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Thursday, 28 February 2008

Cabanas Copal & Maya Spa, Tulum, Mexico

Written by Christina Kay Bolton
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Cabanas Copal & Maya Spa, Tulum, Mexico, yoga retreat mexico, yoga retreat tulum, spa mexico, travel mexicoSituated on one of the most brilliant beaches I’ve seen on the Yucatan peninsula, this eco-resort offers a relaxing retreat. If you are searching for a place to really unwind, practice yoga daily, receive some spa treatments, and lounge on the beach, this may be your place.

The cabanas are small thatched huts with king-sized beds, private baths, and your choice of a sea view or jungle view. It is just a few steps down to the beach or the spa, and the restaurant is a couple minutes walk next to the road to town.

There is no electricity at the cabanas, only at the restaurant and reception area. That makes the sea view cabanas the way to go – not only for the great views but also for the natural ventilation, as the sea breezes are constant and powerful and are an eco-friendly alternative to ceiling fans or ac.

Cabanas Copal & Maya Spa, Tulum, Mexico, yoga retreat mexico, yoga retreat tulum, spa mexico, travel mexico

I wasn’t sure how the lack of electricity would be, but it really was fine – one of the benefits was the cabanas’ quietness. In regular ‘electrified’ life I don’t think we’re really aware of how noisy our existence is – from the hum of computers, the whir of ceiling fans, and the ticking of clocks, not to mention television, radio, and ac which drown out almost all natural sounds. I was surprised at how loud the roar of the waves and wind were.

Another benefit of the electricity-free lifestyle was the darkness which made the sky at night look like a bowl of stars – more stars than I saw anywhere else along the coast. All this nature really made me feel like I was unplugged (literally). On the downside, I found my bathroom to be very dark even when I put all four candles provided in it, and since it had no windows it was even dark during the day. A window would do a lot for the bathroom. Additionally, I don’t think the people who cleaned the room could see very well in there either, as when I arrived I found a half an avocado shell on the floor. As I couldn’t see much, I thought it was some kind of turtle or animal huddled against the wall, so I went to get my flashlight, shined some light on the subject and discovered the half-eaten avocado. This left me feeling very concerned about the cleanliness of the rest of the bathroom.

Cabanas Copal & Maya Spa, Tulum, Mexico, yoga retreat mexico, yoga retreat tulum, spa mexico, travel mexicoThe paths in the jungle areas are very dark at night (another good reason to choose an ocean view room) and full of animal sounds, so be sure to bring a flashlight. I forgot to bring one when I went out before sunset and ended up clumsily trying to walk down a path carrying a candle.

The flickering of candles does lend a very romantic atmosphere to the rooms, so this could be a good choice for a romantic retreat if you’re not looking for a lot of luxury. Azulik, a more upscale resort next door, is also part of the Eco-Tulum properties, and equally lacking in electricity.


Cabanas Copal & Maya Spa, Tulum, Mexico, yoga retreat mexico, yoga retreat tulum, spa mexico, travel mexicoMy cabana was comfortable with a king bed, a long hallway leading to the bathroom with a small luggage area, and an unbelievable view. The cabanas are not big and don’t have much room to maneuver, as the bed takes up most of the space inside, though with 4 walls of Plexiglas windows and one of screen, they definitely do not feel claustrophobic. The cabanas have thatched ceilings, and some walls were made of thin tree branches tied together.

 

There are 5 gallon water jugs in each room for both drinking and brushing your teeth (it’s not recommended to drink tap water in Mexico). Mosquito nets cover the beds and look nice, though mine had many holes. Luckily it was not mosquito season and I didn’t see a single mosquito. There is hot water, though at times the water runs out altogether, as more water needs to be pumped into the tank. This happened to me while I was there, but I went down and told the security guy (it was early in the morning before the reception staff was in) and he solved the problem right away. My favorite thing about my cabana was watching the sunrise. The sun woke me up and I could lie in bed and watch the sun come up over the sea.Cabanas Copal & Maya Spa, Tulum, Mexico, yoga retreat mexico, yoga retreat tulum, spa mexico, travel mexico

The restaurant has decent food, but is overpriced for what you get. The menu is varied with Mexican dishes, seafood, grilled meats, healthy foods and desserts. There is an array of cocktails and some interesting juices and smoothies. I tried the enchiladas verdes one night, but the chicken was dry and overcooked (though the verde sauce was good). The next morning I tried the French toast, which was two thin slices of bread cut in half with some papaya on the side. It was good, but not very substantial or worth its price. The French toast with coffee ran me the same as it would at home (for a bigger portion). There are some better-value combo breakfasts, such as the American (eggs, juice, toast, and coffee) for 100 pesos ($10), but they still cost more than what you’d pay in town. Regardless, I would probably eat there again. The real benefit of eating at the resort is not the food, but the relaxed atmosphere and possibility of eating breakfast in your swimsuit.

Cabanas Copal & Maya Spa, Tulum, Mexico, yoga retreat mexico, yoga retreat tulum, spa mexico, travel mexicoThe real star here is the beach – and it really is a fantastic one. The sea is a sparkling turquoise blue and the sand is powder-white. The water has nice waves and is a perfect temperature – cooling swimmers from the heat of the day, yet warm enough to go into in the early morning or evening. If you get there early you can grab one of the shady thatched palapas with beach chairs, or one of the two hanging beds which rock you to sleep for a nice nap. One drawback if you don’t get there early enough is not having any shade – the sun is pretty hot and people do tend to camp out all day under or around their palapa, so try to arrive early. If you end up in the sand all day, you could always take a respite for drinks or snacks at the bar just above the beach. The location is fantastic!Cabanas Copal & Maya Spa, Tulum, Mexico, yoga retreat mexico, yoga retreat tulum, spa mexico, travel mexico

The beach is clothing-optional (actually, the entire place is, though it seems nudity is mainly practiced on the beach), so about half the people when I was there were either nude or topless, but if you’re not used to clothing-optional places, it’s not a big deal. I was surprised at how non-sexual it was. There also wasn’t much of a singles scene here (unlike in some of the Cancun hotels and bars) – it was quiet (even at the bar) and people pretty much kept to themselves or to their friends or family. There are many people who come here just because they offer this clothing-optional choice. It is funny, though, that right at the end of the Copal beach there is a big sign that says ‘Nudity strictly prohibited’ as you move onto the next properties’ beach – but you can see everything on both sides of that sign. So the next beach doesn’t seem like a great option if you’re not comfortable with nudity!


Tulum’s coast in general is terrific, and right up the road are the Mayan ruins. You should try to make it there at least once Cabanas Copal & Maya Spa, Tulum, Mexico, yoga retreat mexico, yoga retreat tulum, spa mexico, travel mexico(bring your bathing suit, as the beach here is also fantastic and walking around the ruins is hot). Downtown Tulum offers all services – internet, shopping, restaurants, tour companies, etc. Tours to local ceynotes (freshwater underground sinkholes) are offered as well as tours to Chichen Itza (huge Mayan ruins). Tulum’s coast is probably how Cancun was 20 or 30 years ago before it became overrun with 5-star hotels and restaurants. There are small hotels and cabanas lining most of the coastline (though some beaches are rocky).


Maya Spa is located at Cabanas Copal and there is a huge range of treatments, from Mayan clay massage to mango facials to chocolate body wraps. I only heard good things about the spa treatments, but didn’t have a chance to try much as I was only here for two days. I did try the floatation tank, something like a waterbed filled with 365 pounds of salt and a little water. The experience was fine – though I was surprised that no one put clean sheets over the Mexican blankets, so it didn’t feel too clean. The room was decorated with a nice rug and lit with many candles, but was musty. I wished I’d tried a massage in one of the breezy beach palapas, surrounded by a gorgeous view and the sounds of the waves.Cabanas Copal & Maya Spa, Tulum, Mexico, yoga retreat mexico, yoga retreat tulum, spa mexico, travel mexico

Yoga is offered every morning at 7:30 in the yoga palapa down the path from Maya-Spa. The teacher was very good, but came very late. Fortunately, someone stepped in to lead the group in a number of warm-ups before she arrived. It was such a nice way to start the day – energizing, relaxing, and centering with a deep focus on the breath. However, there was a problem with a sewer type smell nearby (and also at the public restroom area at the center of the property), so that made it tough at times to practice that deep yogic breathing.

Something about the property kept reminding me of summer camp – even though most visitors were adults and I saw very few children (there are more families next door at their Zahra property). All the rustic cabins surrounded by trees and the huts with various activities like yoga (and Tai Chi on certain days) made me think of Cabanas Copal like a summer camp for adults. Even the questionable cleanliness contributed to that impression.

This is not a place for everyone, especially if you’re not comfortable with a little nudity and some rustic inconveniences. But all in all I loved my time here and left feeling deeply relaxed and wishing I’d stayed much longer.

Cabanas Copal & Maya Spa, Tulum, Mexico, yoga retreat mexico, yoga retreat tulum, spa mexico, travel mexico

Contact: http://www.cabanascopal.com/ , This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Toll Free US/Canada: 1-888-898-9922 International: +54 11 5918-6400

Rates: There is a huge range in rates from $30-350 depending on room and season, though most rooms are around $100. The Seaview king I mentioned is $115 in high season ($80 in low season and $150 during the holidays), partial seaview $105, and Jungle king $95. There is also an option of a house (casita) at the top end of the scale, or a sand-floor room with shared bath at the other end.

Here are a couple spa packages offered:

Tulum for Two Package
Two one hour massages ($132 usd. credit toward Maya Spa services)
Two tickets to the temazcal ceremony
Bottle of wine in the cabana
One day of snorkel gear for two (compliments of Copal)
One hour of kayak rental (compliments of Copal)
$192 usd

Single at the Sea Package
Enjoy all that Copal has to offer! Wake up early (or not!) for morning yoga classes. Spend one afternoon out on a kayak, snorkeling the coral reef. Explore the depths of your mind in the flotation tank and, one night, join in for the temazcal to relax even more...

One hour massage ($66 usd. credit toward Maya Spa services)
One ticket to the temazcal ceremony
One hour in the flotation tank
One day of snorkel gear (compliments of Copal)
One hour of kayak rental (compliments of Copal)
$108 usd

 

©Christina Kay Bolton

 

Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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