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Spa: In search of the world's most stunning sanctuaries

Spa: In search of the world's most stunning sanctuaries
Mii amo, a destination spa at Enchantment, in Sedona, AZ. (Mark Boisclair /)

Doesn’t it seem as if every lodging establishment in the world has suddenly remade itself into a hotel and spa? Well, there are spas and then there are spas. From Southern California to Southeast Asia, we scoured the continents to find the world's most blissful rubdowns.  



Mii amo, a destination spa at Enchantment
If this isn’t the world’s most spectacular setting for a spa, it’s close to whatever is in first place. With 16 casita-style rooms and suites, this all-inclusive getaway (offering “journeys” of three, four and seven nights) nestles along the natural slope of a box canyon, blending almost imperceptibly into the brilliant reds and oranges of the towering sandstone cliffs. For a true Arizona desert experience, get wrapped in anti-inflammatory Sedona clay, or have your energy field and aura professionally photographed. But don’t look for happy hours and pool parties; guests come here for healing, rejuvenation and well-deserved pampering. “It’s all about you whatever you need, we’ll find it for you,” general manager Chris Bird said. And, if your fellow guests wear their super-soft bathrobes to dinner, that’s just part of the Mii amo experience. “We actually encourage it,” spa manager Serene Sanders said.



Two Bunch Palms Resort and Spa
This L.A.-close oasis began life in the 1920s as Al Capone’s West Coast hideout. Today’s guests are more likely to mastermind Hollywood hits than mob hits. Industry types come for the healing effects of the natural mineral waters (the rock-rimmed grotto is a bone-warming 104 degrees; the larger pool is 99 degrees) and the skillful hands of longtime therapists. It's all about R&R here rather than fancy décor. The ambiance is a bit boho, the WiFi can be spotty, and poolside phone chatter is frowned upon. “There’s signage that says, ‘Please speak softly,’ and people do obey it,” said the spa’s Rianna Riego.



The Auberge Spa at Esperanza, an Auberge Resort
With scenery this gorgeous, why stay inside? Guests at this 57-room adults-only resort, where the Sonoran Desert disappears into the Sea of Cortez, can take treatments in a four-poster wood cabana that sits on the sand, a stone’s throw from the water. “It’s very relaxing to enjoy a massage with the waves crashing just beneath you,” spa director Jose Ramon Garcia said. Many treatments take advantage of the healing properties of local botanicals, among them agave and the aromatic damiana plant, said to be a potent aphrodisiac. Keep your eyes peeled for spouts; whale-watching season gets under way in winter. 



Gaia Retreat and Spa
Was that Olivia Newton-John who just strolled past? Very possibly. The Grammy-winning songstress is part owner of this slice of subtropical paradise in the rolling hills behind Byron Bay. The vibe at Gaia (say “guy-ya”) is Mother Earth meets Giorgio Armani a bit of Hollywood glamour and New Age spirituality. Guests can lounge all day amid the scented candles and gossamer curtains in the Samoan-style longhouse, or surrender to the capable hands of massage therapists. Those in need of perking up should try the invigorating head-to-toe body scrub that uses a paste made from ground coffee beans (organic, of course) and macadamia nut oils.



Ayana Resort and Spa
Love on the rocks? If the ultimate treatment at this island resort’s Spa on the Rocks doesn’t reignite the flame, perhaps nothing will. The 2.5 hours of delicious indulgence take place in a thatch-roof villa perched on a limestone cliff above the Indian Ocean. (It’s ingeniously designed to give the illusion of mid-air suspension.) The experience starts with a foot soak and body scrub, followed by a rose-petal bath, massage and facial with sea quartz and diamond dust. The grand finale is champagne and strawberries. The resort also boasts a mind-bogglingly expansive pool with a dozen or so hydro-massage stations.

—Anne Burke, Custom Publishing Writer