The Haciendas marry spa bliss with veritable Mayan culture

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Travelers looking to immerse themselves in Mayan culture while enjoying luxurious amenities might consider staying at one of five Yucatan Peninsula hotels that make up the Haciendas.

The group, part of Starwood Hotels & Resorts' Luxury Collection, this year introduced new and expanded spa services performed by people in the local Mayan community.

"Our spas are the result of actions we've taken with the communities to preserve and recover the values of the Mayan people," said Reto Kade, spa facilities director for the Haciendas.

The massage therapists are Mayan Indians trained by the Fundacion Haciendas Mundo Maya A.C., a nonprofit organization established in 2002 that aims to help poor residents.

In addition to traditional massage, the hotel spas now offer exfoliations, hot-stone massages and what the group calls "Mayan energy massages," according to Daniel Mellado, director of sales and marketing.

"When clients found out that the massage therapists are Mayan sobadoras (therapists), they wanted to know even more about them," said Mellado. "The facilities we have make any treatment a truly unique and authentic experience."

The new spa menus are basically the same at each hotel, said Mellado, "although because of the natural setting of each hacienda, each offers a different experience."

Hacienda San Jose has massage rooms that are restored Mayan casitas. Hacienda Temozon has the only cenote spa in the region. Cenotes are sinkholes found on the Yucatan Peninsula.

"Treatments are performed inside an ancient cenote, where the atmosphere is very special," Mellado said.

Other opportunities to learn about the Mayan community abound at the Hacienda resorts.

"We have experience-based packages, during which the client interacts with the local people, including cooking classes, demonstrations," said Mellado. "Some tours include visits to Mayan villages and craft workshops where visitors can speak with local people and watch them make handicrafts."

The Haciendas properties are small and set in the manor houses of former henequen plantations. The Yucatan was once a major producer of henequen, an agave plant used to produce rope and twine.

"Each hacienda offers a special experience and its own distinct atmosphere," Mellado said. "Temozon is the most spectacular because of its architecture and its buildings, which were built in 1669 and restored beautifully by the owners. It's ideal for families, small groups and individuals who want to use it as a base for visiting the nearby archeological sites and cenotes."

For more information, call (011) 52-999-923-8089 or visit www.thehaciendas.com.

To contact reporter Mark Chesnut, send e-mail [email protected].

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