I can still feel the blanket of heat enveloping my body, each time growing hotter and pushing me closer to the brink. Every time I heard the shaman scooping the herb-infused water to pour over the hot volcanic stones, my mind screamed at my body to get up!
At points, I was convinced I would suffocate on the humid air, but then I’d hear the shaman’s voice encouraging the group to focus on different aspects of our lives, reflect, and dig deep. If I concentrated hard on the task at hand, then the heat would fade into the background, but then I had to face the emotions and anxiety I’d been repressing. It felt as though I’d opened Panora’s box.
While I was semi-prepared for the challenge of the extreme heat, I wasn’t prepared for the emotional challenge that would follow during the Temazcal ceremony.
This ancient cleansing ritual originated in Mexico and was initially used before or after going to war (I can see the mind-over-matter benefits) to prepare or recover from battle. While I don’t think anyone is using it as a pre-or post-war activity anymore, it has become a popular wellness activity for its varied health benefits, ranging from cleansing the body of toxins to spiritual healing, and it’s just one of the many things you can experience at Palmaia, The House of Aia.
I’ve long admired Palmaia — for its vegan-focused culinary prowess, commitment to mother nature, and one-of-a-kind wellness programming, so when an opportunity to visit popped into my inbox, there was no way I could say no.
And the timing couldn’t have been better.
When I received the invite, I had just survived a week of absolute mental hell; my anxiety had run away with me, and I knew I had to do something to right my mental health ship. This seemed like the perfect opportunity for a re-set (although I was thinking more along the lines of meditation, not an emotional sauna experience, but hey, when in Rome, right?).
I’ve never stayed at a resort quite like Palmaia; honestly, calling it a resort doesn’t do it justice. It’s a progressive wellness retreat that considers everything from what you eat to the calming scents that waft across the property. If you’re considering a visit but are on the fence, let me help push you off of it. It’s 1000% worth it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a vegan or on a spiritual journey; this place is unique, and I wish everyone could just pause the chaos of life and check out here for a bit.
But if you have more questions or want to dive into different aspects of Palmaia, this review is for you. I’ll explore a few parts of the resort, including what I liked and anything that I didn’t, and I am willing to bet that by the end of this, you’ll have a room booked and your bag packed!
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Comprehensive Palmaia, The House of AiA Review
Vegan-Friendly Culinary Delights
It’s no surprise that I will start my Palmaia review talking about food — it’s originally why I was drawn to the vegan-friendly resort. Palmaia is home to four different, incredibly gorgeous (like plucked from the Anthropologie catalog gorgeous) restaurants, a vegan tacos truck, and a vegan café and bakery.
The restaurants are all led by chefs trained in Michelin-starred restaurants, so if you think they’re just serving plates of bland veggies, think again. These chefs push the boundaries of flavor and creativity, from feather-free egg yolks made with carrots and turmeric to colorful watermelon poke. I’ve had the opportunity to trek around the globe in search of epic vegan cuisine, and everything I shoveled into my mouth here put a smile on my face.
Non-Vegan Dining Options
But what if you’re not vegan or traveling with non-vegans who are belly-aching about eating vegetables? First and foremost, even the meatiest of eaters will be impressed by Palmaia’s culinary capabilities (honestly, I just wouldn’t tell them it is vegan; I mean, a buttery croissant is a buttery croissant!), but there are some non-vegan options too.
Palmaia is doing a delicate balancing act of promoting its views on non-violence while also operating a business in a non-vegan world — man, oh, man, do I feel your pain. With that in mind, all of the menus at three of the restaurants are plant-forward, with the option of adding animal products, and one of the breakfast/lunch spots has egg-based dishes with the option to add other animal products (along with feather-free options).
Another fantastic bonus is that no matter where you decide to dine, everyone is considerate of any dietary restrictions you might have. I am gluten-free, which can be a significant pain in the butt, but not here! When I arrived for dinner every night, they confirmed that I was gluten-free and shared it with the server, who then would share with me which items were safe or could be made safe. I never had to worry if someone took it seriously, which was a relief.
As I mentioned, there are four restaurants, an amazing (I’m still dreaming about those tacos) taco truck, and a café onsite, but you might be curious about what’s served at each of them:
Charly’s Vegan Tacos
This beachfront taco truck is churning out a kaleidoscope of taco and Mexican eats using spicy jackfruit, mushrooms, and more. The mastermind behind this truck actually used to work at a steakhouse and decided to take the food part of his life in a new direction, first opening this truck and later becoming the head chef for Palmaia — we have him to thank for much for the mouthwatering creativity.
Plantissa is a beautiful little café and bakeshop open for breakfast and lunch with a slew of healthy and delicious options, from perfectly golden croissants drizzled with dark chocolate to super green kale salads topped with sprouted lentils and seeds.
LEK features sophisticated Mexican cuisine like Yucatan ceviche with avocado mousse and perfectly tender corn tetelas with charred cactus pico de gallo.
Ume features all of the exotic flavors of Asia from Thailand to Japan. The menu includes colorful sushi topped with soy-marinated papaya fish, bowls of hearty ramen, and more.
Mar de Olivo
Mar de Olivo has chic Mediterranean-inspired cuisine that travels from the Straits of Gibraltar to Türkiye and features bowls of cream pasta topped with feather-free egg yolk, tomato kibbeh, and more.
Su Casa is a relaxing beachfront restaurant with a globally-inspired breakfast and lunch menu and, during the high season, is open for an equally delicious dinner.
Although it’s not a restaurant, I’d be remiss in not mentioning Palmaia’s room service. It’s offered 24 hours a day and is absolutely stellar! I’m used to maybe being able to order one thing on the menu, here I could order just about everything. Since my time was sadly limited and I had so many things to taste test, I was only able to order breakfast one morning before heading to the airport.
Speaking of Vegan Food…
You might also want to check out the vegan culinary scene in Mexico City! You’ll find loads of great vegan restaurants, bakeries, and more.
Sustainability is Key
Sustainability has been a critical driver in the resort’s development well before it even welcomed guests onsite. During construction, the team took extensive care to safeguard the property’s natural landscape by building around the natural mangroves, jungle, and cenotes instead of destroying them. All green areas throughout the resort are in their natural state as if untouched by development, and you will see a variety of wildlife around the grounds, including agutis, spider monkeys, iguanas, anteaters, armadillos, and many more.
In 2021, Palmaia switched to 100% clean renewal energy through a partnership with Beetmann, a renewable energy supplier based in San Andrés Cholula, Puebla. Over ten years, the switch will enable Palmaia to reduce its output of carbon emissions by more than 56,000 metric tons. The resort is also utilizing solar power with the help of over 2,000 panels and partnered with Energryn to install an innovative heat pump that will eliminate the need for natural gas to supply hot water to the resort’s 234 suites. They are well on their way to being one of the few carbon-neutral resorts in the world.
Palmaia doesn’t dance around the fact that animal agriculture is one of the most significant contributing factors to environmental destruction, which is one of the reasons for its focus on plant-based cuisine. In addition to food, all guest rooms are vegan-friendly, with no animal products (amenities or furniture), and all bathroom amenities are vegan, refillable, and made with 100% biodegradable ingredients and essential oils. Many of the products in the room, from toiletries to snacks, are also locally produced and sourced.
Like many resorts (I wish it were all), Palmaia doesn’t allow single-use plastics on the property. Upon arrival, guests are provided with a refillable water bottle, and even the key card bracelets are made of sustainable bamboo.
Adults Only & Family Accommodations
Whether you’re traveling with your family, as a couple, or solo, there are a variety of accommodations perfect for you! The property features 234 oceanfront or pool view suites (you don’t have to worry about getting a dumpster view) that are available in eight different layouts, and all rooms are cruelty-free (there are zero animal products used in the furniture or bedding). There is also an adults-only section on the property, which at most resorts tends to be the quieter area, but I will say that everywhere is pretty chill and peaceful at Palmaia. I rarely heard children running around, and I didn’t stay in the adults-only section.
When choosing your room option, you’ll have to decide between the oceanfront suite, swim-out suite, meditation suite, family suites, and there are even suites dedicated to those who can’t turn work off while they’re away.
If you’re traveling with a family or group, the family suites are well laid out with bunk beds and sofa beds. The bunk beds are also larger than twin-sized beds, so if you’re traveling with friends, you could even consider sharing a room to save some cash!
I think the oceanfront suites are the best choice because of the stunning view — on a clear day, you can see nothing but shimmering turquoise sea for miles. I also don’t care about having direct access to the pool right when I get up, but if you do, the swim-out suites may be a better option. Even though these suites have access to the pools directly, the pools are open for all guests.Check Out Accommodations
Progressive Wellness Programming
What sets Palmaia apart from other properties in the area (and even the world) is its programming. They’ve developed a transformative Architects of Life program that draws on ancient rituals and practices to help you connect with your mind, body, and soul. Your stay includes over 20 rotating wellness programs, including cacao ceremonies, gratitude rituals, meditation, yoga (various types and focuses), sound healing, and much more. The programs are meant to help set you on a physical and spiritual renewal path.
In addition to what’s included with your stay, there are additional 1:1 activities like the challenging Temazcal ceremony that I completed along with tarot, talk with a Shaman, astrology, and more.
If all that is too woo for you (I get it, but give it a chance), there is also a luxurious spa and salon onsite. Many of the spa services are enhanced with ancient Mayan traditions to create an experience you won’t find in many other places. The spa facilities also include access to a peaceful cenote where clients can relax after their session.
Local Culture & History Programming
In addition to the onsite wellness programing, Palmaia, also has a program called DEPTH that encourages visitors to get to know the people and history of the area. During the all day activity you’ll visit the ancient Coba archeological site, meet different community leaders, entrepreneurs, and be welcomed into the home of a Mayan family to learn about their culture, daily life, and challenges.
Palmaia Review Wrap Up: Is There Anything I Would Change?
Yea, that I didn’t stay long enough! Jokes aside, I gave this a lot of thought as I want to provide a complete and fair picture for you, but I am struggling to find anything significant that I would change (except, of course, going fully plant-based in the restaurants, but I get it).
It would be nice if the room amenities included a small sunscreen bottle and feminine hygiene products. They provide a great lineup of cruelty-free haircare products, insect repellent, and after-sun cream, but those two things would’ve been helpful. You probably could ask your nomadic guide (personal concierge during your stay), but I’m guessing they’d have to go out and get it, which would probably cost you an arm and a leg.
It would also be nice if there were a QR code in the room that would take you to a description of the included and additional activities. Some guests might already be familiar with Pranayama or a constellation ritual, but I needed to turn to good old Google for help.Book Your Stay
Palmaia Review: FAQ’s
Does Palmaia have alcohol?
Yes! All the restaurants offer beer, wine, and spirits and a beautiful beachfront bar called Eolo. All of the restaurants and the bar offer a variety of signature and creative cocktails that utilize fresh fruit juices like my favorite, Cloudy Sunset (pineapple foam with lychee, chamomile, passionfruit, and Mezcal). Everything is included with your stay unless you’re looking for something unique that they don’t have in stock.
If you don’t drink or only a little, there are plenty of terrific mocktail options, along with kombucha, fruit juices, agua fresca, and more.
What is included with your stay at Palmaia?
Your stay is all-inclusive and includes the Architects of Life wellness programming, all dining (including room service and the mini bar), concierge services (your nomadic guide), a fitness center, stand-up paddle boards, bicycles, and Wi-Fi.
When you arrive, you’re assigned a nomadic guide; think of this person as your personal concierge. They will show you around the property, book your dinner reservations, refill your mini bar, help you decide on additional services to book, and answer any and all questions. Make sure you download Whats App before you arrive, as they will connect with you via that. Every day, they will send you updated wellness programming and check in to make sure that you’re enjoying your stay.Book Your Stay
How far is Palmaia from the Cancun Airport?
Palmaia is about an hour by car from the Cancun International Airport; I suggest that you pre-book ground transportation before your arrival.
Are children allowed at Palmaia?
Yes, kids are allowed, and Palmaia even features special Waldorf-inspired children’s activities and programming for the young ones to enjoy. The programming is included with your stay, but for your child to participate, they must be potty trained.
More Vegan-Friendly Resorts & Hotels to Book
The Palmaia isn’t the only place where you can have a delicious cruelty-free getaway, check out these other amazing spots!
The Best Places to Stay in Europe for a Vegan Getaway
Vegan-Friendly Hotels to Book in NYC
The Most Vegan-Friendly Places to Stay in London
UK Getaway: The Best Vegan & Vegan-Friendly Hotels
Where To Go in the Caribbean for a Vegan-Friendly Getaway
The Best Vegan and Eco-Friendly Resorts in Aruba