There are many plants we associate with relaxation and rejuvenation: cucumbers, lavender, tea tree, eucalyptus, and aloe tend to top this list, but never in my wildest spa dreams would I imagine corn to be at the forefront. Until now.
Se Spa at Playa del Carmen’s Grand Velas Riviera Maya resort is now offering a Bacal Massage: an authentically Mayan treatment that utilizes hot corncobs. While your mind may go straight to elote, you don’t have to worry about hot butter, cotija cheese, or mayonnaise slathered on your back (though that does sound like an oddly delicious predicament). Instead, this 50-minute procedure, similar to that of a hot stone massage, takes full advantage of the kernels’ grooved rows to give you a unique and moderately pressured rubdown of head-to-toe bliss.
From the beginning, the experience is set up to feel ritualistic. You are blindfolded and asked to place your feet in (what I assumed to be) a bowl of grain or rice, used to dust away impurities which, unsurprisingly, was one of the most relaxing parts of the session. From there, the therapist preps the room with invigorating, fresh scents of lime and white tea and music that heightens your cultural awareness—forcing an appreciation for every tone, every chime, every stroke of a foreign instrument.
A honey exfoliation starts the treatment itself, detoxifying the skin as a canvas to celebrate the sacred crop. While the scrub and wrap were reminiscent of something you may find in any typical spa, the introduction of corn is the special, unexpected element that elevates your senses while calming your mind. In fact, the therapist makes a point of placing the heated cobs in your hands so you can feel every tiny ridge pressed up against your palms and fingers. It’s astonishing how a movement so subtle, yet so contrived, can force you to connect with something so simple, resulting in a state of complete and utter zen.
In the relaxation room, post-massage, I was treated to more earthy delights (a yummy seed-heavy brittle with chamomile tea) as I overlooked the space’s award-winning water therapy pools. While I rinsed in the locker room, ready to start a day at the beach sipping margaritas, I swear, for an instant, I could still smell the faint scent of corn in my hair. And I welcomed it wholeheartedly.
The Bacal Massage is offered through the spa’s Ancient Mexico Collection, which also includes a Coffee + Cocoa Experience, Mayan Jade Facial, and Mayan Shawl. The 50-minute treatment costs $236.