Steam, exfoliate, detoxify, or just indulge at spas near and far

Boston Globe
Feb. 25, 2007

By Richard P. Carpenter, Globe Correspondent


So there I was, stuck at the nation's busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson International in Atlanta, while an ice storm gripped New England. Sometime during my eighth or ninth hour there, weary of lugging my carry-on around as gate changes were announced for flights to Boston that would soon be canceled anyway, I found myself wishing I were at a spa, receiving a muscle-relaxing massage or other soothing treatment.

I'm sure I wasn't alone: A survey by the International Spa Association recently uncovered a distinct category called "spa travelers," who seldom or never visit a spa at home but who give themselves a stress-relieving reward on the road, usually at a hotel or resort. For the spa travelers out there, and anyone else who enjoys the occasional splurge, here are some possibilities:

Treatments at the Azul Blue Hotel & Spa in Riviera Maya, Mexico, can involve everything from Mayan rituals to local herbs to oxygen facials. Two examples: The ancient purifying ritual of temazcal is led by a shaman of Mayan spirituality. The detoxifying experience begins with hot lava rocks and steam and ends with a water bath and rest period. The 50-minute treatment costs $118. With the Azul Blue Romantic Massage, meanwhile, couples indulging themselves in side-by-side 50- to- 75-minute massages are also treated to a Mayan foot-cleansing ceremony with flower petals and aromatic oil . Costs are $130-$195.

Visit , then click on Azul Blue Hotel & Spa or call 866-527-4762 .

Some say visiting a spa is a good way to wash the sin away in Sin City. Whatever the motivation, the treatments are becoming so popular there that now devotes an entire section to them. Go to for information on spas everywhere from the Hard Rock Hotel to Bellagio. Prices and treatments vary. For instance, at the Qua Baths & Spa, which opened late last year at Caesars Palace, the 80-minute, $300 Qua Mystic Journey begins with a bamboo body exfoliation. Next comes a moisturizing potion of lotus flowers and water lilies, followed by a massage and an oil facial with an eye treatment. The treatment ends with aromatherapy and a scalp massage, combining blends of volcanic clay, deep-sea blue algae, and essential oils. Visit .

Few, including me, visit Iceland without dropping in at the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, 40 minutes from Reykjavík. The warm water is famous for its mineral salts, silica, and algae , and their soothing effects. In addition to the main lagoon, you will find a waterfall, sauna, steam baths, in-water massage , and other spa treatments. With departures from Boston, Iceland Experience has a spa package priced from $1,009 low season (Jan. 1-March 31 and Nov. 1-Dec. 10), $1,149 shoulder season (all of April and October) and $1,709 high season (May 1-Sept. 30 and Dec. 11-31

Spa treatments, of course, can also be combined with hotel stays. The Riverbend Inn Bed and Breakfast in Chocorua , N.H., invites you to have a massage and enjoy Mud Season. In March, April, and May, a two - night, $425 Come Play in the Mud package includes a deluxe king room, two hourlong massages, mud-covered strawberries (chocolate dipped ), and multicourse breakfasts for two, which include Mud Parfaits ( berries, yogurt, and granola) and Muddy Coffee Cake made with sour cream and blueberries.

Call 800-628-6944 or visit .

The Dan'l Webster Inn & Spa in Sandwich has an Escape to the Cape spa package that includes a room for the night, dinner and breakfast vouchers, and spa treatments for two, with a choice of a couple's 55-minute massage or Deep Cleansing Dan'l Webster Facials. Spa gratuity is included. Prices range from $437-$566. Call 800-444-3566 or visit .

Hong Kong, not surprisingly, is one of the best places to experience Oriental spa treatments, which aim to correct the flow of vital energy, or qi, throughout the body. Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong boasts a 22,000- square-foot spa, offering such treatments as Tui na , an ancient form of finger pressure and manipulation. An hour session costs about $115 . Ear candling, meanwhile, is a centuries-old practice said to safely and naturally remove blockages from the ear canal to improve hearing, balance, mental clarity , and even the sense of taste. A 45-minute treatment costs about $75.

Visit .

For those who plan ahead, the spa at Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa in Stowe, Vt., is planning four theme weeks: Boot Camp Vermont Style Fitness Week, June 3-8; Outdoor Adventure Week, June 11-15; Mind & Body Week, June 17-22, and Nordic Walking Week, Sept. 9-14. The packages include three or five nights' accommodations; breakfast daily; access to the spa and Sports & Wellness Center facilities; use of indoor and outdoor pools and outdoor Jacuzzi; and unlimited fitness classes. Prices for the Boot Camp, Outdoor Adventure, and Mind & Body weeks begin at $444 per person for three nights, and $690 for five nights. Prices for the Nordic Walking week begin at $468 for three nights and $730 for five nights.

Visit or call 800-253-2232.

And then there is the $80 massage for BlackBerry thumb, offered by many Hyatt hotel spas in North America. Warm stones, warm oil (reportedly made with blackberry powder, among other ingredients), and a variety of massage strokes on the arm, hand, and thumb are used.

When not included, hotel taxes, airport fees, and port charges can add significantly to the price of a trip. Most prices quoted are for double occupancy; solo travelers will usually pay more. Offers are subject to availability . Check Monday-Friday for a Web-only New England Real Deal.