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Vegetarian Journal Cover

Vegetarian Journal


Jan/Feb 1998
Volume XVII, Number 1

Cuernavaca's Spas

By "Mexico" Mike Nelson

(The following information has been summarized and updated from my latest book, Spas & Hot Springs of Mexico.)

There are about a dozen spas and hundreds of hot springs throughout Mexico, and the following are among the best. Each spa offers vegetarian meals, but only the Misión del Sol truly caters to vegetarians and vegans. It is also the only spiritual retreat of the group.

Mexican spas are considerably more laid-back than their European or American counterparts. This is both a plus and a minus. You certainly won't miss the towel Nazis common in European spas. These are women who make dadgummed sure that you don't put your bare feet or any other bare part of your anatomy down in the steam rooms and other common areas. You also won't have an exercise dominatrix forcing you to do more calisthenics than you like.

The downside of this more casual approach is that you don't get as much of the "spa experience" as you do in the States. One woman complained to me that she missed being together with a group that took classes and exercises together and bonded. That is an integral part of spa-ing. I have had the experience at other spas and it generally leads to lifelong friendships and the sharing of the most intimate details of your private life. The Hosteria Las Quintas has made an effort to create a group experience by having a special table set up for those on the spa program in the dining room and giving the spa-goers name tags. This was appreciated by everyone I talked to.

Hosteria Las Quintas

The Hosteria Las Quintas, tucked away in a quiet corner of the city, has the unique advantage of being close enough to Cuernavaca that one could visit the many historical sites via a short taxi ride.

My last visit was almost as good as my first, and they have added services and upgraded their facilities. I say "almost" because the masseur who gave me a shiatsu massage was not as good as others I've had. He seemed distracted, but maybe he was having a bad day. Even though I told him I wanted to use the whirlpool tub, sauna, and steam afterwards, I had to fill the tub and turn on the steam and sauna facilities myself. It wasn't that much trouble, but in the future they might consider doing this for their patrons.

Their masseuses and masseurs are well-trained and use Swedish, shiatsu, and lymphatic drainage techniques.

The sweat areas are segregated by sex. The outdoor jacuzzi is by one of the pools. They have a complete exercise facility with fitness programs. The gym has a serene view and cardiovascular equipment such as Life Cycle, Stair Master, Nordic Track treadmills, free weights, and Universal equipment.

They also have a sports medicine doctor/nutritionist who provides full body composition analysis including fat testing, nutritional analysis, and a personal exercise program via a computer program called the Fitness Analyst. The same doctor can provide services as a personal trainer on a per-hour basis.

They also offer ecological tours of the area, including the lagoons of Zempoala, the "Thousand Waterfalls of Granada," the caverns of Cacahuanilpan, Las Estacas Natural Waterfall, an archeological tour of Xochilcalco, and a city tour of Cuernavaca. They also have a weight loss program and can provide a vegetarian diet if you request it in advance. All their food is lowfat. Their spa menu lists the calories of each entree.

The spa packages are for two, four, or seven nights. Included is a suite and a variety of their services, based on the package. All packages include medical evaluation, three meals a day, and the 15% Mexican tax (IVA). Transportation from the Mexico City airport can be arranged. Total prices range from $375 to $2100, depending on the package.

Misión del Sol

The Mision del Sol is only a half-hour from Cuernavaca. This is a New Age style spa. They can be considered a spiritual retreat and the only truly vegetarian spa of the group. They offer all of the spa treatments outlined above, and more. They have a temascal, or sweat lodge, Yoga, Tai-Chi, and a truly spiritual atmosphere. The massages were among the best I have ever had, in any country-including Sweden.

To give you an idea of their focus, I'll quote from their promotional information. "Mision del Sol is a project that has been developed over many years in order to encompass many different approaches of the physical aspect related to the human body-the mind and the spirit. 'Resort and Spa' does not enclose the whole project. The right word will create itself. The new era of Aquarius which will last 2,000 years, just like the past era of Pisces (from the birth of Christ onward); especially the Uranium constellation during the coming seven years, and Pluto in Sagittarius will bring about very profound changes for mankind."

They are sincere in the belief that the body and soul must both be nourished in order for mankind to live in harmony. If that philosophy appeals to you, then this could be your place.

A varied vegetarian menu is provided, although carnivores can get their meat by asking the waiter, but it is required that you do this in a low voice and act sheepish. Yoga and tai-chi and other existential exercise methods are the preferred physical therapies. If you are concerned about the environment, they have installed a state-of-the-art water treatment plant so that much of the water they use can be recycled. Additionally, the construction of the buildings was done with the most natural materials possible-adobe (which is sun-dried brick), wood, and stone. The accommodations are pleasant, but not luxurious.

The grounds are extensive and restful, in a country setting, with a southern California look. The pool has a mosaic sun in the middle and is perhaps the most beautiful pool I have ever seen. The rooms are simple and elegant at the same time, and each has a balcony. There is a meditation palapa with a Zen-like design. There are seven stones partially buried in the sand with cushions spread around so that one can meditate in peace and comfort.

The temascal is a must. At 3 p.m. exactly, workers unload several wheelbarrows of steaming rocks in the center of the amphitheater. Everyone sits around and sweats in unison. Water is poured on the hot rocks to create more steam as needed. The scent of eucalyptus fills the air. It could be a fine experience, but sometimes the group insists on talking, which ruins the meditative aspects.

Also disappointing was the lack of organization. I showed up for a Yoga class at 7 a.m., as did a few other folks. We eventually figured out that the Yoga teacher was doing tai-chi out by the pool. Once we got out there, it was an uplifting experience, but it would have been nice to know in advance. The management team is new and very professional, and I feel sure that they will improve these little drawbacks as they mature. Spa packages are from four to eight days and cost from $458 to $2250.

Hacienda Cocoyoc

The Hacienda Cocoyoc is the most organized of the group. I have to admit that it comes the closest to a structured spa without losing its casual Mexican atmosphere. It is more elegant than the others. It has been a first-class resort for years and is owned by the Rivera family, whose most famous son was named Diego.

This lovely old hotel has been one of my favorite places since I first set foot in it. In fact, I once drove seven hours at breakneck speed to spend a night here. Serene, filled with an ambience of Mexico of yesteryear, one gets a sense of history and a glimpse of eternity just being here. The hotel is a restored 16th century Dominican monastery that was turned into a sugar plantation before its present incarnation as a luxury hotel and spa.

The grounds make the atmosphere. After your first walk through the fortress-like entrance, you feel like you have left the world outside behind you. The grass is lush, the trees enormous, the plants meticulously manicured and always a riot of color. The three pools are large, and two of them are heated. They do have a rich mineral content, but an analysis was not available. It should be the same as others in the area.

The spa is really world-class. In addition to the services mentioned in the beginning of the article, they have steam, sauna, pressure shower, Swiss shower, Evian shower, Jacuzzi, and regular showers. They have a hydrotherapy area that has different temperatures and pressures. The ever-present loofah scrub is also available, as are mud baths and seaweed baths. Their massages are first-rate and include sports, Swedish, and anti-cellulite. There is a well-equipped Nautilus gym and a jogging track. The restaurant has a few offerings of vegetarian dishes (mainly pastas) and excellent salads, but the menu is geared towards fish and meat eaters.

If you are stressed out and want to get away for a healthy lifestyle change, you can do no better than to visit one of these spas. To make a reservation at any of these or other spas in Mexico, call Spa World Reserva-tion Service, (800) 321-4622, or leave a note at the Roads Scholar Press web site at:, or e-mail me at

For more information about these and more than 30 other spas and hot springs in Mexico, please order my book, Spas & Hot Springs of Mexico ($16.95), or for info on living in Mexico, Live Better South of the Border ($16.95) from Roads Scholar Press, 2022 Amy St., Mission, TX 78572-9223, phone (956) 580-7760 or (800) 321-5605. Please add $4.00 for one or $5.00 for both to mail in the U.S. For foreign orders, please add $6.00 and $8.00 shipping. Canadian customers should send a money order, not a check, please. American Express is gladly accepted, as well as MasterCard and Visa.

The Vegetarian Journal published here is not the complete issue, but these are excerpts from the published magazine. Anyone wanting to see everything should subscribe to the magazine.

This article was converted to HTML by Stephanie Schueler

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