Four winter spa getaways
December 24, 2007
I love winter. I do. I love the way the sun hits the highest snow-capped peaks at first light. I love snowshoeing the unplowed roads (sometimes our own) around the house with my dog. I love how fresh snowfall on the slopes makes my husband smile.I love winter. I do. But sometimes I just need to trade in all that wintry white for something a shade warmer. Most often, that means escaping to a spa, preferably with a nice resort hotel attached.Recently, Ive had the good fortune of traveling to four such places, some nearby, others not so. All made me love winter even more.
Should you need more motivation to make the 52-mile drive to Hana than the journey itself around 600 curves and over 54 one-lane bridges on the stunning Hana Highway its the peaceful Honua Spa, set within the wonderfully remote Hotel Hana-Maui.Honua means of the earth, and the spa is designed to reflect Hanas lush, colorful landscapes and deeply rooted connection with Old Hawaii. Entrance is via woven bamboo gates that were handmade locally, then through a covered tunnel, of sorts, with a black lava water wall.Glass doors lead into a small reception area, where guests are met by a spa concierge and whisked off to his-and-hers locker rooms, each with bamboo floors, mahogany lockers and showers with earth-tone travertine tiles inlaid with ililli stones. Back walls open onto enclosed gardens with outdoor cold plunge pools and private shower areas.Nine treatment rooms (5 massage suites, including two designed for couples, as well as two facial rooms and two wet rooms) are uncommonly spacious. All have little seating areas with wet bars, specially commissioned artwork by local artists and shoji doors with leaves and flower petals pressed between paper panels.From a spa menu filled with such tempting treatments as a Pacific Rim Volcanic Body Scrub and an Awa-Spirulina Body Wrap, I chose Hawaiian Lomilomi, a sacred healing art tradition that was handed down from generation to generation by the Hawaiian kupuna, or elders. Using a strong, rhythmic massage technique, and a touch of kukui nut oil, a therapist deeply kneaded my muscles with her forearms and elbows, attempting in the process to connect heart, body, mind and soul. Before long, I succumbed.As I was leaving the spa (feeling a bit of the earth myself), the lava rock whirlpool outside called to me. I bubbled blithely as the light disappeared over Hana Bay.
A pudgy, linen-wrapped poultice sits on my desk as I write this, and, as its strangely exotic fragrance drifts past my nose, Im reminded of the Hot Herbal Poultice massage I recently indulged in at The Ritz-Carlton Spa in Bachelor Gulch.At 21,000 square feet, the spa is a virtual sanctuary, and, given its close proximity to Aspen, perfect for a spur-of-the-moment retreat. Like the hotel itself, a formidable structure designed in the style of national park grand lodges, it reflects thelocal environment, incorporating stacked-stone walls, hand-carved alderwood detailing and trickling water features. Nineteen cozy treatment rooms are named after nearby ski runs (little pine cones are hung from doorknobs when the rooms are in use).With the assistance of a Spa Concierge, guests take advantage of comfortable changing rooms, complete with oversize lockers and shower areas, then head to relaxation lounges for a cup of verbena mint organic tea by the fire until therapists whisk them away for treatments.Which brings me back to the poultice. Its filled with dried lemon grass leaf, ginger, turmeric and bergamot peel, as well as cinnamon, camphor and other essential oils. After a probing, eucalyptus-citrus oil massage to search out trouble spots, Adam, my massage therapist, warmed the poultice in a steamer, then rolled the fragrant little bundle from my toes to my neck. Combined, the pressure and heat coaxed away soreness from my muscles and joints.The Spa offers many other luxurious options, including Fun-in-the-Mud Wraps, Vanilla Bourbon Milk Baths and Mountain Raindrop Therapy, and theres a full menu (exclusive to The Ritz-Carlton) of Prada beauty treatments and facials. For pre- or post-treatment indulgence, there are his and hers grottos (private, rock-walled wet areas with lavender steam rooms, dry saunas, cold plunge pools and whirlpools). You can take a swim in the steamy outdoor pool, in full view of skiers hopping onto the lift at Beaver Creek Ski Resort.
I have to come clean. While I love the desert, Ive never been a big Scottsdale fan. But a visit to the Spa at Camelback Inn a while ago charmed me so much that Ive put a return trip on my winter agenda.First off, the Camelback Inn, a JW Marriott Resort, is a throwback to Old Scottsdale. Dating back to 1936 (before the glitz and glam set in) and newly refurbished, its low-rise, Pueblo-style casitas are spread out over 125 acres overlooking Camelback Mountain. The term desert oasis fits it perfectly.At 32,000 square feet, the spa is its own entity, with 32 treatment rooms, a salon, a state-of-the-art fitness room, an Olympic-size outdoor pool, a spa shop and Sprouts, a delightful little restaurant that specializes in spa cuisine you actually want to eat (and you can get a prickly pear margarita, too).I picked out a pair of treatments to try. The first was a Double Happiness Manicure and Pedicure, a facial, of sorts, for hands and feet that lived up to its name. Cathy did the honors, which included scrubbing away rough skin with June Jacobs peppermint polish, followed by a revitalizing massage with peppermint lotion. My feet got an extra spritz of peppermint mist. All 10 digits were topped off with nail polish pearly-pink for my fingers and chocolate for my toes. My second indulgence was a combination of hot and cold stone massage work with castor oil (it detoxifies from the outside in as well; who knew?), aromatherapy and reflexology. The end result was promised to be an alignment of body, mind and spirit. For me, the fact that Charity, my aptly named therapist, was able to free my back of nagging little aches for the first time in forever was rewarding enough. Certainly the little citrine, rose quartz, lapis and amethyst stones that she had placed on my chakras helped
Moments after we arrived at the opulent Grand Del Mar, a newly opened, Mediterranean-style resort just north of San Diego that could have been transplanted from a Spanish hilltop, my husband snagged a surfboard and headed for the beach. Me? I high-tailed it to the spa, of course.Inspired by Addison Mizner, who designed resorts in Boca Raton and Palm Beach in the 20s, the Grand Del Mar is an architectural wonder, with classic arched doorways, sweeping rotundas, twisted marble columns and rustic, wood-beamed ceilings, set amid the lush backdrop of Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve.While the old-world feel continues within the lavish 21,000-square foot spa, its offset with crystal glass tiles and white Carrera marble. A collection of therapies emphasizes of-the-moment concepts of renewal and rebirth. Eleven treatment rooms, plush relaxation rooms, European-style wet rooms, and an indoor-outdoor Jacuzzi complete the experience, while a sparkling spa pool extends it outside.Intrigued by a facial therapy titled Immortal Stone, in which warmed and cooled stones are used to infuse omega oils and herbal extracts into the skin, in the end a signature Triad treatment called Decompression proved irresistible (no time, unfortunately, for both).For nearly an hour and a half, I was completely pampered by a delightful and competent therapist named Jenny. My Triad began with a pleasantly scruffy organic rosemary scrub. After showering off, I laid in a warm, free-floating water bed, of sorts, where I was slathered with goat-milk butter (it smelled delicious, I swear), cocooned in scented sheets and left to steep. A deep body massage worked out any remaining kinks.Afterwards, I was, as promised, decompressed, but not, as with some treatments, ready to head to bed. Lucky thing. My husband (back from the beach) and I had a dinner reservation at Addison, the Grands wonderful restaurant, where more pampering this time of the palate was waiting to be served.