Mind on edge? Shoulders tense? Need a change of scenery? These destination spas will indulge you in some pampering, help you kick the winter blues, and maybe even impart a new outlook on life.
By Fran Miller
As if Carmel Valley’s Bernardus Lodge and Spa was not already classy enough, the recent addition of 14 sumptuous suites and villas sends the resort’s luxe quotient soaring. Set on 28 lavendar and vineyard-filled acres, with spectacular views of the Santa Lucia Mountains, Bernardus is the definition of relaxed elegance. This private sanctuary comes complete with butler services, complimentary Mercedes-Benz convertibles and alfresco rain showers.
At the heart is its serene spa where guests lounge by the private warming pool before body treatments. Signatures include: Tuning Fork Ritual - sound waves created by OM tuning forks travel the meridian channels and acupressure points to dissolve disharmony and tension; Island Lomi Massage – restores harmony and balance to the mind, body and spirit; Japanese Balancing Massage – a mix of shiatsu techniques open energy pathways; Sticks and Stones Massage – smooth birch wood sticks and warm basalt stones induce relaxation and tension release. A bit pricey, yes. But Bernardus is exceedingly welcoming, which makes it all the more relaxing. Plus, you get what you pay for. bernarduslodge.com
If you haven’t been to the Claremont Club & Spa in Berkeley lately, it’s time to go. The Fairmont Hotel Group has put its swank polish on this iconic landmark, making it a must-stop for bridge-to-bridge views, visible from the new restaurant Limewood, many guest rooms, and even from the spa’s whirlpool. One of the larger and more established spas in the East Bay, The Claremont offers dozens of programs and day packages, although true renewal requires an overnight stay. The spa recently unveiled its Honey Bee Ritual, an indulgent experience utilizing honey ginger oil and a beeswax compress in a dual therapeutic treatment to release muscle tension, boost the immune system, hydrate, and relieve inflammation. A facial follows, using the same thermal honeycomb pad and sweet aromas of honey and beeswax to balance and heal the skin. After your treatment, detox in the steam or sauna rooms, or better yet, soak in the whirlpool-with-a-view. And don’t miss the lovely spa gift shop with its beautifully curated collection of cashmere wraps, hip reading glasses, and array of pampering products. fairmont.com
Set in a business park off Hwy 101, the Four Seasons Silicon Valley at East Palo Alto caters primarily to the weekday business crowd, but for those in the know, this coveted wellness destination also throws out the red carpet for its weekend R&R guests. Sip champagne upon arrival, savor Italian cuisine at restaurant Quattro, then slip into a thick white robe and recharge at the small but sumptuous Four Seasons spa, with its rooftop pool and fitness center.
You’ll want to book one of the plush guest rooms to relish the spa’s ‘California Dreaming’ treatment, where sleep-induction techniques developed by sleep-guru Robert Michael deStefano will bring on the shut-eye. Later in your elegantly appointed room, order calming bath soaks, warm almond milk and cookies, and aromatherapy neck wraps to further induce the zzzzs. When you wake up the next day, indulge in one of the best anti-aging facials around, Diamond Bright, with its infusion of luxurious Natura Bisse products that reduce dark spots and refine skin tone. fourseasons.com
One of San Francisco’s most exclusive hotels, The Ritz-Carlton, recently opened Spa L’OCCITANE by the Bay, where fans of the skincare and natural cosmetic beauty line can experience it as never before. Designed for ultimate relaxation in the heart of the city, this Mediterranean-inspired sanctuary nourishes with lavender and verbena treatments. The Immortelle Divine Secret anti-aging facial leaves skin glowing, and the Shea Nurturing Massage restores inner balance. Enjoy a cocktail in the lobby bar after your treatment, or better yet, book a room. ritzcarlton.com
If a vacation in Tuscany is not in the cards, a rejuvenating splurge at Spa Villagio in Yountville is the next best thing. This 13,000-square-foot sanctuary comes with private spa suites, jetted infinity soaking tubs, wet bars, private patios and flat screen televisions with Bose surround sound systems. Soothing fountains, cascading waterfalls, and reflecting pools add to the soothing aura. Select from a menu of experiences that infuse ancient Mediterranean rituals with elements indigenous to Napa Valley. We love the “Lemon Luxe,” a 100-minute full body exfoliation and massage utilizing Spa Villagio’s own Lemon Juniper line. (You'll leave with a full size scrub and body butter.) Enjoy a lazy lunch by the pool, or get cozy with a glass of wine by the outdoor fireplace. You’ll leave spoiled and relaxed. villagio.com