After a 45-minute drive, I staggered out of the car that had delivered me from the airport in Mérida, Mexico, to Chablé Yucatán, disheveled from my travels and uncomfortably sticky from the heat. Then a woman handed me a cup of balché, a mead derived from the fermented honey of stingless bees and balché tree bark. She told me that the ceremonial drink is consumed to prepare the mind, body, and spirit for a mystical encounter, and used to play a significant role in traditional Mayan rituals. One sip was all it took to feel its mildly intoxicating effects, replacing my travel weariness with anticipation for my stay at Chablé Yucatán: a luxurious resort nestled in the lush jungle of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
Inside Chablé Yucatán, a Luxe Retreat Hidden in the Mayan Jungle
While Chablé Yucatán has all the creature comforts of the modern world, it’s also steeped in tradition and the legacy of the Yucatán’s current, but millenia-old, Mayan civilization. Everywhere I turned, I found Mayan elements seamlessly woven into the hotel’s design and hospitality, from the culinary creations to the spiritual therapies on offer. While many luxury resorts purport to be tied to the land, it feels like Chablé Yucatán is — it’s certainly not one of those international hotel chains that tries too hard to feel “authentic.”
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What appealed to me most, however, was the luxury wellness hotel’s experiences rooted in holistic Mayan wisdom, aiming to connect the physical, spiritual, and natural realms for a harmonious existence. This seemed like a perfect place to stay in my pursuit of inner peace, and after downing my second cup of balché, I was ready to immerse myself in the region’s timeless heritage and insights.
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Luxe living at Chablé Yucatán
Chablé Yucatán was born from the ruins of a former sisal (agave plant) factory turned into a 19th-century hacienda, and sits on 750 acres, meaning it feels incredibly secluded despite being only 25 miles from the city of Mérida. Even when the hotel’s 40 casitas and villas are full, you can go for hours without seeing another soul. So it’s easy to avoid your fellow honeymooners, hip families, and wellness warriors, in case you’d prefer a more private experience.
The allure of the casitas makes them difficult to leave, especially as each has a private plunge pool and indoor and outdoor showers. Built with locally sourced wood, stone, and glass walls that perfectly frame the green vegetation outside, the 2,152-square-foot casitas are contemporary marvels. But as large as they are, they’re cleverly designed to blend in with the natural surroundings.
My “Casita Double” room was ideal for two adults, but could easily sleep an entire family with children in tow. Our room had sitting areas I never even used, preferring instead to lounge in the pool hammock or read books on the outdoor deck, where hot coffee and pastries were delivered every morning like clockwork.
The only absence I noted in our casita was an indoor soaking tub or outdoor hot tub. Those are reserved only for travelers willing to splurge on roomier accommodations (the three-bedroom Presidential or Royal Villas).
It’s a rare chance to connect with an ancient culture
The deep, resonant sound of a conch shell horn, followed by drum beats and rhythmic Mayan chants, signaled that my Balance Healing Ritual was about to start. Every spa treatment at Chablé Yucatán begins with this grounding ceremony, acknowledging the elements and, supposedly, aligning your energy. As the music washed over me, I felt an instant connection to the resort’s natural inspirations.
Few hotels can say they’re built around a private cenote, but it’s a claim Chablé Yucatán can make. These natural sinkholes are considered sacred to many Mayans and have historically been used for religious ceremonies. My luxurious treatment cabin was suspended above the cenote, outfitted with a balcony for peacefully relaxing post-session, sipping cacao juice, and feeling revitalized by my scalp anointment and sound bath.
My treatment was one of the resort’s many unique “spa journeys:” three-hour treatments based around different energies and aesthetic outcomes. If there’s one thing you should do differently than I did, it’s taking advantage of the free personal spa consultation. The menu can feel overwhelming, so you’ll want a little guidance from the professionals.
No matter which treatment you choose, you can count on a thoughtful integration of Mayan ingredients and elements. Full-body scrubs use chaya, a Mayan superfood with regenerative properties native to the Yucatán. Herbal compress massages will heal your aches and pains with poultices prepared from herbs grown onsite, and the acoustic energy and cleansing session integrates the Mayan ocarina (a flute-type instrument) and healing crystals.
Chablé Yucatán offers unique, deep opportunities to learn about Mayan culture
When you’re not lounging in your casita, receiving a stress-melting massage, or biking around the grounds, Chablé Yucatán offers a host of experiences for guests. On my first morning, I checked out a complimentary yoga class. It turns out the 8:30 AM call time was too ambitious for most guests, but that meant I was treated to a blissful private yoga session next to the resort’s cenote, and left feeling centered and recharged for the rest of the day.
The resort is also a protector of endangered melipona bees, which make what’s marketed as Mayan honey. Chablé Yucatán contributes to conservation efforts to safeguard these rare, stingless bees from extinction by housing a meliponario, or a traditional Mayan honey production unit. Guests can participate in beekeeping workshops or honey tastings. I’ll never forget my first taste of sweet, floral, syrupy nectar extracted from these hard-working bees, which has such a high nutritional value that it’s used mostly for medicinal purposes.
Other experiences, most of which do have an extra fee, include Mayan cooking classes, tortilla workshops, tequila tastings, guided bike tours, and more. It’s a list that offers near-endless opportunities to deepen your connection with local traditions or the natural landscape.
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But it’s the hotel’s myriad spiritual experiences that take your stay to another level. For starters, the resort’s temazcal ceremony is led by a shaman in an onsite Mayan sweat lodge. Temazcal is an ancient ritual designed to detox mind, body, and spirit, and it’s something that many tourist resorts have begun offering, often in an inauthentic and Instagram-centered way.
But Chablé Yucatán takes the experience seriously, offering tailored versions. Travelers can choose a ceremony for couples who desire a deeper connection, one for groups of leaders seeking to be more empathetic and better their communication, and one just for women that provides a safe space to share personal stories.
If you’re celebrating a special occasion, Mayan priests can arrange a blessing ceremony, tailoring rites to your unique needs. (Be sure to book in advance, as preparation for the meaningful ceremony can take up to a few days). There’s also spiritual therapy, where knowledgeable guides use traditional Mexican medicine to help free you of emotional blocks; an offering ritual to cultivate gratitude; an oracle reading guided by a series of intimate questions and answers; and ancestral exercises: a practice of soft movements based on the glyphs of the Mayan calendar.
Taste traditional Mayan recipes in Chablé Yucatán’s kitchens
Nourishing body and soul is a part of Chablé Yucatán’s ethos, making food an essential part of the resort experience. Every morning, I sat down to a spread worthy of royalty: fried quesadillas, chilaquiles, cochinita pibil toast, eggs with fried plantains, sweet mamey, fresh fruit juices, and a smoothie. Every stay includes daily breakfast at the casual poolside restaurant Ki’ol, which means “healthy” in the Mayan language. At night, guests can head back to Ki’ol or visit Ixi’im, an upscale dinner-only restaurant with one of the world’s largest collections of tequila.
Unsurprisingly, the Mayan influence is noticeable in these kitchens. The majority of ingredients are either grown in on-site ka’anches (traditional raised gardens) or sourced from small local businesses that share Chablé Yucatán’s philosophy of sustainability.
The hotel’s culinary program is designed by Jorge Vallejo, the renowned chef behind Mexico City’s Quintonil restaurant, and executed by executive chef Luis Ronzón, who’s worked in Quintonil and other award-winning kitchens. Together, they’ve made Chablé Yucatán a gastronomic destination in its own right, with an innovative-yet-traditional approach.
The menu incorporates Mexican flavors and techniques and highlights regional specialties, such as Yucatán-style lime soup, crisp-skinned suckling pig cooked underground, and braised short rib slathered in mole negro. Given how many restaurants are on the Yucatan Peninsula, it’s nice to find one actually focused on recreating traditional dishes, rather than advertising a “Mayan menu” actually tailored to tourists.
While Chablé Yucatán is a wellness resort, part of wellness means knowing when it’s okay to indulge. And there are plenty of opportunities to do that. The resort’s Casa Principal has an expansive terrace and a bar that makes excellent handcrafted cocktails. Nearby Sikar Bar is well-stocked with an array of single-malt whiskeys, bourbons, cognacs, brandies, and more, as well as hand-rolled cigars for a post-dinner puff.
Who can afford Chablé Yucatán?
My last day at Chablé Yucatán brought my stay full circle with the offering of a cup of delicious balché at checkout. Despite the journey ahead of me, which included a pesky layover and the dreaded middle seat on one of my flights, I knew these minor inconveniences didn’t stand a chance at diminishing the peace and balance I’d experienced.
Of course, my newfound serenity had come at a price, as Chablé Yucatán is certainly a splurge resort. Rates start around $1,000 a night, so it’s ideal for couples celebrating special occasions or groups of girlfriends taking a rare chance to travel together who don’t mind sharing a room. But while my stay had left a dent in my wallet, it had also left an indelible mark on my soul. As I bid farewell to Chablé Yucatán and its warm, attentive staff who’d lined up outside to wave goodbye, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I’d be planning my return trip.