In the lobby of Live Aqua Beach Resort Punta Cana, I put down my suitcase and backpack on the marble floor and took a deep breath. I’d arrived, after a hot, sweaty plane trip and a steamy taxi ride from the airport, to the luxury all-inclusive resort, which opened in February. Standing in the sleek, chandeliered reception area by a square pool filled with cheerful rubber ducks — a Live Aqua signature — I inhaled a fragrance both bright and comforting.
I didn’t think much about the aroma at that moment, beyond how pleasant it was. But when I entered my room shortly after, I smelled the same inviting scent. At dinner, I caught a hint of something sweet in the air. A couple of days later, in the spa, a beautifully exotic fragrance welcomed me.
It turns out that Live Aqua Beach Resort Punta Cana — owned by Posadas, the largest hotel collection in Mexico — uses aromatherapy throughout its property to “wake up the senses.” It’s part of an indulgent sensorial experience that begins from the time you wake up in the morning till the instant you close your eyes at night.
The visual sense is stimulated by modern architecture that works in harmony with the natural beauty of Uvero Alto Beach, on the northern point of Punta Cana. Music pumped through speakers hidden among the flower plantings, plus live performances at night, engage the sense of sound. Place a hand over the smooth sheets in the guestrooms or the cushioned furniture in the common areas and the sense of touch is automatically activated. Meanwhile, eight restaurants and snack bars featuring international cuisine are available throughout the day to tease the tastebuds.
For its unique aromatherapy program, Live Aqua Beach Resort Punta Cana uses five fragrances around the property, all of which are custom-blended for it:
- Aqua. This signature blend of peppermint, eucalyptus, and rosemary is refreshing, bright, and energizing — perfect after travel, which is why it’s used in the lobby.
- Relax, a premium-grade lavender, is used to aid in deep relaxation.
- Vanilla and cinnamon are used in the resort’s restaurants.
- Lemongrass and ginger are featured at the reception area of the spa.
- Citrus, rosemary, and similar invigorating oils can be found in the spa locker rooms.
Fragrance And Flavor: Scent In Live Aqua’s Restaurants
If it sounds strange that a fragrance would be pumped into a restaurant, where it might errantly mix with food smells, it’s generally not an issue at the Punta Cana resort, which has seven dining venues.
The fragrance used in dining rooms is a vanilla-cinnamon blend. For me, it was imperceptible in the larger dining spaces, like Liberi, the breakfast and lunch buffet. And in Cool Fever, the onsite bakery, it blended seamlessly with the buttery smells of pastry.
The only restaurant where the fragrance was in opposition to the meal was at Seishin, the resort’s Asian fusion eatery. I wound up with a table close to the electric diffuser, where the cookie-like fragrance was a mismatch with my sushi and dumplings. Not that it deterred me from eating, mind you.
Aromatherapy In The Spa
The Feel Harmony Spa is a centerpiece of the Live Aqua experience. A Prestige Partner of Barcelona-based NaturaBissé, one of the world’s top spa products manufacturers, it offers a large menu of aesthetic and bodywork services, all focused on extending the sensory experience.
I arrived about 30 minutes before my appointment so I could enjoy the hydrotherapy room other travelers had raved about. As it turns out, 30 minutes isn’t enough for full enjoyment of the spa. But more on that in a bit.
As soon as I entered the space, I noticed the lemongrass and ginger fragrance, a personal favorite. I’d accessed the touch-free menu via QR code in my room in advance, and reviewed about 20 different services, including facials, body wraps, basic Swedish massage, deep-tissue massage, and combination treatments. All spa treatments use aromatics (in 90 percent natural, vegan formulas), but a few allow you to choose your fragrance.
I selected the Sensations Fusion massage and was offered a choice of four NaturaBissé pre-blended, scented dry oils: Fitness (mint and eucalyptus), Energizing (citrus, sage, and rosemary), De-Stress (lavender and grapeseed), and Detox (marine seaweeds and chia). “When people have the opportunity to pick the oil, they really get what their body needs for that moment,” Spa Director Mayra Ramirez explained. “It’s not just a scent. Maybe one day you need to energize, and another day you need to relax.”
Once I’d selected my favorite — Energizing, which reminded me of the Mediterranean — my massage therapist, Esther, led me back to the (scented) locker room, to change into my swimsuit. Then we headed to the hydrotherapy room. Besides its tranquil design, this part of the spa provides additional sensory indulgences, from the sound of the waterfall-like massage circuit in the center of the pool to a path of warm stones that gently heat the feet while triggering acupressure points.
After a dip in the pool, I spent a few minutes warming up in the sauna. I didn’t have enough time to try the showers, and I wish I had. There are four of varying temperatures, including one with a cooling cascade of water, and another with spray jets that target the chakras. Two of the showers also employ aromatherapy. The lesson: Arrive about an hour before your appointment at the spa, and take your time going through all the circuits, preferably more than once.
In the warm, dimly lit treatment room (there are singles and doubles, in case you’d like to do a couples or friends massage), which was lightly scented with peppermint, I sank into the padded table as Esther prepared the massage oil with my fragrance of choice. Over the next 50 minutes, she employed a variety of massage techniques, including Swedish, acupressure, gentle stretching, and Lomi Lomi, which derives from an indigenous Hawaiian healing tradition. I’m somewhat of a massage wimp and don’t enjoy anything that digs too deeply into tender tissues. The Sensations Fusion turned out to be an ideal, Goldilocks-style not-too-intense, not-too-gentle amount of pressure.
How Fragrance Is Used In The Guest Rooms
After the massage, I managed to rouse myself to get dressed and return to my room. With dinner in a couple of hours, I took a quick shower. When I emerged from the dual-headed stall, the steam had picked up the scent from my in-room diffuser: Aqua, the resort’s signature scent.
No matter which type of room you stay in — garden view, pool view with a hot tub on the terrace, premium swim-up, and several categories of luxury suites — it will come with an old-school reed diffuser set in an oversize glass jar on the bathroom counter. (Electric diffusers are used in public areas of the resort, for greater coverage.) Most rooms also have a “Dream Menu” with five oils: Aqua, Relax, Energy (a zingy combination of ginger and grapefruit), Romance (cozy vanilla and sandalwood), and Tranquility (a calming fusion of chamomile and peppermint). Four of those — everything but Romance — are included in a mini kit that guests can take home with them. Choose from the “Dream Menu” before 3 p.m., and housekeeping will set out a diffuser with the chosen oil blend in time for turn-down. The bathrooms are also stocked with Molton Brown amenities, which have their own range of distinctive scents.
My fragrance had been chosen for me in advance, but I didn’t mind. The last thing I remembered before I drifted off into a nap on the king-size bed was the trilling of a gray kingbird in the garden outside, and the honeyed herb smell of eucalyptus.
The next day, as I waited in the lobby for my taxi to the airport, I settled back against one of the cushioned wicker sofas and closed my eyes. Just as I had the day I arrived, I took in a whiff of air and exhaled. According to Ramirez, this is exactly the experience Live Aqua is trying to create for guests. “That’s why aroma is very important, to offer this kind of relaxation,” she said. “So when guests are going from one place to another, they just” — she drew in a deep inhale and smiled — “breathe.”
Want to keep the vacation vibes going, or give the gift of aromatherapy to friends? Live Aqua Beach Resort Punta Cana sells additional kits featuring custom-blended essential oils in its gift shop.