The smell of pine needles, brine and campfire smoke released into the air as I lifted my sweater over my head, and the scents once woven into the woolen fibers now lingered faintly on my bare skin. I had spent the morning searching for sea glass along the chilled sands of Maine’s shoreline, the sounds of seagulls accompanying the rhythmic crashing of the waves as I watched my toddler fill his cup with the tiny treasures and pour the contents back out in sloppy piles along the sand.
My blissful sojourn started hours before I arrived at the oceanfront resort in the Dominican Republic. It began at 35,000 feet to be exact, engrossed in the soothing voice of a relaxing airplane meditation app on my phone. I’d received the app from my Meliá wellness host, and it put me in the right mindset for the upcoming days of personal development I’d be spending by the sea.
AT THE SPRINGS RESORT & SPA in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, I’m soaking in a tub called “Lobster Pot.” From the color of my skin — crimson — that nomenclature seems about right. Today’s posted temperature reads 109 degrees Fahrenheit. Ouch. Or glorious. I can’t decide. I take a whiff of the fresh, high-altitude, chilly air and ease further into a watery mélange of 13 curative minerals, a medley composite that ranges from sulfur to potassium to lithium, among others. Submerged in water from the world’s deepest geothermal hot spring, I feel like an ingredient in a salubrious stew.
I INHALED THE DELICATE SCENT of the sage wafting through the air as I lay motionless on the table, the soft sound of my therapist’s feet grazing the ground as she navigated her way around the dark room, waving a smoldering stack of herbs in rhythm to a soundtrack of ritualistic music. All at once the sounds ceased and the room stilled, signaling the real healing would soon begin.
FOR NINE YEARS NOW, Global Traveler has celebrated its annual GT Tested Reader Survey awards at the 5-star Peninsula Beverly Hills in Los Angeles, California. Each year when we descend upon the hotel for the event, it does feel a bit like returning home, or at least to what is akin to my home away from home in the City of Angels. My December 2019 visit proved no exception, although one of the property’s sanctuaries did look different. I wanted to check out this remodel of a familiar space and see the new facility. Luckily for me, that refreshed venue was the hotel’s equally stellar spa.
WHEN I STEPPED OFF MY FLIGHT at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport in October, I noticed something obviously different about the air. It was probably just the warmth and humidity, as the 80-degree temperature was a far cry from the chill I left in Philadelphia.
WHILE IT’S CERTAINLY not the most popular time of year to venture to the Jersey Shore, autumn is, in my opinion, one of the best times to visit the area. Sun-seekers won’t enjoy the beach as much from late September through November, but there’s something about the way the air feels in fall at the beach — it’s cleaner, clearer, crisper somehow, and the ocean breeze offers just the right chill. A mid-October weekend proved the perfect time for my fiancé and me to escape some of the busyness at home with a relaxing weekend in Stone Harbor, New Jersey.
FOR THOSE OF US PASSIONATE about wellness pursuits and who feel most at peace close to the sea, there’s nothing quite like the synergy offered by a floating spa integrated into the setting of a luxurious cruise ship. I’m sailing through the Mediterranean from Rome to Barcelona, discovering along the way that the Crystal Life Spa & Beauty Salon on board the Crystal Serenity provides not only the element of high-end indulgence but also the cruise line’s signature commitment to attention and service.
WHILE VISITING HAWAI’I, relaxation and tranquil vibes aren’t exactly difficult to come by. Add a 4-star resort of epic proportions and Disney-level attention to detail to the equation, and you’re essentially at the mecca of rest and relaxation. Enter Aulani, A Disney Resort on Oahu. The spa, Laniwai, is a first for a Disney property, but you wouldn’t know it by its level of sophistication and ease of practice.
I WAS DEPARTING ON A mother-daughter cruise to the Caribbean on board Seabourn Odyssey just as the results of our annual Leisure Lifestyle Awards were revealed internally. As I scrolled through the findings, two categories in particular stuck out to me: Best Cruise Line Dining and Best Cruise Line Spas. The winner? Seabourn Cruise Line. My appetite for a luxurious cruise and the chance for one-on-one time with my mom had already been whetted; it certainly was more so, now.
SEEKING OUT PLACES embraced by natural surroundings is a crucial component to a healing journey for many travelers. I’ve always been a big advocate of nature’s healing powers and the verity of the ancient Chinese proverb that credits nature, time and patience as being the greatest of all physicians. Western Québec’s Outaouais region proves one of those corners of the planet that seem to be perfectly in balance, whether covered in layers of sparkling snow, adorned in blazing shades of autumn, garlanded in spring blooms or wrapped in sunshine and a rush of summer birdsong — making it ideal for a spa-based getaway.
AT RANCHO LA PUERTA, wellness opportunities incorporate a multitude of mind, body and spirit modalities that refresh, renew and reenergize. I am convinced The Ranch, as it is affectionately called, offers another singular element that contributes to its reputation as one of the world’s best destination wellness resorts. That component is the natural beauty of the 4,000-acre nature preserve which encompasses a landscaped, artistically enhanced, 150-acre parcel on which most ranch activities take place.
STARING FACE DOWN at a white chrysanthemum, a flower Confucius once suggested be used as an object of meditation, my mind began to reset after a stressful few weeks.
I NEVER CONSIDERED WISCONSIN a top spa destination, and that’s certainly not why I visited the small resort town of Elkhart Lake, just below the peninsula between Green Bay and the rest of Lake Michigan, but an afternoon at Aspira Spa challenged me — and not just about this one blip of ignorance.
THE TUCKED-AWAY LOCATION of the Koʻa Kea Hotel & Resort on the island of Kauaʻi proves a most appealing feature to couples seeking a quiet, romantic Hawaiʻian interlude. It also presented a bit of a challenge to my husband and me as we sought the entrance to its drive off the lushly landscaped boulevard which parallels Poʻipū Beach on the island’s sunny south shore. Armed with precise directions and using our vehicle’s navigation feature, we still managed to drive right past before reversing our course and spotting an inconspicuous sign tucked among the foliage. The grounds and buildings of two large resorts flanked the winding road which ended at the circular drive in front of Koʻa Kea’s main building.
IT WAS MY BOYFRIEND SCOTT’S first time getting a massage, so he was a bit apprehensive, to say the least. Unsure of what to expect or how the whole process worked, it was normal for him to have some nervousness associated with our upcoming experience. It briefly brought me back to my first massage, now more than a decade ago, and I remember butterflies in my stomach about the entire process. Those quickly dissipated as the soothing massage strokes began, and I felt the same would prove true for Scott.
A FINE LAYER OF SALT GLAZES MY LIPS and I close my eyes, listening to a rush of hot mineral-rich water as it streams into the space beside me. I’m mostly submerged in a large thermal pool, positioned to take advantage of the underwater jets doing an exceptional job melting the knotted muscles behind my shoulders. Spanning the entire length of the wide stone wall at the far end of the pool facing me, a beautiful inset gas fireplace feeds warmth into the space, while firelight flickers against the glass and across the water’s surface.
IT WAS AN EXPERIENCE IN FIRSTS during my recent trip to Bogotá, Colombia: First trip to Colombia, first time in South America, first stay at a Grand Hyatt hotel and first Swedish massage. Not to mention, all at the largest spa facility in Colombia, South America and the Caribbean — the Zaitania Spa in the Grand Hyatt Bogotá.
LYING ON A TABLE WITH WARM QUARTZ “sand” conforming to and cushioning my body rather than a traditional massage table, I felt the stresses of the world leaving my body with every stroke of the masseuse’s hands. The state of complete relaxation to which I was succumbing was preceded by a gentle, full-body dry brushing and quiet time in a deep-soaking Halo Tub. Had I found heaven, or was this merely bliss?
ON THE SOUTHWEST COAST of Florida, the calm, warm Gulf of Mexico waters caress the white sugar-sand beaches that meander along the coastline. The mellow sun shines down while a gentle breeze blows. In this tranquil setting you find the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort and its luxurious Spa by JW, the luxury brand’s first beachfront location in the continental United States.
MY EXPERIENCE IN PANAMA came full circle as I lay on the massage table at The Spa at The Santa Maria in Panama City. As I snuggled into the plush bed and prepared for my 90-minute Cacao & Coffee Santa Maria treatment, I reflected on the fact that, just a day before, I’d spent my afternoon tasting both chocolate and coffee. Now I prepared to experience their therapeutic benefits in a decidedly different way.
THE RELAXATION STARTS NOW, in Johannesburg International Airport. Not many people can say that. The lines for security and boarding, the hubbub in and around the duty-free shops and the customer announcements — all seem distant. And they are. The main passenger terminals are out of sight on the other side of the airfield. Here we are in the exclusive Fireblade VIP Terminal, snacking and sipping Nederburg Sauvignon Blanc while our private plane awaits.
BEFORE MY TRIP TO MONTEGO BAY, essentially all I knew about Jamaica was my parents had a lovely time there on their honeymoon, more than 30 years ago. Eager to get out of the 40-degree weather and into island vibes, selling me on three full days at a 5-star Jamaican resort couldn’t have been easier. Going through customs in my long pants, sweater and Philadelphia-spring clothes in the dead heat of the West Indies sun was just the shock my body needed to usher me into relaxation mode.
IT WAS JANUARY IN CHICAGO. Needless to say, it was frigid, especially on Michigan Avenue, close to Lake Michigan, with the winds off the lake absolutely chilling. The thought of my late-afternoon spa visit at The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago warmed my soul as I ran between various areas of downtown Chicago for business meetings.
I WAS STILL GETTING RE-ACCUSTOMED TO WALKING on solid ground as I took my first step into the refreshingly cool waters of the Waiea (“Water of Life”) stream running through the open-air gardens at the Hualālai Spa, the multitextured pebbles massaging my feet with each step.
THE GRAND VELAS RIVIERA MAYA nestles in a mangrove jungle that spans most of the 206-acre property. On our way to the Ambassador Section, we rode past the Zen Grand Section with its family-friendly suites in the heart of the Yucatán jungle. A mile down the road, we came upon the two beachfront sections: Grand Class Adults Only and the Ambassador Family Friendly.
PORTUGAL’S ALGARVE COAST averages 300 sun-filled days a year. I’d been there for six of them, and my skin showed every one. I’m not sure which was worse — dehydration from the sun or the layers of SPF-30 I’d slathered on every day. It was time to head to Martinhal’s Finisterra Spa for some serious repair work.
“JUST ONE MORE PHOTO of the leopard, and then I really have to go,” I remember saying to the driver of the 4X4 Land Cruiser as I snapped a shot of a female leopardess lounging just feet above my head on the branch of a strong acacia tree. “I have a massage and a facial in an hour back at the camp.”
THE MARMARA GROUP, a well-known Turkish luxury hotel chain, brings a taste of Turkish hospitality and culture to the Big Apple, operating an authentic Turkish hammam at its Marmara Park Avenue hotel, conveniently located at Park Avenue and 32nd Street. When you are enveloped in the solitude of the traditional bath, you feel far removed from the hustle and bustle of the city streets above.
THE HAWAI’IAN WORD “ALOHA” has several widely known meanings, including hello and goodbye, and love and affection. Even deeper, however, the literal meaning is “the presence of breath,” or “the breath of life.” According to Hawai’ian traditions as mentioned at to-Hawaii.com, “aloha is a way of living and treating each other with love and respect. Its deep meaning starts by teaching ourselves to love our own beings first and, afterwards, to spread the love to others.”
A SPA VISIT TOUTS MANY health benefits for the patron — including stress relief, elimination of physical symptoms, a relaxed mind — so it only makes sense those same attributes, and others, can be extremely beneficial when carried over into the workplace. According to a 2016 Forbes.com article, findings from years of research show treatments can help spark creativity, boost the immune system, increase productivity and improve sleep habits. Armed with this important data, GT associate publisher Carly Allen and I decided to book afternoon spa treatments at The Peninsula Chicago on a recent business trip to the Windy City. It’s work, after all.
THE GLOBAL TRAVELER TEAM often finds itself in Los Angeles, as the city hosts two of our awards events annually, but only recently did Katie Skrzek, digital director, and I start to take better advantage of our visits. In December we escaped on a girls’ weekend pre-event, and in May, while we celebrated our 2017 Leisure Lifestyle Awards at the Sofitel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, we extended our stay by one day to partake in some of the city’s activities we’d been remiss in visiting prior. Of course, that included a morning visit to SoSPA.
IN DECEMBER HYATT HOTELS debuted a hidden paradise nestled in the ecologically diverse Mayakoba resort area in Riviera Maya, Mexico. Andaz Mayakoba Resort, a premium, oceanfront property, boasts the perfect combination of contemporary design and authentic local Mayan culture.
INTERNATIONAL HEADLINES have rarely been kind to Honduras. There’s simply no getting around it. What people forget is that news is news because it’s surprising or unexpected. We may see certain headlines repeatedly, but these snapshots rarely reflect everyday life, and they certainly have little do with a place like Pico Bonito National Park in northern Honduras, where The Lodge & Spa at Pico Bonito has operated since 2000.
GLOBAL TRAVELER’S VICE PRESIDENT and digital director, Katie Skrzek, and I spent the quintessential girls’ weekend at Terranea Resort, located in Los Angeles County but feeling worlds away from the L.A. bustle and the rest of the world. We arrived for a bit of a breather before heading to Beverly Hills for GT’s annual GT Tested Reader Survey awards celebration, and the few days spent in ultimate relaxation helped us recharge before the busy event itinerary.
THE OLD ADAGE GOES, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” Perhaps it’s time we rethink the popular saying. The 21st-century spin: “Amethysts are a girl’s best friend.” I learned this firsthand while on a long weekend getaway to Charleston, S.C., with my own best friend, Jill, when we visited The Amethyst Spa & Nail Bar at the über-chic boutique hotel, The Restoration.
WHILE I AM NEVER one to turn down an opportunity to visit a spa, there are certain times in our lives when our bodies crave a moment of relaxation and Zen. Despite having visited a spa just a couple of weeks prior, I found myself in just that predicament during a late October visit to Los Angeles.
IT FELT LIKE WE were living in a buddy comedy movie script. Amidst weeks of planning a trip that would span five cities, four countries and three continents in seven days, Banu Yilmaz and I were determined to find some time while in Dubai to unwind a bit; and we’d planned massages at the ShuiQi Spa at Atlantis, The Palm — three separate times.
It wasn’t even cold in Moscow when I made my way back to the Ararat Park Hyatt Moscow that night, the temperature only lazily falling below 70 degrees Fahrenheit as the setting sun disappeared into the crimson skyline of cathedrals and the Kremlin.
I must admit, when an afternoon of free time in Antwerp presented itself, my mind wandered to the possibility of a spa experience. It was my second day in the city, fourth in Belgium; and I’d already spent a fair amount of time on walking tours, in museums and exploring (and indulging!) much of what Belgium offers. I couldn’t resist a bit of time unwinding in one of my favorite ways — at a spa.
My husband and I arrived in Tahiti early in the morning and made our way to the InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa. We knew a visit to the property’s Deep Nature Spa would be the perfect way to start our honeymoon. Even with the first appointment of the day, we were still too early to begin our treatment — and check into our room — so we took this time to explore the resort.
After hitting the links at the beautiful Potomac Shores Golf Club (see September 2016 Golf), our Global Traveler foursome — myself; Chris “Yammi” Ottaunick, Advisory Board member and staff photographer; Jeff Sohinki, director of sales and marketing; and Rory Oldham, advertising manager — took a short drive to quaint downtown Manassas to relax at the Old Towne Man Cave. The quintessential name offers an idea of what to expect: big-screen TVs showing sports programming and craft beer to your liking. What you don’t realize is the Man Cave is a spa for guys who just want to be guys — and maybe get a little pampering.
There’s nothing better to motivate a weary business traveler through a day of meetings than the promise of a late-afternoon massage. Thankfully, those were the circumstances facing me one Chicago day in May. After an early-morning flight and a full day of meetings, I found myself gleefully checking into Waldorf Astoria Spa & Health Club at Waldorf Astoria Chicago.
Eager to experience one of my hometown’s newer hot spots, I arranged an afternoon of pampering at The Logan Spa at The Logan Philadelphia, a Curio Collection by Hilton hotel. Formerly The Four Seasons Philadelphia, the hotel occupies prime real estate on Logan Square by the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The new incarnation of the hotel space incorporates the city’s history, creating a social hub overflowing with local touches.
When The Gleneagles Hotel debuted in 1924, the newspapers dubbed the palatial getaway in the Scottish countryside “a Riviera in the Highlands” for its dedication to luxury and leisure pursuits. Built by the former Caledonian Railway Co. as a destination for fashionable Edinburghers and Londoners, what began as a golf resort has since expanded to offer all manner of outdoor activities — shooting, riding and falconry — as well as indoor pleasures at the award-winning Spa by ESPA and Scotland’s only 2-Michelin-starred restaurant, Andrew Fairlie.
The bright sunshine and gently waving palm trees lining the streets of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., easily deceive guests into believing it really is the perfect summer’s day. During my visit, though, the high temperatures on a chilly, northern Florida winter afternoon barely crept out of the 40s. However, as I stepped into The Spa at Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, the lobby transported me to a light, airy and altogether pleasant atmosphere that made me instantly forget my complaints about the weather. Crossing the spacious lobby and passing the small shop to the right, I made my way into the spa’s inner sanctum, perfectly separated from the lobby in such a way that tells guests it’s time to leave the outside world behind. I happily obliged. The large central space I found myself in housed the spa’s café, a waiting area scattered with small groupings of comfortable chairs and sofas, and a large fountain that immediately drew my eye. With a bit of time before my appointment, I indulged in a quick lunch with my traveling companions, and we seated ourselves at a café table for five. A friendly and eager server rushed over to offer mimosas. I gladly accepted, seeing no good reason to ever turn down a mimosa. The lunch menu offered a variety of healthy and tasty options. We were all a bit conflicted on what to order as there were so many tempting offerings, but our server convinced us to try a few of her favorites. I chose the grilled flat bread with chicken and was not disappointed in the slightest. Cooked just to crunchy perfection, the chicken married nicely with the mozzarella, artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes and balsamic reduction. After lunch, I changed into my fluffy white robe in the locker room. Further exploration revealed spacious and private stalls for showering and a separate and smaller ladies-only waiting area outfitted with limited seating and magazines. I opted to wait in the larger space, where I enjoyed some leisurely small talk with a few other guests. I noticed that, since my arrival, the spa was becoming a bit busier and the waiting and dining spaces were quickly filling. Before I could people-watch too much, my therapist fetched me and led the way to a treatment room situated down a few dimly lit hallways.
What could be better than a few days spent food and wine tasting in Northern Tuscany? I passed several days sipping delicious wines, sampling tasty food and savoring serene spa moments in Tuscany — all while escaping the mid-February doldrums in Philadelphia. My base for exploration was the Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort & Spa, nestled on an expansive estate overlooking the mountainous Serchio Valley. From here I easily explored the Italian cities and towns of Castelnuovo di Garfagna, Barga, Pisa and Lucca, discovering lesser-known parts of Tuscany. In addition to the spa, Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort & Spa boasts more than 18,000 square feet of meeting and event space as well as updated guestrooms and suites, two pools, on-site dining options and a spacious fitness center — making it the perfect Italian treat for couples, families or large groups. During my off-season visit, there were two large groups also staying for company meetings and incentives. Further appealing to guests is the location, offering the opportunity to easily explore the region or to stay at the resort and partake of unique offerings. The property assisted in arranging a number of my sightseeing activities, including a daytrip to Pisa for a glimpse at its iconic Leaning Tower and a visit to nearby Podere Concori Winery for an exclusive tasting of its local, biodynamic wines. The resort’s culinary experience with the chef offers a great diversion for groups of any size. I set out with both the executive chef and pastry chef on a foggy Saturday morning to peruse Barga’s local markets for fresh, vibrant ingredients before heading back to the property to prepare my own lunch from scratch — of course, with the assistance and guidance of the professionals. Travelers can curate the menus to their liking; I opted for eggplant Parmesan, spinach ravioli, fried zucchini blossoms and a fresh fruit tart. But I was also there to kick back in the spa, and relax I did with a treatment at both the beginning and end of my five-day visit. The spa’s smaller size lends an air of exclusivity to the experience; it feels as if it’s all your own. Treatments, which include facials, massages, scrubs, wraps and hair removal, use authentic and indigenous ingredients from the Serchio Valley such as lavender, rosemary, chamomile, mint, olive oil, chestnut honey and grapes.
It was week two of a two-week jaunt around the world. I started in New York, visited İstanbul and Cappadocia, traveled to and overnighted in Los Angeles, and was now in Las Vegas, readying for three days of a travel trade show. My Monday arrival with my Los Angeles-based colleague, Rafie Iannello, coincided with her birthday — and what better way to pamper the birthday girl and relax my jet-lagged mind and body than with an afternoon at the spa? In a city like Las Vegas, which offers top-notch health and wellness outlets, there’s no shortage of options, but we had our sights set on Spa at The LINQ.
Arrayed before me on the beautiful dark wood table sit rows of glass bottles and jars, gleaming softly in the overhead lights. On the walls surrounding the table, where I sit perched on a stool in my soft white spa robe, ranks of wooden drawers climb floor to ceiling.
I have to confess to a fleeting Heidi moment while contemplating the sloping lawn that edges the side of Mount Bürgenstock and the deep waters of Lake Lucerne. Above me, the Hotel Villa Honegg sits etched against the late-morning sky, while just below, a herd of peaceful-looking dairy cows nibble their way across the sweet green expanse. Each movement of their heads causes the bells around their necks to tinkle and clink in a concert that resonates gently within the prevailing tranquility.
I hadn’t been to Las Vegas in years, before the construction of Vdara Hotel & Spa, located on the Strip between ARIA Resort & Casino and Bellagio. Vdara brings a different vibe to the Strip, offering an all-suite, non-gaming, smoke-free and eco-friendly retreat. It was only fitting, then, that here I would find some rest and relaxation on a whirlwind, three-day jaunt to the city for a conference.
I am wine tasting in the Ribera del Duero, one of Spain’s most accomplished wine regions. Though vineyards surround me, I’m not sitting in a bodega. In fact, wrapped in a bathrobe, I tipple at Santuario, a subterranean spa at Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine, a Relais & Châteaux hotel set in a restored 12th-century monastery.
I was in New York City for the weekend, spending time with friends at a bachelorette party. A spa treatment provided the perfect way to start my day following a busy night out celebrating the bride-to-be. The Cornelia Spa at The Surrey hotel offers a tranquil escape in New York City’s Upper East Side.
Truth be told, we needed some time to unwind. Traveling to Miami for three full days of meetings, my associate Olivia Falcione and I were desperate for 60 uninterrupted minutes of spa time on our third day in the southern Florida city.
I traveled a total of 18 hours from Seattle to Macau, with most of those hours spent contorting my body in a struggle to find a comfortable position in my airplane seat. It was midday by the time I arrived at the Sheraton Macao Hotel, Cotai Central and, mercifully, one of the first things on my to-do list involved a rejuvenating visit to the hotel’s Shine Spa.
What it lacks in stature, Ixora Spa at Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina makes up for in ambience. Located in a villa high on a south-facing bluff offering a breathtaking view of the Caribbean Sea, Ixora Spa is a secluded oasis on a small island already far removed from the traffic (no cars), commerce (the resort and its chandlery are the only businesses) and the frenzy of neighboring, more populated islands.
One of the wonders of the world, winter tides that surge into shore generating waves almost five stories high, have made Oahu’s fabled North Shore a global mecca for surfers who migrate from all over the world to challenge the sea. Situated on that coast, with ocean views from every room, the locale’s principal resort, Turtle Bay, capitalizes on its unique location. Fashioning its health facilities to embrace the waterside sense of a place “where the ocean’s energy gently pushes you to a new place of vitality,” its Nalu (waves and ocean) Kinetic (energizing) Spa resides in a fitness wing of the destination resort where the sea views are gorgeous and the sound of crashing waves is constant.
My friend Megan and I were 30,000 feet in the air somewhere over middle America, on our way to a girls’ getaway in San Francisco and Napa, when we looked at one another, both thinking the same thought. As girlfriends are wont to do, we read each other’s minds and said, “We should get spa treatments while we are away.”
Wherever I travel, I try to visit a spa both to unwind and to gather insight into the region’s culture, whether it’s a Turkish bathhouse in İstanbul, a hot springs resort in Japan or a wellness retreat in Costa Rica. And so, on a recent trip to Thailand, I headed to the Phulay Bay Spa, part of a Ritz-Carlton Reserve property in the southern town of Krabi, where I set down my anchor for several days.
The Region of Murcia sits in the southeast of Spain, guaranteeing Mediterranean-esque temperatures year-round, with more than 300 days of sun per year. My journeys through Murcia took me from the futuristic landscape of Lorca and the picturesque port city of Cartagena to the hustle of the capital city of Murcia, with a visit to tranquil Mar Menor in between.
Through the steamy mist rising from the surface of the wide pool, the outline of an ancient castle shifts in and out of focus. My mind acknowledges the structure is probably attached quite firmly to a nearby hill, but the vapor plays tricks with my vision, leaving me with the impression that the castle is suspended, floating — likely to disappear if I look away. Swimming past a Stonehenge-like collection of rocks in the center of the water, I reach the pool’s edge and fix the distant, crumbling towers firmly in my sightlines.
Close your eyes as your car turns onto the narrow road leading to Mirbeau Inn & Spa (assuming you’re not driving, of course) and open them just as you feel the crunch of gravel under your tires as your car pulls into the cobbled driveway. You’re minutes from the highway in Plymouth, Mass., but you’ll swear you’ve just arrived at a French country estate.
As I navigated my way through the pre-9 a.m. hustle and bustle of a Chicago weekday, my imminent relaxation was far from my mind. It seemed impossible after waltzing through the morning rush hour of the city, but I relaxed almost immediately upon crossing Chuan Spa’s signature Moon Gate entrance on The Langham, Chicago’s fourth floor.
My husband and I have an agreement that if one of us travels for work, each will do his or her best to accompany the other. His recent conference in Chicago while our children were out of school provided an ideal scenario for tacking on a family visit to The American Club in Kohler, Wisc., where the tagline is “Escape to where village charm meets old-world elegance.”
It took me too long to realize one of the most important components of a relaxing spa experience is to arrive early, leaving plenty of time to unwind and de-stress in the lounge prior to your scheduled treatment.
Between the traffic horns and the pedestrians rushing along Seoul’s sidewalks at a blistering pace, it can be easy to forget that Korea is known as the “Land of the Morning Calm.” But as I ascended Mount Namsan to the Banyan Tree Club & Spa Seoul, I was reminded that Korea is just as much a country of holy mountains as concrete cityscapes.
We were nearing the end of our two weeks in Scotland, which included stays at grand old manor houses, a week on board the Hebridean Princess in the Western Isles, and Michelin-starred dining in Edinburgh. About the only Scottish luxury we had not indulged in was a spa. Our hotel in Glasgow, Blythswood Square, seemed the right place to fill in that blank.
Guests and visitors of the 5-star Corinthia Hotel London — housed within a Victorian building dating from 1885 (once used by the war department and Winston Churchill) on the edge of the River Thames — discover a haven of tranquility tucked away from the buzz and bustle of the city at ESPA Life. Spread across four floors underneath the hotel, the spa is outfitted in a thoroughly modern style with black and white décor, curved walls, mood lighting and chic crystal chandeliers. Guests can enjoy the ultimate indulgent experience and pursue some truly valuable health options.
A fantastically exuberant festival, a walled city steeped in history and a tropical island paradise miles from the mainland — talk about an eclectic itinerary. I was off to Colombia, a country known for its vitality, history and beauty, and I was ready to experience all three.
There’s something quite peaceful about gazing from your hotel window at thick, powdery snow, watching skiers and snowboarders elegantly glide down the slopes, perfectly crisscrossing the mountain. While this has been one heck of a winter season for those of us in the northeastern United States, I found peace and tranquility early this winter at Beaver Creek Resort in Avon, Colo. The sprawling resort near Vail is truly a winter wonderland.
My toes ached only slightly as my feet rested in a footbath infused with freshly picked mint and rosemary. The memory and lingering effects of two strollers belonging to families decked out in Disney gear running them over two days prior at Orlando International Airport faded as I sipped on herbal tea and basked in the sunshine on the intimate rooftop of The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes.
The Greek god Dionysus dances across my line of vision, his stained-glass feet partially obscured by mounds of grapes. I’m not wearing my contact lenses, so the effect is a bit dreamy and nicely blurred around the edges. In a horizontal state of what can only be described as spectacular contentment, it’s not much of a leap to imagine Dionysus slipping around the pillared corner of the spa’s relaxation area to join me for a glass of sparkling cava. There’s a half-full glass already positioned close at hand, standing guard over a small bowl of grapes. The spa attendants appear to be fully aware that forcing me to reach too far might spoil the mood.
Few places are as breathtaking as the remote island of Tasmania — Australia’s southernmost state. And owing to Tasmania’s geographic isolation, unique species are found here that exist nowhere else in the world, notorious animals like the Tasmanian devil. Even the geology and flora hark back to a time when Tasmania was part of the super-continent called Gondwana, formed by the present-day land masses of Antarctica, South America, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, Arabia, Madagascar and India.
It’s not a necessity to step within the walls of The Broadmoor’s spa to achieve true relaxation. A visitor need only step onto the tranquil grounds of the Colorado Springs, Colo., resort to find respite and a sense of serenity. That’s not to say a visit to the on-site The Spa at The Broadmoor doesn’t help!
The morning dawned dark and ominous. Our first day in paradise did not look promising. My sister, Nancy, niece, Meaghan, and I had arrived at The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort the previous afternoon, looking forward to a girls’ getaway punctuated by morning walks on the beach, languid days soaking in the sun, cool drinks on warm evenings and giggles, lots of giggles.
Nothing works the kinks out after a 17-plus-hour flight from Los Angeles to Bangkok like a famous Thai massage. Sadly, I arrived in Bangkok too late to do anything more than check into the hotel and fall into bed, so my restorative massage would have to wait.
It was the peaceful aura that first soothed me. And then there were Audra’s calming hands as she began The Allison’s signature spa treatment, the Grape Seed Body Wrap. She followed a dry brushing with a scrub of grape seed, grape seed oil, lavender and sugar. Adding organic milk powder, lavender buds, essential oil, honey and wine to the blend, she next painted me with it before wrapping me in seven layers of hot towels, a thermal blanket and a top layer of plastic. The table I lay on was heated. The lights were low. Cool stones were placed on my face, and for 20 minutes, I floated into another space while Audra massaged my neck and my feet.
Dream•catch•er n. 1. A circular framed net decorated with feathers and beads, believed to catch good dreams.
I’ve seen dead people, bathed with naked women and sobbed with intuitive healers — all in the name of research. Since the debut of our Spas column, I’ve made a point of pushing the boundaries to explore therapies beyond traditional massage or salon services. And I’ve encouraged other writers to do the same. The result is a library of spa articles that are often funny, sometimes poignant and always informative.
I knew I was in a city where everything is bigger when I learned my hotel, the Mandarin Oriental, Macau, with its 213 rooms, is considered “boutique.” The truth is, in Macau, that is small. Most of the properties on the island are home to thousands of rooms, and the majority are at full occupancy. With the dizzying array of sights to see, people to watch and delicious cuisine to discover, I knew my “boutique” hotel would be a sanctuary.
After the 15-hour flight to Queenstown, New Zealand, I was groggy with jet lag, and the spa treatment Hilton proposed sounded enticing — but unnerving: The technician was planning to use electricity on my face. At first I balked but eventually relented. And thank heaven my defenses were down, for despite my dire forebodings, the Signature Correcting Facial turned out to be transforming.
Approaching The Meritage Resort and Spa for a crush-season getaway in the Napa Valley, we were a bit taken aback. While vineyards still laden with grapes lined the roadways taking us north from the San Francisco Bay toward Napa, as we neared our destination we entered a large office park complex … neat, modern, with wide boulevards lined with trees … but an office park, nonetheless. Pulling under the two-story entrance portico of the main building, a stone and stucco, Tuscan-inspired façade, our considerations of the mundane world outside retreated in the face of the warm welcome offered by the valet and the front desk staff.
It was dark and rainy when I arrived at the Mövenpick Resort, perched on the edge of the Dead Sea in Jordan, so there was no hope of seeing the famous sea until morning. When I woke it was still raining, but miraculously the skies cleared for about a half-hour, enough time to throw on my bathing suit and get down to the sea for an early-morning float.
I love my birthday. Always have. So it comes as no surprise to friends and family — the people who love me enough to grin and bear it when I begin the annual countdown about 90 days out — that I always have a plan for “my” day.
They’re so cute when they’re asleep. Their angelic faces peaceful and serene. A toddler? A kitten? Maybe a puppy?
Eastthorpe Hall left me pleasantly surprised. Instead of a towering, ornate facility, there was a well-groomed brick house seamlessly blending into the English countryside. It didn’t strike me as a location for unmatched luxury; rather, it evoked the feelings of peace and serenity you can only find at home. Opening the heavy wooden door and entering the spa, I was happy to see the inside of the house was no less charming than the outside.
As we stand together on the ferry deck, two things lie ahead of us. Most immediately, the island of Gozo, romantically bathed in a shifting pattern of sunlight and cloud shadow. And, on the metaphorical horizon, our wedding. This is our last trip as an unmarried couple.
While I sincerely doubt this statement will elicit much sympathy, I must say it: It is often difficult to truly relax during treatments when I am covering a spa for an upcoming article. I’m constantly writing and rewriting the article in my head as the treatment is happening. I know — I do not feel bad for me, either. This sentiment was running through my head as my spa technician at The Peninsula Beverly Hills wrapped my body in Mylar. I thought, “What is the perfect way to detail what it feels like to crinkle like a happy birthday balloon?”
It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals when it was checked by a ferocious gust of wind sweeping over the beach (for it was early winter in coastal Maine) and pounding my car as I navigated winding roads seeking a refuge from the tempest.
I settled into a cab, jet-lagged and fuzzy after an overnight flight from Boston followed by a connection to Manchester and a short train ride to Leeds.
From the private rooftop spa terrace of Lady’s First Design Hotel, Zürich fades into a horizon of mountain peaks, floating steeples and lit, glimmering clock towers. It’s after 10 p.m., and the fresh evening air is a welcome wrap, brushing the surface of my skin, still flushed from my sojourn in the spa’s aromatic steam bath. The graceful 19th-century house below me was renovated and modernized by Pia Schmid, a Swiss architect with a gift for manifesting her philosophy of construction and composition as a form of communication. Schmid’s design integrates the building’s traditional, historical elements — such as the beautifully restored parquet floors — with progressive concepts of generous natural light, bold colors and an amalgamation of surfaces and textures. Each of the 28 guestrooms features a Swissflex bed, electric kettle, complimentary WiFi and windows that can be thrown wide to allow a flow of fresh, lake-sweetened air.
I was poked and prodded, pushed and pulled. And I felt mahhvelous. I had arrived at Exhale Battery Wharf in Boston about four hours earlier feeling fatigued, frazzled and flustered. Running late for a 10 a.m. appointment, I dropped my car with the valet and dashed to the check-in desk, fumbling with my bags and dropping things along the way. Breathless, I spun through the spa entrance, headed straight for the front desk and declared, “I’m late.”
I was seduced by Tuscany many years ago. Since then, that first blush of love-struck marvel has deepened and matured to focus on several places in particular — and Florence is high on the list. Situated on the edge of Florence is the village of Fiesole with its Roman theater and crumbling, Etruscan-era walls. Il Salviatino, the recently opened grand villa-turned-luxury hotel, had its beginnings here as a humble, 14th-century farmhouse surrounded by rambling olive groves and hills covered in grapevines.
After a jam-packed few days in Singapore, a soothing spa treatment was exactly what I needed on a free Friday afternoon. Even the light drizzle couldn’t dampen my spirits as I made my way to the St. Gregory Spa at Pan Pacific Singapore for the aptly titled Lady’s Jetsetter Ritual.
Raindrops the size of egg yolks pummeled the roof of my car as I drove the 15 miles from my suburban home to The Langham Boston. It was late August, but the soaking rain and unseasonable chill in the air made it seem more like early March.
If you’re looking for a broad, white-sand beach and a myriad of kid-friendly activities, then Ixtapa’s newest luxury property is not for you. Capella-Ixtapa, in Mexico’s state of Guerrero, doesn’t have a miniature golf course, a water park, special kids’ programs or a cartoon character-themed snack bar. What it does have is an atmosphere of quiet elegance, a dramatic setting and superb service. This is a place for grown-ups to chill out and be pampered in tranquil surroundings with breathtaking views.
As we turn off the main road in the village of Kenmare onto a drive leading gently uphill between rows of stately trees, Park Hotel Kenmare slowly reveals itself — a tranquil stone manor house covered with climbing vines and leaves just beginning to turn golden and rusty in the crisp fall air. The sense of genteel graciousness builds in the entrance lobby, where cheerful members of the staff greet me and my husband, James.
Chuck Baraw got it right. The CEO and owner of Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa toured far and wide before blending a spa into the landscape of the iconic Vermont resort. The result is an unexpectedly world-class spa experience in the sleepy mountain village of Stowe.
I venture down the deeply carpeted corridor, following a few discreet signs which direct me to my goal. After nearly 24 hours of travel, including a long, overnight trans-Pacific flight, I eagerly anticipate relief for my tense and aching muscles at The Langham, Auckland’s Chuan Spa.
Visually stunning and completely serene — seldom have I encountered a more appealing space than the Hyatt Regency’s Barai spa in Hua Hin, Thailand.
If you think you have to fly to Casablanca to enjoy an authentic Moroccan hammam, think again. Since Moroccan hammams are located in the exotic Sahara, it’s only fitting that there’s a U.S. version also located in a desert, but this time it’s the Sonoran in Arizona.
Chuck Baraw got it right. The CEO and owner of Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa toured far and wide before blending a spa into the landscape of the iconic Vermont resort. The result is an unexpectedly world-class spa experience in the sleepy mountain village of Stowe.
For the first couple of minutes, I remain a skeptic, simply watching colors change on a small computer screen. The doctor’s questions seem more like a fortuneteller’s.
I was already well on my way to a state of relaxed bliss even before I sauntered casually through the doors of the Banyan Tree Spa. It was only day two of my stay at the Banyan Tree Mayakoba, but the beachfront resort on Mexico’s Riviera Maya was definitely working its magic.
Crashing waves lulled me into a state of semi-consciousness. The salubrious strokes of the ancient Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage transported me to a realm of utter calm. It was utopia. Days earlier, I stumbled onto Hawaii’s Big Island, barely coherent after almost 48 hours with no sleep and facing a packed itinerary comprised of sporting activities typical to the Big Island — snorkeling, hiking the volcano park and ziplining. However, from my seaside cabana on a precipice overlooking the Pacific, my exhaustion melted away.
Never one to refuse a glass of fine wine and as someone who has first-hand knowledge of the soothing properties inherent in a mug of hot, mulled wine on a cold winter’s day, I was intrigued by Vin Chaud. Billed as a Body Indulgence on the spa menu at RockResorts Spa at The Arrabelle in Vail, Colo., Vin Chaud is a 105-minute treatment involving a complex dance of wine-based therapies.
While I admit to enjoying a glass of chilled Chardonnay occasionally, I never expected to be massaged with it. But at the Fiesta Americana Grand Los Cabos Golf and Spa Resort, that’s just about what happened.
Lying face down on a comfy massage bed, eyes closed, zoning out to a New Age tape mix as the therapist expertly worked a knot in my upper back — no doubt caused from hours at my laptop — I suddenly thought, “Why here?”
“Whatever/whenever” — the service-minded mantra of W Hotels is translated in every aspect of the W San Diego. It was never more evident to me than during an afternoon at the hotel’s Away Spa. As I looked ahead to a red-eye flight back to the East Coast, I melted away the stresses from three busy days at a convention while basking in the attentive glow of the spa staff.
Anyone who’s done their spa homework is likely familiar with the tradition of the Kur — or taking the waters — so well known in Germany. Lately, a surge of interest in Ayurveda, India’s centuries-old approach to well-being, is gaining hold in German resorts and long-established spa towns, with exotically named treatments popping up on spa menus from Baden-Baden to Berlin.
After a 30-minute drive from the airport, we arrive at what looks like the gate to a North African fort. It opens, and the future of Gambian tourism is revealed. My eyes widen, my breath is taken. I had heard that the country’s tourist industry is in the midst of a dramatic transformation. Here is the evidence.
My alarm clock rang far too early in the morning. I couldn’t believe it was already time to leave Dubai. I was traveling through the United Arab Emirates on business and loving every experience. However, my body was fighting a fever and I was experiencing allaround soreness, the result of long meetings, late evenings and too much time spent on my feet — in fashionable but painful high heels.
Beverly Hills is known to have the best of the best, from hotels to dining to celebrities of the silver screen. I was looking forward to being a part of this posh elite, if only for a few hours during my time at Spa Montage. Nestled in the stunning Montage Beverly Hills — a beautiful hideaway where the décor is decidely Old World Spain — Spa Montage offers an oasis of calm for anyone looking to escape the stress of a hectic day.
Growing up in the Poconos, I never understood why tourists flocked to the area. I just didn’t get it. I lived in my parents’ house surrounded by mountains and looming trees, with deer and wild turkeys grazing in the backyard and the occasional black bear strolling through the region. As a kid, I did not see this landscape as tranquil or relaxing; all I knew was that the nearest McDonald’s was 30 minutes away, and there was never anything to do unless you hopped in your car and drove for an hour.
From the private deck of my penthouse on the sumptuous, 6-star Crystal Symphony, I gaze out over the surface of the ocean. We’re west of Cuba, sailing toward the Panama Canal en route from Miami to Los Angeles; and I’ve become completely fascinated by how the water seems, impossibly, to be blue, gray and green all at the same time.
For starters, it was the first time I’d ever had a spa treatment in a tree house. Okay, so it wasn’t literally a tree house, but it sure seemed like one, since to get to my treatment room I had to climb up an outside wooden staircase surrounded by flowering plants and towering coconut palms. It was also the first time I had a spa treatment centered around the phases of the moon.
Imagine stepping back in time to indulge in the beauty secrets of one of the most intriguing cultures of Malaysia’s history. I did just that at Spa Village Malacca, the world’s only spa to base its therapies on the healing heritage of the Peranakan, a unique combination of Chinese and Malay influences.
For me it was a rocky mountain high in more ways than one. I’d climbed from sea level to a lofty 5,000-plus-foot altitude in the short amount of time it takes to fly from Los Angeles to Denver, and even hiking up the steps to the Devil’s Thumb Ranch lobby was an aerobic experience.
“Quack, quack, waddle, waddle.” The words to the children’s rhyme about ducks and rainy days played through my mind as we followed the leader along a winding route to the inner sanctum at Spa Bellagio. Dressed in a robe and spa slippers, I was one of about a dozen patrons scheduled for a 1 p.m. treatment.
The furthest thing from my mind when I came to the South India province of Kerala to photograph a local festival was a traditional Indian Ayurvedic spa. Yet somehow the solitude and quiet of a holistic healing center in the country seemed the perfect respite from the frenetic action of a town in festival mode.
Before I even get to the spa, I must explain that this particular experience was the cornerstone of a girls’ getaway weekend done right. My husband and I don’t have children of our own, but we’re blessed with a niece and nephew my sister and her husband have generously shared with us. Or maybe they just realized the value of having a set of quasi-parents in the wings to watch, drive and otherwise entertain their kids. Either way, we made out. We get all the fun of parenting without any of the responsibilities. We’re cheaters, for sure. And I love it.
The scenery of the aptly named Red Mountain Spa in scenic St. George, Utah, really grabs you. The stunning red-rock canyons and mountains of the Mojave Desert provide breathtaking views through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the spa’s relaxation room, as well as plenty of outdoor challenges for the athletically inclined. John Ibach, Red Mountain’s outdoor manager, says he loves to watch the reaction of new arrivals who often stand with their jaws open as they take in the view of red mountains reaching into blue sky.
Good spas trigger the senses and then gently lull them to a place of bliss. Visual, auditory and olfactory cues exist to transport you to someplace beyond the normal realm (often to a vaguely pan-Asian atmosphere regardless of your actual geographic location). But I’m a native New Yorker, so the first cue to the spa at the Radisson Edwardian New Providence Wharf — its name, East River Spa — made me think of Brooklyn. Or Roosevelt Island, maybe.
How much more “Southern California” can you get than a relaxed, elegant spa fronted by a king-size pool filled with sparkling turquoise water rimmed by swaying palm trees, the Pacific Ocean just feet away? The weather was perfect, sunny with balmy breezes, and I was off for an indulgent morning.
As the birthplace of Ayurveda, an ancient Indian spa tradition, India’s Kerala region is known to spa-goers across the globe as a haven for tranquility and relaxation. So when I arrived at the Divya Ayurveda Wellness Spa at the Leela Kempinski Kovalam Beach, Kerala, I knew I was in for a treat.
At the Royal Spa in the Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal in Budapest, I did something I don’t normally do: I booked two treatments back to back. The first was a foot massage. The second was the spa’s signature Deep Blue massage.
“Abandon stress, all ye who enter here” might as well be carved over the door of The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Miami. I’ve been to health spas that are all bright tile, hearty Swedish masseuses, loofahs and firehoses, and this was most definitely not one of those; here, it’s more like joining a cult of serenity.
There is always a certain leap of faith required in turning over one’s body to a perfect stranger for a spa treatment. Add a fistful of scalding hot stones in the hands of the masseuse, and that leap becomes a plunge. In the case of the hot stone massage at the Tethra Spa at the five-star Merrion Hotel in Dublin, the leap was worth it.
I had just taken off my sandals, stepping onto the white-sand beach for a late-morning walk to a secluded spot I heard about from a front desk clerk, when I glanced down and saw the time on my phone. It had just turned 11 a.m., which meant it was only 7 am back home, the perfect time to call and say good morning to by husband before he left for work. Not quite ready to head back to my room, I decided I’d test the WiFi signal and made the call as I continued walking toward the shoreline.
San Antonio celebrated 300 years of progress in May 2018. With a clear vision following that anniversary year, the Texan city set its sights firmly on 300 more. While commemorating this milestone, the city underwent a major overhaul to prepare for the next phase in its history.
Are you looking for a truly unique travel experience and considering a new vehicle? The Volvo Overseas Delivery Program is the perfect solution to create your own refined adventure of a lifetime. You can custom order your new Volvo, tailored to fit your needs and desires. They will fly you to Sweden to pick up your Volvo so you can drive and explore Scandinavia and Europe on your terms for up to two weeks.
When you think of a relaxing spa day, mountains, rivers and view of gorgeous landscapes pop in your head; a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of any city’s booming music and honking taxis. SoJo Spa Club and Hotel gives you the relaxing feeling of being away while still staying close to the busy center of Manhattan.
Remote workers looking for an upgrade from their home offices might want to consider Karisma Hotels & Resorts’ Workcation offer. Those booking an extended stay of 10-plus nights are eligible for discounts of up to 15 percent off best available rates; those booking 20-plus nights enjoy up to 25 percent off. The offer is available at Karisma Hotels & Resorts’ diverse portfolio of properties.
Though air travel slowed as airports temporarily closed and borders shuttered to stifle the spread of coronavirus, the airline industry — led by oneworld alliance member airlines — enacted enhanced protective measures to reduce risk and protect passengers.
Dance the night away with Grand Hotel’s Ballroom Dance offer, available May 16–18. Dancers of all skill levels will experience a diverse range of ballroom dance styles, alongside daily breakfast and dinner, a welcome reception and complimentary golf green fees.