Cactus Cooler: Mexican Beauty Secret

The cactus massage is pain-free, we swear! Plus, find out why it's better than most other body treatments.

a person with cacti on their back
(Image credit: Peter Vitale)

When it comes to spa treatments, there's no better time to indulge yourself than during a beach vacation. You've got nothing but free time to relax, so why not splurge a little? Especially if you're somewhere far from home — it may be your once-in-a-lifetime chance to try that exotic local specialty! So when I was in Punta Mita, Mexico, a couple of weeks ago (before New York Fashion Week madness), I just had to try the Four Seasons' signature Hakali cactus massage.

Yes, that's right, a cactus massage.

I know what you're thinking, a cactus body treatment sounds more like an archaic form of acupuncture than a massage and far from relaxing, but the needles are removed before the paddles (the "leaf" part of the nopal cactus — the same part that you would eat in a yummy Mexican nopal or cactus salad) are heated in warm water. Once the paddles are soft and pliable, they're split in half and rubbed — gooey side down — onto thirsty, sun-parched skin.

A close cousin to soothing aloe vera, nopal cactus is hydrating, detoxifying, and helps heal sunburns. And unlike being massaged with oil, the nopal "juice" quickly absorbs into skin, leaving no greasy or sticky residue. It was the first time I left a massage table without feeling like I needed a shower.

And while this is probably not going to be a treatment that I'll try recreating at home (how do they get those pesky needles out?), the next time I see nopal salad on a menu, I'm ordering it! Rich in fiber, cactus absorbs water when you eat it, so you feel full faster and longer. Sounds like konnyaku jelly, one of my favorite Japanese diet secrets.


Four Seasons Punta Mita Hakali Massage

50 minutes, $177