfy pillows. The post massage rest is great, with another warm neck cushion and special tea provided. I closed my eyes and felt a bit odd, like I was in flight. It turns out that these mattresses sway back and forth in a gentle rocking motion which took me a few seconds to figure out. A few minutes of basking in the glory of the ninety minutes, I was asked to complete a questionnaire. In the place for additional comments, I could only add my three letter word – WOW!
Being a bit of a spoiled brat running a travel company for 28 years, I can actually say I was truly blown away by this ONE spa at the Finest Playa Mujeres by Excellence Resorts.
The finest, indeed.