A week at the beach is more than a geographic destination. It’s a state of mind, a Zen-like approach to life that lowers blood pressure, strengthens family bonds, promotes peace of mind and elevates joy.
But to fully enter beach consciousness takes practice. Lucky for you, I’m providing this handy dandy cheat sheet for thoroughly chilling in Mexico’s Riviera Maya. Follow these seven steps and in no time, you’ll be living in the moment, following your bliss and moving items like “make a sand castle” to the top of your to-do list:
1. Gather your Blackberry, your Kindle, your Macbook, your I-Pod. After using the device of your choice to make a reservation at one of three Sandos resorts on Mexico’s Caribbean Coast, pack every one of those devices into the nearest carry-on. Deposit said bag in the farthest reaches of your closet. Take a couple deep breaths and back out slowly. Do not, under any circumstances, look back. Grab another duffle, toss in a bathing suit, a pair of flip flops, a couple t-shirts and voila! not only have you mastered the Sandos dress code, but you’re packed for at least a week.
2. Throw away your guilt. I know. You’re making a valiant effort to lead a carbon-lite life and flying to the Yucatan creates anthropogenic greenhouses gases. In fact, you’re probably thinking of getting out one of those devices from step one and googling a scheme to carbon offset. Don’t do it. Instead, assuage the old conscience with this offset: Sandos, a young company headquartered in Spain, lives and breathes sustainability. They’re busy remodeling all their properties, adding solar panels and since 2011, have reduced carbon emissions by 70 percent. There’s even an on-site windmill and an interactive program on Climate Change developed by NASA at the Caracol property.
3. Do your sightseeing in one place. If you’re heading to the Yucatan, you’re practically indebted to swim in a cenote, visit a Mayan ruin, “ooh” and “ahh” over jungle animals and take in at least one Mexican or Mayan cultural show. And, of course, you have everything intention of doing just that. You want enviable vacation photos as much as the next guy. But then the warm ocean breezes and those smiling waitresses bringing free drinks with umbrellas seduce you into staying….just one more colorful drink longer.
At Sandos Caracol, an eco resort on 59 acres, you can do all those things without ever leaving the property. There’s an ancient Mayan ruin right on the property, 16 cenotes and, because the property was built around the jungle, monkeys, agoutis, macaws and all sorts of tropical birds, live right outside your window. As Heidi Verschaeve, Sandos sales manager, told me, “I never know what new animal I’m going to see. Every day, it’s something different.” Sandos Caracol also has a real Mayan herbalist, Mayan bees (they’re considered sacred and their honey, harvested once a year, is medicinal and used at the spa) and a kick-ass Mayan Fire of Life show.
4. Say, “Yo queiro tequila!” Despite its reputation as a fire-breathing shot to be swallowed with a lick of salt and a squirt of lime, tequila is a serious spirit with a 500-year-history and aficionados who pay thousands for a good bottle. Greenhorns in the U.S. tend to drink mixto tequila, a shabby wannabe with a mere 51 percent of blue agave. Like wine, the good stuff is aged in oak barrels and savored like a glass of fine cognac. At Sandos, included in the all-inclusive price, you can sample the good stuff. And after an afternoon of blanco, reposado, joven and anejo, four classes of the smooth, aromatic elixir, beach bumming came as natural as saying, “Ohmmm.”
5. Enjoy a liquor-infused cupcake. To further cement your new laidback attitude, head to Sandos Playacar that just opened an adults-only Cupcake Café. I sampled a vodka-infused cupcake (yes, it’s all part of the all-inclusive) that set the stage for one of the best massages of my life. And speaking of food, Sandos’ chef Angel Ibarra has been incorporating local ingredients, things like chaya (tree spinch grown in the Yucatan Peninsua) and flor de calabaza (it’s an edible flower suffed with cheese or used as fillings for quesadilla) into the Sandos menu.
6. Indulge in an indigeneous spa treatment. Each of the Mexican Riviera Sandos has a fabulous spa and each incorporates Mayan rituals and indigenous medicine into its treatments. The Playacar property, for example, added a Temazcal which is a Mayan sweat lodge and Caracol offers a wide range of Xcalacoco treatments from skin regeneration with Mayan honey to hydration using chaya and savila.
7. Build a sandcastle. Grab a lounge chair or a beach towel or make a sand snow angel and relax into the loving arms of this legendary sand that’s white as a newborn’s bottom and soft as the baby powder that’s applied there. And while you’re at it, toss the Ambien in the nearest bin. At Sandos, you’ll sleep like you did in first grade before money, before responsibility, before members of the opposite sex moved in our your mental turf.