Breathing Easy at Mukan

Live like a pampered castaway at this remote Mexican eco-resort south of Tulum

BY DREW LIMSKY — Summer 2018

icole the massage therapist tells me that some people cry during the janzu water treatment I signed up for. Others feel bliss. We’re standing in the 4-foot-deep lagoon, and instead of envisioning the rebirth water dance we’re about to do, I’m thinking about the mushy bottom under my feet. I don’t like mush. Nicole also tells me that sometimes she’ll squeeze my shoulder before she guides me under the water, and sometimes she won’t. Oh, and sometimes I’ll be upside down, submerged, with my wet feet on either side of her head.

This is the kind of thing you do when you’re at Mukan, the first eco-resort in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It opened in 2016 under a different name, but a new management team recently made some upgrades and reintroduced the rebranded Caribbean property in January. To get to this skinniest of barrier islands, you leave behind Tulum’s bohemian strip and take a tiny boat south through the mangroves for 45 minutes into a world of privacy and seclusion, the beachfront resort’s two big selling points. It boasts just nine accommodations and not much else, precisely the reason people book this hideaway.

Besides spa treatments, there are a few other things to do, such as swim in the turquoise sea or watch the sunset electrify the lagoon in quicksilver as Willie, the houseman who takes care of nearly everything for me, lights a tribute made from copal (tree resin). He sets the flaming vessel on the dock beside me. In the mornings, Willie takes my breakfast order, asking eagerly if I’d like some Mayan bread made with cocoa before my huevos rancheros. “It’s my favorite,” he says. After a bite topped with housemade jam, I tell him it’s my favorite, too.

In the afternoons, Willie sets up a table in the sand, beside the king-size beach bed, and brings me sublime, creamy guacamole and dorado ceviche prepared in a colorful ring on the plate, like a Christmas wreath. He tells me that each day a fisherman armed with a spear heads right out to the reef — I can see it from the beach — and returns to the shore with lunch.

Back to janzu: I don’t cry. But I do feel elated. Through my closed eyelids, I can “see” the shadows of the lagoon’s wavelets pass between me and the scorching sun. Nicole was right: Sometimes I’m under the water and realize that I didn’t even need the arm-squeeze, didn’t need to take a gulp of air to prepare. Upside down, I reach for the soft bottom and dig my hands into it, wondering why it ever bothered me. When I come up, I hear the roar of the ocean on the other side of the narrow spit of sand that is Mukan, my senses reeling. Funny, I didn’t even hear those waves when I first waded in. From $420. mukan.com

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