Caribbean, Stress Relief

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New treatments at the Caribbean’s top spas revive the mind, body and soul.

Mango, papaya, chocolate, ginger, and lime are not just for eating. At top spas in the Caribbean, guests can get rubbed and scrubbed with these indigenous products, or in some cases even soak in them. The experience is both good for you — think of all the antioxidants — and pleasurable.

“Many spas are moving toward focusing on ingredients from their local areas and creating experiences that focus on local remedies and culture,” says Stephen Phillips, director of the Fern Tree Spa at Half Moon Rose Hall in Montego Bay, Jamaica. He cites the work of Fern Tree’s “spa elder,” Stella Gray, who not only creates lotions and oils from fruits and herbs grown at Half Moon, but also crafts treatments utilizing elements of Jamaican folk healing, from bush baths to bamboo massages.

The move to customized treatments is another exciting spa trend, notes Lynne McNees, president of the International Spa Association. At nearly a quarter of U.S. spas, she says, clients can book blocks of time instead of specific services, allowing the professionals to decide on treatments.

That’s especially helpful if you want to relax, or as Phillips puts it, “vacate,” on your vacation. “Many spas are turning their marketing and services away from beauty and more toward stress management and relaxation,” he says. “Spas are also reducing prices and creating packages that focus on taking care of yourself during stressful times.”

Those are comforting words for work-weary urbanites looking to renew their energy without sapping their budget.

Take advantage of the savings by indulging in a nurturing treatment at one of these first-rate Caribbean spas.

Fern Tree Spa, Half Moon Rose Hall, Montego Bay, Jamaica

Situated on 400 acres fronting two miles of sandy beach, Half Moon’s 68,000-square-foot Fern Tree Spa is among the Caribbean’s largest. But guests aren’t rushed in and out — every patron is treated to a personalized experience.

You can meet with the spa elder to design a program that’s right for you. She will advise you on such matters as whether to choose the Jamaican green coffee scrub to firm your skin or the sugar and allspice scrub to soothe it, or to schedule the rosemary-scented reflexology treatment before or after your West Indies scalp and body massage with wild lime and ginger oil.

With only nine treatment rooms, Fern Tree devotes much of its space to creating an indoor/outdoor oasis. Guests can cool off in the plunge pools, watch the hummingbirds in the garden, or fall asleep poolside to the sound of waterfall fountains. If you prefer, enjoy a massage in the privacy of an oceanfront spa suite equipped with its own treatment room. 888.830.5974,

The Spa, JW Marriott Cancún Resort & Spa, Cancún, Mexico

The 35,000-square-foot spa at this AAA Five Diamond property features 16 treatment rooms and offers ancient therapies based on the Mayans’ use of local plants. Rehydrate with achiote, a Mayan remedy for dry or burned skin; detoxify with chaya, a plant rich in calcium, iron, and phosphate; reenergize with a massage with warm chocolate, the Mayan gift for the gods; and soothe your soul with an exfoliating treatment topped off with a bath with flecks of real gold. 888.813.2776,

Golden Door Spa, El Conquistador Resort, Fajardo, Puerto Rico

El Conquistador, on Puerto Rico’s northeastern coast, overlooks the confluence of the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean. Five villages spread across nearly 500 acres feature more than 900 rooms. The beach, on the resort’s private island, is an eight-minute boat ride away.
Despite the resort’s size, the Golden Door Spa provides a peaceful sanctuary. Featuring 25 treatment rooms, the 26,000-square-foot facility emphasizes Eastern-based treatments using natural ingredients. Signature therapies such as the Spirit of Life aim to destress. The process unfolds with the Shirodhara, in which warm oil is drizzled onto your forehead. It continues with a mini-facial and a Bindi balancing massage employing a brush technique, and ends with a detoxifying wrap. 888.543.1282,

The Blue Spa, Carlisle Bay, Antigua

Sometimes smaller is better. Carlisle Bay owner Gordon Campbell Gray describes the design of his 82-room,all-suite hotel as “sleek and chic.” The boutique spa has only six treatment rooms, but the uncluttered feel makes it a perfect place for cocooning. Orchids and dried grasses accent the spa’s soft gray and blue hues.

Upon arrival, cool off with iced towels infused with the scent of almonds. Then request one of the popular wraps and scrubs aimed at detoxifying and reviving, such as the Thai Lemongrass Scrub, the Lavender and Peppermint Cooler, or the De-Stressing Soother, which blends frankincense, chamomile, and rosemary. 866.502.2855,

Six Senses Spa, Puntacana Resort & Club, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

The Puntacana Resort & Club exudes star power — Julio Iglesias and Oscar de la Renta call it home — from its 15,000-acre setting on Hispaniola’s eastern shore to its Six Senses Spa to its 15 upscale, de la Renta-designed Tortuga Villas. The 355 hotel rooms and beach casitas are also quite comfortable.

The 19,375-square-foot Six Senses Spa is known for its low-key but luxurious facilities, which include indoor and outdoor massage pavilions. Thai, Vietnamese, Shiatsu, and other Asian-inspired therapies are on the menu. For the ultimate destressor, enjoy seven hours of treatments, interrupted only by lunch in the beach pavilion. Soak in a flower bath, exfoliate with a tropical fruit body smoother, relax with a hot stone massage, and enjoy a facial, followed by a cleansing hand and foot treatment — all to the calming accompaniment of the breaking surf. The sybaritic experience ends with — what else — champagne and chocolate. 888.442.2262,

Venus Spa & Fitness, CuisinArt Resort & Spa, Anguilla

Since it debuted in December 1999, this 93-room property, touted for its healthy food and spa indulgences, has been a mainstay on Rendezvous Bay, one of Anguilla’s superb beaches. At its onsite hydroponic farm and organic gardens, the resort grows some of the fruits, produce, and edible flowers used in meals as well as in spa lotions and potions. The cucumbers in the Cucumber & Aloe Wrap, for example, are farm-fresh, the better to rehydrate and soothe your skin after too much sun. The lavender and flowers used in the Organic Garden Fresh Wrap are also homegrown.

The 27,000-square-foot Venus Spa & Fitness facility features elegantly appointed treatment rooms and a diverse menu of spa services. Relax on the submerged lounge chairs in the mineral-enriched, saltwater Healing Waters Pool, the perfect place for in-water massages. Men account for close to 40 percent of Venus Spa’s clientele, and in the Men’s Club, they can enjoy a private treatment room equipped for manicures/pedicures, massages, facials, and a hot towel shave. 800.943.3210,

Other Islands to Consider


You can see the ocean from the lounge at the Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Southampton Hotel & Resort, and the sunlit indoor pool is big enough for swimming laps. Specialty massages include jet lag recovery, maternity, and sports. 800.441.1414,


Signature offerings at the 25,000-square-foot Senses Spa at Our Lucaya Beach and Golf Resort on Grand Bahama Island include the Bahamian Wrapsody, which combines rum, freshly squeezed lime, and island spices. 866.870.7148,

Seagoing Spas

Onboard spa facilities are a key amenity on many of the top cruise ships. Some passengers like to test the massage waters, while others experiment with beauty treatments, says Elizabeth Jakeway, a spokeswoman for Celebrity Cruises. “People are more inclined to dabble in less mainstream services while on vacation,” she notes. “A good portion of our guests choose treatments such as Medi-Spa cosmetic services.”

Here are four ships that offer great spa facilities:

Celebrity Cruises’ AquaSpa, aboard the line’s latest ship, the Celebrity Equinox, offers Botox and Restylane treatments and facial peels. The new 24 Karat Gold Facial combines medicinal plants, rose quartz, and a gold leaf mask to speed up cell renewal. You can add a set of thick eyelashes at the spa’s lash and brow bar. 800.437.3111,

Royal Caribbean International’s Oasis of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, accommodating 5,400 guests, will debut in the Caribbean in December. The Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center will feature 29 treatment rooms plus a Vitality Café serving juices and light fare. If you want to look younger, consider Botox, facial peels, and other MediSpa treatments. 866.562.7625,

Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, which sails the Caribbean in November and December, features the 24-room, 20,000-square-foot Canyon Ranch SpaClub, modeled after the land-based destination spa. The signature Total Transformation Facial uses Canyon Ranch potions with time-released ceramides and antioxidants. 800.728.6273,

Carnival Cruise Lines’ newest ship, the Carnival Dream, includes the Cloud 9 Spa, a 23,750-square-foot, two-deck facility. Noted treatments include an exotic frangipani body wrap and a Balinese massage. After debuting in Europe, the ship relocates in November, offering two Bahamian cruises, followed by weekly Caribbean sailings in December. 800.227.6482,