FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

The Spa at The Santa Maria Hotel

by Kimberly Inlander

Aug 1, 2018
August 2018

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.

Opened in February 2018, The Santa Maria, a Luxury Collection Hotel & Golf Resort, epitomizes an urban resort. In addition to the 18-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, the hotel boasts a thoughtful design complemented by handmade items highlighting Panamanian culture, Mestizo and Ocean Prime dining outlets, an outdoor pool with city views, event space and, of course, the spa.

As the culture of Panama is evident throughout the resort, so, too, it is incorporated into the spirit of the spa, where treatments blend indigenous Panamanian healing traditions and local ingredients. The spa offers a personalized experience for each guest. But before bliss could be achieved at the spa, a different sort of euphoria awaited in the form of a chocolate and a coffee tasting.

It’s not an exaggeration to say Panama City’s Tropical Chocolate Café’s display cases held some of the most beautiful pieces of chocolate I’d ever seen. The café, located in a renovated mansion in the city’s Casco Viejo, is a tree-to-bar producer. The company owns a cacao plantation in Almirante, Bocas del Toro, and takes the product directly from the tree to the exquisite chocolates handmade and sold in the store.

I sat down to sample an assortment of the decadent, handpainted treats, filled with fresh ingredients and fruits. My favorite was the pineapple. As I bit into the chocolate shell, I was greeted with a creamy, clean, fresh pineapple interior. After the tasting, I learned a bit more about the process as I watched the shop’s two young chocolatiers create their unique confections. I couldn’t leave without a beautifully packaged box of the pineapple-flavored chocolate — the perfect gift for my mother’s upcoming birthday.

Back at the resort, it was time to taste some coffee. The on-site coffee shop and deli, manned by coffee experts, serves the award-winning Panamanian Geisha coffee harvested in the highlands of Boquete. It was one of the three types I sampled; the varieties also included a Cuban coffee. Once again, I couldn’t leave without purchasing a Panamanian blend to take home.

After tasting and indulging, it was time for the spa, where chocolate and coffee were highlighted in quite different ways. The cacao plant boasts vitamin C, magnesium, antioxidants, omega 6 fatty acids and a raw enzyme that helps to repair cells. It increases blood flow and improves the complexion. Coffee, as a rich source of antioxidants, is also good for your skin; it enhances circulation and makes skin smooth and bright. Besides tantalizing the taste buds, both also offer incredible benefits for your skin.

Coffee scrub © THE SPA AT THE SANTA MARIA

Coffee scrub © THE SPA AT THE SANTA MARIA

With all of that said, the Cacao & Coffee Santa Maria spa option is a real treat. It began with an organic coconut oil massage; coconut oil is good for moisturizing the skin and preventing dryness. Next was a full-body coffee exfoliation. An obsidian stone is used to remove the scrub before the body is slathered in an organic cocoa mask and wrapped. As the antioxidants and nourishing attributes of the mask penetrated my skin, the therapist performed a relaxing head, neck and shoulder massage.

If there is one thing I vividly remember from my treatment, it was the wonderful aroma that filled the room during each step. It wasn’t the pumped air smell of the spa and essential oils but rather the fresh smells of real ingredients. It brought back the memories of entering Tropical Chocolate Café and taking a deep breath, and swirling the smell of the coffee around my nose before each sip at the coffee tasting.

The coconut oil almost gave the room a tropical vibe before the coffee grounds provided an energizing scent to the space. And finally, the chocolate was a truly sweet finish, warming at the same time.

For spa-goers looking for something a bit more indigenous to the country, the spa’s signature Espiritu Santo massage incorporates the attributes of Panama’s emblematic flower. The natural fragrance of the flower comes through in the oil used during the light-stroke massage.

I left my trip with not only a fuller, deeper appreciation for the Panamanian culture but with one for the myriad benefits of chocolate and coffee. As if this girl needed even more excuses to indulge in either!

The Santa Maria, a Luxury Collection Hotel & Golf Resort, Panama

Santa Maria Boulevard
Panama City, Panama
tel 507 304 5555
santamariahotelpanama.com

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