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Best of the Best 2007: Spas

The healing power of mineral-rich deep-sea water is harnessed at Algotherm’s Deep Ocean Spa Bora Bora (www.boraboraspa.interconti.com) in the new Inter-Continental resort that opened last year in the French Polynesian islands. The property, built on a narrow, sandy motu (little island) separating Bora Bora’s  turquoise lagoon from the deep blue South Pacific, uses frigid seawater pumped from more than a half mile beneath the surface to cool its environmentally friendly air-conditioning system. The Pacific also provides the key ingredients for the spa, which specializes in thalassotherapy. These treatments include the Algospa marine scrub and wrap, during which the therapist covers your body in seaweed paste, wraps you in plastic sheets, and then lowers the table on which you are lying into a bath of seawater that has been heated to body temperature. Floating in the dark in the warm water feels like returning to the womb. Outdoor pools, which are equipped with powerful hydromassage jets, are intended to promote circulation, and therapists use oils infused with marine minerals for massages that can be performed in the spa’s overwater bungalows. Transparent panels in the floor beneath the massage tables provide windows on Bora Bora’s abundant marine life. —Laurie Kahle

The Roman Emperor Nero, who ruled in the first century, reportedly sent slaves to gather snow from the mountains to make a crude form of ice cream. Qua Baths & Spa (866.782. 0655, www.harrahs.com/qua), which opened at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas last November, offers a different, more modern cold treat: the Arctic Ice Room. Snowflakes flutter from a snowmaking machine that is installed in the ceiling, and the temperature is kept at 55 degrees Fahrenheit, offering refreshing relief for those who dart in from the cedarwood dry sauna located across the hall. The 50,000-square-foot spa comprises 51 treatment rooms, a barbershop, tea lounges, and a fitness center, as well as a trio of Roman Baths (one hot, one cold, and one tepid) in both the men’s and the women’s areas. Though the spa is colossally large, it does not seem so, because its designers created multiple small oases, which are insulated from the noises of the casino floor. The house specialty is the hourglass treatment. It is a customized 60- or 120-minute session (or a couple’s 180-minute version) that addresses your concerns with therapies ranging from a facial for sensitive skin to a hot stone massage for aching muscles. —Sheila Gibson Stoodley


Set among rolling hills in the quaint town of Washington, Conn., about an hour-and-a-half drive northeast of Manhattan, the Mayflower Inn & Spa (860.868.9466, www.mayflowerinn.com) offers a sanctuary from urban life. It even provides a respite from the chirp of your mobile phone; with the exception of a few hot spots near the outdoor pool, the 58-acre property, which added the 20,000-square-foot spa facility in May 2006, lacks wireless reception. That technical glitch benefits the Mayflower’s objective, which is for guests to focus on nature and on themselves during their visits. The spa’s offerings include customizable spa treatments, exercise and wellness classes, healthful and light cuisine, and strenuous outdoor activities, such as kayaking, hiking, biking, and mountain climbing. —Shaun Tolson

Spa visionary Jim Root, former director of Miraval in Tucson, Ariz., had no desire to leave the desert, but he could not resist a carte blanche offer to develop the first spa at Sea Island (912.638.3611, www.seaisland.com), the windswept Georgia resort that has attracted the stressed-out and weary since 1928. “Sea Island has always been a place of refuge and renewal,” says Root. “It just never had a spa vocabulary.” The 23-room spa’s Spanish-style architecture features exposed beams and arched windows. An indoor water garden separates the fitness facilities—squash courts, a glass yoga studio, and a swimming pool—from the spa, for which Root designed an intentionally lean treatment menu. “I resisted being overly creative; I wanted to offer authentic spa treatments that emphasized slowing down and reclaiming time,” says Root, who conceived the spa’s 120-minute massage-bath rituals, which are performed in deep porcelain soaking tubs framed by stained-glass windows. —Shari Mycek

The 12,000-square-foot Peninsula Spa by ESPA (+852.2920.2888, www.peninsula.com) opened last year on the seventh and ninth floors of the Peninsula Hong Kong, the 79-year-old hotel in the city’s Kowloon district. The 14 treatment rooms include two suites (one designated for couples’ sessions) that feature large soaking tubs, glass-walled steam showers, refrigerators stocked with refreshments, and stunning Victoria Harbor views. The therapists—trained by the U.K.-based spa consultancy Espa International, which designed and manages the facility with the hotel—administer treatments that draw from Asian, European, and Ayurvedic traditions. The Ayurvedic Marma Releasing Abhyanga treatment begins, as do all therapies at the spa, with a cup of fragrant Chinese tea, a salt and ginger footbath, and a consultation to determine the preferred aromatic oils for your treatment. Espa also is involved with a couple of new spas in the United States, one of which is located at Los Angeles’ Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire (310.385.7023, www.fourseasons.com). Espa’s Personalized Time concept allows you to designate a segment of time—from two hours to as many as five hours—and customize the session based on how you feel that particular day. You should plan to arrive early for your scheduled appointment, so that you have ample time to explore what the brand calls its “heat experience” areas. These spaces feature showers that emit different scents, lighting schemes, and sprays, as well as aromatherapy steam rooms, where the surfaces are covered in glass mosaic tiles and the ceilings twinkle with LED lights that change colors. —Lori Bryan & Samantha Brooks

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