Utah's high desert yields the ultimate oasis.
By Brad A. Johnson
The news: Even though you've heard about the mind-boggling landscape of the upper Southwest, you probably skipped it if houseboats and Winnebagos aren't your thing. Now you have no more excuses. Last October, after more than a decade of effort, Aman Resorts quietly opened what might be the most spectacular small hotel in America.
The mood: Built with local white stone and dust-colored concrete, the 34-suite resort magically disappears into a 600-acre expanse of former Navajo wilderness in Southern Utah, just across the Arizona border. The kitchen—the heart of the resort—centers around a wood-burning oven. Floor-to-ceiling windows substitute for art, unveiling breathtaking views of tumbleweed-dotted valleys and towering plateaus.
Inside the spa: Amangiri's 25,000-square-foot spa unfolds in a series of indoor-outdoor pavilions for meditating and bathing, including a cavelike steam room, a dry sauna, and hot and cold pools. In discreet, walnut-lined treatment rooms, a local healer delivers Navajo therapies based on the balancing principles of earth, wind, fire, and water, while natural light therapy is supplied by an ever changing desert sky.
Rooms from $850, 1 Kayenta Rd., Canyon Point, 435-675-3999, amanresorts.com
SONOMA: Farmhouse Inn and Restaurant
“Farm to treatment” is better than it sounds.
By Robin Wilkey
The news: Fifteen minutes from the nearest town, the famed Farmhouse Inn sits in blissful isolation that's reason enough to head north—but the Michelin-starred restaurant isn't bad, either. Now Peggy Francis and Loma Alexander (of Auberge du Soleil fame), the team behind the newly upgraded spa located in the property's carriage house, have created an equally scrumptious menu of almost edible treatments.
The mood: Farmy and real. The inn consists of a main house, a barn, and cottages tucked between trees that sit across the street from the Russian River. Owners Catherine and Joe Bartolomei's family ranch, just up the road, provides chef Steve Litke with produce and honey.
Inside the spa: Overstuffed white couches, orange-tree branches, burlap throws, and enormous vintage mirrors blend classic spa with wine-country casual.
Signature treatment: Set aside three hours of downtime if you sign up for the Carrot Carrot Carrot body bomb, a nod to the restaurant's signature dish, Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit (prepared three ways). You'll be scrubbed, rubbed, and exfoliated with various carrot extractions, followed by a palate cleanser: a carrot muffin and green tea. But don't think you're finished. A heavenly lavender-and-orange scalp treatment comes next, followed by a custom facial using carrot pulp from the garden.
Lines: The spa uses the all-organic Hungarian skincare line Ilike as a base for its products, which are blended with vegetable and fruit pulps from Bartolomei Ranch, Farmhouse's onsite garden, and local merchants.
Reason to spa: You won't end up with 20/20 vision, but you'll have perfectly buffed skin—and no clue what time it is outside the rabbit hole.
Rooms from $325, 7871 River Rd., Forestville, 707-887-3300 or 800-464-6642, farmhouseinn.com
LAKE TAHOE: Ritz-Carlton Highlands
Magic on the mountain.
By Robin Wilkey
The news: Halfway up the mountain at Northstar sits the North Shore's first new ultraluxe hotel in decades, and the look works: It's decidedly Tahoe, with lots of wood and stone, but it's a far cry from rustic. Among its highlights: a 1,700-bottle wine list and serious nightlife at Traci Des Jardins' chic restaurant Manzanita; access to the Old Greenwood and Gray's Crossing golf courses; a slopeside concierge; and the expansive spa and fitness center, with daily après-ski or après-hike yoga.
The mood: Everything's taken care of. Thanks to its ski-in and bike-in options (the gear valet backs up to Northstar's Big Easy run), you won't need to pack up all your stuff every morning, so you can have an extra hour to sleep off the high-altitude hangover.
Inside the spa: It includes a copper soaking tub (shown above), floor-to-ceiling windows with spectacular private views, and a relaxation room complete with library and fireplace. Mimosas are on hand to make it all even more pleasant.
Signature treatment: Despite its cringe-worthy name, the Journey of Discovery treatment is a 90-minute recharge that includes a bamboo body scrub, a softening bath in orange-and-pine-scented water, an olive-and-fig-butter massage—and, when all is said and done, the softest skin of your life.
Lines: The spa uses Skin Authority, Babor, and MD Skincare, because your face can get battered by the sun at 6,000-plus feet.
Reason to spa: At this see-and-be-seen resort, you'll want to look your best.
Rooms from $349, 13031 Ritz-Carlton Highlands Ct., Truckee, 530-562-3000, ritzcarlton.com
YOUNTVILLE: Hotel Luca
Everything feels easier in Tuscany.
By Jan Newberry
The news: Recently opened on the north end of Yountville's main drag, Hotel Luca is all about convenience. You can walk to the town's best restaurants—including a modest place called the French Laundry—or bike to the region's famed vineyards (if you ever put down your fork).
The mood: The hotel has the vibe of a Tuscan villa where you've landed comfortably, ready for anything.
Inside the spa: The downstairs spa aims for sweet and simple. The blue-tiled relaxation room features a lavender-saltwater soaking pool, and the treatment rooms include little more than a table covered with a sheet. But once the therapists start working on your shoulders, you can close your eyes and drift away to anywhere you want to be.
Signature treatment: The Personalized Aroma Journey begins with a warm neck wrap and a mug of fruit tea. While you're softening up, the massage therapist flips through her recipe book of essential oils to find just the combination to suit your mood. After she's had her way with you, she slips you a vial of the custom blend to remember her by.
Lines: Luca's facial treatments rely on Naturopathica cleansers and moisturizers, and the personalized aromatherapy sessions incorporate oils from Tara, a Carmel-based line.
Reason to spa: It's the best way to take a breather between meals.
Rooms from $305, 6774 Washington St., Yountville, 707-944-8080, hotellucanapa.com
BIG SUR: Ventana Inn & Spa
The makeover worked.
By Sarah Bossenbroek
The news: Nestled among the mile-high hills overlooking Big Sur, the venerable resort has undergone a $26 million update and remodel—think modern-looking stone fireplaces, lots of natural fibers, light and airy earth tones in the new guestrooms, and a spiffed-up spa. But if you're the nostalgic type, you can still hole up in a rustic '70s-era wood-paneled suite or villa.
The mood: All of Ventana, from the Japanese baths and daily yoga classes to the sun-soaked rooms, feels spalike: Guests with blissed-out grins pad around in bathrobes and slippers. The nods to Big Sur's holistic reputation—Reiki, reflexology, craniosacral therapy, private meditation, even astrology readings—add to the effect.
Inside the spa: Unlike the windowless treatment rooms at most spas, Ventana's offer powerful views of the property's fruit and magnolia trees, those famous rolling highlands, and a gleaming stretch of sea.
Signature treatment: The Organic Seaweed Leaf Wrap (freshly harvested seaweed blasts your skin with antioxidants) and the Santa Lucia Wine Wrap (gives you a glow without the buzz) break down the buffers between our hectic lives and the gifts of Mother Nature. Even a basic exfoliating scrub with local sea salt or a rubdown with essential oils from plants and herbs indigenous to Big Sur can make you feel like you've gone native.
Lines: Massage treatments use neroli oil scented with essential oils—simple and pure. The facial treatments incorporate the Hungarian skincare line Ilike.
Reason to spa: If you have to go on one more hike, you'll lose it.
Rooms from $500, 48123 Hwy. 1, Big Sur, 831-667-2331, ventanainn.com
LAS VEGAS: The New Top 4
What really happens in Vegas? There's always a bigger and better spa.
By Brad A. Johnson
This five-month-old, 27,000-square-foot, two-story spa is easily the most luxurious experience in Sin City. The decor merges colonial Shanghai heritage with contemporary architecture: Titanium relaxation chairs with air jets are built into a travertine pool; treatment rooms have hardwood floors and blooming orchids. Every visit begins with a ceremonial foot bath, the shortest massage lasts an hour, and the hammam isn't merely a steamer but a true Turkish indulgence, complete with an attended loofah scrub. Rooms from $295, 3752 Las Vegas Blvd., 702-590-8888, mandarinoriental.com/lasvegas
The Spa at Aria
Despite its imposing size—80,000 square feet, two stories, 62 treatment rooms—the Japanese-inspired health club, which opened at Aria five months ago, is remarkably tranquil. Segregated men's and women's facilities are linked by a coed, outdoor infinity pool overlooking the calming Nevada mountains in the distance. The massage menu keeps it simple and to the point, while the fitness studio ramps it up (think one-on-one Spinning and hard-core weight training). Rooms from $149, 3730 Las Vegas Blvd., 702-590-7757, arialasvegas.com/spa
The Spa at Wynn Encore
Combine the serenity of a Buddhist monastery with Liberace's penchant for crystals and gold leaf, and you'll have Steve Wynn's unique take on feel-good luxury. The short and sweet menu at this 18-month-old spa focuses on the most decadent massages, facials, and body treatments inspired by both Eastern and Western cultures, including a 25-minute ayurvedic facial massage and a Brazilian wax. Rooms from $249, 3131 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-770-8000, encorelasvegas.com
Canyon Ranch SpaClub
Bridging the divide between the Venetian and the Palazzo, this 134,000-square-foot Babylon, which morphed into its current size in 2008, includes a fitness “core” camp, a 40-foot climbing wall, and a communal salt grotto with heated benches, floors, and walls (not to mention “sea air”). The spa's dizzying roster of massages runs the gamut from self-heating mud wraps to Yamuna Body Rolling, while more clinical offerings include diabetes meal management and acupuncture. Venetian rooms from $159, Palazzo rooms from $159, 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-414-3600, canyonranchspaclub.com
SOUTHEAST ASIA: The New Top 10
Put at least 8,000 miles between you and your desk.
By Brad A. Johnson
Soneva Kiri, Koh Kood, Thailand
The only way to get to Thailand's most exclusive new eco-resort is by taking a private plane to an islet airstrip (the hotel's Cessna flies you in from Bangkok), followed by a quick speedboat ride around the east-coast island jungle near the border of Cambodia. When you finally reach Six Senses, you'll find 29 villas dotting the beach and cliff, as well as an utterly sublime spa offering holistic therapies and panoramic views of Klong Son Bay.
Signature treatment: The two-and-a-half-hour Jungle Escape is a body scrub given on a heated stone bed beneath a bamboo mist shower, ending with a Thai herbal-compress massage.
Rooms from $1,192, +66 3961 9800, sixsenses.com/soneva-kiri
Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Covering nearly an acre, this monumental ayurvedic compound replicates an ancient Mandalay palace, complete with a seven-tiered teakwood roof that represents the seven steps to nirvana. An army of therapists and doctors delivers holistic remedies and spiritual guidance.
Signature treatment: The energizing mardanam, a synchronized, four-hands, deep-tissue massage that uses herbal powders and warm oil.
Rooms from $410, 800-526-6566, mandarinoriental.com/chiangmai
Shangri-La Rasa Sayang
Eleven treatment villas—some with private terraces, outdoor tubs, and steam showers—ramble across an acre of lush gardens shaded by centuries-old rain trees on Penang's most pristine beach.
Signature treatment: The yin-and-yang-balancing chi massage, followed by an hour-long Himalayan barley rub.
Rooms from $244, +60 4888 8888, shangri-la.com/rasasayang
Four Seasons Langkawi
Four Seasons' best spa is wedged dramatically between the tranquil Andaman Sea and a soaring limestone cliff. Several private pavilions (outdoor showers, celadon tubs, chirping birds) appear to float atop an insanely romantic reflecting pool.
Signature treatment: Taksu kasih, a 90-minute rhythmic massage harmonized with hypnotic Asian music.
Rooms from $588, +60 4950 8888, fourseasons.com/langkawi
Uluwatu, Bali, Indonesia
Bulgari recruited Ritz-Carlton to manage the resort and tapped celebrated spa-design firm ESPA to run the property using Bulgari's own product line. This team has melded modern Italian glam with ancient Balinese enchantment atop an Uluwatu promontory, where an intricately carved teak house serves as the reception area.
Signature treatment: Guided sunrise meditation, then a rice-and-spice exfoliation, a ginger-yogurt wrap, and a lava-stone massage.
Rooms from $750, +62 361 847 1000, bulgarihotels.com
The Nam Hai
Hoi An, Vietnam
On picturesque China Beach, this resort balances sleek contemporary architecture with tropical Asian flourishes, such as the spa's eight languid, indoor-outdoor villas surrounding a mystical lotus pond. The spa menu fuses aromatherapy, ayurveda, and herbal traditions that span the trail from Bali to Tibet.
Signature treatment: Traditional Vietnamese massage, with an aromatherapy foot polish.
Rooms from $750, +84 510 394 0000, thenamhai.com
Anantara Si Kao Resort & Spa
Trang Province, Thailand
Concealed among dense tropical gardens on a lazy beach along the Andaman Sea, this place has one of those Turkish fish pools where hundreds of live critters nibble away at your dead skin cells. The resort also includes a naturopathic consultation center led by one of Asia's top ayurveda gurus.
Signature treatment: The three-day rejuvenation program, featuring massage, daily yoga, and lunches.
Rooms from $184, +66 7520 5888, spa.anantara.com/sikao
Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary
Koh Samui, Thailand
Chinese medicine, Western naturopathy, and ayurvedic healing come together amid a former Buddhist monks' meditation cave and the cascading streams of an idyllic lagoon.
Signature treatment: Daily sessions with a private trainer, followed by alternating turns in the cold plunge pool and the steam cavern, then either a Reiki or a Thai massage.
Rooms from $197, +66 7742 9800, kamalaya.com
Koh Samui, Thailand
This posh resort on Lamai Beach feels like a small royal village. At its heart is the ultraluxe Chuan Spa, which focuses on physical fitness, relaxation, and ancient chi philosophy.
Signature treatment: First take a self-guided cycling tour through the coconut groves, then enjoy a jetlag-recovery massage and a rejuvenating oxygen facial.
Rooms from $180, +66 7796 0888, kohsamui.langhamplacehotels.com
The Peninsula Bangkok
This magnificent, three-story, Thai colonial spa (also run by ESPA), adjacent to the high-rise Peninsula, is nestled among lush gardens overlooking the Chao Phraya River. Therapies intertwine Thai, European, and ayurvedic techniques—bathing with a lover has never felt better for both of you.
Signature treatment: A four-hour journey that includes Thai Yoga massage and an age-defying facial.
Rooms from $400, +66 2861 2888, peninsula.com/bangkok