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Trip Ideas

Spas With a Sense of Place

A good spa can transport you. But the best manage to do so while still rooting you in your surroundings. Here, we celebrate the spas that have a deep sense of place. From coconut oil treehouse massages to mud wraps by a waterfall and a Mayan sweat lodge, these are the best places to check in and bliss out

See recent posts by Chelsea Stuart | Photo by Ira Lippke

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Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa Riviera Maya, Mexico

Local Flavor: Inspired by Mayan traditions, the Kinan Spa at the Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa pays homage to the healing powers of nature, right down to the treatment rooms: they all face east-to-west (to represent day and night) with massage beds facing east, to symbolize new beginnings. The whole spa has also been designed to align with the stars, for the ultimate in positive energy flow. Many of the ingredients used in treatments come from the on-site herbal garden or bee colony, and are mixed up in the spa’s Botica (“drugstore.”)

What to Book: In the Kinan Ritual, you’ll get wrapped in heated, herb-infused sheets, scrubbed with local honey and salt, then massaged by two therapists; ask to have it in a seaside palapa for the ultimate escape. Or get a truly local experience by booking a Temazcal ritual, a traditional sweat lodge experience performed at dusk with chanting and meditation by a spiritual elder.

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Andaz Peninsula Papagayo

Local Flavor: Much of the design of the coastal Andaz Peninsula Papagayo resort takes its cues from the surrounding setting—think domed pavilions that evoke the region’s nuts and seeds, plus the use of volcanic stone, local wood and bamboo, and art from a women’s collective. The Onda Spa’s nine elevated, seaview treatments rooms (three of which are open-air) follow suit; each is named for a natural element in the local Mangue language.

What to Book: The signature 90-minute Onda Cambio scrub/wrap/massage combo begins at the mixology bar, where you’ll choose your own ingredients from a selection that includes purple corn, sugar cane, beach sand, seawater and volcanic clay; the popular gallo pinto pick is an exfoliating mix of finely-ground rice and beans, created as a nod to a Costa Rican staple dish.

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Four Seasons Resort Lana’i at Manele Bay

Local Flavor: There are only two resorts on this former pineapple plantation island—the Four Seasons Resort Lana’i at Manele Bay, and its sister property uphill—so the focus is often on celebrating the exclusive location. While the spa’s decor isn’t overtly Hawaiian, its menu is one of the few in the islands to spotlight locally-made products and techniques.

What to Book: Get scrubbed with ground macadamia nuts, cane sugar or pineapple enzymes; soothe sunburn with a wrap of fresh ti leaves; draw out toxins with a body wrap of sea mud and Hawaiian seaweed; or get massaged with traditional lomi lomi techniques. The spa also uses Oahu-made skincare products in its facials, and has services inspired by the surrounding ocean and mountains. Sign up for a custom blending session to create your own perfume using organic island-inspired essential oils.

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Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort

Local Flavor: The Rainforest Spa’s seven treehouse treatment rooms open out over the lush canopy, allowing warm breezes and forest sounds to set the relaxing tone. Sugar Beach's spa takes inspiration from St. Lucia’s natural wonders—from volcanoes and beaches to hot springs and cocoa plantations—and incorporates ingredients like bananas, coconuts, aloe vera and cocoa into its nourishing services.

What to Book: Spa standouts include the Sulphur Seduction, a three-hour couple’s service that gets you out of the spa and into the destination. After a short tour of the island’s ancient volcanoes, you’ll bathe in the black waters of a sulphur spring (fed from the volcano itself), then get wrapped in warm sulphur mud to help increase circulation and relax muscles. Next, your therapist will take you to a Piton waterfall to wash off the mud, then back to the spa for a 20-minute massage.

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Taj Rambagh Palace Jaipur, India

Local Flavor: It’s no surprise that the Taj does indulgence well; it was a royal residence and is still owned by descendants of the Maharaja of Jaipur. So everywhere you look, there’s evidence of the local connection, from the family photos and Raj-era furnishings to the painted (live) elephants that greet you upon arrival.

What to Book: Like the rest of the hotel, the Jiva Grand Spa is a romantic throwback to a bygone era. Along with regular treatment rooms, there are two tented suites furnished in rich Mughal style (think canopied roofs, plush rugs, copper soaking tubs, chandeliers and indoor/outdoor relaxation areas). Ayurvedic and gemology treatments incorporate healing techniques and ingredients from all over India, while signature services like the Pehlwan Malish “warrior massage” pay homage to Rajasthan’s warrior class with a deep rubdown using muscle-relaxing mustard oil.

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Six Senses Laamu Maldives

Local Flavor: Grab the bike that comes with your room at the Six Senses Laamu to pedal to this beachside spa, which offers treatments in both tucked-away pavilions and in four treetop “nests,” pod-like, open-air cocoons built off elevated boardwalks. As with all Six Senses spas, the focus is on services that use natural products—many mixed on site—and that reflect local traditions, in this case, a mix of Arabic, Indian, and Maldivian influences.

What to Book: Ayurvedic services are a nod to the Indian influence, while the Signature Laamu Facial heals and nourishes skin with fresh local ingredients. The Laamu Bliss body service starts with a Maldivian-style massage done with coconut oil, followed by a wrap with a circulation-boosting mix of ginger, cloves, and nutmeg, a head massage, and the application of a cooling cucumber lotion.

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Hotel Tugu Bali Indonesia

Local Flavor: In a charming beachside village, away from Bali’s larger resort developments, the boutique Hotel Tugu Bali celebrates all things Indonesian, from the cuisine and art to its healing traditions. In addition to the rustic treatment suites (which have outdoor tubs), there is an open-air pavilion where guests can learn how to mix jamu—traditional wellness drinks made with cooked herbs, spices, roots, and more, each tailored to help a specific health issue.

What to Book: Using Indonesian-inspired Juara products, signature services include body scrubs, wraps and facials incorporating things like rice, turmeric, sweet black tea, coffee, ginger, banana and other local staples. Must-haves include the classic Balinese massage, which incorporates elements of acupressure and aromatherapy with a mix of both soft and firm massage and percussive elements.

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Regent Palms Turks & Caicos

Local Flavor: Modern Caribbean style comes alive at Regent Palms' breezy, award-winning spa, where the tranquil central pool is ringed by palm trees, clapboard treatment cabanas and groups of plush white couches separated by flowing curtains. Most treatment suites have indoor and outdoor areas, and are accented by water features during the day and fire features at night.

What to Book: Along with holistic services from around the world, the menu highlights the destination with signatures like the Mother of Pearl body exfoliation, done with a mix of hand-crushed, locally-sourced queen conch shells and aromatic oils. In the unique Zareeba service, inspired by Caribbean home remedies, guests sit in an enclosed wooden box and churn a bubbling hot mixture of healing herbs, creating a detoxing steam effect (with an aromatic massage to top things off.)

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L’Auberge de Sedona

Local Flavor: From an outdoor sunrise yoga class backed by views of the red-hued mountains, to massages performed in private cabanas next to flowing Oak Creek, this legendary spa at L’Auberge de Sedona wants guests to connect with the stunning natural setting. In addition to classic massages, facials and body treatments, the spa features L’Apothecary services, in which products are custom-blended for each guest using Sedona-inspired ingredients like juniper, chaparral, rosemary and natural essences.

What to Book: The seasonal Feet in the Creek service has guests wading ankle-deep into Oak Creek to soak up the relaxing atmosphere, then enjoying an outdoor reflexology massage. In the signature Sedona Dreams, you get buffed with your choice of aromatic organic scrubs, massaged with hot stones (a style that is said to have originated in Arizona), then finished off with a relaxing scalp ritual.

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Four Seasons Bosphorus Istanbul, Turkey

Local Flavor: Visiting a Turkish bath is one of the top tourist activities in Istanbul. But hanging out with a crowd in various states of undress, having a stranger scrub you down and figuring out the process can be intimidating for the uninitiated. That’s why we’d suggestion booking into the Four Seasons Bosphorus. A dramatic, mosaic-floored, skylight-topped central pool puts nervous spa-goers at ease. The shy can choose to experience the hammam solo, but we think it’s more fun to do it with friends.

What to Book: The Four Seasons hammam experience includes an invigorating kese body scrub, refreshing foam-soap massage, hydrating body wrap and nourishing hair treatment. It’s all done in a serene, private hammam steam room, complete with heated marble platforms, water stations and glowing, back-lit windows.



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