Cancun During COVID, Part 3: Palmaïa--The House of Aïa
Updated: Sep 15, 2020
This is the final post in a 3-part series about my August 2020 trip to Cancun, Mexico during the COVID pandemic. See the previous posts here and here. Please also watch the following video, and subscribe to my YouTube channel. I'll tell you right now that I felt safe during my entire trip and basically forgot there was a problem (other than the masks and other precautions) until I got back to the airport!
The drive from Le Blanc was about 1 hr 15 min. It’s not very far, but there are a number of stoplights and speed bumps. Once I arrived in Playa del Carmen, I had to turn down a road for Playacar. There is a security gate, and once you enter, there are many beautiful houses and quite a few resorts. The building for Riu Palace was particularly stunning. The entrance for Palmaïa doesn’t appear to be finished. I was greeted by an interesting man wearing very flowing linen pants. He was expecting me and welcomed me as he instructed me about where to park. Another man in linen pants and a white t-shirt greeted me, helped with my bag, and took me inside (after sanitizing hands and shoes). Iran is the lady checked me in and offered me a reusable mug and gave me the nice bracelet that doubles as a room key. I was then taken on a golf cart ride through Sandos, another resort with the same ownership, so the lobby for Palmaïa is actually pretty far away from the resort. There is a beautiful bamboo bridge that is the resort entrance.
Each building has a name. Mine was called Merope. They are named after Greek constellation names, which is something I know nothing about. I met my Nomadic Guide at the building, and she took me up to the room, where she showed me around. Next to the amazing view, I was most excited about the speakers in the ceiling that connect to your phone via Bluetooth. It's so nice to have a way to play music in a hotel room! There was also kombucha, sparkling water, and organic coconut water in the minibar, as well as healthy snacks. I must also mention the small bottle of Ojo de Tigre mezcal with orange slices. That’s a fun touch! I needed a small snack, so I decided to go to Su Casa, the breakfast & lunch restaurant. I had very good intentions of this being a small snack but ended up eating three delicious courses, accompanied by a lovely cocktail!
A bit of pool time was required before I was to meet Shaz for a site tour. She has been my contact all along, so it was nice to finally meet her. We had a really lovely stroll around the property as she showed me everything and answered my questions. This was the first day in my trip that it was actually hot, like Mexico hot, so I needed a bit more pool time to cool down, then a shower, followed by dinner at Lek, the Mexican restaurant.
Because of very low occupancy, only one restaurant at a time is open right now. As I was walking to Lek, I imagined this must feel like walking around a resort in Hawaii. It’s much more connected with nature than other resorts. Much of the property is pretty wild, with paths leading you around, and the other parts are beautifully landscaped. A wooden ramp with a few lights hanging above leads to Lek. It’s lovely! I was greeted at the door and introduced to several people who were working there. I sat at a grand booth surrounded by plants. Isaac, the server, explained the menu to me. Basically, it was a tasting menu with beverage pairings. How did they know that’s my favorite thing ever??
Overall, the dinner was a wonderful experience. The start was a bit odd. Isaac said he would bring me a martini, so after a while, I suddenly had a martini, chips & salsa, a sope, and a taste of a Mexican lager. It seemed like a strange combination, so I believe something got mixed up or delayed. In no way did it ruin the evening, and everything went very smoothly after that. The three people who were working were so kind, took care of every detail, and spent time with everyone in the restaurant (probably about 10 people total in a very large space).
Dinner was followed by relaxation at Eolo, which is the outdoor lounge. Apparently, they have a variety of musical performers at Eolo, and while I was there, a DJ named Jesus Nava was playing some music. It was extremely chill music, and I loved it. The atmosphere of Eolo is perfection!
2nd Morning at Palmaïa—I used the Nespresso machine and had some trail mix to hold me until 7am breakfast. The plan was to sit on the balcony to do some writing, but that was canceled for a number of reasons. Mainly, an enormous jungle bug wanted to eat me for breakfast, so I went inside until it left my balcony. At 7am, I went to breakfast at Su Casa, where I ate too much again. I had the chia bowl and a nomlette, along with a green juice & coffee.
I spent a bit of time at the pool, followed by meditation with Balder, the chaman, at 9am. Yes, Palmaïa has a chaman/shaman, and he is like the activities director. The Architects of Life Program, created by Balder, is based on ancient rituals and healing. My first time meeting Balder was an interesting experience. He saw me headed toward the Rituals Deck, and he asked me to go with him inside the children’s center (Waldorf inspired children's activities). There was another guest in there, so he guided the two of us through a meditation. Then, after it, we discussed what we experienced. It was interesting, and neither of us knew that we were meditating for about 30 minutes!
Of course, that was followed by a bit of pool time, before my sound healing session at 11am. Once again, Balder met me as I was walking toward the place for the sound healing. I had forgotten that it was at the spa, so I was walking in the wrong direction. He guided me there, and I'm glad he did. I could have entered the main building for the spa, but the session was actually in a separate building down a path in the jungle. A man and woman were waiting for me outside the building. The woman had some sage and said she was going to cleanse me. The man took my phone and water bottle while she waved the smoldering sage around my body. Then, we entered the building. In the room were a collection of exotic wind and percussion instruments. They asked me to sit so that we could talk about what was going to happen. After a brief chat, I laid on the floor in shavasana (on my back). The lady guided me through a bit of breathing with my eyes closed as the man started playing various instruments around me. This was an hour long experience of flutes, gongs, drums, etc. I don't know if I fell asleep, went to a different place, or exactly what happened. After about 45 minutes (it was an hour long session), they led me to sitting upright again, and we talked for a few minutes. They asked what I experienced and suggested some things I should do based on what I said, as well as what they sensed from my body. One thing was drinking a lot of water or hibiscus tea to help my kidneys. They also said I should go to the ocean and yell to release some emotion. It was very interesting! I felt very relaxed, and I had certainly felt some changes in my body during the process.
I went immediately to lunch from the sound healing session, where I had a relatively light lunch of chips & guacamole and tacos. What's funny at Palmaïa is that they publicize their vegan cuisine, but the server was asking if I wanted a burger. Ultimately, I ordered tacos with meat in them, but I'm still trying to understand the vegan concept! The guacamole and tacos were both delicious.
Considering that it was my last day, I needed to spend a bit more time at the pool and beach, so that is what I did after lunch. I now have a favorite spot in a little cabana on the beach, and I look forward to returning there. The cabanas, if that's what they are called, have a padded (mattress?) bottom with cushions so that you can just relax and enjoy the view. It was a bit rainy on this day, which didn't really dampen the mood. After a little walk along the beach (note: there is always a security guard present at the beach), I spent some time at the pool and in my room and almost forgot about my 3:00 activity...
Balder was leading a ritual dance class at the rituals deck, and as I showed up about five minutes late, he was walking away. I stopped to decide whether I should keep walking towards him or just go to the pool, but I decided to keep walking. He saw me, and we had a very interesting time. I had to learn one main dance (the stem) and five others (the flowers). It was challenging! He showed me the dances, and then he played the drum to accompany me. We laughed a lot, and he was positive and encouraging. Also, before and after the dance, he led me through a ritual of sorts to open and close the space. It was sort of a blessing and show of gratitude. I asked what the dance was all about, and although I'm a bit confused by the answer, he told me sort of a creation story and said that the dance is considered a form of healing. Honestly, it was a very memorable and special experience, and I would do it again!
After dancing with Balder, it was time for an afternoon beverage, so I visited my friends at Eolo (the covered, outdoor lounge). The rain had really picked up, and I was in the perfect spot. Several of the staff were behind the bar just chatting and possibly doing some training (I wasn't sure). Either way, they were so friendly, and I know they sincerely care about their work at Palmaïa. Eventually, I got a drink and sat and enjoyed it while watching the rain under the shelter of Eolo. To top it all off, Jesus Nava was there playing some music, and I could have stayed for hours (or sat there and worked all day if working remotely).
I also spent a bit more time walking around the property throughout the day, so hear a few of those photos.
The day really had gone quickly, and I found out that dinner would be at Su Casa (you can always reach someone via WhatsApp). Considering that I would get to sit outside and watch the sunset over the ocean, that sounded perfect. I had hoped to experience one of the other restaurants, but I will have to return for that. One of my favorite things to do is be at the pool and beach all day, then take a shower and get dressed for dinner, so that was what I did. I had the same main server, Isaac, as the previous dinner. Although I was only there for two nights, it was nice to get to know him a bit. I found out he had lived in Vienna and knows quite a bit about opera.
Just like the night before, Isaac described the courses that would be coming my way for dinner. First was the most beautiful presentation of hummus and vegetables on flatbread, followed by a quiche with smoked salmon. Next was a glorious salad with figs and burrata, followed by a sorbet, and the main course was a Cornish hen with roasted vegetables. The dessert was a chocolate cake with ice cream. It might have been a flourless cake, but I cant remember. Regardless, each course was absolutely divine and served with fun drink pairings. It was another evening that will remain in my memory, as I enjoyed a meal accompanied by lovely conversation with the staff, as well as the sunset and progression to night.
By the time dinner was finished, the lights of Eolo were glowing just across the way from Su Casa, and Jesus Nava was playing more music. It was the perfect end to an amazing and eventful day.
On my last morning, I actually had a Zoom meeting at 6:30am, so I ordered and in-suite breakfast of coffee, a cocoa smoothie, and the chia bowl. The chia bowl was the same as the first day, but the cocoa smoothie was delicious and healthy, with blueberries, cocoa nibs, avocado, dates, maca, cashews, and ginger. My Zoom meeting at sunrise gave me the opportunity to test the wifi at Palmaïa, and it worked perfectly. I could really see myself staying there and working remotely!
Before leaving, I had to spend a bit more time in the pool and at the beach. It was such a beautiful and peaceful morning, and I did not want to leave. However, I got my things together, and someone met me at my door to take my bag downstairs and drive me to my rental car. I was on my way to the airport, which was a 45 minute drive, including a quick stop to refill the car with gas at the station across from the car rental return. The shuttle was ready to take me to the terminal, and everything went very smoothly at the airport, as well.
With about an hour to spare, I was able to spend some time in the airport lounge, which was very nice. Just a few people were there, and the staff were serving guests food and drinks. The flight home was just like the one from Atlanta to Cancun; however, it looked like a few middle seats had been sold. I don't know if that was a mistake or what, but it didn't seem to bother anyone.
Each resort I visited was special in its own way, but Palmaïa is really something unique and has stayed with me in the weeks following my trip. I think often of the people there, as well as my room, and of course, the interesting activities I participated in and the amazing meals. Chia bowls have become a very regular breakfast for me, and as I was instructed to do, when I feel stressed, I think of the way I felt after the sound healing session.
Palmaïa is obviously great for a vacation, and it is also an amazing place for many sorts of retreats (yoga, wellness, corporate, music, etc.). The beauty, seclusion, and wonderful amenities and personal service make it an excellent choice for celebration travel as well, such as weddings, honeymoons, anniversaries, and birthdays. Families with children will also find Palmaïa to be a great choice, considering the Waldorf certified instructors for children's activities. Clearly, it is an excellent choice for many people, so contact me when you are ready to plan your time there!