Distinctive Vacation Experiences Bring Serenity and Relaxation for the Weary

For vacationers seeking to escape the hustle and bustle of their daily routine, reduce the stress of the work machine or simply take time out to reflect on their lives, Mexico offers various mind-clearing and soul-refreshing retreats that are sure to invigorate and revitalize the spirit.

Ranging from therapeutic swims with dolphin to yoga classes on sun-drenched, tranquil beaches, here are just a few secluded spots that will undoubtedly soothe the nerves and delight the senses:

Writing Retreats - Yelapa, Jalisco

Communicate with your inner-self on an eight-day writing retreat in the charming fishing village of Yelapa, just a one-hour boat ride from Puerto Vallarta. Daily yoga sessions keep travelers minds clear of outside worries and there is plenty of free time for inspirational strolls down the white sand beaches. Visitors will stay at the Los Naranjos Retreat Center, a rustic and peaceful retreat on the Tuito River. Private excursions for snorkeling, bird watching and even parasailing can be arranged for a minimal fee. The cost of the trip is US$1,300 and includes double accommodations in thatched palapas, meals, daily writing and yoga sessions, materials, workshops on the craft of writing and transportation by boat from Puerto Vallarta. For more information, visit Mexico Retreats at www.writingretreats.org/mexinfo.htm

Volcanic Lake Spa / Rancho Rio Caliente - Primavera, Jalisco

At Rancho Rio Caliente, tucked away in the lush countryside of Jalisco, guests can take a dip in the healing waters of an underground volcanic lake, unwind in the underground steam room or relax at the hands of experienced masseurs and aestheticians.

Older cultures believe in the efficacy of "taking the waters". At Rio Caliente, the source of the healing waters is an underground volcanic lake. It supplies numerous springs and waterfalls along the river that bounds three sides of the spa. The waters rise at temperatures as high as 157° Fahrenheit and have been tapped to provide pure thermal waters for the spa's four pools, natural steam room and all the bedrooms. Their mineral content is a particularly beneficial (and odorless) combination of salts and minerals, including lithium

Services include Swedish and lymphatic massages, scalp and foot massages and detoxifying mud wraps. Rio Caliente also offers bio-resonance therapy, a non-invasive, non-toxic therapy that not only treats a wide range of ailments, but also is said to restore one's natural capacity to remain healthy. If guests would rather spend their time curled up with a good book in their rooms, they won't be disappointed at the surroundings that await them. Every bedroom suite at Rio Caliente is a private retreat. Guests stay in handsome cottages that are a charming mix of handmade ceramic tiles, woven fabrics and hand-crafted furniture and each room has its own fireplace. For more information, visit www.riocaliente.com

Sacred Journey Retreats - Tepoztlán, Morelos

Since ancient times, many have believed that certain locations on the earth, such as Lourdes and Sedona, are energy vortexes with transformational and healing powers. Among these locations is Tepoztlán, one of the Aztec and Nahuatl peoples' most important ceremonial centers. There are many memories to be made on this trip, including a visit to an ancient Aztec temazcal (a therapeutic steam bath), native drumming classes and a tour up the Tepozteco Mountain to the pyramid led by well-known Shaman, Eduardo Morales.

For thousands of years, pilgrims have been coming from as far as Chiapas and Guatemala to honor Tepoztecatl, the principal god of the Pulque (an alcoholic beverage made from the sap of the agave) and also adored as the god of fertility and harvest as well as flowing water, a female energy. Visitors will stay at the mountaintop hacienda of Posado del Tepozteco with private gardens and balconies perfect for watching the sunrise in every room.

The retreat spends a day at Huehuecoyotl, one of the original Rainbow Family Communities.

Nestled against the peaks of the Tepozteco Mountains, above the village of Amatlán, birthplace of Quetzalcoatl, the Plumed Serpent God of the Aztec and Maya civilizations, these intrepid Rainbow Warriors have created a virtual heaven on earth.

This community of artisans and craftspersons, dancers and musicians, dramatists and actors, engineers and environmentalists, has ceaselessly campaigned to increase awareness of our interconnectedness to Nature and to each other.

They educate and entertain, both in worshops at their center and by bringing light and knowledge in their travels to indigenous communities throughout all of of Latin America. They promote and educate about permaculture, nutrition, health, renewable sources of energy, creating self-sustainable models for community living that do not rely upon the outside world for resources, or the disposal of waste.

This group of pioneers represents a mix of races, cultures, religious traditions, and national origins with one common thought...

That we, as human beings owe the planet and our fellow travelers... human, animal, and all other living entities, our respect and our love.

All Inclusive Adventure include such cultural treats as Pyramid Treks, Temazcal (Aztec Sweat Lodge), Tepoztlán Native Market Tour, Live Musical Performances, Yoga, Meditation, Holiday Celebrations, Huehuecoyotl Eco-Village Tour, Native Drumming Classes, Sacred Circle Dance Classes, Aztec Plumed Dancers, Mayan Dreamspell Readings, Opening/Closing Ceremonies

The cost of this eight-day trip iincludes all meals, five-star accommodations, ground transportation, morning yoga classes, tours and taxes. For more information, visit www.sacredjourneyretreats.com

Dolphin Discovery - Cozumel, Yucatan

Recent studies by organizations, such as the Human Dolphin Therapy Center in Miami, indicate that dolphins can have a therapeutic effect on people suffering from depression. One theory is that dolphins use their unique sonar ability to identify neurological disorders in people, then help them relax and open up to learning and healing.

Dolphin Discovery in Cozumel offers visitors the chance to participate in a 30-minute interactive experience that allows them to swim, pet and play with dolphins in a controlled environment. Participants receive a pre-swim briefing about the dolphins. Dolphin Discovery is located at Chankanaab National Marine Park and offers four swims daily.

At 29 miles long and 10 miles wide, Cozumel is the largest island in the Mexican Caribbean. Its location just 12 miles off the Yucatan coast, makes it easily accessible by ferry or plane.

Cozumel is recognized world-wide for excellent scuba diving and snorkeling. The spectacular coral reefs attract thousands of divers each year. Cozumel is also an island of incredible natural beauty, from it's white sand beaches and turquoise waters to the mangroves and cenotes hidden in the tropical jungle.

Dolphin Discovery Cozumel is located in Chankanaab National Marine Park. As well as offering world class diving and snorkeling, this beautiful park houses our sea lion show, a botanical garden, reproductions of famous archeological sites, a typical Mayan village, an underground river, a tropical lagoon teeming with brightly colored tropical fish, restaurants and bars, and a dive shop. You will definitely want to allow time to enjoy the park either before or after your dolphin activity. The park has a US$10 US entrance fee.

For more information, additional locations or reservations visit www.dolphindiscovery.com or email Elaine Dodson at elaine.dodson.r@mindspring.com

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Feature compiled by Roger Lundgren, Houston Correspondent.