We don’t have to tell you: Modern life can stress you out. And we all know what stress can do to our bodies. That’s why so many of us are flocking to spas to chill out. There are more than 32 million regular spa-goers in the United States alone. In 2006, the estimated 14,615 spas generated more than $9 billion in revenues. That’s big business.
And like all good businesses, the spa industry is constantly reinventing itself. Spas are now being marketed as a healthy necessity rather than an indulgence. Thanks to a sagging economy, many spas are also cutting rates and offering hard-to-resist package deals. If you’re overdue for some revitalization, there’s never been a better time to re-create a healthier, better you.
But all spas aren’t created equal. Here are the basic five categories:
Day spas are independent or associated with health clubs, hotels or even department stores. They offer personalized beauty, wellness and relaxation treatments. Their specialty is offering a quick fix for busy people. Think of them as the Jiffy Lubes of the health world.
A resort spa is inside a resort or hotel. These spas are ideal for family getaways, with a diversity of offerings, including golf, tennis and children’s activities.
Destination spas offer holistic immersion into the world of wellness. They focus on lifestyle improvement, health modalities, self-renewal and rejuvenation programs, and pampering treatments. Packages are typically structured for guests staying three or more days.
Medical spas or medi spas combine medical practice and spa therapeutics. They offer minimally invasive cosmetic procedures, such as laser and injectable treatments, as well as a spectrum of other beauty and wellness services.
Cruise ship spas: Many offer all the pampering perks, lifestyle improvement classes and self-renewal programs you can find at the most comprehensive land-based spas. All that, and the big blue, too.
The options are endless, so do a little self-analysis first. Are you looking for a detox program to eliminate unhealthy habits—or a creative retreat to awaken your muse? Do want to mix some rugged hiking with your self-indulgence? How about gourmet cuisine and wines or, for weight watchers, a culinary program that counts the calories for you? Is the whole family tagging along—or is this a romantic retreat? Whatever your needs, we’ve come up with some first-rate recommendations, both near and far. We guarantee they’ll put the “ah” in your spa experience.
Sanctuary Spa at Camelback Mountain (destination/resort spa)
What and where: Gaze out your casita window at the otherworldly grandeur of Camelback Mountain, rising up from the mist of Paradise Valley. On the outskirts of Scottsdale, Ariz., this boutique resort and spa features Asian-themed décor, cuisine and treatments in a Zen-drenched ambience. Its 98 casitas offer panoramic mountain views, wood-burning fireplaces and private outdoor soaking tubs. 5700 E. McDonald Drive, Paradise Valley, AZ; (800) 245-2051; www.sanctuaryoncamelback.com.
Special package: The Satori spa package is a four-night custom-designed retreat. Options include guided hikes up Camelback Mountain, private Pilates sessions, labyrinth walks, body sculpting, spa treatments and personal training sessions. Prices start at $2,675 for a single person; $4,481 for two people in shared accommodations.
Don’t miss: Watsu massage treatments take place in a private, heated Watsu pool, allowing the therapist to stretch and move muscles in ways impossible on dry land. Above and beyond: The spa offers consultation in astrology, labyrinth walking meditation, tarot and numerology.
Crystal Cruises’ Mind, Body & Spirit Cruise (cruise spa)
What and where: Your mind, body and spirit have a choice of two December cruises on one of the world’s most luxurious lines. Expect spectacular food, service and accommodations and top-notch health and relaxation experts. The Crystal Symphony sails from Los Angeles to Valparaíso, Chile, Dec. 7-21, 2008; and the Crystal Serenity sails from Costa Rica to Miami, Dec.12-22, 2008. Both voyages are led by Tai Chi and yoga masters, fitness experts and other health gurus. The Crystal Symphony’s lecturers include Cathy L. Greenberg, Ph. D., the bestselling author of What Happy Women Know, and John McMichan, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic. The Crystal Serenity’s lineup includes Jim Karas, author of The Business Plan for the Body; and noted yoga instructor Sandy Shaner. The Crystal Symphony cruise begins at $3,450; Crystal Serenity's fares start at $3,550, based on per person, double occupancy accommodations.
Don’t miss: Indulge in the extravagant spa ceremony of renewal, featuring a lime and ginger salt glow followed by a therapeutic deep muscle massage.
Above and beyond: “Tour de Spin,” a complimentary indoor cycling program that virtually re-creates three portions of the Tour de France. Inspired by top cyclist Lance Armstrong and led by onboard instructors, the program employs Le Monde Life Fitness Bikes. Crystal Cruises; (888) 722-0021, www.crystalcruises.com.
The Spa at the Breakers Palm Beach (resort/day spa)
Founded in 1896, this legendary, historically designated resort is the height of old school elegance, regally poised on 140 oceanfront acres in the golden heart of Palm Beach. The vast facility boasts more than 2,300 staff, 550 lavish guest rooms and 58 even more lavish suites. Its 20,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor spa offers 17 treatment rooms and a full menu of indulgences.
Special package: The Breakers has no themed packages; guests are invited to custom-design their treatments. Rates for rooms and suites range from $279 a night to $550 depending on room and season. Spa treatments range from $50 to $435.
Don’t miss: The marine algae body wrap combines essential oils of rosemary, cypress and juniper with the nourishing properties of seaweed to relieve water retention and restore balance. The treatment includes a mild exfoliation and a Vichy shower.
Above and beyond: Golf Pilates is a one-on-one fitness session with a golf Pilates specialist. He or she evaluates your posture and movement, and then guides you through individually tailored exercises that restore optimal muscle balance, movement range and tone.
The Breakers Palm Beach, One South County Road, Palm Beach; (561) 659-8465; www.thebreakers.com.
Cal-a-Vie Health Spa (destination spa)
People flock to Cal-a-Vie, perched on 200 bucolic acres near San Diego, for a serious spa experience. The staff-to-guest ratio is 5:1; each guest receives a personalized treatment regime that can include boxing, hiking, yoga and meditation. Indulgences include massages, reflexology, Thalassotherapy, hydrotherapy and aromatherapy. You can lose weight here, too; the gourmet cuisine is designed on preferred calorie intake. The 25 Provençal-style villas are steeped in luxury with soaking tubs, handcrafted furniture, antiques and balconies overlooking the rolling hills.
Special package: During women’s wellness week, Oct.19-26, 2008, guests learn about stress relief, hormonal changes, and how to renew inner and outer strength. Prices range from $6,895 to $7,395 for the week. A four-night plan, from $3,595 to $4,695, is also available.
Don’t miss: The micro-dermabrasion and oxygen facial combines skin resurfacing with an oxygen facial, leaving your face hydrated, plumper and younger looking. (Madonna swears by it.) Cal-a-Vie; 29402 Spa Havens Way, Vista, CA; (866) 772-4283; www.cal-a-vie.com.
Safety Harbor Resort and Spa
What and where: Spanish explorers plunged into this site in the 16th century—a 2,000-year-old natural mineral spring with a great view of Tampa Bay. The Fountain of Youth? Could be; bathers have praised the waters’ healing and rejuvenating powers for centuries. In 1944, a naturopathic physician turned the site into one of America’s first destination spas. Today, Safety Harbor’s newly renovated 50,000-square-foot spa features 14 treatment rooms, two outdoor pools and one indoor pool, sauna, steam rooms, whirlpools and more than 30 signature services.
Special package: Who says family vacations have to stress you out? The family gathering package brings peace to body and soul. It includes plush accommodations, $100 gift card per person (usable anywhere on the property), two meals a day, and a sailing cruise. Rates per person per night range from about $200 to $270 depending on season and number of people in room.
Don’t miss: The Ultimate caviar facial uses the Swedish natural skincare line, Kerstin Florian—an intoxicating concoction of Sevruga caviar, Chinese herbs and healing antioxidants—to infuse the skin, smooth lines and improve texture.
Above and beyond: Its new Kaylates program combines kayaking and Pilates!
Safety Harbor Resort and Spa, 105 North Bayshore Drive, Safety Harbor, FL; (727) 726-1161; www.SafetyHarborResort.com.
OTHER SPAS OF NOTE
Sarasota’s Ritz-Carlton Members Spa Club
You needn’t be a tourist to enjoy the dozens of wellness and beauty treatments at Sarasota’s Ritz-Carlton’s Members Spa Club. The menu is a creative mix of traditional services such as hydrotherapy and mud masques, and more innovative treatments, such as chakra balancing massages and gemstone bodywraps. Try the one-night Signature Spa package, a ticket to bliss that includes a night for two in an executive suite or waterview guest room, two signature massages, breakfast and limitless use of spa and wellness facilities. From $639. 1111 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Sarasota; (941) 309-2000; www.ritzcarlton.com.
Mandala Med-Spa & Yoga Sanctuary
A mandala is a circular form symbolizing the fundamental unity of the universe. Mandala Med-Spa & Yoga Sanctuary founder Dr. Marguerite Barnett, a Harvard/MIT-trained double-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon, had that in mind when she opened this Asian-themed holistic and medical day spa that offers a world of healing and aesthetic services, including Thai massage, hypnotherapy, yoga and meditation workshops, Indonesian-inspired body treatments and state-of-the-art cosmetic procedures. While considered mainly a day spa, accommodations are available at the nearby Hibiscus Suites Inn for guests desiring a longer stay. Full-day spa treatments range from $140 to $250. 1715 Stickney Point Road, Sarasota; (941) 927-2278; www.mandalamedspa.com.
Golden Door Spa at Naples Grande Beach Resort
Golden Door spas are celebrated for their elegant mix of luxury, Asian-themed healing modalities and decor and top-notch service. One recently opened at the Naples Grande Beach Resort and features a 16,000-square-foot indoor-outdoor “contemporary spa village,” inspired by the original Golden Door in Escondido, Calif., (which itself is based on the design of traditional Honjin inns in Japan). Signature treatments feature regional indigenous elements, such as the Tsah-tee Oho-nee restorative facial—based on Seminole healing techniques—which utilizes Rhodochrosite stone, tropical hibiscus and poppy flower seeds. The Spa Villa Retreat, a four-hour customized spa package, is $695. 475 Seagate Drive, Naples, FL; (239) 594-6321; www.naplesgranderesort.com/golden_door_spa/.
Canyon Ranch, Miami Beach
Since its founding in 1979, Canyon Ranch has set the gold standard in the spa industry for its wellness, nutrition, fitness and spiritual awareness programs. Its two signature properties—in Tucson, Ariz., and Lenox, Mass.—are celebrated worldwide. Now there’s a Canyon Ranch closer to home: the Canyon Ranch Miami Beach at the historic Carillon Hotel. The 70,000-square-foot spa boasts a full menu of healing therapies, wellness services, body treatments and plenty of one-on-one time with health and fitness professionals. 6801 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, FL; (800) 742-9000; www.canyonranch.com.
The Chopra Center for Wellbeing
Founded by—you guessed it—spiritual and wellness guru Deepak Chopra, this haven of enlightenment for mind, body and soul is located in the opulent La Costa Resort & Spa, in Carlsbad, Calif. Resort guests can take part in The Chopra Center’s individual and group wellness programs, including medical consultations, Ayurvedic healing treatments, health workshops, meditation instruction and other mind/body techniques. 2013 Costa del Mar Road, Carlsbad, Calif.; (760) 494-1600;www.chopra.com.
Commanding 135 acres at the foot of Arizona’s Santa Catalina Mountains, this acclaimed spa offers 102 adobe-style casitas and an inspired menu of body treatments and “experiences,” including culinary, nutrition and art workshops, wilderness exploration and other outdoor adventures, and relationship and sexuality programs. The spa cuisine is celebrated—but no worries; you’ll be burning lots of calories with all that hiking and rock climbing. 5000 E. Via Estancia Miraval, Catalina, AZ; (800-232-3969); www.miravalresort.com.
Ten Thousand Waves
Nestled in the mountains above Santa Fe, N.M., this Zen-inspired spa offers traditional Japanese-style accommodations, Eastern-themed treatments and communal hot tub experiences. The serene sanctuary boasts 13 guest rooms, each with wood-burning stoves, shoji screens, steam showers and kimonos. The only thing it lacks is a restaurant on the grounds. Park Road, Santa Fe, N.M.; (505) 992.5025; www.tenthousandwaves.com.