There are two types of experienced travelers. Those longing for immersive cultural experiences and others seeking a disconnection so intense the world fades away around them. Normally I’m in the first group. The minute I arrive someplace abroad I’m ready for an excursion that makes me feel like a local. But as of late, the heavy weight of needing a reset had me searching for a solo vacation with less bustle and more bliss. If “get away from it all” was a place, I found it at La Casa de la Playa.
Located in Riviera Maya off Mexico’s Caribbean coast, the all-inclusive 5-star boutique hotel is nestled between Cancun and Tulum. La Casa de la Playa’s vast open-air lobby, referred to as the Living Room, is a far cry from what you may leave back at home – unless your place includes 20-foot ceilings, oceanfront views, plush sofas layered with neutral, organic textures and wooden bar carts filled with artisan tequilas ready for drinking. (Mine does not.)
The welcoming staff greets me with a cold compress and tea elixir, both seeped in star anise, as a sensory pick-me-up after the hour-long drive from Cancun airport. Check-in is a breeze, but the real exhale comes when the personal butler opens the large wooden door to my Caribbean sea-facing suite. Decked in sustainably sourced wood, Mexican mystical art and local crafts, plus eco-friendly amenities including honey and rosemary mint soap, the room’s jewel is just outside of it: a private dipping pool with a hammock and stone jacuzzi. I already don’t want to leave.
It’s hard imagining this oasis would pull me away, but the hotel’s modern-meets-rustic design by architect David Quintana beckons for discovery. There are also the hunger pangs reminding me I haven’t eaten since my 7:05 am flight from New York City. I’m lured to Tuch de Luna, the exquisite eatery, for a flavorful lunch of contemporary Mexican cuisine and craft cocktails designed by celebrity chef Martha Ortiz. I keep it simple with fresh guacamole, ceviche and a margarita peppered with pomegranates and mint.
Tuch de Luna’s brightly hued décor is exquisite but its windows facing La Casa’s impressive infinity pool, with a 131-foot swimming lane jutted over the sea, is mesmerizing. Even as breathtaking as the pool is, I’m drawn to the beach for an after-lunch stroll. The rocky terrain and strong current keep me from rushing into the turquoise waters, however, the sound of pounding waves reverberates throughout my system, evaporating the built up tension in my body. Again, I don’t want to leave.
The blazing sun reminds me in my haste for food, I didn’t apply sunscreen before leaving my suite. Heading back, I pass El Bar, where a warm-smiling bartender named Exael asks if I’d like anything to drink. A previous Mexico trip sparked a new love and respect for tequila and Exael recommends the best: a shot of Clase Azul complete with a ringing of its customary silver bell. The fire-filled reposado goes down awakening my senses for self-discovery. To the universe I whisper, I’m open.
Remember that aforementioned tension? Next morning’s appointment at Muluk Spa for a personalized treatment is what my tired spirit needs. Perfectly tucked away on the east end of the hotel, the spa seemingly floats as the massage cabins face the sea. Long after the masseuse’s hands left my body, the relaxation rooms outfitted in natural elements command slow breaths and softened gazes. I abide, allowing any stress to be released into the tropical air.
Next, I began the hydrotherapy ritual consisting of well-timed sessions in a sauna, sensory shower, steam and cold room before wading through its elongated whirlpool with jet skis and pressurized shower heads. I would have stayed until my skin wilted but after chatting up a group of guests who had been at La Casa for a few days, they gave a tip for maintaining the day’s bliss: Take a lap in the hotel’s ground-level infinity pool and then head up to the Sky Bar’s rooftop pool for another luxurious dip with cocktails and a deejay.
They were right. I don’t know if it was the steady flow of margaritas, the unobstructed views of the Caribbean sea and Mayan forest or the Latin-flavored bops echoing from the sound system, but my tranquility stretched well into the golden hour. However, I started craving the quiet and serenity of my private room.
Once inside, I made a beeline for the hammock on the balcony. I let the sway of the sea breeze rock me to sleep, reclaiming my time lost to meetings, messages and motherhood. My nap was albeit brief but my dreams that day, the ones after my personal retreat, have been as big as the ocean.