Recently, I had the unique opportunity to visit a magical place in Tulum, Mexico, called Amansala, an eco-chic resort and retreat. It has a strong Valley connection with owner Melissa Pearlman having been raised here locally. She spends nine months out of the year at Amansala and the rest visiting Phoenix and traveling to her two restaurants, Gitano in New York City, and Faeno in Miami.
Amansala has four programs you can select from to visit: Beach N’ Bliss, Beach Camp Body, Restore N’ Awaken and Bikini Bootcamp. I was there with my Ayurvedic healer, Laurene, and we went for the Beach N’ Bliss program. All programs are routinely filled, year around. Beach N’ Bliss is full of spa treatments, meditation, yoga sessions, and healthy eating, all from the well-appointed rooms, filled with the local wood, stones and all-natural materials. It’s very thoughtfully planned out, all by Melissa, who is hands-on at Amansala.
Most importantly, Amansala is right on the beach. And I when I say right, I mean you literally walk out of your room and onto the sand. You have windows open all of the time for the fresh air and sound of the waves. It‘s probably the most and peaceful place I’ve visited, and I’ve been all over the world, including Bora Bora and Tahiti (not to brag).
The on-site restaurant (which can be part of your package or you can pay to order off the menu) has beachfront views and loads of outdoor seating, not mention healthy and delicious meals, all sourced locally from fishermen and farmers.
The Bikini Bootcamp program is what Melissa started with when she created Amansala. It attracted the attention of people like Linda Evangalista, Drew Barrymore, Demi Moore, Reese Witherspoon and Cameron Diaz. It first attracted the attention of a member of the Bvlgari family, Veronica Bvlgari, and took off from there.
Melissa has no formal training in running hotels or restaurants. She learned how to build the plane as she was flying it. She’s a classic serial entrepreneur and feels the need to constantly be creating. She even created the first website for Amansala.
Here’s a little bit about the story of Amansala. When she was younger, Melissa was living in Asia and traveling around to Thailand and Bali, spending six years in Tokyo. From there, she moved to New York City, where she stayed for six months, leaving due to the cold weather. A friend brought up Tulum, so she decided to visit, buying a ticket to Cancun, where she road in one of the old “chicken buses” and said that when she landed in Tulum, it was like “Gilligan’s Island.” It was nearly uninhabited, and she stayed in a little cabana on the beach.
After walking up and down the beach, she decided Tulum was the place for her. She knew no Spanish. She conceived of creating a place where people could connect with nature and themselves, with an authenticity they wouldn’t find elsewhere. She went to a construction site and began designing the first building. She rented out rooms to help finance the rest of the project and later started Bikini Bootcamp, hiring the local people to do the training. As she built it, the place was continually filled to capacity. She worked in a macho-oriented society as a “gringo,” overcoming government issues, land disputes, and the like.
Her vision prevailed. She wanted to send people home looking and feeling better than when they arrived. It was about taking time to nurture, heal and reconnect – people would even feel comfortable visiting by themselves. Amansala has a multitude of ways you can visit: through in-house retreats for Beach N’ Bliss and Bikini Bootcamp, retreats at wholesale prices (organized by people such as yoga instructors), and those who just come out for vacation time and the various spa retreats and daily activities (like visiting a mangrove and the Tulum ruins).
The capacity is 75 to 100, with most people in the age range of 30 to 50 years of age. People do not fuss with makeup or fancy clothes. Melissa says, having been raised in the desert, there is definitely something magical about Tulum. People come there, year after year.
Amansala has been so popular, she added a smaller version of the resort, called Chica, in 2014, when she purchased another beach parcel a few doors down from a local farmer.
Every part of Amansala and Chica is from the local people: builders, cleaning and wait staff, check-in desk staff, chefs, farmers, fishermen, etc.
Along the way on her Amansala journey, Melissa had her two beloved children, Dylan in 2006 and Leah in 2010. Her kids spend nine months at Amansala, attending school there, and the remaining months in Phoenix. They are bilingual, of course, and learning on the ground in Tulum.
Amansala has a special tradition of having Labrador dogs on the property, ever since Melissa bought two puppies on the side of the road. She plans to always have Labradors at Amansala, as part of its special appeal. She says she would expand in a second if she could find the right property.
And for Melissa? She feels blessed to be at Amansala every day. She is fearless and has followed her heart and her gut instincts and taken a dream and spun it into gold. By the way, she’s looking for a good guy out there who wants to live at the beach, just in case you know someone.
Getting to Amansala is very easy. You fly into Cancun and take the Amansala transportation ($135) about two hours north into Tulum and Amansala. If you book rooms and activities a la carte, the rooms range from $230 (garden room with two queen beds) to $515 (two queen beds beachfront) and activities range from $20 per yoga class, $45 for a ruins or cenote tour, $80 for a private training session for one or two people, and $125 for a Mayan healing session for 90 minutes, to name a few. Money can be saved if packages are booked in advance or groups brought in.
The Amansala site is Amansala.com, where you can go for more details on the packages and how to get there. You can get $250 off a five-night stay with either a Bikini Beachcamp or Beach N’ Bliss package, using the code “Trends.”
Talk about transformational, if you think you know Mexico, you are wrong until you have visited Tulum and Amansala. It is absolutely worth the trip and I would return in a second!