Hot rock massage? That’s so 10 years and 50 min. ago. Twenty-four karat gold facial? I’d rather wear it around my ring finger. Reiki? Really? As a dedicated spa connoisseur, I’ve experienced a wealth of treatments including classic, exotic, native, alternative, indulgent and downright ridiculous.
And though I’ve enjoyed most for different reasons—except for that creepy two-masseuse massage in a five-star hotel with thin walls shared by what sounded like a K-Mart—I’ve found that nothing makes me happier than a skilled therapeutic masseuse working with intoxicating natural lotions and potions with scents to die for. Especially when they smell good enough to eat but conceal my laugh lines instead of adding to my waistline. Luckily, several world-class Southwest desert spas specialize in a smorgasbord of nearly-edible, skin-quenching options to spice up some of the finest spa menus in the country.
Photo Courtesy of Hotel Valley Ho
The VH Spa, Hotel Valley Ho — Scottsdale, Arizona
Caramel & Coffee
A landmark sun-seeker resort since 1956, the fabulously retro Hotel Valley Ho hosts an always hopping bar-scene downstairs that has recently inspired beauty treatment specials upstairs such as a tasty mix of Honey-Ginger massages with Ginger Fizz cocktails, make-up applications and mojitos. If you ask me, happy hour doesn’t get any happier than that. This fall, the VH Spa for Vitality + Health offers a sobering solution with its Triple Shot Caramel Coffee Scrub (45 min.). A Vendi Caramel Macchiato at Starbucks is a whopping 300 calories, but this triple-shot treatment is a calorie-free option to perk up your senses without the guilt or the caffeinated heart palpitations. Want a second helping? The spa’s unique CoffeeBerry Yoga Facial (60 min.) eschews the bean in favor of the fruits of the coffee plant, which contain a generous serving of natural antioxidants. But the best news is that the only yoga involved is you lying still in a Sleeping Beauty Pose while the aesthetician’s fingers do all the work.
Photo Courtesy of Inn at Loretto
The Spa at Loretto — Santa Fe, New Mexico
Milk & Honey
Featuring some of the largest treatment rooms in the Southwest, the Spa at Loretto is a peaceful, intimate retreat accessible only by private elevator from a wing of the iconic Inn at Loretto. For foodies, the holistic spa features the Café Ole body treatment for an instant energy boost thanks to its rich Indonesian coffee scrub (50 min.), and there’s the Milk and Honey Body Wrap for a pampering treatment fit for Cleopatra wannabes. But for an only-in-New-Mexico treatment, the Spa at Loreto designed its signature Native Reflections Experience (110 min.) utilizing the natural herbs of the local desert: dried sage for traditional Native American clearing and blessing, and sage oil for a ritual bath.
Photo Courtesy of El Dorado Hotel
Nidah Spa, El Dorado Hotel — Santa Fe, New Mexico
Chocolate & Chile
Sure, you could go for one of award-winning Nidah Spa’s signature massages – including Spun Gold and Turquoise Gemstone – but if your taste buds are craving some of New Mexico’s famous local cuisine, the Chocolate Mole Wrap & Massage (80 min. for $180) is a delectable choice. It even starts (and ends) with nibbles and tea in the waiting room, but the most delicious element for me was the masseuse’s intuitive healing talent. If a chocolate treatment isn’t spicy enough for you, heat things up with the Chile and Honey Wrap (50 min. for $135) which is both savory and sweet, designed to open the pores then sooth the skin. If body exfoliation is what you need, there’s the spring-fresh Tangerine Salt Scrub or wintery Chocolate Peppermint Sugar Scrub (25 min. for $80) to put you in the holiday spirit, whichever holiday it might be.
Photo Courtesy of Riviera Palm Springs
SpaTerre, Riviera Palm Springs — Palm Springs, California
Martinis & Bellinis
Why just spa when you can book a Mischievous Rendezvous Package for an all-in-one romantic getaway at a classic mid-century resort with a killer bar and pool scene? At Riviera Palm Springs, the spa package starts with two chocolate martinis in your room or suite, then progresses to the on-site SpaTerre for two yummy 75-minute spa treatments featuring a scrub, massage and Chocolate Caramel Wrap. Day-spa visitors also have a full cocktail menu of choices like a Coconut Colada body scrub and pedicure, a Peach Bellini body scrub and Saketini wrap, and a Blue Kamikaze scrub paired with a Mimi Mimosa bubble bath. After your skin soaks up all that nourishing booze, you might be wise to also consider the Hangover Rehab eye mask and lip treatment on the morning after.
Photo Courtesy of Hard Rock Palm Springs
Rock Spa, Hard Rock Palm Springs — Palm Springs, California
Kiwi & Dragonfruit
Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs, the city's newest hotel and spa, is rocking downtown with its skin-worshipping menu of polishes, wraps, facials and massages. But despite the resort’s playful, anything-goes vibe, they take food seriously here, well beyond celebrity chef Kerry Simon’s Simon Kitchen + Bar. A long list of foodie ingredients star in the spa’s Detoxifying Body Massage and Algae Wrap (90 min.), which starts with sun-dried green clay and adds five organic herbs plus your choice of seasonally-available edibles including watermelon, kiwi, dragonfruit, mango and kitchen staples like sugar cane, coconut milk, crushed rice, yogurt, oatmeal and quinoa. It's just what the nutritionist ordered to please even the most picky vegan, gluten-free, paleo and organic devotees.
Photo Courtesy of Miramonte Resort & Spa
The Well, Miramonte Resort & Spa — Rancho Las Palmas, California
Olives & Wine
Let’s just start by saying that The Well’s bano vino wine bath is whole new way to enjoy happy hour at any hour of the day. I can personally vouch that this is just one reason why The Well is consistently voted one of the best and most inventive destination spas in the spa-rich Coachella Valley, with treatment rooms housed in serene climate-controlled tents and upper level treatment rooms. And their treatment menu beautifully whets the appetite with an array of edible menu ingredients (well, I wish) ranging from the Vitalia Al Limone body scrub to the Pelle D’ Oro enriched with grape seeds, salt and olive oil. I have a sweet tooth, so I tried the Meile whole body treatment (60 min.) which features honey and a soft beeswax thermal mask, and honey, let me tell you, it’s the bee’s knees. The bee’s butter-soft, wrinkle-free knees, that is.
Photo Courtesy of Hyatt Regency Indian Wells
Agua Serena Spa, Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa — Indian Wells, California
Dates & Pumpkins
Just down the street, the Agua Serena Spa offers an even more serene setting in its stand-alone wellness complex complete with separate his-and-hers saunas, lounges and newly-remodeled whirlpools. Arrive early for your appointment to relax with all the above plus complimentary treats (the edible kind) including fresh fruit, olives and white chocolates with lavender. Then enjoy the fall season by sinking into a Pumpkin Enzyme Body Renewal treatment (50 min.) or do as I did and opt for the local ingredients of the Cactus and Date Scrub and massage (50 min. or 80 min.). Noted for their natural healing powers, Nopal cactus and Medjool dates are blended with sage, juniper and grapefruit, creating a delectable salad of scents. Lotions made by the local organic skincare company The Body Deli are available for takeaway.
Photo Courtesy of Green Valley Ranch
The Spa at Green Valley Ranch — Henderson, Nevada
Papayas & Oranges
More than a spa, the Green Valley Ranch Spa is more like a private club adjacent to one of the greatest swimming pools (with its own beach!) at the most relaxing luxury hotel in the entire Las Vegas area. The two-story stand-alone complex is a serene escape from Sin City’s chaotic casinos, offering sunny fitness rooms, free yoga classes and coached workouts, a full-service salon, 25-meter lap pool, private patio, and beautiful whirlpools and saunas. It’s so pleasant that, the day after my appointment, I returned to indulge in a private cabana with a good book and a 99-cent margarita. The pristine spa’s treatment menu is vast, offering massages, facials, wraps, and all sorts of beauty tweaks including head-to-toe makeovers. Hungry before your wrap? Order a sandwich wrap delivered to your upholstered rattan chaise. But if you’re in the mood for a virtual fruit salad I recommend either the Papaya or Orange Oasis full-body scrub followed by a classic 50-minute Swedish massage. For a complete transformation, go for the spa and stay for the 4-7 p.m. happy hour at Hank’s Fine Steaks & Martinis.