Obviously I’ve not been to every spa in the world, though if a position with that description exists then I’m submitting my resume this very minute. Throughout the last two years, I’ve visited diverse locales and stayed in some spectacular hotels. As a result, I’ve also experienced a number of world-class spas. Here’s a slideshow sampling of my favorite spas from around the world.
Guerlain Spa at The Ritz-Carlton, Vienna
What happens when two leaders in luxury get together? Well, magic, obviously. It’s only fitting that the first Guerlain Spa in Austria is found in Vienna’s Ritz-Carlton. After all, four palaces were combined to create the hotel, and the royal treatment is no doubt given. Yes, this spa has countless yummy-smelling lotions and potions, the facilities are first-class, and the atmosphere is beyond tranquil. But what stood out to me most about the Guerlain Spa? There’s music playing underwater in the pool. I’m not sure exactly what kind of music, but I would assume it’s Mozart or Beethoven. This is Vienna, after all, and that would certainly be apropos. I think that if I was inclined to swim laps instead of rubbing elbows with the chocolate sommelier, I would like to hear music.
Four Seasons at Park Lane
From the 10th floor spa at London’s Four Seasons at Park Lane you can see most every recognizable landmark in the city. Floor to ceiling windows give ample opportunity for you to watch the London Eye spin and the hands of Big Ben move while being pampered beyond compare. Besides the spa and fitness facilities on the 10th floor, there’s also a lounge that can be used for guests that have an early arrival or late departure. What’s special about this lounge is the view from the balcony. London is laid out before you. Four Seasons even provides binoculars for your viewing pleasure.
Three Springs Spa at Omni Barton Creek Resort
For first-time visitors to Austin, it’s hard to imagine that Texas actually has hills and trees. Tucked away in the prestigious Westlake area of Austin is the Omni Barton Creek Resort and Spa. Not only the #1 golf resort in Texas, Barton Creek also has great spa facilities. Although their signature Facelift Facial is only fifty minutes, I felt like it turned back five years. What sets this facial apart from others I’ve received is the NuFace microcurrent treatment. Basically, this little vibrating machine stimulates facial muscles making them tighter. I could see the difference after half of my face was treated. I’m not sure how long the effects lasted, but as I’m approaching the big 4-0, I’ll take what I can get.
Best Use of Nature
Six Senses Spa at Evason Ma’In Hot Springs
I love finding something great where I least expect it. In the middle of the desert mountains outside of Amman, Jordan is Evason Ma’In Hot Springs, a lovely boutique hotel. A short walk from the hotel is the Six Senses Spa. The beautiful stone building blends into the surrounding landscape. The spa sits right under a natural hot spring waterfall that flows into the pool and relaxation area. Even if you’re not getting a treatment in one of their ten rooms, it’s worth the price of admission just to lie in the lounger and listen to the water trickle down. For a brief moment, you’ll feel like the only person on earth.
Best Relaxation Room
Spa Moana at Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa
At Spa Moana I experienced my first lomi lomi massage, which is a method utilizing long, continuous strokes derived from the ancient Polynesians and healers of Hawaii. Those fifty minutes left me looser than creamed corn, so what could have made my experience even better? How about lying in a comfy lounger in the spa’s relaxation room drinking in the glorious view of the Pacific and listening to the waves rolling in? Yeah, that definitely did the trick.
Best Disconcerting Spa Experience
Zara Spa at Mövenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea
One time I was in Singapore’s Chinatown having a Thai massage in a cramped, dark room on the third floor of a questionably sound building. I was stretched, contorted, and even had my stomach massaged. You’d think that experience would be the most disconcerting spa experience ever, but you’d be wrong. Instead that honor goes to the Zara Spa in the Mövenpick Resort in Jordan. Since the hotel is located at the Dead Sea, one of their signature treatments includes its famous black mud. Their mud body wrap “is known to cleanse and stimulate the skin, relieve muscle and emotional tensions, improve blood circulation and ease rheumatic pain.” So, what could be so disconcerting about a body wrap besides the fact that I was covered in hot mud and then wrapped in clear plastic where I waited for thirty minutes? Oh, having my ENTIRE body covered in mud by a middle-aged Jordanian man did the trick. Would I do the black mud body wrap again? Absolutely, but I’d most certainly have it done by a woman or insist on wearing my bikini.
Four Seasons Canary Wharf
Remember the pool scene from Cruel Intentions staring Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe? When I first saw the movie I thought it must be the most amazing indoor pool ever, but then I laid my eyes on the pool at London’s Four Seasons Canary Wharf. Enclosed in floor-to-ceiling glass, this 65-foot, infinity edge heated stunner sits on the banks of the famous Thames River and offers a view of the brilliant London skyline. And if that weren’t enough, Daniel Craig, aka James Bond, took a few laps in the pool while filming scenes from Skyfall.
Spa at Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea
In my book, there aren’t many things better than a massage at an extraordinary spa in a world-class location. All of those elements combine to create a sort of Utopia for me. If you’ve visited the Spa at Four Seasons Resort on Maui, then you’ll agree that it’s as close to heaven on earth as you can get. While the soothing surroundings and warm ginger drink lured me in, it was the signature Lomi Mahala massage that left me blissful. After having flown over 10,000 miles in two weeks, my back was in desperate need for attention. Fifty minutes on the heated, plush massage table in the capable hands of Jennifer and I was ready to take on the world, or at least have full range of motion in my neck.
Best Retro Experience
Spa Resort Casino
Palm Springs, California
The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians have known about the healing properties of the waters for centuries, but it was the Hollywood set that made Palm Springs their playground and place for rejuvenation in the 1950s. Visitors can still experience the healing properties of the water in a retro setting at the Spa Resort Casino in downtown Palm Springs. I experienced something called Taking of the Waters, which entails a circuit of steam room, dry sauna, and eucalyptus room. After all of that, I soaked in the waters of a private sunken tub. It was certainly an experience like no other.
Best Overall Spa
Laniwai Spa at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa
I can honestly say that I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect at the Laniwai Spa. Since it is a Disney Resort, I didn’t know if Mickey Mouse was going to rub me down with his big, white hands or what. Though that may be a dream for Disney lovers, it would be an absolute nightmare for me. I’m pleased to report there was no sign of Goofy, Minnie, or Pluto in the Laniwai Spa. Instead what I found was an homage to Hawaiian culture and a meaning behind each design detail. It really is extraordinary. In a tranquil garden far away from the mega pools and lazy river of the resort lies the hydrotherapy garden, my favorite part of the Laniwai Spa. Private vitality pools filled with hot and FREEZING water, mineral baths, rain-style showers, whirlpools, and a path made of reflexology stones are all just some of the options guests enjoy. If I am lucky enough to return to Aulani, 98.46% of my time will be spent in the Laniwai Spa.