Palmaïa—The House of AïA, a beach resort opened in January 2020, lies in Mexico’s Riviera Maya in the state of Quintana Roo. Set among a tangle of jungle and cool-water cenotes, the property arouses an immediate connection to nature, something the CEO and founder, Alex Ferri, was adamant about.
Raised in the coastal mountains of Spain, Ferri spent his youth outdoors building tree houses while becoming educated in the family business, a chain of hotels in Playa del Carmen, also in the Riviera Maya. Following in his family’s footsteps, he took over the brand in 2008, implementing eco-conscious practices and ethics that have set the property apart.
“We were the first resort of this scale to do many things, including eliminating plastic bottles and moving away from a centralized air conditioning system to a decentralized system resulting in 40 per cent less electricity consumption,” Ferri says. But Ferri wanted more. “The best way to create an experience that would get people to care about nature is to get people to care about themselves first,” he says.
The all-inclusive retreat-style hotel is designed to disconnect guests from their regularly scheduled programming and reconnect them to natural rhythms. To honour Ferri’s mission of a nature-centric experience, the development of Palmaïa (the name is inspired by the chit palm, an endangered tree native to the Riviera Maya) began from the ground up.
Built upon a mile-long stretch of beach, the property retained most of the original trees and mangroves and avoided levelling the land or planting water-hungry grasses or palm trees. As well as avoiding single-use plastics (guests are given a tumbler for water upon arrival), and leasing energy from solar panels and other renewable sources (it claims to use 50 per cent less energy than the average resort), Palmaïa prepares menus that are 100 per cent plant-based.
Ferri describes luxury as “textures that represent a feeling,” and that means turning the guest’s attention outside. Oceanside suites look out to the Caribbean Sea and are designed with simple materials to create a visually calming space. All furniture and products are labelled cruelty-free (no leather or feathers). Cool blues, neutrals, and native wood create an intimate sanctuary for solo travellers, couples, or families. “Luxury is what you feel here that you can’t feel anywhere else,” Ferri observes. “The Palmaïa experience is designed to make you live in duality, from the physical to the energetic.”
Ferri offers thoughtful programming curated for guests who prefer yoga and plant ceremonies to the typical excesses of resort life. “Progressive wellness is the cornerstone of Palmaïa, showing the tribe that it is possible to live a healthy and happy life without sacrificing the things we have always loved, like food, health, community and music,” Ferri says.
The lifestyle at Palmaïa encourages rising with the sun to savour a fresh plant-based breakfast, walk the paths beneath the tree canopy, and select from a handful of therapeutic services that go beyond the traditional spa day. And if adults need care for their kids, there is a Waldorf-inspired space to cultivate curiosity and mindfulness.
Honoring the region’s Mayan culture and traditions , the resort’s Architects of Life program is led by the resort’s main healer, Balder, who leads cacao and plant ceremonies as well as multivibrational sound healing and meditation designed to further personal growth and well-being. One activity is centred around the study of herbs and is hosted by a Mayan woman who teaches in her native language (translator included). You can book a private session with the visiting spiritual guides, plus 100 per cent of the fee goes to the healers and their communities.
In the Atlantis spa, clay walls cocoon guests in candle-lit rooms among the copal trees. Treatments work on different energy centres, based on the chakra system. The menu includes luxurious facials, detoxifying body wraps, and soulmate and friendship rituals. Its Temezcalli experience, which dates back to pre-Hispanic cultures, combines the elements through the use of steam to detoxify, improve immunity, and open the respiratory system.
Heading into the evening, guests can listen to the Rituals of Sound, an experimental music group playing fusion electronic music with an overlay of acoustic instruments, reminiscent of Tulum’s late-night beach fiestas.
On-site restaurants include Mar de Olivio, a culinary destination for Mediterranean food, and the Asian-fusion restaurant Ume, which blends Thai and continental cuisines, along with a rotating food truck serving the chef’s choice of the day. Vegetarians and vegans will rejoice over the soy-marinated watermelon poke bowl and a decadent plant-based Palmaïa burger with fries.
“My family and I are plant-based eaters, and we have always had problems with food when travelling. We serve dishes from the region, including the favorite pop-up Mexican food truck, Charly’s Vegan Tacos,” Ferri says.
“One moment you will be doing a guided meditation in the jungle connecting with your ancestral lineage solving traumas of the past,, and the next you will be dressed to impress having dinner at LEK, our Mexican restaurant, sipping on a biodynamic wine,” he adds.
If you choose to take this path of self-actualization, the resort is a feel-good experience we could all use.