Permission to Pause

Permission to Pause

Stress kills, people have to find ways to manage multitasking,” says Lynne McNees, president of the International Spa Association. “Spa visits give them permission to pause.”

According to McNees, groups are still flocking to spas, although sometimes a little more quietly than in the past, because spas provide ways to reduce stress, and they teach people how to manage stressors.

“It’s interesting that Prevue absolutely gets that,” she says. “It’s about wellness and caring for the whole body. We struggled with the perception of being a luxury, especially after AIG. But true spa goers know that, ‘I have to invest in me so I can take care of everything else.’ Particularly now, we know that preventative health is where we have to move. That’s the spa experience.”

At the 70-acre Canyon Ranch resort in Tucson, The Life Enhancement Center is at the forefront of preventative health. For example, the facility hosts programs for weight loss that are unparalleled in scope, savvy and best of all, success.

“It’s different than the getaway, the retreat, the escape,” says Jim Eastburn, director. “To me it’s like here you’re given the opportunity to not escape, but rather reconnect with yourself, reconnect with your priorities, where you are in your life. It’s not about counting calories. It’s about what I call the four directions: mind, body, spirit, emotions.”

Each guest is given a Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) test that measures the minimum amount of calories an individual needs for survival. The RMR for each person varies depending on age, nutritional history and fitness level, but it’s a proven method for weight loss success across all lifestyles.

Nutritionists use that RMR to teach guests how to feed their body, before introducing the weight loss program that incorporates cardiovascular, strength, flexibility and endurance training, including aerobics, Pilates and yoga. Additionally, health professionals give lectures such as “Think Before You Eat” that speak directly to the mind’s connection to weight loss.

“Understanding how I will make healthy choices is not presented in a way that says, ‘This is the Canyon Ranch Diet,’” says Eastburn. “We avoid that. It’s about a lifestyle approach.”


Fred DeVito is executive vp of mind/body training at Exhale Spa—a collection of spas located nationwide, including those at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica, The Gansevoort Turks & Caicos in Providenciales, Hotel Palomar Dallas and EPIC Hotel in Miami. The brand was named around the philosophy that breath is the bridge connecting mind and body, a transformational path to well-being.

“Breath helps you to be present in the moment, helps you to journey through discomfort, whether you’re in a difficult workout or in a yoga pose,” says DeVito. “Every experience we offer at Exhale is designed to create change and transformation.”

Central to Exhale’s focus on well-being is the fitness program DeVito helped create called Core Fusion, incorporating fundamentals of Pilates with strengthening and stretching of each muscle using weights, balls and the ballet barre.

“We create an environment,” says DeVito. “We create an energy that could be different than any other spa or gym. We’re not a gym, we’re not a spa, we’re a wellness center.”

That’s the future of the spa experience. Here are a few more destination spas that we like from Miami to The Maldives, dedicated to nurturing and harmonizing your mind and body.


The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa, Avon near Beaver Creek is the first resort in Colorado to achieve Silver LEED certification, and only the ninth to do so in the US. At the 23,000-sf Spa Anjali, dramatic glass windows bring the Rocky Mountains inside, complementing the eco-friendly paneling, flooring and furnishings.

“People going through this recession are still having massages,” says spa manager Suzy Bordeaux-Johlfs. “They want nurturing, and we do it in harmony with nature. There’s no reason why people have to use anything but natural.”

The 1½ year-old wellness center features 14 treatment rooms, extensive fitness equipment, a lap pool and Spin, Pilates and yoga studios. Anjali cuts laundry usage by offering $10 off spa treatments when people arrive wearing the robe provided in their room. Guests also receive 10% off a second spa product purchase when they return the empty bottles from the first.

“We had the intention from the beginning to build a green spa,” says Bordeaux-Johlfs. “We created a path, taking it all the way through, with such things as the uniforms being made out of all natural fibers. Everything that touches a guest is natural.”

Westin’s three spa journeys draw from therapeutic practices discovered in the world’s three great mountain ranges. A Rocky Mountain journey includes Native American stone, ponderosa pine, wildflower and red clover. The Himalaya journey features Ayurvedic principles from India, while the Alpine journey celebrates the healthy Swiss Alps lifestyle with glacial mud treatments.

The new 497-room Talking Stick Resort officially opens next month east of Scottsdale, with a 13,000-sf spa crowning the 14th floor overlooking the desert valley. The floor-to-ceiling windows open to the outdoors, bringing in a consuming fresh and airy lightness during your massage, bodywrap or facial, along with panoramic views of the craggy mountainscape.

The Spa at Talking Stick is all local, sourcing healthy natural ingredients for its spa products from the nearby Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community garden. After your treatment, wander out onto the open-air deck for a healthy lunch and spa smoothies, prepared with ingredients grown in the same garden.

Over in Santa Fe, spa director Susan Keene left Manhattan last year to rework the Nidah Spa menu for big city urbanites at Eldorado Hotel. Drawing from the desert patina outside, Keene introduced treatments like an extravagant 24-kt Gold Facial that reflects the meaning of the hotel’s name, along with the Venom Facial that uses a synthetic snake-venom instead of Botox.

“We try to honor the native customs, creeds and culture,” says Keene. “We draw a lot from sage, we use turquoise in treatments. We use desert scrub and we’ve tried to create a menu that gives a sense of purpose and intention, so when guests come they aren’t just receiving a massage, but an experience.”

Despite the luxurious perception of gold facials and gemstone body scrubs, Keene is adamant the treatments provide well-being.

“People need more than a spa treatment,” she says. “What they’re looking for is an emotional connection with their body. I want every person to walk out thinking that we touched their life and their being, more than just their body.”

Located midway between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa features a spa menu designed by its owners, the Santa Ana Pueblo community. They’ve created four full-day spa journeys using natural ingredients harvested from the region, such as Tamaya blue corn and Jemez mountain mud.

This one is out there. Part of the 5.5-hour Kashe K’atreti journey includes mixing the Jemez mud with New Mexico’s red chiles to create a spicy, detoxifying mud masque. While the mud does its thing, the therapist drums a quiet rhythm on flaxseed-filled muslin bags dipped in piñon-scented oil.


Every element of the spa at the new Viceroy Snowmass in Aspen reflects artsy, natural influences. The dramatic walnut archway, candle-topped granite pillars and sculptured bronze gate form the entrance to the spa, where the Native American, Nordic and Asian treatments are just as earthy and creative.

The Ute-Indian Bear Dance Ritual is a full-body exfoliation scented with mandarin, nutmeg and ginger followed by a shea butter wrap and hot stone massage. The Nordic Sami Zen Energy Ritual is an herbal aromatherapy bath and full-body massage with Arctic birch oil and rose porphyry stones. And the Kiyoshi Purifying Detox Ritual involves an exfoliating lemongrass body scrub and detoxifying masque infused with Sake yeast and wasabi extract.

At the sassy new Viceroy Miami, it’s the same soigné sophistication. The Spa features the 5,000-sf Water Lounge—a whimsical floating “library” with waterborne sofas, three varying temp plunge pools, a fireplace and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. There’s also direct access to the 2-acre pool deck that’s all the buzz in Miami, featuring the longest infinity pool in Florida.

In Washington DC, step into Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center’s Relâche Spa and you’re transported to a European hideaway. The elegant black and white décor features marble, glass, chrome and leather, evoking a retro cosmopolitan atmosphere inspired by French designer Coco Chanel.

Signature treatments include the Soothing Stone Massage with warm smooth basalt river stones. Check out the Meeting Relief massages and stretching sessions during breaks, as well as the junior Olympic-size swimming pool and personal yoga training.


The beaches of Koh Samui island in Thailand were the inspiration for The Beach, later adapted into the DiCaprio film. This July, the Banyan Tree Samui opens here with 78 expansive pool villas starting at 2,000 sf, each with an infinity pool facing Lamai Beach.

The centerpiece of the resort is the Banyan Tree Spa and a spa journey through The Rainforest Trail. This is not the place you come for a 50-minute quickie. The “hydrothermal circuit” includes 10 hot and cold water therapies including a bucket drench shower, a Finnish sauna and Swiss shower, a rasul and rainshower walk, and an aroma steam room.

At the Mandara Spa at Atlantis, calming water cascades gently from the second floor and streams beneath a glass bridge to the front desk. Towering glass bamboo, dark rich woods combined with cool marble and gold accents beckon you into this blissful Balinese sanctuary where the fresh cool air is infused with subtle soothing hints of exotic fragrances.

Schedule at least three hours here.

Thoughtful details include a delightful, pre-treatment Taking of the Waters ritual. You can relax and soak in a hydrotherapy jacuzzi tub, refresh and renew in a cold plunge pool and rest in either the steam or sauna rooms. A tranquil aromatherapy room offers a special indulgence for the ladies, while men may indulge at the Time for Men barber or watch the plasma TV in their lounge.

Up a magnificent grand spiral staircase, through an awe-inspiring relaxation sitting room and retail boutique, The Mandara Spa Atlantis melds ancient Far East massage, traditional European therapies, and natural elements from The Bahamas to almost every service. With more than 50 specialized services, highlight’s include Mandara’s La Therapie Renew Facial developed and perfected by leading dermatologists; the Elemis Deep Tissue Massage; and the signature service, Lonthermie Algae Detox—a one-of-a-kind service designed to beautify the skin.

Dahlton Bennington, CMP/CMM, director of business meeting services at SFN Group, recently organized an incentive program at Mandara Spa for 130 guests.

“It was a true respite in our meetings where everyone was able to unwind, refresh and restore,” she says. “The spa’s effects seemed to resonate through everyone.”


The 540-suite Valentin Imperial Maya Resort is the first resort in Mexico from the independent Valentin Hotels chain in Spain, developed for the next generation of all-inclusive groups. There’s no loud music, no bracelets and no reservations at the seven specialty restaurants. Little touches like the harp player at breakfast and sax player at lunch finish off the personal touch.

The entire resort feels like it’s surrounded by water with the adjacent lagoon, Caribbean Sea and giant lagoon pools encircling the property. Eco-conscious groups will like that it was constructed by saving and replanting all the indigenous plant life, which is fast becoming the norm around Playa del Carmen.

The 9-room spa offers a fun variety of treatments like a Chocolate Temptation—a 2-hr chocolate body wrap followed by Swedish massage—and the evening Massage in the Moonlight.

“Groups like that the resort is so tranquil and very relaxing, so people don’t really want to go anywhere,” says Erika Hernandez, groups manager. “That really helps keep the group together.”


The lush vegetation, crystal-clear lakes and azure waters of Panama’s Pacific coast provide an idyllic background for the new Corotú Spa at the 114-room Bristol Buenaventura. It’s located 80 minutes from Panama City and the Bristol Panama, with transfers and sharing privileges available between the two.

The facility includes five double treatment rooms, but we like the outdoor treatment options on the beach or at one of the 18 four-bedroom lagoon villas. Signature treatments include the Magnetism body polish with an iron-rich volcanic sand scrub and mineral clay application. The Coclé Facial utilizes coffee, native herbs, honey and local pixbae fruit, when in season.

Part of the Starwood Luxury Collection, the 128-room Tambo del Inka opened in April in the heart of the Sacred Valley of the Incas outside Cuzco, the gateway city to Machu Picchu. The hotel design is modern Peruvian, combining towering windows facing the river and mountains with natural construction materials resulting in an ultra-luxury treehouse ambiance. The look is carried into the 5,500-sf Spa at Valle Sagrado.

Spa sessions incorporate traditional Incan elements such as coca leaves, gold and fresh fruits, with hydrotherapy options such as dynamic and thermal pools, saunas and scented showers. Signature treatments include a mud wrap and massage using mud from Mount Misti, a volcano in southern Peru, a passionfruit wrap and massage, and rasul therapy with San Bartolo seaweed.

Beginning this month, the Hilton Papagayo Costa Rica Resort & Spa is converting to an all-inclusive pricing model without restrictions at the three restaurants and two bars. Also, the 202 rooms, bungalows and suites have all been recently updated with bright, modern furnishings and new Hilton Serenity beds.

The Hilton’s Spa Vida is housed in a series of thatched roof buildings overlooking one of the two pools and the scalloped beach. It features 13 treatment rooms including a fun couples cabana for al fresco massages in the tropical breeze.


About an hour south of Dublin, The Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt and its ESPA wellness retreat are ensconced in a spectacular country estate setting amid thick forests and rolling meadows.

The centerpiece of the 30,000-sf ESPA is a black 65-foot Swarovski crystal-lit pool. The crystals twinkle in the low-light ambiance like stars in a night sky. During our visit here, the water was so peaceful and serene, a swim in the dark waters was like a return to the womb.

Set on two levels, the facility features 20 treatment rooms, including two private spa suites. A thermal suite and a hammam are supported with a steam room, sauna, ice fountain, vitality pool and the tepidarium with its heated relaxation loungers. The Spa Café, open during lunchtime hours, offers healthy wraps, smoothies, soups and bento selections.

At the Chi Studio, guests can enjoy complimentary Pilates, bodyflow, yoga and boxercise. And a full array of Technogym cardio and resistance equipment includes recumbent bikes and a Technogym Wave rowing machine.

The 90-room Park Hyatt Istanbul opened last year inside a historic Art Deco building in the tres-fashionable Nisantasi district. The 25 spa suites are blinged out like a Turkish bath with a fully tiled wet room and sauna, an extra big tub and heated hammam seat, and a Dornbracht RainSky shower. Floor-to-ceiling windows let in gobs of light, and spa products are developed by Blaise Mautin parfumeurs, incorporating fresh roses from nearby Isparta.


A short train ride from New Delhi, The Leela Palace Kempinski Udaipur opened in February with the first branded ESPA in India. Located in the courtyard gardens overlooking serene Lake Pichola, the spa’s royal service begins at the Reception Tent with a welcoming foot cleansing ritual using rosehips and essential oils of ginger, clove and lime. A relaxing session in one of the amethyst- and anthracite-tiled Aroma Steam Rooms provides a calming prelude to a personally designed spa experience. Indian-influenced treatments, performed in the privacy of the impressive Spa tents, include the 4-hour Royal Princesses of Rajasthan full body treatment with a salt and oil scrub, aromatherapy massage, and a series of face, hair and scalp treatments. The 3-hour Ayurvedic Touch experience includes an Ayurvedic Abhyanga massage followed by a Shirodhara herbal oil forehead bath or a Shirobhyanga head massage. Love the big spa suites with views of Lake Pichola.

Just south in The Maldives, the Six Senses Resorts & Spas group is offering a unique CSR package when you book a group into the 45 overwater villas at Soneva Gili. Commit to five hours of volunteer work for five days and earn an additional five days for free. Some of the activities available include marine conservation, youth education and planting trees. Groups access Gili via a 20-minute boat ride from the capital city of Male.


The 567-room Fairmont Nile City opened in Cairo last fall directly on the Nile River with 11,000 sf of meeting space indoors, all of which is illuminated with natural light. Another 5,000 sf of outdoor event room includes a breathtaking rooftop pool terrace with panoramic views stretching clear to the Pyramids, about a 30-minute drive away. Say hello to our new favorite cocktail reception spot in Cairo.

The 22,000-sf Willow Stream Spa opens next month as the largest spa in Egypt’s capital. Spa products are centered around what you would expect in this corner of the world: lots of mineral-rich Egyptian clay and exfoliating salt derived from the Red Sea. The hotel’s overall Art Deco theme and crisp beige palette vibrating with lots of natural light extends into the spa too.

On a lushly landscaped island, the One&Only Cape Town offers a vast range of tailored holistic experiences embracing local African influences and contemporary practices.

The wellness rituals focus on three key philosophies: Unwind, Balance and Uplift. Treatments include the Essence of Earth and Ocean Experience, using Baobab tree oil, South African seaweed and local sea salts. The hour-long One&Only Body Wrap includes lymphatic skin brushing, body exfoliation, an envelopment of ESPA algae, marine mud or Ayurvedic Oshadi clay, and an intensive head massage. Also, check out the ESPA Chakra Balancing Treatment featuring volcanic hot stones and an acupressure face and head massage. Lastly, the re-balancing ESPA Advanced Back, Face and Scalp with Hot Stones Massage sounds good. It was designed specifically for stress release.


Set amidst the vast burning sands of the Liwa desert, Anantara Spa at Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort opened in October as a proverbial oasis, infused with the rich traditions of Arabian history. The experience begins with a “magic carpet ride” via helicopter from Abu Dhabi International to the modern-day mirage, designed like a traditional Emirati fort with a flamelit bridge entrance.

The stunning views of sand dunes are complemented by the interior design. Rich earthy colors and natural elements such as water, wood and stone are incorporated into the seductive Aladdin-style design motifs.

The centerpiece of Anantara Spa is the heated marble hammam with Vichy shower, whirlpool bath, steam room and sauna. Treatments range from the signature Qasr Al Sarab Retreat to the Royal Hammam Ritual, involving a mineral-rich Moroccan rasul clay masque and black olive soap massage using natural indigenous ingredients such as dates, sand and honey.


Green and totally off the radar, the sleek Saffire Freycinet opened last month in the Freycinet National Park on the east coast of Tasmania, designed for ultra-exclusive upscale incentives for up to 20 couples max. The main building looks like a big curvy manta ray swimming out to Wine Glass Bay; the minimalist suites undulate around the hillside with timber, stone and leather elements. Both celebrate the pristine natural setting with big glass walls opening out to the picturesque landscape.

The vibe around the three spa rooms and reflecting pools is clean and delicate. The entire space is light, bright and open to the outdoors, with signature treatments including a Milk Bath, infused with gold and pearl mica and Tasmanian lavender. Other incentive activities include cruises to Schouten Island, helicopter tours to go fly-fishing, golf at Barnbougle Dunes, nature tours and cooking classes. The boardroom seats 20.

Recognized by various travel consortia as having the best spa in the world, the 121-unit Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora includes 100 bungalows perched on stilts above a crystalline lagoon. The spa is constructed entirely out of raw local woods with treatment rooms connected by bridges above the trees and blooming frangipani at the edge of the lagoon.

Spa ingredients are French Polynesian, utilizing local monoi, tamanu, kahaia and vanilla oils, fruits and plants. And this is definitely a spa where you want to show up early to enjoy the surroundings and facilities. Just some of the spa journey includes an “aroma hammam,” an outdoor vitality pool overlooking the pandanus and kahaia tree forest, and a variety of sensory and drench experience showers.

We like the private Kahaia Spa Suite on a terrace over the lagoon, with an outdoor rain shower and soaking bath for two. While you’re there, opt for the signature Kahaia Haven body ritual where they scrub and soak you with Tahitian vanilla, apricot, seaweed, aloe and black pearl powder.

We don’t know exactly what the perfect, group-friendly tropical fantasy hotel looks and feels like—not yet anyway, but this one is getting close.