But the biggest spa news today is about backing up such promises with evidence. Earlier this year, in Bali, the Global Spa Summit, an invitation-only event for industry leaders and visionaries, unveiled spaevidence.com, a website providing scientific proof behind what the spa industry has been telling us for years: spa treatments and alternative wellness therapies work. And they are good for you.
While the classic therapeutic massage continues to be the most popular spa treatment across the board, there are plenty of options for the more adventurous spa enthusiast.
If you’re looking to plan a spa holiday this winter, check out these 10 must-try spa experiences across North America and the Caribbean.
WHALES & WATSU
Inspired by the winter migration of grey whales to the warm waters of the Baja, the Celebration of Life full-body experience is choreographed to soothing natural whale songs. The treatment incorporates local healing salts that gently exfoliate and re-mineralize your skin. The best part is a gentle massage and stretch while you float in the body-temperature waters of one of the prettiest Watsu pools you’ll find anywhere.
The therapeutic pool is landscaped with local stones and vegetation. Check out the spa’s Wellness Garden (where healthy spa lunches are served) and the spa villas with private gardens, a yoga pavilion, whirlpools and treatment beds.
Pablo Picasso once said, “Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.” In the scenic and serene Californian arts community of Ojai Valley, this spa embraces that concept and incorporates art therapy into the spa menu. In addition to the traditional spa services, the fitness classes, a spa café and the various lounges of this self-contained three-storey spa, you can join an art class.
The dollhouse-like Artist’s Cottage & Apothecary is where therapists and local artists guide guests—alone or in small groups—in playful, yet introspective therapy. One 90-minute class, guided by an aromatherapist, takes you on a sensory journey that demonstrates how to custom blend your own oil that can be used in perfume, lotions and soaps.
Another class is the creation of a personal mandala (a Sanskirt word for a circular shape representing wholeness). This class is especially recommended for those in transition, or for those seeking a creative path to self-discovery.
Sitting on mats in a relaxed yoga pose in a dimly lit therapy room, while listening to sounds generated by chakra-tuned Tibetan singing bowls as a therapist sings mantras in Sanskirt, is not something you’d expect to find in the Dominican Republic.
Music therapy—which can have a powerful healing effect as the vibrations resonate through the body—is one of several Asian-inspired treatments available at Six Senses Spa. This spa is just one in a collection of the Bangkok-based chain, and the Punta Cana location is the only one you’ll find in the Americas.
Not into singing bowls? Try other energy-balancing therapy such as traditional Thai massage
or foot acupressure.
HOT & COLD
Both Mont-Tremblant and Whistler are best known for skiing, but at Scandinave Spa you get a different type of outdoor adventure—taking the waters in the great outdoors. Yes, even during the chilly Canadian winter. Think big, fat snowflakes falling on your head as you enjoy a therapeutic soak in an outdoor hot tub. Next, consider taking a quick dip in the icy pools, followed by a warm-up in a steamy sauna.
Scandinave’s water circuit includes a number of outdoor pools, waterfalls, showers, saunas, steam baths and relaxation areas that take the body from hot to cold to temperate. Along with hydrotherapy, this “nature spa” also offers a variety of massages in its treatment rooms.
Taking the waters can be exhausting to the system so, in between the hot and cold, try the zero-gravity pavilion where lounge chairs fold down flat for easy napping in a serene environment.
Fern Tree’s therapeutic baths give new meaning to “soaking up the culture.” Try the Jamaican Bush Bath. The “bush” refers to grasses or plants that grow wild and are cultivated, collected and incorporated into the bath. Ingredients such as ginger, dried orange peel, lemongrass and other local spices and botanicals are used in the signature oils, scrubs, wraps and therapeutic baths.
In the Bush Bath, ingredients are rolled into a ball and wrapped with muslin to scent and “flavour” the bath. The therapist uses the “ball” to massage the body, which, in turn, stimulates the lymphatic system.
This spa at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas is one of the best spots in the spa-centric city to “take the waters.” The bathhouses of ancient Rome are the inspiration for this large and beautiful spa’s collection of mineral pools. The warm Tepidarium restores the skin’s natural elements, the hot Caldarium relaxes muscles and releases tension and the icy Frigidarium invigorates. The alternating hot and cold waters is known to have therapeutic benefits.
The word qua means “here” in Italian, and the spa translation of that is “in the moment.” And several moments is probably all you will spend in the unique, sub-zero Arctic Ice Room, where real snowflakes swirl down from the ceiling.
There’s a varied menu of spa services and a tea sommelier helps you select a brew that complements any treatment.
If heaven has a spa, it might well be Silver Rain. Design, décor and meticulous attention to detail are the things that enhance the experience here.
The theme begins in the cave-like space where floor-to-ceiling, crystal-inspired sculptures frame an area enhanced by the trickling sounds of running water. Faux-painted walls create a feeling of being embraced by a silver mist. Add to that some spartan white furnishings and spa attendants called angels and you’re left in an ethereal environment.
The spa is so exquisitely designed that, for many, just being in the space is therapeutic. But there’s also a full menu of spa treatments, and the one to try is called Silver Rain. The Silver Room, a jewel box of a space, is lined with mosaic tiles that give a watery, mother-of-pearl effect. Silver Rain’s full-body treatment includes warm jasmine and sandalwood oil rain drops over your entire body, followed by a gentle rinse that rains down from above.
Leave it to a Miami Beach hotel to come up with a fun and social way to spa. As you walk into the full-service spa’s co-ed hamam—a traditional Turkish-style steam room—you are greeted with “soft heat.” The temperature is perfect for simply relaxing or even taking a nap on the wide, heated marble steps.
Book the popular signature treatment—the Turkish Hamam Rub and Scrub. Yes, there are others around and, yes, a bathing suit or towel is required dress. If you prefer some privacy, there are also individual hamam treatment rooms. A cedar sauna, sound showers, cold rain showers and several, double-sized, steel soaking tubs are also part of the hamam.
The entire theme of Spa Avania is seeped in the concept of time. Everything from design and scents, to
music and treatments has been artfully and meticulously choreographed to correspond to the body’s changing rhythms and requirements at morning, midday and evening. Even the adjoining fitness facility has chilled towels infused with different scents selected to complement a specific time of day.
The centrepiece of the spa is the coed relaxation area and a dramatic outdoor central courtyard with a French Celtic mineral pool, wood-burning fireplaces, bougainvillea-covered trellis, lotus pond and black granite waterwall. Before or after a treatment, savour time here with a cup of first-flush high-antioxidant tea. Spa Avania offers the service in a ceremony typically reserved for fine wines or champagne.
IN SEARCH OF YOUR SIX-PACK
Sassy promotional postcards that read “Give us your body for a week and we’ll give you back your mind,” have been wooing guests to this St. Lucian wellness hive for 24 years.
The massive activity-based menu—from top-drawer daily fitness classes (7 a.m. spin workouts followed by sailing lessons with yoga, golf, fencing and meditation sessions squeezed in between) to 100-plus à la carte spa treatments—just got bigger with a US$20-million renovation project that finished last month. A total retrofit of public areas means there’s a remodelled fitness area, a two-level infinity pool, a private hamam in a new Penthouse suite and even more treatment rooms. One of the unique aspects of this all-inclusive wellness stay is a 50-minute spa treatment per day included in your bill. Lime and ginger scrubs, hot stone therapy, numerous massage treatments, skin treatments, ocean wraps, hydrotherapy are just a few options you can choose that are complementary.