Insider's Guide to Spas
JW Marriott Marco Island


Gulf Coast Glory: SPA at JW Marriott Marco Island

Dana Wood

  • SPA at JW Marriott Marco Island
  • Marco Island, Florida   
  • +1 239-394-2511

Even in the best possible conditions, renovations are never a walk in the park. But when a Category 3 hurricane dismantles all your newly completed hard work, next-level fortitude is required to power through yet another overhaul, this one at warp speed.

Though that nail-biter backstory will never make it to most guests’ ears, it’s one that makes the vibe of chic, effortless serenity at the SPA at JW Marriott, Marco Island, all the more remarkable. Clearly Hurricane Irma, which clobbered the coast of southwest Florida on September 10, 2017, met its match in the spa’s 70+ employees, as well as its intrepid design firm, Edge of Architecture.

“We had just finished the renovation before Irma,” recalls Spa Director Paul Nunez. “It was a monumental effort by so many hardworking people to get the spa back up and running in just under two months.”

Clearly Hurricane Irma, which clobbered the coast of southwest Florida on September 10, 2017, met its match in the spa’s 70+ employees, as well as its intrepid design firm, Edge of Architecture.

As part of a $320 million expansion and facelift that has touched virtually every inch of this sprawling, 726-room property, the 24,000-square-foot spa is at once brand spanking new and thoroughly eroded—by design.

In shifting from a Balinese décor theme featuring a lot of dark wood to one of “natural erosion,” Edge of Architecture aimed for “the feeling of a waterfall carving out a cavern,” says Nunez, “and the wind sculpting the canyons of the West.” Even the wavy knockout of a reception desk looks like it was etched from stone.

So that’s a sense of what the spa looks like. (In a word: stunning.) But how does it make guests feel? That, too, can be summed-up in a single word: heard.

Yes, heard. Up to 75 percent of the treatments performed in the spa’s 24 rooms are customized to reflect guests’ needs at that precise moment. Obviously, that doesn’t happen without a lot of asking and listening. Over the course of my stay, during which I had several treatments, virtually all of them were tweaked to accommodate A) my various tennis-related aches and pains, and B) a head cold that was unfortunately brewing. Let’s just say my lower back got a lot of love, and I inhaled a plenty of sinus-clearing peppermint and eucalyptus essential oils.

The results-driven menu is organized according to the SPA by JW’s core corporate categories of Calm, Renew, Indulge, and Invigorate. And that dovetails nicely with the Marco Island property’s clientele, which Nunez says often has an end goal in mind. They need to unwind from too much stress and work, say, or they’re looking to recharge their batteries and gear up for a pending project.

Hard-charging Type As in need of relaxation will be drawn like a magnet to the mineral tub overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. Adjacent to the spa’s private pool, it’s like an impossibly luxe Epsom salt bath, especially if you’re sipping a glass of Champagne while soaking.

Bubbles + bubbles = bliss.

Not that the spa pool area is purely for hedonistic kicking back; I attended a crack of dawn yoga class that challenged each and every one of my stay-steady skills. As I down-dogged on my quivering BOGA FitMat, it was all I could do not to face-plant into the chilly H20.

Tapping into the spa’s wellness ethos, the aforementioned essential oils figure prominently in many of the treatments for both face and body, and one of the massages offered—the 50- or 80-minute Ultimate Aromatherapy Experience by Aromatherapy Associates—is hugely popular. A mix of Swedish massage and neuromuscular work pummels out all the kinks, while lymphatic drainage boosts circulation and whisks away the traces of one too many frozen umbrella drinks.

Despite all the potential for zoning-out and just losing yourself in the warren of treatment rooms, lounging area, and cozy steam and sauna nook, the spa offers lots of zip-in, zip-out opportunities, too. Brides and anyone else staying at the hotel for a special event can book-out the positively gorgeous hair salon, and there’s even an area set aside for 12- or 25-minute Express treatments like scalp and “tense shoulders” massages.

But honestly, when you’ve traveled all the way to the sugar-white beach of Marco Island to stay at a beautiful resort with an insanely chic spa, aren’t you worth more than a mere 12 or 25 minutes? I thought so.

Not to be Missed: Though the spa menu is peppered with property-specific treatments using local ingredients, i.e., the Marco Island Foot Ritual and Marco Island Coconut Scrub, the recently unveiled, 80-minute 5 Senses is a true signature standout. Designed to balance mind and body, it weaves in a fairly staggering array of modalities, including pranayama breathwork, prosperity-driven chromotherapy, inhalation of spearmint essential oil, hot stone massage, and a vigorous Key Lime back scrub. Afterward, to add the “sense of taste” finishing touch, a crazy-delicious Mojito popsicle awaits. While there was debate among the spa staff as to whether the icy treat was too big, the group I was with all agreed that it was perfect as is. A refreshing finale to an utterly fantastic treatment.

Dana Wood

Dana Wood

As a glossy-mag Beauty Director, Dana spent a total of 20 years at Condé Nast. That's a lot of moisturizer-testing. A transplanted New Yorker, she now lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. When she's not playing tennis, she writes frequently for The Wall Street Journal and Alexa, a luxury style section published by The New York Post.