OK, I admit it. I was once an uneducated heathen. I had never been to a spa. Then my wife, She Who Must Be Obeyed, changed my world. She had been a card-carrying regular at the legendary Golden Door Spa for more years than I’m allowed to mention, and she waxed eloquent about both the delights and the benefits of spa-ing.
Here’s what I’ve learned. Read On.
Spa is really a code word for “pamper.” You are pampered in every possible way, both mentally and physically. If it were possible to remove and massage a stressed brain, it would be done at a spa. A spa, even a short visit, allows you to disconnect from worry and tension. A word I find myself wanting to overuse here is “relax.” But there’s more.
Spa treatments can increase your blood circulation, increasing the flow of nutrients and oxygen throughout your system, to improve your sense of well-being. A spa massage stimulates your lymphatic system, eliminating toxins that cause tiredness and returning your old energy. A spa facial exfoliates your skin to give it a youthful, healthy glow. Spa hydrotherapy is a great way to relieve pain from a long list of woes from arthritis to muscle aches, and you can ease trapped nerves and painful muscles by submerging in warm water.
Here’s a look at some outstanding spas to…wait for it…relax! You don’t have to travel far to find great spas literally on Tampa’s doorstep.
Spa Oceana at Don Cesar, St. Pete Beach
You’ll depart from the Don Club spa as pink as the exterior of this legendary hotel. Start with luxurious robes and slippers, move into the seaside Whisper Lounge to lose your cares, and then segue into an array of spa services, including deluxe couples treatment rooms so you can moan together.
Tampa Tip: Go for the mud wrap followed by a scalp massage and follow it with a Strawberry Daiquiri Facial. You’ll lick your lips!
The Vinoy, St. Petersburg
Surrender yourself to a tranquil oasis of relaxation that draws on the healing properties of the ocean and holistic approaches to skin health and well-being. Start with the Elemis Intensely Cleansing Salt Scrub to slough away dead skin cells and provide a smooth canvas, from which you’ll move into the Muscle Warming Seaweed Wrap. Sounds icky, right? Trust me, it’s the opposite with blends of pine and rosemary oils that make arthritis and aching muscles (too long on the golf links?) disappear.
Tampa Tip: Finish with the Warm Stone massage, where basalt stones glide rhythmically across your skin.
The Spa at Sand Pearl, Clearwater
An oasis of wellness with spectacular views and mimosas after your services.
Tampa Tip: I spend hours on the beach and in the sun, so I went for the Quenching Aloe Wrap, which was 60 minutes of hydrating organic aloe vera. Following is a luxurious scalp and neck massage and Seventh Heaven was the foot massage using a cooling alpine foot balm.
A bit further afield, but well worth the trip are:
Besides an ultra-luxe hotel, the Spa at the Ritz-Carlton offers a full menu tapping into local herbs and botanicals, an outdoor mineral pool, and massage/heat treatments using stones from the Gulf.
Tampa Tip: Don’t miss the “Soft Sand and Salt Scrub”. It’s like going to the beach, but you end up with stimulated soft skin.
The Spa at the Breakers, Palm Beach
This legendary resort has a full spa, and a high point is the Guerlain Black Orchid Treatment, combining Guerlain technology to reinforce skin immunity to aging. After just one session, guests report that wrinkles are visibly reduced, the skin texture is firmed, and facial contours redefined.
Tampa Tip: Get your kids into the spa lifestyle at “Spa Petite” with the Ice Cream Manicure/Pedicure using vanilla cupcake-scented unguents.
This dedicated wellness center has locations in Massachusetts, California, Arizona and Nevada. Tampa area snowbirds may flock to the Lenox retreat in the Berkshires, where they’ll find Oriental therapies including (among many) shiatsu and Reiki energy treatments.
For over 40 years, the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami has been one of the leading wellness destinations in the world, treating everything from heart disease to diabetes, as well as hypertension and weight loss. The 650-acre four-star resort combines beautiful pools and championship golf courses with full spa amenities.
Carillon Wellness Resort, Miami
Acclaimed for years as a top wellness retreat, it features a “touchless wellness circuit” which gets rave reviews for sorting out back and leg issues.
These are just the eensy tip of the spa and wellness iceberg. There are countless others, both close to Tampa and a weekender away. Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to try them all.
Chris Caswell is an award-winning writer and the former editor of several yachting magazines. He has appeared on Oprah as a boating lifestyle expert and hosted the Marine Voyager series on the Speed Channel.