We’ve all heard the term “positive thinking,” but when it comes to spas it’s all about blissful thinking, combined, of course, with sensual treatments that are designed to rejuvenate body, mind, and spirit.
Whether you book a day at the spa or plan to spend your entire holiday being pummeled and pampered, PASSPORT has left no hot stone unturned or therapy untried, to bring you our favorite spas from around the globe. When planning your next delightfully indulgent getaway, you’re sure to find the treatment of your dreams at one of these exceptional locations. Whether it’s a couple’s massage, mud bath, or seaweed facial, the astounding array of international spas covered here are sure to provide you with just what you need to relax and revitalize.
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, 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 standalone spa, which overlooks the beach and the Pacific Ocean. 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 also operates at the Le Meridien hotel in the capital and at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort, which is just outside the city. www.sensoryspapanama.com
The largest spa is Germany has hit its stride and developed a cult following. Within walking distance of Berlin’s central train station, Vabali looks and feels so out of place it has to be in Berlin. Outside, the streets leading up to Vabali’s entrance are grungy and industrial. Inside, every inch of the lawn has been freshly mowed, and every inch of every wooden column has been deliberately carved. The resort has 11 saunas and steam baths with temperatures ranging from 55° to 95° Fahrenheit, each with its own customized aromatherapy. The first couple of years after opening, it felt like guests were fumbling around trying to make sense of this giant resort sprawled across 21,500 square feet. Today, its followers have become such regulars that it’s easy to just follow the crowds to at least appear to fit in. This is the West World of spa resorts: Smoke outside with a pint of beer while you watch other guests swim in the pool, attend an Aufguss ritual (where the “steam master,” usually a scantily covered college boy, takes a towel or a fan and blasts you with steam), read and nap by the fireplace, or get a private rosebud bath by candlelight with your partner. You can’t do much wrong here, except wear clothes (an absolute no no) or enter an Aufguss ritual late (punctuality is a must in Germany). Clients come in all shapes, sizes, and relations, so come alone, bring your Grindr date, or your mom , nobody will look twice. Indoors there is a 82°F pool with white curtains, palimpsests of Roman debauchery with Asian carvings of Buddha and frangipani flowers. Outdoors and on the rooftops there are lounge chairs to sunbathe or cool off. Where the crowds are huddled around a blackboard is where you’ll find the Aufguss schedule. Specialized sessions include green tea infusions, coco peelings, pine wood peelings, honey infusions, and orangesalt peelings. If you get hungry, order a smoothie or a full meal (try the Ozinger Dop Bap with octopus, squid, and kimchi. Any extras you order, like food or massages, will just require a tap of your wristband. Worry about paying for it when you check-out. Day Cards start at €26.50. Don’t get the two-hour pass for €21.50, you’ll end up overstaying and paying for the day pass anyway. Welcome to the cult. www.vabali.de
BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA
As Beverly Hills spas compete for greater size and over-the-top luxury, there is a tiny jewel in the crown of LA spas that’s outshining them all. Tomoko Japanese spa is so understated you could easily miss the entrance on bustling Beverly Drive, but I knew it was special the moment I stepped inside. The receptionist smiled warmly, greeted me by name and suggested I slip into their traditional Japanese sandals, adding with a whisper “Don’t worry about your shoes, we’ll take care of everything.” She led me to a comfortable lounge where I sat by the fireplace while she served tea, lemon water, and impeccably placed chocolates. A few minutes later my therapist escorted me to a large private suite with massage bed, sitting area. and shower. I sipped tea during the 15-minute detox foot soak and reflexology massage which begins every treatment, then moved to the table for the Tomoko massage, which included elements of Swedish and Thai Massage plus stretching (60 min/$240 + 15 minute foot soak). Afterward, the therapist suggested I shower and relax in the suite, before heading back to the lounge, where the bliss continued with ginger tea, cold peppermint water, a Thai coconut-jelly skewer, and the creamiest mochi I’ve ever tasted. Every single design element has been considered, down to the tiny embedded light in the check presenter, which illuminated when I opened it so I could read the bill in the dimly lit room. There are only four large suites and no shared locker room, so at no point during my visit did I ever come into contact with another client, which is probably why this place is a celebrity fave. They also offer a series of couples’ massages starting at $740 for two, and even the option to have sushi from nearby Sugarfish waiting for you after your treatment. Every spa manager in LA should send their staff here for a treatment, because Tomoko is the best of the best—a master class in how to deliver a luxury spa experience. www.tomokospa.com
DEEP OCEAN SPA
BORA BORA RESORT & THALASSO SPA
BORA BORA, FRENCH POLYNESIA
Nestled on a sliver of sand between the surging Pacific and a sapphire blue lagoon, the Deep Ocean Spa Bora Bora more than lives up to its billing as the first seawater therapy center in the South Pacific. Beyond the idyllic marine setting, every treatment is infused with the healing properties of the local waters. The Polynesian Experience (2hr 20min/$413) combines a taurumi massage that uses Monoï oil (made from coconuts and the aromatic Tahitian Tiaré flower) with a coconut body wrap and a papaya scrub, creating the ultimate Polynesian indulgence. Floating in an overwater spa suite, the facility provides a face cradle that allows you to view the teaming sea life swirling beneath you while being massaged, lulling your body and mind into a state of complete relaxation. The Algospa Body Scrub & Wrap (60 min/$103) takes the idea of submersion even one step further. After an enlivening scrub, your body receives a hydrating (or purifying) gel application and then is lowered into a soothing cocoon, surrounded by undulating seawater; it’s as if you’ve been placed inside a waterbed. Best of all, with any treatment you get all-day access to the first-class, outdoor hydrotherapy zone. Get a facial in the morning and then return to the spa after a day of activities to experience the island flower scented steam room, the invigorating Deep Chiller Walk leg massager, and the serene tea house with a view of the Pacific. Tucked into a private, two-person seawater jacuzzi with a sunset view of Bora Bora’s majestic Mount Otemanu, you will believe there’s no one but you, your partner, and the boundless ocean beyond. www.thalasso.intercontinental.com/deep-ocean-spa