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Spa Roundup: A “Sense-A-Mental” Journey


by Jenny Lenore Rosenbaum

Some say that nothing in life is certain. Perhaps, but one thing is pretty close to definite: luscious rewards for the senses and the mind are in store for you at a great spa.

Arguably, a spa can be a nearly instantaneous cure for post-holiday exhaustion, an elixir to soothe dizzying fast-track lifestyles—or even a kind of marinade, sure to tenderize life’s tough patches. As a sage once noted: “To treat oneself; is to know the way to treat others.”

At the Nob Hill Spa, a truly indulgent facility in the Huntington Hotel, one enters a high ceilinged, luminous lobby of subtle elegance, its centerpiece the aquamarine waters of a large pool and Jacuzzi. Soaring windows look upon the austere cityscape. What lies within is a fireplace-adorned coziness and a team of spa therapists at the top of their game.

Our spa tour then takes us to another urban oasis, this one nestled within the Presidio’s lush surroundings—although it feels many light years away. This unique sanctuary, SenSpa, was ingeniously made from a former medical warehouse. “I was impassioned to fuse body and skin care with inner wellness,” says visionary founder David Spencer, “and draw inspiration from Eastern medicine’s holistic model.” His irresistible high concept fuses the best of the East and the West to unleash the body’s innate powers of wellness and rejuvenation.

Treatments here (extraordinary in number and variety) are inspired by the ancient healing practices of India, Japan, Tibet, and China. After luxuriating in SenSpa’s exotic treatments, clients return to earth via SenSpa’s exquisitely designed and soothing Japanesque public spaces.

You will take urban fervor in stride after a few hours at TruSpa in the Hilton. One of San Francisco’s hottest pampering zones, this innovative spa is Craig Fossella’s hip creation. Lauded in Luxury Living and Travel & Leisure, the spa has a sleek-chic minimalist aesthetic centered upon gently curving walls, which immediately induce calm.

Among its signature treatments, Jungle Love is a kind of elemental simulation of a tropical rainforest, complete with a waterfall cascade, exotic birdsong, and caressing papaya-mango-pineapple creams. TruTherapy integrates aroma and colored light therapy to yield physiological and psychological benefits.

Other roads lead to Remède Spa in the St. Regis, whose team of estheticians and masseuses customizes all treatments, including: the Spa Sanctuary (six hours of head-to-toe pampering), Hot Stone Treatment (strategically placed mineral-rich stones and deep tissue massage), and the Stillness Ritual (fusing Swedish massage, an herbal bath, and reflexology). Pushing the envelope, spa masters here devised the Pampered Mother: two and a half blissful hours designed to soothe new empty-nesters.

Tucked in towering eucalyptus groves and emerald meadows, and situated almost right under that beautiful golden span (at historic Fort Baker), CavalloPoint Healing Arts Center and Spa should not be missed—it’s a hidden gem that’s one of the Bay Area’s best kept secrets. Opened in 2008, its stunning modern structure incorporates lofty ceilings, redwood beams, gorgeous woods, Asian décor, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking gardens and a large sculpture-adorned meditation pool.

An expansive palette of services encompasses all the standard spa treatments, plus clinical massages (targeting chronic pain, injuries, and specific conditions), acupuncture, energy healing, guided imagery, and even shamanic sessions, tapping into ancient wisdom traditions.

It’s a splendid drive from Cavallo to the undulating terrain outside Sebastopol where Osmosis awaits. The spa’s popular detoxifying cedar enzyme bath, existing nowhere else, is a complex formulation of more than 600 enzymes brought here from Japan. Everything about this spa is rare and singular. A kind of spiritual nectar suffuses the site, most dramatically in the Japanese meditation garden that rivals — in authenticity and sheer beauty — San Francisco’s Japanese Tea Garden.

Set above a creek and near a bamboo forest, a series of private massage pagodas are situated next to a hammock garden, there to assure post-treatment serenity heightened by sound therapy: headphones sending mystical Balinese gamelon, hypnotic Indian ragas, and Baroque harmonies into your blissed-out brain.

Completing our journey, a quartet of Wine Country spas exudes intimate luxury within secluded and sublime settings, and they deserve mention. Enhancing the Sonoma Coast Villa& Spa is an Italianate country estate ambience, while romantic seaside elegance at the Spa at Bodega Bay Lodge amplifies the invigorating impact of its spa menu.

Ranked among America’s top 25 spas by Condé Nast Traveler, the Spa at Kenwood, amid vine-draped, Tuscan opulence, utilizes “vinotherapy” and red wine extracts for anti-aging, healing, and longevity benefits. Last but certainly not least, the spa at the renowned Auberge du Soleil is pure heaven.

Jenny Lenore Rosenbaum writes about travel and the arts, and she has written features for numerous publications, including the LA Times and The Christian Science Monitor. She has also written television documentaries on France and Italy.






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