Before Tulum, Pia Hagerman lived a bustling metropolitan life in London, where she worked in fashion. Now, Pia has translated her passion for hospitality into escorting guests away from the stress of their own busy lives at Casa Nalum, an exclusive, secluded retreat on the most exquisite stretch of Caribbean Sea.
Many luxury villas promise a return to nature, but few support that promise with land as untouched as that around Casa Nalum. The two-acre estate sits within the Biosphere Reserve of Sian Ka’an, with hundreds of feet of pristine, palm tree-studded beaches and lush vegetation, home to more than 130 species of bird. With ancient canals and ruins nearby, adventurers and history buffs can delve into the area’s Mayan past. Casa Nalum’s commitment to sustainability — it uses sun and wind power to remain a zero-carbon property — reflects the symbiotic relationship between resort and nature, one of caring, connection and discovery.
Pia is also passionate about ensuring every aspect of her work is of the highest quality, with attention to every detail. From serving fresh, organic local cuisine to employing local staff and using natural products on property, she sets an example for how to create balance and wellness.
What makes the property a unique haven for wellness seekers and luxury travelers, and how did the villa come to be?
Casa Nalum is completely surrounded by nature and has two waterfronts: the Caribbean sea right in front of our private white sandy beach, and the lagoon of Caapechen at the back of the property. It is the perfect place to relax and connect with oneself and nature.
We also promote low impact activities such as snorkeling, sailing, kite-boarding, bird watching and exploration of the local flora and fauna, as well as the archeological sites. There are more than 30 within the reserve.
The villa was conceived back in 2003 as a private sanctuary for friends and family. It opened its doors to discerning travelers seeking to reset and spend quality time with their loved ones, almost always converging to wellness activities. Through the years we made a conscious effort to curate only the best wellness practitioner, and healers to cater exactly to what our guests wish to experience. These services are available to all guests.
How has practicing wellness helped you in your personal life?
Wellness is the only way to move forward for me. It has always been a very important part of my life. Long ago, I came to realize that in order to be well, I had to find balance. I needed this with myself in order to be well with others. Now, it comes naturally to me.
In my view, wellness is a very broad concept. It goes into many layers of our being. One of the most important, if not the most important, is physical health. Without this, we can’t thrive. My main focus is on eating healthy and exercising in a sustainable way. Always listening to my body if I do any excesses, coming back to the basics: balance.
I feel very grateful for the months we spent in quarantine. I used these to be more in contact with my family and the really important people in my life, as well as myself. It taught me what really matters. The world stopped, and we all came back to the basics in our own homes.
Wellness helps us focus on what we value most in life, to be grateful and to share this purpose with other people.
When did you first know you wanted to work in hospitality, and what brought you to Casa Nalum?
Both myself and my husband had busy lives in London, in fashion and banking, respectively. We decided to move to Mexico together. My husband fell in love immediately with Sian Kaan so when we found the opportunity to sustainably develop there, we didn’t hesitate. Back then, Tulum was very, very small.
Then, after we opened Casa Nalum, Vogue and The Financial Times published articles on the property, and we were immediately catapulted into the high end of the villa hospitality market, which was beginning to flourish at the time. We always liked to be good hosts in our personal life, and our unique hospitality approach came spontaneously, so it was relatively easy for us to dive into it. Also our architectural style is unique. We used local elements but built a floor plan that’s truly inviting and encourages a welcoming feel.
As guests begin to travel again, what are the biggest wellness challenges you see them face, and what are your recommendations for overcoming these challenges?
The most challenging issue is for guests to shrug off the accumulated stress. They come in with their “suitcases” full of it — and they leave with their suitcases full of good memories and a little bit of sand! Their faces transform.
It usually takes one night sleep for that to happen and for guests to completely relax. Every guest is unique, and once they get to Casa Nalum, food is one of the most important aspects, so we pay a lot of attention to this. We buy the freshest ingredients, and the staff has been working with us for years, so they’re experienced in what to do. At the end of the day, they are the ones more in contact with the guests. They are the ones to really enhance their experience.
We do a tailored menu for each arrival, and we are open to all food requirements. This is the only way for us. We also have a wellness menu that goes beyond the standard spa treatments and encompasses shaman ceremonies and various types of yoga and meditation, as well as breath work.
In a time like today, it’s so important to connect with each other and with ourselves. Casa Nalum offers exactly that, put everything on one side and connect with what really matters in life: nature, humans and yourself.
What three wellness tips are most essential to you?
First, start your day with a shot of lemon and fresh ginger! Second, have a book to read to always expand your horizons. Finally, practice yoga if you want to get to 80 and be able to move like you’re 40.
What quote most inspires you?
“Small steps in the right direction can turn out to be the biggest step in your life.”