MIRAJ HAMMAM SPA BY CAUDALIE PARIS, SHANGRI-LA HOTEL
When Asia’s LGBT-friendly Shangri-La chain opened its glimmering 66-story Toronto property in 2012, it ushered in not only five-star luxury for guests, but a wealth of superb creature comforts for everybody. The Miraj Hammam Spa by Claudelie Paris includes traditions of Istanbul and Marrakech that are filtered through French aesthetics and techniques here. While Toronto’s streets can be seen outside a few windows, the spa’s confines represent a soothing, exotic realm of dark sculpted woods, marble, and stone. Nine treatment rooms, including a Vichy shower room and two Hammam steam chambers are available, plus a fabulous relaxation room where one can recline or sit cross-legged on Moroccan sofas. I began with the Hammam & Gommage (30 min/$125), a steam and scrub in a private Jerusalem-gold marble chamber. You can also add a Rhassoul Clay Body Masque (45 min/$170) or Massage (60 min/$185, 90 min/$235). After a high-intensity steam, my therapist cooled things down and administered a full- body exfoliation with eucalyptus-infused black Moroccan soap. Indeed, the entire Hammam chamber smelled of eucalyptus. A rinse with warm water completed the experience—a departure from the traditional buckets of ice water. North Americans don’t seem to appreciate those harsher elements, my therapist explained (sorry, purists!). Next, I experienced the Men’s Vinotherapie Facial (60 min/$150), which utilizes Caudalie’s fresh grape-based product line and alternates the application of pleasant-smelling salves with relaxing bits of massage. For groups of three or more, the Sultan’s Retreat ($175 per person) includes 45-60 minutes together in the Hammam and a 60-minute personalized massage. For the manicure and pedicure crowd, The Men’s Orientale Hand Care (30 min/$50) features a black Moroccan soap exfoliation, argan oil hand and arm massage, and manicure, while the Men’s Orientale Foot Care (50 min/ $80) entails a warm foot soak, black Moroccan soap exfoliation, and pedicure.
SPA DEL MAR, SANDOS CANCUN RESORT
Upon arrival here, I couldn’t believe that this little-known all-inclusive resort had a 15,000-sqare-foot spa in the hotel. The Spa Del Mar has 12 pampering treatment rooms plus a luxury suite designed exclusively for authentic rituals. First, one should take advantage of the hydrotherapy area for ladies and men, as well as the steam, inhalation, and sauna rooms to get the body ready for your treatment. They didn’t have to do it, but the multi-temp hot and cold immersion pools just add to the experience. The spa menu has your basic therapies, but try something unusual and local for Cancun, the Nausicaa Ritual (100 min/$286). Admittedly, this thalasso-slash-chromatherapy treatment seems a little hokey, but it’s cool once you understand what’s going on. I looked at the capsule-type bed (it’s made in Italy) with its cloth tent over it, and was unsure I’d made the right decision. Once I relaxed (the starter foot wash helped), and let the therapist work her magic with an aromatherapy scrub followed by warm marine water rinse, I felt more at ease. My body was then covered with that tent and hot steam was blown in as well as colored lights designed to detox, purify, and tone skin. Well, after days of margaritas, I’ll say I felt reenergized and my skin seemed brighter. Muy bueno. www.sandos.com.
SENSORIA SPA, OASIS SENS
Of the numerous all-inclusive hotels flying the Oasis flag in Cancun, the Oasis Sens is the best for relaxation. The adults-only resort, part of Summit Hotels & Resorts, is attractive and inviting—especially since it joined IGLTA and Preferred Pride, the LGBT-focused marketing division of Preferred Hotels & Resorts. The Sensoria Spa at Oasis Sens is a lovely oasis where guests can enjoy the use of a private spa courtyard and gaze at beautifully landscaped gardens from any of the treatment rooms. Guests can book treatments (for both singles and couples) that range from the resort’s signature Ananda chocolate massage to the Lakshmi Bath hydrotherapy treatment and the Revitalizing Caviar Facial, as well as an array of other aromatherapy, hydrotherapy, body scrubs, and manicures. The spa also has a sauna and a spa tub, and treatments are available on a private outdoor deck. Other treatments have especially alluring names: like the appropriately titled Om (25 min/$70), a back, neck, and shoulder treatment designed to relax the upper body; and Samadhi, an aromatherapy treatment that allows you to choose the aroma that will best help you to reduce stress and tension. Meanwhile, Arjuna (50 min/$120) named after the master archer, is a sports massage that stimulates and oxygenates the muscles of the body, reducing stiffness, and benefiting the digestive and circulatory system. It just might be the ideal treatment after a strenuous day exploring nearby Mayan ruins or snorkeling. Or consider Dhyana (50 min/$120, 80 min/$170), a treatment named after the Sanskrit word for meditation, which uses the antioxidant benefits of wine to improve circulation, hydrate skin, and prevent aging. Guests at this 388-room all-inclusive resort can also make use of three swimming pools, an on-site nightclub, seven restaurants, nine bars, a beach club, and gym. All guest rooms are suites, but indulge in a room with a terrace with private pool, and you just might feel like you’ve got your own spa. www.oasishotels.com.
SENSORY SPA BY CLARINS
WESTIN PLAYA BONITA
ARRAIJAN DISTRICT, PANAMA
As the closest luxury beachfront resort to bustling Panama City, the Westin Playa Bonita makes for a convenient getaway from the hectic pace of Panama’s capital. The Sensory Spa by Clarins, located in the Playa Bonita Pearl Club beside the main hotel, makes that getaway even more refreshing, thanks to its extensive facilities and services. A sense of calm is inevitable as soon as you approach the large stand-alone spa, which overlooks the beach and the Pacific Ocean (a few ships may dot the horizon, waiting for their turn to enter the Panama Canal, but this isn’t the time to think about anything but yourself). The spacious spa facility features Aquabella, an impressive hydrothermal wellness circuit area, with hot and cold “experiences” to create the rejuvenating journey you desire. The expert staff will guide you among the showers, warm and hot hydrotherapy pools, herbal sauna, and amethyst-crystal steam room, as well as the Pediluvio Stream, which is a path of ankle-deep water lined with softly rounded river stones that soothe the soles of your feet. There are so many services and amenities at the Sensory Spa that you could easily spend a day here, making use of the 16 treatment rooms, beauty salon, and fitness center with cardio and weight equipment that overlooks swimming pools, the beach and the ocean. As its name suggests, Clarins is the brand of choice for products at this spa. Treatments include the Ultra Hydrating Facial (75 min/$100), which uses the essence of the katafray tree, a plant known for retaining water and promoting moisture. The christophine plant, which is excellent for sensitive skin, is featured in the Totally Gentle Facial Treatment (50 min/$80). If you’ve spent a few late nights out on the town in Panama City, you might want to consider the Youthful Lift Facial Treatment (75 min/$100), which employs extracts from hops to firm and revitalize. Male globetrotters might want to sign up for the Facial Treatment with Bison Grass, a program developed in line with the ClarinsMen product line that provides the benefits of a grass known for its energizing action and glowing results. If you’re headed back into Panama City for work or pleasure, not to worry: Sensory Spa by Clarins also operates at the Le Meridien hotel in the capital and at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort, which is just outside the city. www.sensoryspabyclarins.com/eng.
THE SPA AT L’AUBERGE DE SEDONA
In keeping with its uncommonly serene and spiritual setting alongside the banks of Oak Creek in the bosom of Red Rock country, the much-celebrated Spa at L’Auberge de Sedona is located in an unassuming and peaceful patch of an oasis of sheer natural beauty. Thanks to the resort’s seclusion, guests frequently slip discreetly through wooded paths to the rustically elegant doors of the spa dressed only in robes and slippers. While many of the spa’s patrons opt to take advantage of the serene surroundings by booking Creekside Massages outdoors on the banks of the Creek with the soothing sounds of rushing water for company, the signature L’Auberge Sacred Stone Massage (75 min/$195), is only available in the spa itself. A transcendent experience in which aromatherapy is combined with the use of warm stones and gentle pressure to alleviate stress and tension in the muscles and joints, the Sacred Stone Massage at L’Auberge comprises equal parts therapy and relaxation. The perfect complement to this massage is one of the spa’s Organic Facials (60 min/$140). Both of the organic facials on the spa menu employ the use of active, 100% natural, paraben-free products including everything from anti-oxidant-rich plant and marine extracts, spirulina, kombucha to goji berry, white and green teas, and aloe. The full 60-minute facial boasts the best results, while the Organic Refresher Facial (30 min/$80) offers an express ticket to a renewed appearance for guests who would rather spend more time gazing at sunsets and sampling the epicurean delights coming from Chef Rochelle Daniel’s kitchen. Private yoga instruction (Chakra Charge, Vinyasa Vortex, or Customized) completes the total mind, body, and spirit renovation with which the Spa at L’Auberge de Sedona has become synonymous. www.lauberge.com.
LIFE IN BALANCE SPA
MIRAVAL RESORT & SPA
Many destination spas can be rather harsh with their rules. They’ll insist upon a near Spartan diet, ban alcohol, have you sleep in rough digs, and generally design a workout program fit for a Marine. Thank goodness Miraval is chiller than that. Sure, they cater to those looking to drop a few pounds by creating customized diets, and keeping clients mindful of calorie counts on menus. But besides that, one can feel free to belly up to the bar at the Brave Bill Lounge for a guilt-free cocktail (it might even have antioxidants in it, just to make you feel better). Still, the decadent spa treatments and personal therapies keep people like Oprah Winfrey coming back for more. I sampled the Clarin’s Mountain Berry Clay Renewal Ritual (100 min/$285), where I was taken outside to a luxury spa yurt and exfoliated to within an inch of my life with a bamboo-infused mineral scrub. Next, I was slathered with the warmest and sweetest-smelling arctic lingonberry and raspberry white clay, which acts like a body mask. A blanket wrap to sweat out toxins followed this. While this was happening my therapist rubbed a non-greasy geranium oil in my scalp and wrapped hot towels around my feet. Buh-liss! After rinsing off in the outdoor shower, he then massaged hydrating peach tree milk into my skin, leaving me completely fetal. Naturally, I had to return to the spa, but this time for something a bit different. My choice was their new Shamana-Karma (75 min/$225) treatment, an Ayurveda healing ritual dating back thousands of years. One starts by inhaling scents like lemongrass, mint, nutmeg, and clove, readying the body to receive a deep-tissue massage using an oil blend of coconut, ginger and rosemary. This is heady stuff. At times, my senses became overwhelmed, but I soon calmed down when the soothing blankets and (again) hot towels were placed around my neck and feet. Shamana-Karma isn’t for everyone, especially if you’re sensitive to deep tissue massage, but it’s a muscle and mind melter and worth a shot. Afterward, it’s imperative to spend time in the spa’s relaxation room gazing at the Sonoran Desert, or basking by the outdoor pools and Jacuzzi area. In fact, chances are, it’ll be your home base more so than your lavish room. www.miravalresorts.com.
AQUATERRA SPA, SURF & SAND RESORT
LAGUNA BEACH, CALIFORNIA
Laguna Beach is one of Southern California’s undeniable crown jewels and the Surf & Sand resort, which regally presides over a pristine 500-foot stretch of sand beach, is without question one of the seaside town’s queen bees. Though the resort itself is the largest oceanfront property in Laguna, the Aquaterra Spa is a surprisingly intimate affair. With just eight treatment rooms, including an ocean view couples’ room, the spa is small even by local standards. But the quality of the service and the depth of offerings at Aquaterra are quite on par with significantly larger spas. The Body Butter Melt Massage (50 min/$130), one of the spa’s hallmark treatments, is the perfect antidote for dry-skin issues that can arise from long stints spent splashing around in the resort’s pool or floating in the neighboring surf. This deeply moisturizing massage simultaneously relaxes the body and hydrates the skin. The experience begins with a gentle hand exfoliation followed by a soothing application of Aquaterra’s custom Organic Body Cream, which is generously slathered all over your body from head to toe. With the freshly applied cream still moist on the skin, your body is then enveloped in a warm, aromatherapy towel wrap designed to encourage deep penetration of the cream into the skin. A gentle head, neck, and shoulder massage ends this blissful 50-minute treatment. In addition to the Body Butter Melt Massage, the spa also offers a 25-minute Body Butter Wrap as well as an enticing selection of other massage options. One of Aquaterra’s other signature treatments is the Zo Ossential® Stimulator Peel (80 min/$200) by Beverly Hills dermatologist Dr. Zein Obagi, M.D. The treatment uses a triple punch of 10% Lactic, 10% Citric, and 10% Salicylic acids to stimulate cellular turnover in 20, 50, and 80 minute increments to ensure that lines and wrinkles are a thing of the past. www.surfandsandresort.com.
THE SPA AT THE CARNEROS INN
Set on 27 rolling green acres in the midst of California wine country, the Spa at the Carneros Inn is best known as a destination spa, its treatment facilities complemented by three on-site restaurants, fitness classes, bicycles for rides to nearby vineyards and tasting rooms, and a spectacular adult-only pool area with dramatic horizon views. Its 86 cottages (from $375 a night) feel more like vacation homes than hotel rooms—each has its own beautifully planted, privacy-fenced garden with an outdoor shower, a contemporary living room with fireplace, and an enormous pillow-crowded bed. But for Bay Area locals and savvy travelers, the Inn’s minimally publicized day-spa program is a secret well worth knowing. It’s the perfect opportunity for a quick stress-busting escape or a deluxe one-day vacation-within-a-vacation. Offered exclusively on an as-available basis (primarily on Tuesdays through Thursdays in November through June when there is quite literally room at the inn) for a $50 resort fee per person, plus a minimum of $400 in spa services (which can be split among a couple) you can enjoy the comforts of your own cottage from 10 A.M. to 6 P.M., napping, canoodling, and sipping wine in your soaking tub before and after your treatments. Many spa services nod to the region’s agricultural heritage, including the Chardonnay mani-pedi (105 min/$150) and Cabernet mud wrap (60 min/$175) that incorporate the aromas and antioxidant oils of their namesake grape seeds. A massage here can be accompanied by a invigorating rosemary, mint, and grape seed exfoliating scrub (45 min/$140), and there’s a deep-moisturizing body wrap made incorporating local goat butter blended with rose petals, aloe, and other botanicals (80 min/$175). www.thecarnerosinn.com.
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
Just a hot stone’s throw from the bustle of the city’s financial district and the Moscone Convention center, this sleek retreat provides an ideal post-work escape for stressed and jet-lagged business travelers. Tucked away in the St. Regis Hotel, adjacent to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Remède offers a distinctly urbane spa experience. Named for the renowned Laboratoire Remède skin-care products used in its services, the spa’s immaculate white reception area (all hard lines and smooth surfaces) intentionally evokes a luxe laboratory more than a blissed-out new-age cocoon. Treatments, too, have a scientific bent: I experimented with an Intraceuticals Oxygen Facial ($60 min/$235), in which a “rejuvenation” serum incorporating hyaluronic acid, vitamins, and green tea extract is coaxed into the skin with a fine stream of pressurized oxygen. The sensation of the moist jet was strangely soothing, and the results undeniable: a glance in the locker-room mirror post-treatment showed a firmer, less-lined complexion. For all the cool futurism of the Remède aesthetic, there are more traditional indulgences offered as well, including deep-tissue, Swedish, and shiatsu massages (60 min/$165), accompanied by Champagne and chocolate truffles in the waiting lounge. Spa guests are also able to linger at one of San Francisco’s secret oases, an unexpected indoor infinity pool with dramatic city views, it’s open 24-hours to hotel guests, but if you’re not staying at the St. Regis consider booking your spa appointments late in the day so you can take advantage of a sunset soak. www.stregissanfrancisco.com.
THE SPA AT EL ENCANTO
SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA
When El Encanto was reopened by Orient-Express this past year, it brought a whole new touch of modern luxury that got both locals and tourists excited. Up in the hills, the 92-suite hotel is a self-contained sanctuary with sublime views of the coast. In fact, when I visited, I never made it down to the beach. El Encanto impressed me with it’s Spanish Colonial-style bungalows, a quiet and relaxing outdoor heated pool, and an insanely memorable California-coastal meal by Chef Patrice Martineau. One of the highlights for me was the spa, which naturally fit the allure of the hotel. The 4,500-square-foot, full-service Spa at El Encanto is simple, elegant, and intimate. There are seven treatment rooms, a relaxation lounge, steam rooms, fitness center, and yoga studio. Ceilings are high, rooms (like the steam room) are spacious, and it never feels crowded due to the size of the hotel. It’s all set before a sprawling green lawn, should you want to have your herbal tea out in the sun. The spa menu is equally boutique, and the most popular treatments are those that feature grapes. After all, Santa Barbara is known as a top wine-producing destination, so visitors get polyphenols straight from the source here. That said, I had to try the Pinot and Cabarnet Crush Sugar Scrub (50 min/$160). My therapist slathered a scrub concocted with brown sugar, kaolin clay, and Pinot and Cabarnet grape seeds for some heavy-duty exfoliation. Following the scrub, I was then gently massaged with a nourishing body oil (with grape seed oil, of course) that left my body completely hydrated. Sure, I’m Asian (meaning I unarguably have naturally smooth skin), but there was a notable difference after my treatment. Grape-seed oil is known to tighten skin, moisturize and minimize aging (thanks to its rich antioxidant properties). My skin was buttery soft. The Vitamin Sea Signature Facial (50 min/$180) was truly decadent. Almost everything you would want from a facial was included (skin diagnosis, exfoliation, deep cleanse, extractions). The facial is chockfull of pleasers like Hyaluronic Acid (anti-aging), Vitamin C, organic algae extracts, and antioxidants, so my shiny mug was a looker for weeks. Considering I’m only two hours away in Los Angeles, I’m sure I’ll return to not only check out the beach, but to have another day of pampering. www.elencanto.com.