Resort Spas: Azul Blue Hotel and Spa

A Second Honeymoon at Azul Blue, Mayan Riviera, Mexico

Bold turquoise letters spelling "Azul Blue" greeted us as our driver pulled up to the white stucco entrance of one of the finest spa resorts on the Riviera Maya. After a scenic, 45-minute ride from the Cancun airport, my husband and I had arrived in Tulum, Mexico at Azul Blue Hotel and Spa, a luxurious vacation sanctuary created especially for rest, relaxation, tranquility and rejuvenation.

After passing through the wrought iron gates we were greeted with glasses of champagne . Palm trees and green foliage line the walkways heading up the stairs to the pool area. Blue tiles frame the Infinity pool with a picturesque view of the ocean, as if the pool empties out into the ocean. Complete with a swim-up bar and oversized lounge chairs for two - this is the epitome of resort relaxation. A smile spread across my face as I realized just how amazing our three-day stay was going to be at Azul Blue. Friendly staffers gave us a tour of the lush resort grounds along the way to our final destination, Villa 2.

Words cannot describe the exclusivity of this resort let alone the attention to detail paid to the villas. A butler led us up a short marble staircase to our eight-room villa, equipped with a large, flowing waterfall in the atrium and breathtaking views. This "dream house" is "fully loaded" with a plasma TV, marble floors, a double-size hydro-massage Jacuzzi tub, luxurious showers with "rainshower style" heads, a selection of aromatherapy scents and soaps, an iPod with downloaded music and docking stations, topped off by a big canopied bed dressed with premium Italian cotton linens After the room tour, our own private butler explained that if we needed anything at all, he was simply a phone call away.

Excited for our spa services we left our lap of luxury and walked the short, tropical path to the 10,000-square-foot Azul Blue Spa. Certainly no shrinking violet, the white stucco building faces the ocean and offers 360° views with glass windows on all four sides. We walked through the entryway to be greeted by yet another soothing waterfall and a lavish, airy reception. With an "hola" and a smile, the receptionist checked us in for our first appointments. We sat down in white wicker chairs and took in our surroundings. I noticed an on-site yoga room and fitness facility branching off from the reception area. Built-in wood shelving units house a variety of beauty and skin care products from Decleor and Creative Nails to Back to Basics hair care.

A few seconds later, a nail technician introduced herself and took me through a large oak door. My eyes were immediately drawn skyward as I noticed the 30-foot ceilings and grand stairway leading up to the eight treatment rooms. White orchids served as the décor - simple but exotic. As we reached the top of the landing, the technician poured me a glass of fresh juice complete with fresh fruit pieces floating at the top. She took me to the nail room where I sat down on plush, white cushions and was given the remote control to a plasma monitor perfectly positioned for reclining and watching TV.

She pulled out an extensive color assortment of Creative Nail colors, and I landed on a bright fuchsia shade before she set to work on my stiletto-cramped, street-beat feet. Sliding off my flip-flops she started the jets of a warm pedicure footbath with fresh roses petals floating around the surface. The scent was heavenly. She indulged my feet with a spa pedicure complete with lavender scrub, mint foot mask, papaya leg massage and finally, meticulously applied coats of fresh polish and topcoat on my tootsies.

My second service for the day was a spa manicure. Similar to the pedicure, it was filled with tropical scents. A technician helped me slide on my spa sandals and escorted me to the manicure station. Taking my seat, she placed my hands in warm jet water bowls for softening my cuticles. After about five minutes, she dried my hands, removed the existing polish and massaged in a coconut-infused cuticle softener. After trimming and a quick rinse, she filed and squared off my nails and prepped me for a lavender exfoliator followed by a mint mask and an expert hand massage. The treatment was finished off with a sheer pink polish and topcoat. Her steady hand made this manicure swift and effortless so I was ready to set out and enjoy the rest of the day at the resort. I was escorted back to the reception area and offered another fresh juice to sip while I waited for my husband. The staff never wavered in its consistent efforts to meet my needs, be it food, drink or reading materials, and I was anxiously looking forward to Day 2 of my Azul Blue Spa experience.

With much persuasion, my husband convinced me to try something more adventurous than my usual spa choices like traditional facials, massages and nails. So when in Rome, or Mexico as it was, this was a rare opportunity to experience something unlike anything else in the world - the Temazcal treatment, which involves a Shaman and stone hut where we would rid our bodies of toxins. My husband noted that within the first two days of our stay at Azul Blue, whenever someone mentioned the word "Temazcal" their eyes became large and a smile took over their faces. This was not going to be a typical spa service but an experience that would touch us physically, mentally and spiritually.

We returned to the white, stucco spa building and met another couple waiting for the same treatment. A minute later a staff member led the way to our respective locker rooms where we were given robes to wear over our bathing suits. This treatment is performed off the premises, just a short walk in our robe and slippers. Changed and ready to go, we met our Shaman in the lobby. He wore an open linen shirt and matching pants and greeted us with a big smile. His English was broken, but through his friendly yet serious tone and few recognizable words, he made it apparent that we had chosen something special and very unique.

ot knowing what to expect, I spoke to the other woman along the way who had been persuaded by her husband to try something "spiritual" too. He led us down a winding path that brought us past a beautiful view of the sun setting on the horizon of the ocean.

Once at the sacred spot, he instructed us to stand in a circle. He then explained that as part of this ancient ritual, we must thank the four natural elements - air, wind, water and fire - for their cooperation and in doing so, we stood and turned our bodies to the east, west, north and south. He completed our chant by blowing on a salmon conch shell and leading us to the igloo-like stone Temazcal structure where the real treatment began.

Next to the Temazcal was a stone hearth with burning lava rock. Ancient symbols carved into the hearth tell stories of this tradition. Our Shaman lifted an Aztec rug, which covered a small opening, and asked us to climb through and be seated Indian style around an open pit dug into the earth. The four of us removed our robes and sat down. Our Shaman entered with palm leaves, shells, incense and a clay bowl of water. Already slightly nervous I started to ask questions. The Shaman explained that each of us would take turns explaining what kind of stress and toxins we wanted to get rid of and why we were here. Meagerly I told the group that I had a LOT of toxins to get rid of and was anxious to spend time away from blackberries, computers and faxes. Our Shaman had quite the challenge ahead.

The ritual began as the Shaman placed the glowing rocks from the fire burning outside, in the center of the pit. After piling on several, he closed the makeshift blanket door of the Temazcal, and it became pitch black inside. He first filled the air inside with smells of fresh herbs, and then sprinkled water on top of the glowing rocks that emitted heavy steam that quickly surrounded our bodies. He began chanting, and we repeated, "I am in control of my destiny.I am in touch with my own frequency." The intensity and volume of each chant slowly increased, and more water was sprinkled on the steamy rocks. The chants were self-motivating and increasingly aided our breathing through the engulfing steam.

For the next 45 minutes we went through a series of four different rounds of pouring water and heavy steam that released every toxin in our bodies through our own perspiration. After the fourth round, we all thanked the four elements of nature - earth, wind, fire and water - and stepped out of the Temazcal into the cool, breezy ocean air. Feeling somewhat shaky given the amount of perspiring that just took place, the Shaman gave us bottled waters and had us sit under a big showerhead that released cold water.

At the end of the Temazcal treatment, the sensation I experienced was unlike any other. I felt completely cleansed, and a sense of calm washed over me. It was the most intense steam I have ever had, however it was both the emotional and physical release that surprised me. We were then led back to the spa to change and head to dinner. Later on, I felt an unexpected desire to sleep. Not realizing how exhausted we were, my husband and I agreed that night's sleep was the best in years. The Temazcal is a very unusual, unique treatment that is uncommon in the spa industry, so if you have any interest in trying a cultural, spa experience such as this, Spa Azul is the place.

My third and final spa experience at Azul Blue was a one-hour Reflexology treatment. This was a first for me. The definition of Reflexology is " the practice of stimulating nerves on the feet, hands and ears in order to encourage a beneficial effect on some other parts of the body, or to try to improve general health."

When I arrived at the reception area, the technician welcomed me with a glass of water and led me to the women's locker room once again to change into a robe and spa sandals. After meeting her back in the relaxation area, she escorted me up the staircase to one of the massage rooms equipped with a hydrotherapy tub, incense and a massage table. She asked me to get comfortable under the warm covers and leave my feet exposed. After a soft knock, she returned to the room, drew the curtains and placed a cool, damp cloth over my eyes, and I felt myself beginning to relax.

Warm, eucalyptus hands shielded my face, and I was instructed to breath in the scent to calm and soothe my tired nerves. The technician pulled up a chair and placed a rolled towel under each of my knees to prop my feet up. For the next 50 minutes, she used warm massage oil and worked every tender nerve and muscle in my right foot followed by my left foot. This is a must for the feet of any urban woman who lives in skyscraper heels - think Swedish massage-meets-the feet. She rotated each foot at the ankle, placed pressure on my Achilles tendon and thoroughly massaged my arches and the balls of my feet. Never once did I experience any tenderness or discomfort. In fact, I fell asleep mid-way through the treatment.

I was awakened by the same sweet smell of eucalyptus as my technician moved her hands in circular motions over my face and body. She gently told me to rise up slowly and that she would be waiting outside the door with a glass of fresh juice when I was ready.

Azul Blue Hotel and Spa is a top-notch destination resort with a focus on detail and customer service. For those in search of tranquility, fantastic amenities, gorgeous ocean views and luxurious R&R, there is absolutely no "stresspassing" at Azul Blue.

Azul Blue Hotel and Spa is located in the beautiful Mayan Riviera, Mexico, a few minutes away from Tulum and 30 minutes south of Playa del Carmen. A gourmet all-inclusive resort destination, nightly rates at Azul Blue include all meals, snacks, beverages, alcoholic beverages, 24-hour room service, on-site amenities and facilities, classes, workshops, live music, butler and vacation planning services and all taxes and gratuities. Standard shuttle transportation to and from the Cancun airport costs approximately $65 per person roundtrip. The resort also offers private car service starting at $140 per couple. For more information about the Azul Blue Hotel and Spa and to book reservations online, please visit www.azulhotel.com. To speak to a reservations agent, call 888.280.8810.

Azul Blue Hotel and Spa
Carretera Tulum - Punta Allen,
lote 47 zona costera de Tulum,
Municipio de Solidaridad,
Quintana Roo, México.

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