Aroma Therapeutic Massage, Villa Premiere Hotel & Spa
The view seems to stretch to infinity where Banderas Bay shimmers beyond the protected massage table, and sandy beaches slope off on either side. You are massaged on a stunning lookout point, near the end of a narrow pier that juts from this luxurious beachfront boutique property. Minutes away are shops, restaurants and bars in downtown Puerto Vallarta, though you hear nothing but the gentle lap of waves. Whether you’re inside the Mind & Soul Spa’s hotel space, or outside on the pier with its immense view, try the Aroma Therapeutic Massage, which includes seven essential oils. Jasmine oil relieves muscle tension, litsea oil stimulates and stabilizes emotions and sandalwood acts as a spiritual harmonizer as you drift with the ocean’s lull.
Thai massage, Suchada
San Francisco, Calif.
As you pad along the dark wooden alleyway past floating candles, stone statues of Buddha and the gurgle of a watery canal, you might think you’re in Thailand. But, you’re on Bryant Street in San Francisco at Suchada, home of the most traditional Thai massage many claim you can have, outside of Thailand. Not only is the little warren of teak-panelled treatment rooms authentic in detail, right down to the triangular pillows and baggy Thai pyjamas, but many of the practitioners were trained at Wat Po in Bangkok. Opt for the two-hour massage and you’ll be stretched, bent, pummelled and pressed into pretzel-like contortions you thought were only possible for the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow. At various times in the treatment, tiger balm and a hot compress of Thai herbs are used, as well as a wooden therapy roller plus the therapist’s own magic that includes the use of her feet, elbows and fists. Don’t scoff at the view from the traditional mattress on the floor; just drift off to the tinkle of Thai music and the whiff of lemongrass and you’ll be whisked away to “The Land of a Thousand Smiles.”
Hot Stone Therapy, Ancient Cedars Spa
The Wickaninnish Inn is in the limelight so often, it’s almost tedious—almost. The stunning Tofino, B.C., property on Chesterman Beach continues to land on so many Top 10 lists, it’s almost ridiculous—but only almost. That’s what you might think until you and your partner have a massage on the lip of the Pacific Ocean in the Cedar Sanctuary at the Wick’s Ancient Cedars Spa. Perched mere metres from the spray and surf that almost licks your massage table, there’s no need for canned nature sounds on this bed. Opt for the hot stone treatment and you’ll stay toasty, any month of the year. The trick is to surrender to the therapist’s touch and keep your head in the doughnut, but be forewarned—the views from the cedar cabin’s open door will want to steal the show. Yep, with the next stop somewhere in Japan, this is Ma Nature’s spa experience at its West Coast best.
Small, intimate and a little bit funky, Kai Koko Spa in Ti Kaye Village Resort is built on stilts. In all three of its treatment rooms, ocean breezes riffle through open walls of sliding-glass windows where you can’t help but take in the jaw-dropping views of the Caribbean. Even when you’re face down on a massage bed, a little mirror is angled on the floor underneath the doughnut hole so that you can marvel at the ocean view while someone works magic on your back. Be sure to choose an exotic treatment like the bamboo stick massage where the masseuse uses a series of smooth sticks, the size of thin rolling pins, to press out any computer hunch you may have.
Hand- harvested Treatments
Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort, is one of St. Lucia’s swankiest properties, nestled between the Piton Mountains where its white plantation cottages pop out of the lush rain-forest like glossy Chiclets. Wander the vast grounds of what was once a sugar plantation and you’re bound to bump into the entrance to the Rainforest Spa—a long tunnel of woven branches that wind from the elegant cottage scene to something out of the pages of Robinson Crusoe. A series of seven twiggy tree houses, all at different elevations, comprise the spa that also houses St. Lucia’s only temazcal (a round clay sweat lodge). The toughest decision you’ll make at this resort is choosing what hand-harvested treatment to pick from a 16-page spa menu. What’ll it be—a slather of mandarin oranges with cinnamon, or a body scrub with warm chocolate? Can I move in?
Balinese Massage, Paradise Island
If the One&Only Ocean Club resort feels oddly familiar, you may recognize its villas and mini-Versailles-like gardens from the 2006 version of Casino Royale. Yes, this is where the Bond man mounts the steps to the elegant lobby of the Ocean Club before getting down to poker. Its exclusive villas also star in the film, but the gems that were missed were its eight über-private, Balinese-style treatment villas. Furnished with teak massage tables, hand-carved day beds in private courtyards and private hot tubs, each treatment begins with a floral foot wash and ends with a Japanese tea ceremony. If views are more your thing, have a massage in an ocean-view cabana where all that separates you from the sea is the resort’s sifted sand.