11 Great Spa Vacations

The best spas for a relaxing vacation in the U.S. and the Caribbean.

The ancient Indian ritual shirodhara is offered at Emerson
Photograph: Photo courtesy of Emerson Resort & Spa

The Best Spa Vacations
If your idea of a spa is signing up for a week of vigorous hikes and all the raw veggies you can eat, take a look at the 11 new and notable ones we feature here. You can spend a few ultra-luxurious weekdays at a New England inn or head to the coast of Mexico, sail the waters of the Caribbean or go dogsledding in Montana, be massaged with avocado in California or have a lemongrass facial in Pennsylvania. The food may be healthy, but how about chili-rubbed duck or grits souffle? Times have changed, and so have spas.
Northeastern Spas
Emerson Resort & Spa
Mount Tremper, New York
Best for: Couples.
The news: A complete overhaul of the already well-reviewed Emerson Inn.
The scene: Twenty wooded acres overlooking Esopus Creek, in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains.
The spa: Inspired by the Silk Road (slate, dark woods, bamboo), it has 10 treatment rooms and a fitness center with yoga, Pilates, and tai chi classes.
Treatments: A catalog of ayurvedic offerings, from abhyanga (a four-handed massage) and shirodhara (a stream of oil poured onto your third eye — more pleasant than it sounds) to dosha balancing and facials.
Lodging: For ultimate luxury, book a room at the Asian-inspired inn, decorated in vibrant jewel tones. Twenty-six suites include private decks and fireplaces; five are duplex lofts.
Cuisine: Chef Ross Fraser prepares American dishes (New York strip steak), Asian fusion (Thai-style pork), and spa cuisine (seared house-smoked, dry-rubbed ahi tuna) at the Phoenix restaurant.
Activities: In winter, you can ski Belleayre Mountain; in summer, tube Esopus Creek. Hippie time-warp Woodstock is nearby, as is the elegant, artsy town of Rhinebeck. Also go ballooning, horseback riding, skydiving, and kayaking.
Try: An 80-minute rejuvenating couples’ massage in a private VIP room or an outdoor cabana ($280).
Tab: Rooms at the inn start at $450; at the lodge, $199. Rates include breakfast buffet and access to spa facilities; 877-688-2828.

Northeastern Spas, continued
Mayflower Inn and Spa
Washington, Connecticut
Best for: Singles and couples.
The news: Connecticut’s swankest inn has invented a fresh concept: the sometimes spa. The inn operates normally on weekends (spa services available a la carte); weekdays, it’s a destination spa, with a package price for fitness programs, treatments, and meals.
The scene: Fifty-eight acres, once the site of a New England prep school.
The spa: Sunday through Friday, spagoers can exercise indoors (Pilates, yoga, Nia, cardio, kickboxing, and more) or outdoors (hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, kayaking, canoeing, mountain biking, tennis, and golf).
Treatments: Massages, facials, soaks, scrubs, and wraps. Regulars swear by "sound therapy" (it may sound wacky, but it’s really fun) and the Deep Blue Lavender Embrace.
Lodging: Thirty rooms in four buildings, all plush and gorgeous, with canopied feather beds and deep tubs.
Cuisine: Check out the menu of American fare (marinated steak) or the "conscious cuisine" (wild mushrooms with asparagus).
Activities: Explore Litchfield County’s classic New England countryside.
Try: Make reservations with three other couples and have the Speedwell or Standish building all to yourselves.
Tab: Rooms and suites from $450 to $1,400; destination spa rates, including classes, treatments and spa meals, start at $4,800 for three nights; 860-868-9466.

Northeastern Spas, continued
The Lodge at Woodloch
Hawley, Pennsylvania
Best for: A girlfriends’ getaway.
The news: Designers Ginny and John Lopis spent 16 years creating luxe spas around the country before finally launching their own.
The scene: Woodsy and serene, it sits on 75 acres in the Poconos.
The spa: The 40,000-square-foot space has 27 treatment rooms, a hydromassage, and a whirlpool.
Treatments: An array of facials (white tea, lemongrass, and rosemary) begin a long list.
Lodging: Fifty-eight rooms and suites overlooking a lake or rock-garden waterfall.
Cuisine: The menu at Tree emphasizes organic produce.
Activities: Rowing, kayaking, and fishing offered on-site; golfing available through The Country Club at Woodloch Springs; hiking and river rafting nearby.
Try: The cooking demonstration.
Tab: Rooms begin at $350 a person per night, double occupancy, including three meals; 866-953-8500.

Southern Spas
Umstead Hotel and Spa
Cary, North Carolina
Best for: A girlfriends’ getaway.
The news: A recently opened luxury hotel in central North Carolina’s high-tech Research Triangle Park.
The scene: The modern hotel, perched at the edge of a lake, is on 12-acre grounds near the William B. Umstead State Park.
The spa: An outdoor relaxation garden is a pleasant apres-treatment outpost in this 14,000-square-foot facility.
Treatments: All the standards. With the popular Umstead Customized Massage ($130), you’ll get a medley of choices — Swedish, reflexology, hot stone, and lymphatic — for 75 minutes.
Lodging: Twenty-seven suites and 150 large rooms with deep soaking tubs.
Cuisine: Herons offers Southern cooking (stone-ground grits souffle) and haute cuisine (Poulet Rouge Fermier).
Activities: Bike, hike, or boat to Umstead State Park.
Try: The "spa within a spa" — a cluster of treatment rooms that can accommodate up to eight people. Chat with friends while luxuriating in Do It Wright (yes, named for the Kitty Hawk brothers), a five-hour extravaganza that includes a sugar scrub, massage, and thermal-water facial ($400).
Tab: Rooms start at $299; 866-877-4141.

Southern Spas, continued
The Spa at Sea Island
Sea Island, Georgia
Best for: Couples.
The news: This family-owned resort got a $500 million upgrade.
The scene: A 1,000-acre island with live oaks draped in Spanish moss.
The spa: At 65,000 square feet, it has a leafy garden atrium and a water atrium with a massaging waterfall. Plus, 23 treatment rooms and five exercise studios.
Treatments: Wraps, facials, and massages.
Lodging: The Cloister has 156 rooms and suites; the Lodge has 40 rooms. Though the style is English manor house, expect lots of sunlight.
Cuisine: Seven restaurants — from the Georgian Room, with its Kobe beef, to the River Bar, a hot spot for burgers.
Activities: Play on three championship golf courses and 16 tennis courts. Kayak in nearby salt marshes.
Try: A yoga session on the beach ($150 per hour).
Tab: Rooms start at $450 a night; 800-732-4752.

Western Spas
Wigwam Golf Resort & Spa
Lichfield Park, Arizona
Best for: Singles.
The news: Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa opens in an Arizona luxury resort.
The scene: An oasis with 75 acres of palm trees, fountains, flower gardens, and citrus groves.
The spa: It’s a 26,000-square-foot adobe building that melds slate with palm wood, natural stone with stainless steel. There are three outdoor treatment areas and a separate fitness facility that offers classes in yoga, Pilates, and cardio.
Treatments: Standard-issue massages, but a great variety of facials and other beauty offerings. Signature treatment: Wigwam Warm Water Ritual ($260), which includes clay and cornmeal exfoliation, a juniper-and-sage bath, a desert sage massage, and a footbath. Half- and full-day spa packages are available.
Lodging: There are 331 rooms and suites in adobe casitas. Earth tones and leather create a mood that is Southwestern and sleek.
Cuisine: The Arizona Kitchen specializes in Southwestern food (chili-rubbed-duck).
Activities: Three 18-hole golf courses and nine tennis courts, plus hiking and bike trails. The Grand Canyon is only a day trip away.
Try: Love the One You’re With, a private, two-hour session in massage technique ($260).
Tab: Rooms start at $199; 800-327-0396.

Western Spas, continued
The Resort at Paws Up
Greenough, Montana
Best for: A girlfriends’ getaway.
The news: The sprawling two-year-old cowboy-chic resort recently added six treatment tents.
The scene: This 37,000-acre spread (30 minutes from Missoula) has 120 miles of trails near the Blackfoot River.
The spa: Eleven tents connected by a boardwalk provide an open-air spa experience from May to October. There is a small fitness facility with yoga classes on Wednesday and Friday mornings.
Treatments: A typical menu of massages, body wraps, scrubs, polishes, and hand and foot treatments.
Lodging: Up to 80 guests choose from cabins, houses, and luxury camping tents, all decorated in Western style, with outdoor hot tubs and fireplaces. Tent City is camping redefined, with housekeepers, electricity, and bathrooms.
Cuisine: The restaurant Pomp serves "Western eclectic" food like Montana-raised game birds, elk, buffalo, and rattlesnake.
Activities: Name an outdoor activity, Paws Up has it, from white-water rafting to dogsledding, either on-site or at the nearby 1.5-million-acre Bob Marshall Wilderness Reserve.
Try: A four-hour horseback ride to the Encampment at Bull Creek, a luxury camp with showers and feather beds ($600 a person per night, including meals and wilderness guides).
Tab: Lodging from $585 a night, including three meals a day for two; 800-473-0601.

California Spas
The Spa at Rancho Valencia
Santa Fe, California
Best for: Couples.
The news: A new indoor-outdoor spa ups the ante at this classic hideaway.
The scene: Forty acres of gardens and tiled adobe buildings.
The spa: Ten treatment rooms and patios; couples’ rooms with fireplaces and tubs for two; a fitness center for classes in yoga, Pilates, and Spinning.
Treatments: More than 60; many use local ingredients, such as avocado.
Lodging: Forty-nine suites with a luxe-rustic atmosphere.
Cuisine: California-French (golden crab cakes with oyster mushrooms).
Activities: A highly rated tennis program and three nearby golf courses.
Try: Hiking at Torrey Pines Beach. A 500-foot climb rewards hikers with views of remote beaches.
Tab: Rooms start at $470 a night; 800-548-3664.

California Spas, continued
California Health & Longevity Institute
Westlake Village, California
Best for: Singles.
The news: Luxury meets preventive medicine as Four Seasons teams up with the Health & Longevity Institute.
The scene: In the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains.
The spa: A 40,000-square-foot facility with 28 treatment rooms.
Treatments: Shiatsu, herbal baths, reiki, mud treatments and aromatherapy wraps. Physicians offer holistic therapies that include acupuncture.
Lodging: The feel is classic English in 270 rooms and suites.
Cuisine: Hampton’s serves California cuisine (Dungeness lump crab); Onyx offers Asian dishes (roasted Alaskan black cod with saikyo miso).
Activities: All of greater Los Angeles.
Try: A session in the Bod Pod ($65), which measures body fat.
Tab: Rooms start at $255; Institute offerings range from $250 to $4,200; 888-575-1114

Caribbean Spas
Curtain Bluff
Antigua, West Indies
Best for: Couples.
The news: One of the Caribbean’s oldest and most highly regarded all-inclusive luxury resorts now has an oceanfront spa.
The scene: Set in 20 acres of tropical gardens on the southern tip of Antigua, bracketed by a tranquil bay and a vibrant Caribbean surf beach.
The spa: Five treatment rooms, a 10-person hot tub, and a relaxation room with a water view. A fitness center offers yoga and Pilates classes.
Treatments: A standard roster of facials, body treatments, and massages — with a few surprises thrown in (caviar and Champagne massage, anyone?).
Lodging: Seventy-two rooms and suites with mahogany beds, wicker furniture, and ceiling fans. All have ocean views and balconies. Most luxurious are the two one-bedroom suites.
Cuisine: Chef Christophe Blatz uses Caribbean produce and flavors in his French cooking (grilled ginger-marinated fillet of wahoo).
Activities: Tennis, squash, sailing, windsurfing, snorkeling, kayaking, and deep-sea fishing top the long list.
Try: Watching the sunset from the rooftop whirlpool.
Tab: Rooms start at $595 a night for two guests, including three meals and all activities; 888-289-9898.

Caribbean Spas, continued
Fairmont Mayakoba
Riviera Maya, Mexico
Best for: A girlfriends’ getaway.
The news: It’s the big new resort on the Yucatan peninsula’s most exclusive strip of beach.
The scene: Tall thatched roofs on a beachfront studded with palm trees and laced with lagoons, 42 miles south of Cancun.
The spa: The Willow Stream Spa has 20 treatment rooms, one mineral pool, and a sundeck with a waterfall. A fitness studio offers Pilates and yoga classes.
Treatments: The Golf Performance Treatment and the Jet Lag Recovery use local ingredients.
Lodging: Rooms in a four-story hotel and two-story casitas, all with terraces or balconies.
Cuisine: Las Brisas for seafood on the beach, El Puerto for Caribbean lobster and Mexican fare, La Laguna (light, healthy eats) and Cafe Maya (sandwiches, ice cream).
Activities: An 18-hole golf course, plus the Mayan ruins at Tulum, snorkeling in the cenotes (underground caves), and horseback riding on the beach.
Try: The Under the Mayan Moon Ceremony (be sure to book at the right time of the month).
Tab: Rooms start at $219; 984-206-3000.

Notable Newcomer Spas
The Northeast
The Skana Spa at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, New York; 800-771-7711.
The South
A 25,000-square-foot European-style spa at the historic Old Edwards Inn in Highlands, North Carolina; 866-526-8008.
The West
Two in Las Vegas: Qua Baths & Spa, 866-227-5938; and the spa at the Red Rock Resort, 866-767-7773
An Asian-accented spa at L.A.‘s Beverly Wilshire Hotel; 800-819-5053.
The Caribbean
The Asian-style Six Senses Spa at the Puntacana Resort & Club, in the Dominican Republic; 809-959-2262.
Originally published in MORE magazine, November 2007.

First Published Mon, 2009-04-06 18:03

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