Best of the Best: Spas
Como Shambhala Retreat, Cocoa Island
A wholehearted approach to health.
Hotelier Christina Ong does not want people to think of her newest venture, Como Shambhala Retreat, Cocoa Island, as a spa—at least not in the traditional fluff-and-buff sense. Modeled after its flagship spa on Parrot Cay in the Turks and Caicos, Como Hotels and Resorts’ latest Shambhala (Sanskrit for “center of peace and harmony”), located at the Cocoa Island resort in the Maldives, stands for simplicity, serenity, and renewing the body by rebalancing its energies. The spa’s approach focuses not only on the body, but on the mind and spirit as well.
Shambhala Cocoa Island features three massage pavilions for open-air treatments, a circular stone bath area for exotic water therapies such as the two-hour-long Javanese Royal Lular, a private couple’s treatment room, and an east-facing yoga pavilion that is ideal for sunrise practice.
The staff therapists were selected from around the world for their expertise. Thai massage, which incorporates yogalike moves to stretch joints and balance muscle groups, is delivered by a true Thai master; a Balinese healer performs an Indonesian massage using traditional Javanese essential oils and rolling and kneading techniques; and an Indian physician specializes in Ayurvedic treatments.
The spa’s specialty treatment is the two-hour Cocoa Island Metropolitan bath. This therapy consists of a rubdown with a salt scrub infused with essential oils, macadamia oil, and oat bran, which is then rinsed and followed by the Shambhala East-Meets-West massage using blended oils. The spa also offers instruction in yoga, meditation, Pranayama breathing and concentration techniques, and Pilates.
Como Shambhala Retreat, Cocoa Island
When the refined and luxurious Mandarin Oriental New York hotel opened last November, Manhattanites came dressed to the nines to hear Billy Joel deliver a soulful opening-night tribute. Perched high above the city that never sleeps, the hotel’s Spa at Mandarin Oriental puts you in an Asian state of mind from the moment you enter its candlelit, orchid-appointed Tea Lounge.
Spa treatments derive from Bali, China, India, and Thailand, but do not expect to simply choose between an Ayurvedic Shirobhyanga or Oshadi clay wrap. Bookings are by time blocks, and treatments are completely customized. As your therapist gently massages your feet with sea salts and balancing oils, she inquires about everything from energy levels to stress factors to physical ailments before selecting a tailored treatment that includes fragrant oils blended just for you. For the ultimate experience, reserve the couple’s spa suite with stunning 35th-floor views of the Hudson River. This intimate space exudes the ambience of an Asian home, complete with fireplace, Kang bed, bath, steam shower, and twin massage beds.
Spa at Mandarin Oriental
Ever since Gauguin first painted the South Pacific, it has been regarded as a sensual, colorful, and romantic destination. But one thing had been missing from this tropical utopian portrait: a decadently luxurious spa. That void has been filled with the opening of Manea Spa at Le Taha’a Private Island and Spa, a 60-acre Polynesian refuge accessible only by boat or helicopter.
The remote resort’s elevated wooden walkways lead you to the spa, nestled among trees and next to a small lake. Just saying the names of the treatments—such as Monoï Maha Rima (massage by two people working in synchronization) and Monoï Pape Miti (massage using seawater)—can bring a sense of tranquillity. Only local ingredients, particularly monoï (a natural preparation of coconut oil long used by Polynesians), are used in treatments, which often culminate in full-body wraps in banana leaves. You have a choice of being massaged in the spa, in your over-water bungalow, or, for a true Gauguin experience, on a massage table set in the lagoon just inches above the crystal-clear water.
Manea Spa at Le Taha’a Private Island and Spa
The already extraordinary Waroeng Djamoe Spa at Tugu Hotel Bali has become even more exotic. Owner Anhar Setjadibrata, renowned for his collection of fine Indonesian art and cultural antiquities, has added impressive new chambers to the spa while preserving tradition, as evidenced by the antique massage beds.
The Balinese and Javanese spa treatments are as authentic as the new surroundings. Try the Dandang Watoe package, a five-hour ritual based on ancient Javanese traditions that includes a hot-stone massage with steam-heated stones from China’s Yangtze River and Mount Kidul in Central Java.
For something even more exotic, book the eight-hour Gemulai Penari Bali, which includes a Kepala (scalp massage with aloe vera, avocado, and candlenut oil), Luluran (body scrub), and Mandi Bunga (bath in lotus petals). The highlight of the treatment is the Gemulai Penari, or Balinese dancer massage, in which therapists follow the rhythms of a Balinese gamelan to deliver a beautifully choreographed therapy. The program concludes with Samedhi, a Javanese meditation introduced before Buddhism in the eighth century, and a cup of jamoe, an ancient drink that mixes traditional Javanese herbs and spices and is said to make you look half your age and live longer than 100 years.
Waroeng Djamoe Spa, Tugu Hotel Bali