Insider's Guide to Spas
Felipe Pinheiro

Destination Spas


Kevin Raub

I’ve learned to keep expectations tempered when booking a spa appointment in Brazil – the country does all the things that tend to align with the spa lifestyle (luxury, gastronomy, high-end resorts) quite well – but over the course of five years of living here, I’ve been rarely wowed by a spa experience. So it was with more than a little trepidation (but with a glimmer of hope) that I allowed myself to be booked into Brazil’s oldest and best destination spa for a multi-day reset.

After all, Lapinha, located about 55 miles southwest of Curitiba, first opened its doors in 1972. Though it wasn’t called a “spa” then, it was way ahead of the spa game, founded by a forward-thinking German immigrant with an unparalleled wellness vision for the time. Today, it has won numerous destination awards – Best Spa in the Americas, etc – and has become the go-to spa to trash all of your bad habits, restart your hard drive, and churn out you, version 2.0. Much to my surprise, it doesn’t take long for Lapinha to turn a bloated Windows PC into a slim and sleek Macbook Air.

The spa has a medical edge to it – there’s no caffeine or alcohol – and my Brazilian driver certainly understands what a sacrifice that truly is in a country absolutely obsessed with cold beer and strong espresso. I may be a gringo here, but I’m no exception – I adore my Nespresso machine at home, as well as the Brazilian coffee culture of cafezinho – a little coffee here and there throughout the day. “We can take one of two routes to the spa,” my driver explains. “Around the town of Lapa and straight to the spa; or, through the historic center, where we can stop at a nice bakery for a last cafezinho.” He read my mind.

After arriving – Lapinha’s peaceful grounds sit on 1,360 acres bound by gorgeous Araucaria groves and flush with scenic walking trails, cow-grazing pastures and organic gardens – I had my standard initial doctor’s consultation and am cleared for a normal diet. Day 1 numbers: 165 pounds and 15 percent body fat. I’m handed the best prescription ever: Relax!

Lapinha is the go-to spa to trash all of your bad habits, restart your hard drive, and churn out you, version 2.0

The food at Lapinha – all vegetarian, organic, low-fat, low-sodium, low-everything-bad-for-you – was the first thing that struck me as great. We had a great veggie feijoada (Brazil’s national dish, but usually loaded down with pork, salt, and fat), pinion gnocchi, the best honey I have ever had in my life and scrumptious soups. Flavors were subtler, but I was cool with that. And what a revelation it was to actually eat a 2,000-calorie diet! If I could only take Lapinha home with me, I could live like this. On the second day, I get whacked hard with a caffeine deprivation headache – the doc warned me about this – but about 2,000 milligrams of Tylenol later and I’m golden.

Lapinha operates with minimum stays of five- or seven-day stays, depending on your program (Basic, Detox, Relax, Slim, Anti-Smoking, etc) and packages include $180 in spa credits (enough for about three 50-minute massages). There is a tempting list of over 40 treatments to choose from. When you’re not being rubbed down, you can hit up Nordic walking through the forest, attend lectures on mastication or meditation, take field trips to Trappist Catholic masses or take on classes in the fitness center and pool. As all activities are voluntary, I mostly curled up in my room with the new Dan Brown novel.

By the end of my stay, I was definitely a believer. Day 5 numbers: 158 pounds and 12 percent body fat – and I hadn’t done anything but eat! I felt re-jazzed like never before. But the biggest lesson? Some of my bad habits make me feel like shit.

Now where the hell was that bakery again?

Kevin Raub

Kevin Raub

Kevin Raub is a Brazil-based journalist who covers travel, eco-lifestyle, and spas for a variety of publications, including Travel+Leisure, Condé Nast Traveller, New York Times T Magazine, Town & Country, and American Way. He is also the author of over 25 Lonely Planet travel guides. Follow Kevin's adventures on Twitter (@RaubonTheRoad), Instagram (@kevinraub) and at