An oasis of calm awaits in Mexico’s Quintana Roo state. Balmy breezes, dense tropical foliage and the scent of aromatic candles greet you upon arrival at the adults-only Hotel Bardo, a boutique hotel, far from the touristy beach hotels in Tulum and themed around the interplay of the elements: water, fire, earth and air, in their purest form.
A transformative experience beats in the heart of Tulum
Nestled within the town of Tulum, earthy Hotel Bardo is tucked away in a jungle paradise, allowing guests to experience the quieter, authentic side of the Mexican Caribbean. The name is derived from a Tibetan Buddhist belief that “bardo” is the state of transformation between death and reincarnation, a moment in time when the soul reconnects with the universal essence and is purified and transformed. Hotel Bardo is a place for self-reflection, where time stands still, a quiet calm takes over, and the scents and sounds of Mother Nature’s talents are exquisitely displayed. The grounds are comprised of individual loft-style villas, complete with private gardens and plunge pools. The communal pool is lined with overstuffed sunbeds, and a stone firepit serves as the hotel’s primary social area. The atmospheric restaurant, Milum, offers indoor/outdoor dining as well as in-villa service. Hotel Bardo’s stand-out spa offers a truly intimate experience, drawing on ancient healing rituals of the Maya, including a shaman-led temazcal sweat-lodge ceremony designed to promote spiritual and physical wellness. Evenings offer guests an invitation to participate in a classic sunset celebration ritual, bringing balance and purpose to the close of each day.
Serenity washes over you the moment you step into the open-air reception area at Hotel Bardo. This adults-only, smoke-free hotel is lightly scented by blooming flowers and aromatic candles, presenting an unconventional, laid-back beauty. The reception area offers several quiet places to relax and a fun pop-up boutique housed in a vintage Volkswagen bus. Stop by to say hello to the concierge to arrange for complimentary bicycles and private cooking classes and tastings. Then, walk along sunlit, tree-lined pathways to the large communal pool area and evening firepits, the yoga and meditation huts, and the loft-style villas which welcome you to your own private paradise. You’ll find your strolls around the property illuminated by over 200 candles at night.
The stark use of cool concrete juxtaposed with traditional local artwork and the emerald green of the Mayan jungle offers a striking visual to the thirty unique private villas. Each intimate, air-conditioned space includes daily housekeeping service, and the loft-style configuration features a living room, a bedroom with pillowtop beds featuring premium bedding, and a bath with a semi-exterior shower. The rooms provide complimentary wireless internet access, bottled water and a Nespresso coffee machine. Step outside into a secluded jungle with a plunge pool and a hammock woven by local artisans.
Pineapple votives, carved statues, and floral bouquets are illuminated by sparkling chandeliers in Milum, the property’s very atmospheric all-day restaurant. Serving inventive locally sourced dishes, Milum makes excellent use of the Yucatán’s rich gastronomic traditions combining Mayan, Spanish, and Lebanese influences. Meals are crafted with produce unique to the state, including sour oranges for brightness, habanero chili for a little kick, and achiote, a spice that adds robust color and flavor. Milum has a variety of menu options for breakfast, lunch and dinner that can be ordered in the restaurant, poolside or in-villa. For a lively evening scene, The Kinky Room bar offers hand-crafted cocktails by mixologists happy to share the stories behind each fanciful concoction.
The focal point of the hotel is its natural stone, black-bottom pool. Set within a leafy oasis, it’s organic shape and crystalline waters are reminiscent of a cenote, or natural sink hole, that Mayans swam in for its therapeutic properties. Large, comfy sunbeds and a speaker-free environment ensure serenity and peace.
Spa & Healing Center
With less of a focus on traditional massage treatments and more on wellness rituals steeped in ancient Mayan traditions, Hotel Bardo offers personal transformation experiences that are designed to realign, reenergize and rejuvenate based on ancient holistic principles. Stand-out treatments include sound healing; donation-based Vinyasa, Yin, and Kundalini yoga classes designed for all levels.
My favorite wellness ritual was the onsite temazcal ceremony, derived from the Nahuatl word Temāzcalli, which translates to “house of heat.” It is part-sweat lodge and part-sacred ceremony, where participants report feeling physically, emotionally and mentally healthier. No alcohol, drugs, or mind-alternating substances are involved. Guests enter the igloo-shaped hut constructed from volcanic stone and cement. And once inside, hot volcanic rocks are placed in the center, and water is poured over the rocks to produce steam along with a mixture of herbs such as sage, lavender, and eucalyptus, which aids in the cleansing process. Then you guided by a shaman-led detoxification ritual of chanting and hot steam infused with botanical scents. Those seeking alternative medicine may arrange for private sessions with qualified healers utilizing Mayan modalities.
Steeped in mystery and surrounded by stunning scenery, Tulum is best known for its intriguing Mayan ruins overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Located in the state of Quintana Roo, Tulum is approximately 80 miles (130 km) south along the eastern coast of the Yucatán Peninsula from Cancún. Tulum’s Archaeological Zone reveals the remains of an ancient Mayan city through its well-preserved ruins within a walled fortress. The God of Winds Temple sits high above the blue sea on a mossy cliff and overlooks a small protected beach and white-sand cove.
A celebration of the culture, mysticism and ancestral artistry of these sacred lands, Hotel Bardo opens visitors to the power and pleasures of a true Mayan experience, bringing peace and serenity to those who surrender to its intoxicating traditions and charms.
Raquel Baldelomar is an entrepreneur, author, and journalist. She is author of Sugar Crush (HarperCollins, 2015). Her journalism focuses on how travel leads to a unique kind of productivity, creativity, and wellness. She can be found at https://www.instagram.com/rbaldelomar.
Photos courtesy of Hotel Bardo, except author’s own.