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Spa Trends to Watch

A while back, we posted about vinotherapy, chocolate treatments, and spiritual spa experiences. Over time, the spa industry has evolved and innovated, transitioning from traditional relaxation-focused services to more holistic, personalized and unique experiences.

10 trends in destination spas.

As we look ahead towards the new year, many spas are continuing to embrace new approaches and redefine the spa experience. Here are 10 trends in destination spas that are shaping the future of wellness travel:

1. Eco-Conscious Retreats: In response to the growing awareness of environmental issues, spas are increasingly adopting eco-friendly practices. This includes using sustainable materials in construction, harnessing renewable energy, and offering organic, locally-sourced spa products. These eco-conscious retreats not only offer a serene environment but also the satisfaction of knowing that your relaxation doesn’t come at the expense of the planet.

2. Digital Detoxes: In an era dominated by screens, more spas are offering digital detox programs. These retreats encourage guests to disconnect from their devices and reconnect with nature and their inner selves. Activities such as yoga, meditation, and nature walks are central, helping visitors break free from the digital world’s constant buzz.

3. Personalized Wellness Journeys: Spas are increasingly offering personalized wellness programs tailored to individual health goals and needs. This bespoke approach often includes consultations with wellness experts who design specific treatments, diet plans, and exercise regimens, ensuring a holistic and effective wellness experience.

4. Mindfulness and Mental Wellness: There's a growing recognition of the importance of mental wellness alongside physical health. Spas are incorporating mindfulness practices and stress management programs. From guided meditation sessions to workshops on emotional well-being, these offerings aim to provide a comprehensive approach to health.

5. Integration of Technology in Wellness: While digital detox is a trend, there's also a contrasting trend of integrating cutting-edge technology into wellness. This includes virtual reality meditations, AI-driven health assessments, and app-based wellness programs. These technological integrations offer innovative ways to enhance relaxation and health monitoring.

6. Cultural Immersion Experiences: More spas are integrating cultural experiences into their offerings, allowing guests to immerse themselves in local traditions. This might include traditional healing practices, indigenous spa treatments, or locally inspired cuisine. These experiences not only enrich the spa experience but also provide a deeper connection to the destination’s heritage.

7. Focus on Immune Health: In the wake of the global pandemic, there's an increased focus on immune health. Spas are offering programs that include immune-boosting treatments, nutritional advice focused on strengthening the immune system, and exercises that enhance bodily resilience.

8. Outdoor Wellness Spaces: The appreciation for outdoor spaces has grown, with more spas creating expansive outdoor wellness areas. These include gardens for meditation, outdoor treatment rooms, and nature-based therapies. The healing power of nature plays a crucial role in these settings.

9. Family and Multi-Generational Wellness: Spas are becoming more family-friendly, offering programs that cater to all ages. This shift recognizes the importance of wellness for everyone, from children to seniors, and provides opportunities for families to experience wellness together.

10. Sustainable Food Philosophy: Finally, the connection between diet and wellness is being emphasized with a shift towards sustainable, nutritious food offerings. Spas are partnering with local farms, focusing on plant-based menus, and educating guests on healthy eating.

These trends reflect a broader shift in the wellness industry, highlighting a holistic approach to health that is both environmentally conscious and deeply personal. Whether you choose to stick with something more familiar or branch out and try something new, the evolvoing landscape of destination spas promises something special for every traveler. So, take your pick!

December 6, 2023

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Chocolate Spas, Heaven on Earth

It's as if my Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fantasy of living amid treats and sweets grew up with me!

Chocolate spas offer an indulgent experience that tantalizes the senses with the rich, comforting appeal of chocolate. These unique wellness centers use chocolate not only as a delightful treat but also as a key ingredient in various spa treatments.

The Spa at The Hershey Hotel, located in Hershey, Pennsylvania, is renowned for its comprehensive menu of cocoa-infused treatments. From facials to massages, each therapy promises relaxation and sensory pleasure. The highlight is the signature chocolate bath, a luxurious soak in a blend of milk and cocoa, (literally an immersive chocolate experience) embodying the spa’s commitment to indulgence and pampering.

Another chocolatey destination is the Hotel Café Royal’s Akasha Holistic Wellbeing in London. This spa offers a unique "Cacao Cuisine" package, which combines cacao-based spa treatments with a chocolate-themed afternoon tea. The treatments include a cacao body exfoliation followed by a deeply relaxing massage with cacao bean oil, offering a blend of gastronomy and wellness that caters to both chocolate aficionados and spa enthusiasts.

In Zurich, Switzerland, the Dolder Grand’s Spa takes the chocolate experience to a sophisticated level with its “Chocolate Dream” package. This luxurious treatment includes a full-body chocolate wrap, known for its moisturizing and antioxidant properties, followed by a soothing massage. The experience is enhanced by the serene and elegant ambiance of the spa, nestled within the picturesque Swiss landscapes.

Beyond their irresistible aroma and taste, chocolate-based treatments offer skin rejuvenation, thanks to the antioxidants found in cocoa. These spas use cocoa butter and dark chocolate, believed to hydrate the skin, improve circulation, and reduce signs of aging. The appeal of chocolate spas extends beyond physical wellness; they provide memorable and emotionally uplifting experiences, leveraging the joy and comfort often associated with chocolate.

What's next? Snickers spas with peanut wraps and nougat facials? Why doesn't the spa industry just splash us with Chardonnay and dip us in dark, dreamy, drippy chocolate syrup until we're so sick of our guilty pleasures that we seek wholesome, back-to-the-basics activities like dinner with the four food groups or jogging.

June 20, 2023

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Discovering Serenity - The Rise of Spiritual Spas

In an era where the pursuit of mental wellness is as crucial as physical health, a new trend is emerging in the world of wellness: the spiritual spa. Blending ancient traditions with modern wellness techniques, these sanctuaries offer more than just physical rejuvenation. They are gateways to spiritual awakening and emotional healing, catering to those seeking a deeper sense of well-being.

At its core, a spiritual spa is a retreat that emphasizes inner peace and spiritual growth alongside, or in place of, traditional spa treatments. Unlike conventional spas focusing primarily on physical pampering and relaxation, spiritual spas aim to nurture the mind and soul. They provide a sanctuary for individuals to disconnect from their hectic lives and reconnect with their inner selves.

Spiritual spas often encompass a variety of practices and treatments, each designed to foster holistic well-being. Meditation and mindfulness sessions are staples, offering guided experiences that help quiet the mind and cultivate inner peace. Yoga and other movement therapies are frequently available, providing a physical dimension to spiritual practices.

Energy healing treatments, such as Reiki or chakra balancing, are also common, aiming to align and heal the body's energy systems. Many spas offer spiritual counseling and workshops, providing guidance on personal growth and emotional healing.

Nature-based activities are integral, with many retreats set in serene, natural locations. These activities can range from nature walks to outdoor meditation, helping guests to reconnect with the natural world. Nutrition and detox programs are often part of the experience, focusing on foods that cleanse both the body and the soul.

Finally, cultural and spiritual rituals are a unique aspect of many spiritual spas. These can vary widely depending on the spa's cultural and spiritual orientation, offering diverse experiences like sweat lodges, fire ceremonies, or traditional healing rituals.

Booking a Spiritual Spa Experience:

When searching for a spiritual spa, consider what aspects of spirituality and wellness are most important to you. Are you seeking a yoga-centric experience, or are you more inclined towards meditation and mindfulness? Do you prefer a specific cultural or spiritual tradition? Answering these questions can help narrow down your options.

Websites like offer a comprehensive listing of spiritual retreats worldwide, complete with user reviews and detailed descriptions. It's also worth checking out wellness-focused travel agencies, which can provide personalized recommendations based on your preferences.

When reserving a spot, consider the timing and duration of the retreat. Some retreats are weekend getaways, while others offer longer stays for deeper immersion. Be sure to inquire about the level of physical activity involved, especially if you have any limitations.

Spiritual spas are not just places to relax but are transformative spaces where one can embark on a journey of self-discovery and spiritual renewal. Whether nestled in the tranquil mountains, perched by the serene seaside, or tucked away in a lush forest, these retreats offer a pathway to a more connected, peaceful, and mindful existence.

Article updated December 2023.

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Best Spas (updated)

Spas offer a respite from daily stress, a transformative means to health, and boost the spirit. Massages melt muscles with seductive aromatherapy, perfect pressure points, and release knots, putting your body and mind at ease. Nothing beats a good masseur or masseuse.

In the pursuit of unparalleled relaxation and rejuvenation, world-class destination spas stand out as sanctuaries of wellness and luxury. These exceptional retreats, nestled in some of the most beautiful locations across the globe, offer much more than just spa treatments. From personalized wellness programs to sumptuous accommodations and gourmet cuisine, these spas provide a holistic experience that caters to the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of their guests.

What makes a world-class destination spa? Here are some of the key criteria:

Places on our hope to visit list:

Looking for more inspiration? Check out:

But are any of the spas listed in these rankings really the best? Such a subjective word: best. What makes a spa ideal for you?

From my personal experience (so far!), the best spa I've gone to was in Calistoga. Here's why it was amazing: When I walked in, the clock was at least 10 minutes slow and the front desk clerk smiled, "Welcome. No worries about the time, we're on spa time." My shoulders dropped with relief. No stress here. After calmly slipping into a robe in the dressing room, I drank cucumber-flavored water before the masseuse brought me to my sea salt soaking tub. After the soak, I had the massage of a lifetime. The masseuse was a magician with strong, experienced hands who worked every knot out of my back and shoulders, then had me doing a breathing exercise while she released tension from my neck and left my body and mind dizzy with delight. Being on vacation in Napa Valley also helped with the carefree mood. Still, I highly recommend Indian Springs Spa.

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Wine and Spa Lovers Unite

A European trend is quickly spreading. Two heavenly pleasures - spas and wine - are now joined in a marriage of grape bliss.

Vinotherapy, an alluring wellness concept, intertwines the luxurious world of spas with the age-old indulgence of wine. Originating in the lush vineyards of France, this unique therapy was pioneered by the French skincare brand Caudalie, co-founded by Mathilde and Bertrand Thomas. The couple discovered the potential of grape seeds in enhancing skin health during a chance meeting with Professor Joseph Vercauteren, a polyphenols specialist, at their family vineyard in Bordeaux. Fascinated by the antioxidant properties of grape seeds, which are potent in combating aging, they developed a skincare line and spa treatments revolving around this concept, thus birthing vinotherapy.

Vinotherapy has since garnered global acclaim, becoming a coveted experience for wellness enthusiasts and wine lovers alike. The treatments typically involve the use of grape-based products such as grape seed oil, crushed Cabernet scrubs, and wine baths, believed to harness the rejuvenating and revitalizing properties of grapes. This luxurious therapy transcends beyond mere relaxation, promising anti-aging benefits and improved skin vitality, making it popular among those seeking a unique pampering experience. Its popularity has grown not only because of its supposed health benefits but also due to the sheer indulgence and novelty it offers.

In the heart of Bordeaux, Les Sources de Caudalie, stands as the epitome of vinotherapy luxury. This exquisite spa, nestled amidst vineyards, offers an array of treatments that showcase the essence of vinotherapy. From barrel baths filled with warm water and vine extracts to Merlot wraps and grape-seed oil massages, the spa promises a holistic experience that celebrates the vine's life cycle. Another notable mention is the Spa Vinothérapie Caudalie at The Plaza Hotel in New York City, where urban dwellers can escape into a world of wine-inspired relaxation.

Italy, too, has embraced vinotherapy with open arms. At the Adler Thermae Spa in Tuscany, guests can immerse themselves in baths of local Brunello di Montalcino, renowned for its rejuvenating properties. The spa combines traditional Italian thermal waters with the antioxidant benefits of grapes, offering a unique blend of health and heritage. In the picturesque region of Piedmont, the L’Andana Spa offers treatments using grapes from their own vineyards, epitomizing the farm-to-face ethos.

As vinotherapy continues to captivate the wellness world, more spas across the globe are incorporating wine-based treatments into their offerings. From the rolling vineyards of South Africa to the sun-kissed valleys of California, these treatments celebrate the natural bounty and timeless allure of the vine. Whether it’s a wine bath in Bordeaux or a grape seed scrub in Tuscany, vinotherapy offers an intoxicating journey into the heart of wellness and luxury, making it a must-try experience for those seeking a unique blend of indulgence and health.

Why drink the elixir of centuries when you can swim in it?  I say dive in. The water (bubbly, blush, red, or white) should be divine.

Updated December 2023.

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Spa Etiquette for Groups

When getting together on a spa trip with your friends for a bachelorette (or bachelor) party, birthday, or other getaway, you'll want to make sure the group is aware of some basic spa etiquette.

Nothing is more certain when a group of good friends gets together (at least with my friends) than lively conversation and side-splitting laughter. But spas offer a place of tranquility, and sometimes we all need a gentle reminder that other guests are also paying for that peaceful away-from-reality setting.

Here are a few etiquette tips (so your group is welcome at the spa next year):

Group Appointments: If you're heading to resort, schedule your stays and spa treatments several months in advance to ensure your group has enough room, can secure rooms next to each other, and can schedule appointments together (steam room, wellness classes, etc.). Scheduling massages and other treatments simultaneously or around the same time allows you to go into the pools, steam rooms and ante rooms ahead of time together.

By scheduling appointments in sync or timed closely together, you can plan other activities before and after the spa service time. That way the whole group can continue to enjoy the trip together. You can set each day's agenda for the group loosely based around spa appointments.

Quiet Times: When entering treatment areas and rooms, you'll get the most out of the experience (and so will others) if you stay quiet. Breathe deeply, absorb the relaxing air to its fullest, bring a good book for down times, and save the chit-chat with friends for meals (a time when others at the spa are likely to be more social), drinks out at a local restaurant or bars, on hikes or while doing activities outside of the spa, or create a happy hour haven for the gang in your room.

Tipping: If you're organizing a group for a spa vacation, don't assume everyone has the same tipping policy in mind. While individuals can pay for individual massage or other appointments (and tip accordingly), you may want to remind the group before the trip to tip therapists (or if you as a planner are collecting money, be sure to collect enough to cover a 15-20% tip). While individuals can vary their tipping amount depending on service quality, when in a group, it seems especially polite to tip at least 15%. Here are the Spa Industry Association's recommendations for tipping.

Nudity: Be sure to check with the spa for their general policy and ambience on nudity to prepare the group. Most likely there will be varying levels of comfort and familiarity about spa services within your group. Some destination spas or resorts offer services where you and others may be partially or fully nude, such as steam rooms, mud bath areas, etc. Phone the spa before scheduling appointments for the group so you can communicate clearly and set expectations, and the whole group can relax in their own comfort zone by choosing whichever spa services they prefer.

Read more helpful hints for group spa travel.

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Helpful Hints for Group Spa Travel

Whether your group travel plans take you on a getaway weekend with friends to a luxurious destination spa, spa appointments while golfing with the guys, or a visit to a day spa for a bachelorette party, spa etiquette is paramount.

While there are no set "rules" for spa-going (other than to lie back and relax while getting the pampering you deserve!) here are some tips and hints:

Spa Getaways

    1. Mixing activities: On the day of treatment, try to stay out of the sun and avoid alcoholic beverages. Also, don't schedule a physically demanding endeavor after a spa appointment. When in doubt, contact the spa to ask whether it's advisable to engage in a particular activity prior to your appointment.

    2. Pets: Some animals are welcome at certain resorts (likely not at day spas) but should not be brought to the spa. Be considerate of others by keeping your pet quiet and following the spa rules.

    3. Phones: Leave phones in your locker or room; or turn them off before entering the spa.

    4. Perfume: Because the emphasis should be on relaxation and others may be allergic, it's best not to wear perfume to exercise classes offered at the resort or destination spa.

    5. Massage Therapists & Estheticians: If you prefer either a male or female provider, but the spa fails to ask, don't hesitate to let your choice be known. Also, if you have enjoyed the services of a particular individual on a prior visit, feel free to request that person.

    6. Punctuality: Arrive on time or early. If you are late, your treatment time will need to be shortened since the treatment room (and provider) is generally booked after your session. After a treatment, it's customary to vacate the room within five or ten minutes. However, you are free to spend additional time unwinding in the day spa's relaxation or waiting rooms.

    7. Socializing: Meals can often be arranged and, in general, a sense of community is encouraged in a destination spa. Feel free to engage fellow spa goers in conversation, though try to stay away from stressful topics: Guests generally use spa visits as an opportunity to get away from the pressures of everyday life. If, on the other hand, you choose to maintain privacy, that can also be arranged. Though it is easy to form cliques in such surroundings, be considerate of engaging others as getting to know many of your fellow spa-goers is part of emotional wellness. Celebrity guests should be treated just like other guests and not disturbed by requests for autographs or other mementos.

    8. Advance Booking: As resort and hotel spas often fill up quickly, book as far in advance as possible. Some resort/hotel spas can accommodate groups if you reserve treatments at check-in; others suggest booking prior to your arrival. Want to avoid the crowds? Try reserving a treatment during off-peak hours or during the week. If you do, you may also receive a discount. Popular spa treatment times are usually in the late afternoon and mornings.

    9. Cancellation: Unexpected things do happen, and sometimes it's impossible to keep an appointment. If you must cancel, give the spa as much advance notice as possible. Be sure to ask if your money will be refunded; cancellation policies vary widely.

    10. Group Discounts: Many spas offer group discounts, especially for special occasions (bridal showers or birthdays). Simply call and ask.

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Girls Getaway Spa Specials

Spas are my life. OK, not exactly. But if I could afford a massage daily, I'd schedule them. My favorite massage thus far was at Indian Springs Spa. The raw talent of the masseuse, the relaxed, unpretentious setting, outdoor pool, and fact that I was on a Napa Valley vacation all helped bliss me out like never before. Closer to home (in Seattle), the Zen-like spa at Salish Lodge & Spa offers tranquility amid a mountain setting. And overseas, I sampled a famous eastern European-style spa in the Czech Republic (a little more clinical than I'd expected).

Nothing's better than experiencing a spa get-away with friends. Pedicures, facials, decadent settings, cucumber eyes, laughing and relaxing all at once. Ah, that's the life!

Girls getaway spa specials

Ready to plan a girls getaway at the spa of your choice? For inspiration, here's a very short and incomplete list of spas that offer packages for friends groups and events.

Want more options? Spafinder has partnered with a number of luxury spas to offer options just for girls getaway weekends.

Article updated November 2023.

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