State of Bliss

Luxurious healing in the Yucatán retreat of Chablé.

By Leslie A. Westbrook

Photo by Alfredo Azar


t’s my first morning at the recently opened Chablé Resort and Spa, set on 750 acres in the heart of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. I awaken in my glass-walled villa to views of the Mayan jungle and the sounds of birdsong. I program Antonio Carlos Jobim on the room’s iPad and slide open the pocket doors to reveal the morning light and alluring azure pool, presided over by an equally inviting hammock. Jose delivers a bowl of fruit the color of jewels, a carafe of herbal tea (there’s also Veracruz coffee from Café Cobalto) and a flaky croissant for my early-morning start to the day.

Life is grand in one of the most interesting parts of Mexico. And at Chablé, a fantastic healing voyage also awaits. 

A Warm Welcome
I began my journey with three nights in the fascinating city of Mérida. A friend and I were collected in Mérida and whisked about a 40-minute drive away to Chablé. Warmly welcomed by the staff and congenial General Manager Rocco Bova to the jaw-dropping historic hacienda grounds, we mentioned that we were starved, and thrilled to enjoy the first of many delicious meals: A Yucatán dish called papadzules, egg-filled tortillas with a pumpkin seed and tomato sauce, prepared over a traditional wood-burning stove in one of the four kitchens on the property.

After lunch, I was escorted in a golf cart to my amazing villa, Chi’it (Mayan for a type of thatched palm). Each villa is named in Mayan for a different plant, animal, tree or god. I immediately jumped in my plunge pool (yes, each villa has its own pool) which I would revisit daily. I fell into a deep slumber for an afternoon siesta before my friend Jose appeared at my door, rousing me out of my dreams, for cocktails on the portico of the main building, La Terraza.

Rudy, the terrific bartender, prepared a thirst-quenching mango/rosemary/tequila cocktail for me while Jose and Rocco sipped tequila and mezcal. A light dinner of a satisfying traditional turkey soup (turkey is a mainstay in Yucatán cooking) followed, and then I was off to a much-appreciated solid night’s sleep.

Spa, Cenote and Mayan Mysticism
Zen meditation and a visit to the spa seemed in order for the first full day of my Chablé retreat.

I had a wonderful one-on-one meditation session with Alex, an ex-pat raising a young family in Mérida. Our space overlooked a beautiful, mystical cenote. A cenote is a sinkhole caused by the collapse of bedrock, revealing a pristine underground pool. These dot the landscape throughout the Yucatán and were important in Mayan rituals.

My spa experience began with a light spa lunch, followed by dips in a series of hydrotherapy pools, with the assistance of Emiliano, my “spa butler,” who spoiled me rotten, seeing to all my needs, including delivering a cold washcloth and rose-water spray to me while in the sauna, folding my robe as I soaked in the hydrotherapy pools, and placing a pitcher of chilled herbal-infused water by my lounge chair. 

My massage therapist, Israel, recommended a Mayan herbal compress massage, which promised not only physical well-being, but improved energy and a calming effect on the mind. First I entered a conch shell-shaped structure, where my therapist performed a cleansing ritual that included burning herbs and chanted prayers, accompanied by soft whistles in the distance and the call of a conch shell. The blissful, 90-minute massage (one of many unique offerings on the spa menu) incorporated Mayan rituals, plants and herbs from the gardens, and mystical healing stones.

Gastronomic Delights
Dinner at the signature restaurant Ixi’im (Mayan for corn) was a delightful, delicious evening. Jose and I shared the tasting menu. The Quelite salad featured quintonil (a small, tender leafy green in the amaranth family), cilantro, parsley and dressing made from their stems. The meal also included roasted tomatoes and “sopero” cheese from Tabasco; deer tartare (a bit gamey for my taste) with a recado rojo vinaigrette made from typical Yucatán ingredients of sour orange, chili habanero and pumpkin seed; creamy rice with stone crab, local squash and x’catic chile; Michoacán trout with chamomile foam and manzano chile; and duck magret with my favorite Mexican delicacy, huitlacoche mole.

Mexico City celebrity chef Jorge Vallejo oversees the menu, but delightful and talented onsite chef Luis Ronzon, a star in his own right, oversees day-to-day preparations. Every meal, from fresh-squeezed juices, avocado toast and chilaquiles for breakfast to the gastronomic displays for dinner, was superb.

Design Extraordinaire
Chablé’s gardens are amazing. The daily Mayan flute serenade to the herbs magically coaxes the plants into verdant and healthy bloom; I harvested a fresh beet and had it added to my fresh-squeezed breakfast juice. Strolling through the property, the boom years of henequen cultivation (an agave plant used for sisal) during the late 19th and early 20th centuries could easily be imagined. 

From a design point of view, the effects are equally stunning, thanks to architect Jorge Borja and noted Mexican interior designer Paulina Moran. The duo just received the prestigious Prix Versailles 2017 Prize — promoted by the International Union of Architects in conjunction with UNESCO — giving Chablé Resort the distinction of being the top hotel in the world for architecture and design.

Each private villa is an oasis of comfort and calm, beautifully decorated with natural fabrics and woods. Ceramic bathroom sinks made in Mexico City sit atop wooden countertops. Double-sided glass showers feature overhead rainfall shower fixtures. One set of doors leads to an outdoor shower. Comfy beds are fringed by linen sheers that can be drawn to envelope the bed.

Rooms come equipped with iPads and Sky TV as well — but who cares about the woes of the world when the birds and staff are happy to make your day!

Chablé is a retreat muy especial for friends and lovers (you can tie the knot or have a Mayan recommitment ceremony), but families are also welcome. Its location is perfect for exploring 19th-century hacienda history and Mayan culture. The archeological ruins of Chichen Itza and Uxmal are each about an hour away, and the archeological museum in nearby Mérida is worth a side trip. There are 33 (soon to be 40) stunning villas at Chablé, which just opened in early 2017. Special events — wine dinners and visiting-chef weekends, concerts on the green — are in the making, thanks to the engaged and enthusiastic GM. 

Chablé is a splurge that is worth every peso, and then some. 

Chablé Resort and Spa
Tablaje #642, Chocholá,
Yucatán, México
C.P. 97816

Rituals that take place in Chablé’s
temazcal, or Mayan sweat lodge, are designed to purify physically and spiritually.
Photo by Del Sol Photography

All villas, including the luxurious Presidential, feature an outdoor private pool.
Photo by Karen Millet.

Doña Eneida prepares tortillas the traditional way — and also offers onsite cooking classes.
Photo by Del Sol Photography.

Whether you seek recreation, meditation or rejuvenation, Chablé is the ideal wellness destination. A bike ride around the grounds, hot-stone massage near the natural cenote, or dip in the pool (check out the large communal lounge area when you’re feeling social) are all wonderful ways to take in the resort’s unique blend of Mayan culture and modern-day luxury.
Photo by Del Sol Photography

Photo by Alfredo Azar

Photo by Karyn Millet.


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