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by David Paul Appell
On my most recent visit to Iberostar’s ginormous Playa Paraíso spa facilities on Mexico’s Riviera Maya below Cancun, I decided to take a more in-depth look at the modern, elegant spa used by guests at all five resorts here. Situated at the back of the quaint town-plaza-style resort shopping center, it’s an impressive two-story affair open 365 days of the year, with 25 shower-equipped treatment rooms, each of which is identified by a mysterious-sounding Maya name (don’t worry, they’re also numbered!); a large saltwater pool; a battery of hydrotherapy whirlpools of different temperature; and good-size wet and dry saunas, as well as the usual hairdresser and mani-pedi services. But what really sets this spa facility apart is what’s right out back: a pair of low, round, domed cement structures reminiscent of a Navajo hogan or a Mongolian yurt. These are temazcales, Maya sweat lodges, available with 48 hours’ advance reservation and presided over by native shamans (see above). Spa receptionist Pablo Soberano, 29, was kind enough to both show me around the place and sit for an interview.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from, and how long have you been doing this?
I’m from Chiapas and moved to Cancun 10 years ago. I started my Iberostar career working as a spa valet.
What are the spa’s most popular treatments?
No question about it: the envoltura de chocolate (chocolate wrap), which is wonderful for hydrating the skin while smelling rich and chocolaty (sorry, it’s not edible!). It’s especially popular with women, while for the guys, I guess it’s no surprise that we get more demand for the tequila wrap, which is both hydrating and reinvigorating (and no, we don’t pour a bottle of booze over you – it’s based on distilled essence of tequila). As for massage, the most popular is deep-tissue.
Is the temazcal also fairly popular?
To a certain degree, yes, but it does require more setup and organization, as we have to make arrangements to bring in the outside shaman; because of that, we generally aim to get a group or at least a couple. But we’ve had people who’ve found it a life-changing experience, they’ve not only come out physically invigorated, but also spiritually, thanks to the shaman’s chanting. The usual session is about two hours, broken up by cold showers right outside, but it depends on the time of year, the weather and temperature.
We’re all stressed out these days. What do you recommend to clients who want to de-stress?
We get that all the time. We recommend that our stressed clients start out with some hydrotherapy in the various pools, followed by a deep-tissue massage. It always makes my day when I see a client leave the spa looking refreshed, like a new person.
What do you like most about your job?
Like I said, seeing our clients leave the spa glowing and relaxed, and sometimes downright transformed. That, plus the contact with so many different kinds of people every day, learning a little bit about them and their lives. I truly love my job, and am looking forward to sticking around for a long time to come.
This post is adapted from one that originally ran on our blog PassportToIberostar.