|Courtesy Tides Riviera Maya|
The branding free-for-all going on around it has only grazed this 30-villa enclave. It's now part of the Tides group, but aside from a name change (it used to be Ikal del Mar) and service upgrades, it retains this coast's original allure: simplicity and seclusion, with a nice dollop of real Mayan culture on top. That starts with the spa welcome ritual, a blessing by a shaman who concludes by strewing drops of water around you using a bouquet of freshly picked herbs. It's a sacred circle, and bad energy banished, you're ready to check in — and check out. Hidden by thick vegetation, the jungle spa suite has walls of fine white netting, a canvas for the play of light and shadow. In keeping with Mayan tradition, the menu emphasizes purifying rituals over therapeutic massage. Still, there are some unusual examples of the latter — for instance, the hammock massage, in which the therapist kneads your back with her feet from beneath, and the crepuscular massage, in which she rocks your body from side to side with a cloth band. Every treatment is done without the precious scripting so prevalent in the area because these therapists live the culture. — G.W.