Tulum has been called a spiritual and mystical place, being the home of ancient Mayan human presence for thousands of years. Driving through the jungles of the destination evokes a sense of peace and connection to the verdant environment: Royal Palms, Lebbek Trees; Morning Glories, and scores of other plant species create thickets of spiritual havens in Tulum.
When I arrived to my accommodations for my 4-night stay, the owner, Ruta Uleviciute, asked me, “What is luxury to you”? As co-owner of Playaakun Ecoluxury Beach Retreat, Ruta wanted to gauge my idea of what the “finer things” really means to me. My initial response was along the lines of five-star hotels, room service, and well-appointed rooms. However, by the end of my visit to Tulum, I was able to modify my response to one of a more spiritual nature.
In planning my trip, I had Googled “Tulum” to see what this stretch of the Yucatan Peninsula had to offer in terms of hotels, restaurants, and activities. I zoomed in on the aerial map to check out the many icons laid out in the geographical area. I noticed that the highest concentration of these icons lay in the “Tulum Hotel Zone.” However, when I arrived to my villa after the almost, two-hour drive from the Cancun airport, I realized we were in a secluded area just minutes away from the busy “downtown” Tulum.
In particular, the villa was planted inside a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Sian Ka’an Protected Biosphere Reserve is the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean and is home to numerous flora and fauna, including marine turtles; 500 species of fish; and manatees. The property I stayed in was in a quiet area with only a few developments located along a calm stretch of white beach.
There is a lagoon located across the street from Playaakun, and I was able to hire a local fisherman to leave from the dock for a 2-hour tour on the water. We passed the top part of a submerged, 5,000-year-old pyramid that was built by the Mayans before the lagoon system naturally flooded. The floating mangroves are said to be around the same age, and there was plenty of tropical birdwatching; spotting small, Sweetwater crocodiles that feed on plankton; a nose of a manatee; and schools of fish that you could see from the translucent part of the lagoon. The most exciting part of the tour was being able to get in the water of the lagoon and float along the canals for about half a mile by a natural current…I was transported to another world!
At Playaakun, I was able to arrange on-property private meditation and a Mayan massage. Abril Cortes visited the property, a woman who runs a local business in Tulum that offers healing arts: cacao ceremonies; full moon circles; meditation; sound therapy; and healing yoga. I experienced the cacao ceremony just as the sun came up one morning, which included a drinking of the cacao concoction that is known to be a healthy and healing nut for the body. There was meditation, instruments, and light pressure, shoulder massages during the session. One of my favorite things to do when traveling is experience a spa treatment using specific ingredients found in the area. The traditional Mayan massage given to me by another visitor to the villa, Manuela Masajista, incorporated instruments, fresh herb inhalation, and gentle taps with bundles of herbs before the traditional aromatherapy treatment.
At the end of my 5-day trip to Tulum, I could confidently say to Ruta, that “luxury” means being at peace and one with nature…and learning something new about yourself!
Photos: Paulo Lynch and Ruta Ule ( Sian Ka’an image)