Palmaïa, House of AïA Review By Jane Alexander23/11/2023, Jane Alexander
Palmaïa, House of AïA is one of many large all-inclusive resorts on Mexico’s Riviera Maya. Can it really deliver something more soulful than its sand, sea and slammers neighbours? I was sceptical, to say the least.
Palmaïa sits between the jungle and the ocean on the Caribbean side of Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula, about an hour from Cancún international airport, on the southern edge of popular tourist spot Playa del Carmen.
There are 234 oceanfront suites with eight different layouts designed for singles, couples or families. I stayed at a swim-out suite with direct access to one of the infinity pools from my terrace – total heaven. Spacious, bright and airy, with a few subtle boho touches, it was supremely comfortable.
The opportunity to try new things, to build your own retreat
Everything here is a gentle lesson in sustainability, community, self-care, and choice. The invitation is to explore with an open mind and heart. If you’ve ever been intrigued by the idea of something (shamanism, a despacho ritual, a sound bath, ancestral dance) but maybe felt inhibited or unsure, this is the perfect place to dip a toe without the commitment of a dedicated retreat. Equally the depth of experiences will keep the most seasoned retreater happy. I’ve tried most things over the years but even I encountered a few surprises – the Geometry of Power (in which your innermost secrets are revealed by how you draw shapes in the sand) was a revelation, to put it mildly.
You can pack your schedule or go softly with a choice of over 20 rotating group classes, ceremonies and rituals. Yoga asana, pranayama and meditation are taught beautifully but it’s the rituals and ceremonies that set Palmaïa apart - authentic and surprisingly moving. I was in tears (in a good way) at the end of the gratitude ritual.
Facilities, spa and food suit all types of guest
It’s a heartbreakingly beautiful resort with powdery sand (with a vast choice of places to relax) on one side, and tangled twists of jungle on the other. Winding paths throw up surprises –an underground shrine here, a giant wicker statue there. There’s a small, effective gym but most people gravitate to the various open-air decks for their exercise. The pools are divided between adult-only areas and family spaces (including a water park). A Waldorf-inspired club keeps children amused.
Treatments at the small Atlantis Spa aren’t included in the all-inclusive deal but are worth every penny. You start with a dip in the spa’s cenote (a freshwater pool with tumbling waterfalls). My two-hour Mezcal ritual (cleansing, exfoliation, moisturising and deep accomplished massage) with Geronima was exceptional, one of the best treatments I’ve had in over 35 years of reviewing.
There are four restaurants: Mexican, Mediterranean, Asian and a laidback beach eaterie serving a mix of salads, burgers, cerviche and burritos; plus a café, a food truck, and a beach bar and music club. The invitation is to try plant-based food but meals can easily be switched up with animal protein. Alcohol is served but equally there are imaginative sober options, including some fantastic mocktails at the beach bar.
All traces of my scepticism were blown clean away. Palmaïa has pulled off an extraordinary trick – couples, families and solo travellers all feel equally welcomed and you can tailor the experience to your exact desires. Not sure which activity to try or which restaurant to book? Your Nomadic guide (a kind of digital butler) can advise via WhatsApp.
The beauty (particularly for a solo traveller) is that the group rituals offer an organic, unforced way of initiating conversations and (should you wish) making friends. Despite its size, Palmaïa has the warmth of a group retreat without any of the commitment. You can dip in and out. I have never felt quite so relaxed yet energised: my days truly felt like one blissful moment piled onto another.
There must be some negatives?
A buggy transfer through a neighbouring resort when you arrive doesn’t give a great first impression. However the moment you pass through the entrance arch to Palmaïa itself, everything changes. It’s like stepping into Narnia.
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|About The Author
Jane Alexander has over 20 years experiences as journalist, author, ghost-writer and editor. She is an Author of 20+ books on wellbeing and also regularly reviews spas & retreats for the national/global media.