Insider's Guide to Spas
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My Spa Experience

Best Spas for Life’s Big Moments

Mary Bemis


Life is full of ups and downs—and sometimes you really need to get away to make sense of it all. Here are the best spas to celebrate, contemplate, and to even find solace.


The Divorce
Where to Go: Trump International Hotel & Tower, Las Vegas
Why: A grown-up refuge where you can have it all
Spa Standout: Excellent anti-aging facials and gemstone-therapies

There’s a certain look that about-to-be or newly divorced women have. A male friend of mine calls this “the post-divorce glow.” You know the look: People who have emerged from the ringer looking better than ever. Slimmer, fitter, and with a renewed sense of confidence. I can’t think of a better place to celebrate this new chapter in life than at a spa—and not just any spa, but one that is vibrant and classy and grown-up and that has the aura of possibility around it.

One of the nicest things about this hotel is that it’s off the (very) beaten and noisy Strip. If you’re into retail therapy, you’re in luck: Fashion Show Mall is right next door. Refreshingly small by Vegas standards, Trump Las Vegas is nonsmoking throughout and does not have a casino in sight. What it does have are comfortable, contemporary spacious suites that are thoughtfully designed to be very residential in feel with floor-to-ceiling windows that offer great city views, especially at night.

A Trump Attache, your own concierge, is available to ensure a stay that is tailored to your desires (part of Trump’s mission is to be “attentive but never intrusive”)—and if you really want to treat yourself well, opt for the in-room chef who will create delicious gourmet meals to your liking. There’s also a very good restaurant, DJT, where you can fly happily solo or with your best girlfriends in a curtained booth.

The 11,000 square-foot spa is also intimate by Vegas standards and has deep eggplant-hued suede covered walls that cocoon you and an inviting relaxation room where you can sip the organic tea of your choice. All these details add up a to a true haven. It’s easy to forget where you are when you’re tucked away here. The spa menu (with a tagline that reads “Rejuvenate. Reenergize. Renew”) offers a variety of excellent Kate Somerville anti-aging facials guaranteed to keep you glowing, as well as gem-infused body therapies. Trade in one diamond for another and try the Purifying Diamond Massage that uses diamond-diffused oils said to provide clarity, inspiration, and enlightenment.


The Health Scare
Where to Go: Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa Miami Beach
Why: Prime oceanfront spot, healing sunshine, and expert team of physicians & therapists
Spa Standout: The Aquavana Thermal Suite

One of the most well-respected names in the destination spa world, Canyon Ranch is the go-to for stressed out execs and Type-A personalities—pre-heart attack and post. The health and wellness team is led by Richard Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.S. and former Surgeon General of the United States, and the expert team at this outpost in Miami includes Karen Koffler M.D., the clinical director who specializes in integrative medicine and women’s health.
This property is comfortable, modern in design, and housed in a historic hotel with a casual and relaxed vibe to it—albeit chic and upscale. If you’re recovering from a recent illness or health scare, this is a good place to do so. You can go at your own pace or sign on for one of the Total Health Packages that enables you to work with a team of health and wellness professionals who will design a customized program for you and give you a comprehensive take-home plan.

There are more than 40 indoor and outdoor fitness and movement classes daily, including Qi Gong on the beach, a walking circuit, and boxer’s workout. There’s also a two-story climbing wall, if you’re up for it (pardon the pun). Take a leisurely morning beach walk before hitting the most expansive (70,000-square-feet) spa in Florida.

The standout here is the Aquavana Thermal Suite where you can relax on thermal heated loungers or spend a therapeutic session in its healing environment that includes soaking tubs, a crystal steam room, Finnish sauna, an herbal laconium, hydro spa—and igloo. Treatments are a good mix of standard (Deep-Tissue Thermal Therapy) and integrative (De-Stress Chakra Ritual). Accommodations are comfortable, airy, and spacious with terrific spa-inspired bathrooms with soaking tubs.


The Spiritual Awakening
Where to Go: Mii Amo, Sedona, Arizona
Why: A magical place, complete with its own vortex, situated in a sacred canyon
Spa Standout: The Crystal Grotto

There’s a reason why Mii amo has been awarded numerous accolades—it’s one of the best places for self-discovery. If you’re on a private inward journey, or have experienced an awakening of your own and would like to explore or enhance that in a truly authentic environment, this is an ideal and safe place to do so.

Mii amo translates to “journey” in Yuman, the traditional Native American language of Northern Arizona, meaning more specifically “to continue one’s path, moving forward, or journey.” The property is set in beautiful Boynton Canyon, considered sacred by the Native people, and there’s a vortex that lies along a trail that’s adjacent to the spa. You can choose from three-, four- and seven-night programs called Journeys (there are five of them that address different needs)—including the Spiritual Exploration Journey that’s designed to help you find insight and balance with energy work that includes Native-American inspired traditions, psychic massages, integrative breathing, and guided meditations.

The heart of the spa is the Crystal Grotto that’s based on the design of a kiva, a Native American place of ritual. It’s a circular space meant to connect the heavens with the earth. An aperture in the ceiling (focused on the coordinates of the summer solstice) casts a shaft of light on the large quartz crystal that rests in the center of the room. During the morning ritual, therapists bring a bottle of oil to this room to be energized and that will, in return, energize the entire set of massage oils and lotions used in treatments. This is a wonderful place to sit and meditate and it’s used for guided meditation, as well. Spa treatments here are some of the best in the U.S., as are the therapists.


The Big Anniversary
Where to Go: Las Alamandas, Costa Legre, Jalisco, Mexico
Why: Super-exclusive resort on 1,500 protected acres with four private beaches at your disposal
Spa Standout: A perfect massage on your own mile-long beach

If you’ve been with your partner long enough to have a “big anniversary” and you still enjoy being alone together…congratulations, you have something to celebrate! Pack your bags and head to this outrageously private beach resort located on one of Mexico’s most dramatic coasts. Costa Legre (“Happy Coast”) is a two-hour drive from either Puerto Vallarta or Manzanillo and is blissfully undeveloped.

The impeccable resort, owned and overseen by heiress Isabel Goldsmith, is situated on 1,500 acres that includes four perfectly pristine beaches. You may actually request one to be blocked off for the two of you for the day. Rest assured—not a soul will stumble upon you—security guards will be placed at each access point, plus you’ll be given walkie-talkies to call in when you’re ready to depart.

There are multiple ways to celebrate at this exclusive resort, including a bottle of wine or Champagne at the dramatic lookout point where two of the afore-mentioned beaches intersect; you may also opt for a private dinner here or on one of the beaches. A total of six villas with 14 rooms, allowing for no more than 30 guests at a time, keep it quiet and private. Each villa is very different and very chic, with lovely traditional Mexican décor and handicrafts. It’s hard not to be happy here, as color confronts you at every angle: wild pinks, yellows, blues, and reds in the gorgeous landscaping and design details. There are absolutely no restaurants or nightlife around, so be prepared to “retreat” and really relax.


After Personal Tragedy
Where to Go: The Golden Door, Escondido, California
Why: One of the most private and nurturing, women’s only spa experiences to be found
Spa Standout: A week where the schedule is personalized to your needs

You probably don’t think of a spa as a good place to cry—but that’s exactly what it is. The best spas are safe havens where you are free to express whatever you need to. On one of my first visits to a very exclusive destination spa in Texas years ago, I realized that some very high-profile women had simply come to cry. They needed a protective environment to deal with the death of a spouse, for one woman, and the death of a parent for the other. No matter your loss—and that could be a family member, good friend, or loving pet—time booked at a spa is time well-spent for not only grieving, but healing and moving forward.

One of the best places for this is the original Golden Door near San Diego. This is a highly customized week-long experience (you arrive on a Saturday and depart on a Saturday) that will give you a variety of lifestyle tools you’ll carry with you long after you depart. The spa describes itself as “A Transformational Retreat,” and it truly is, as it offers one of the most calming, nurturing, and peaceful women’s only accommodations around.

There are 40 guests max during the week, and you can be as social or not as you like. For example, you may choose to have dinner delivered to your room in lieu of joining the others. But note, there is a real sense of camaraderie that develops among spa-goers here. The grounds and spacious suites were inspired by the ancient Japanese Honjin inns, and while some guests have complained that the interiors of the public spaces are a little worn around the edges, I found this to be comforting in this day and age of over-the-top, overly designed spas with sharp edges and gleaming surfaces. The Door, as it’s lovingly referred to, is like visiting your favorite Aunt’s home — welcoming, warm, and well lived in. A perfect respite.

Mary Bemis

Mary Bemis

Mary Bemis is editorial director of InsidersGuidetoSpas.com. She is an award-winning spa journalist, honored with Folio's Top Women in Media Award, and the distinguished ISPA Dedicated Contributor Award. In 1997, she launched American Spa magazine, and in 2007, Mary co-founded Organic Spa magazine. A pioneer in the sustainable spa and beauty worlds, Mary is co-curator of Cosmoprof North America's Discover Green Pavilion. She sits on the board of Wellness Warrior, is a Global Wellness Day Advisor and a co-founder of the Washington Spa Alliance.