Miami Spa Month offers relaxation at bargain rates

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After all that partying in sexy South Beach or the cutting-edge Design District, many leisure visitors to Miami probably wouldn't be averse to a little pampering. Thanks to the first-ever Miami Spa Month promotion this July, vacationers and locals alike can indulge in discounted, $99 signature treatments at more than 20 upscale spas in the greater Miami metropolitan area.

The Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau is partnering with sponsor American Express to massage more arrivals out of South Florida's steamy summer off-season with Miami Spa Month, modeled on the successful Miami Spice restaurant promotion. Some 80 restaurants offer fixed-price menus for two months in the summer as part of Miami Spice.

"We now have critical mass to package [spas] as an asset; we looked to our Miami Spice program and re-created it as Miami Spa Month," said Ronaldo Aedo, the
GMCVB's senior vice president of marketing and tourism. "This program is meant to showcase the best spas that Miami has to offer." 

The GMCVB will also work with hotels with spas to put together special spa-and-stay packages "at significant value points."

Sunshine State spas

The $99 price represents savings of 50% or more on most treatments. American Express cardholders also can take advantage of a 10% discount on regular treatments and product prices at participating spas.

The treatments on sale for the length of the promotion, which runs July 1 to 31, include aromatherapies; facials; scalp treatments; manicures and pedicures; body polishes and wraps; and massages. 

One locally inspired offering, the Journey to Havana treatment from the Jurlique Spa at the Mayfair Hotel and Spa in Coconut Grove, is an homage to the popular mojito cocktail. It includes a treatment with mint oil, sugar body scrub and Vichy shower water massage.

Details on each $99 treatment, and participating hotel, resorts and spas across greater Miami, can be found online at MiamiSpaMonth.com. The spas, some of which offer more than one treatment at the special $99 rate, are:

Aventura:

  • Willow Stream Spa, Fairmont Turnberry Isle Resort & Club

Bal Harbour:

  • Guerlain Spa, the Regent Bal Harbour

Key Biscayne:

  • The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Key Biscayne

Coconut Grove:

  • Jurlique Spa, Mayfair Hotel and Spa
  • Spa Terre, Grove Isle Resort & Spa
  • The Boutique Spa, the Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove

Miami:

  • MySpa, InterContinental Miami
  • Spa Chakra, Conrad Miami
  • The Spa at Doral, Doral Golf Resort and Spa, a Marriott Resort
  • The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Miami

Miami Beach/South Beach:

  • The Ritz-Carlton Spa, South Beach, Miami Beach
  • The Spa at the Setai
  • The Spa at the Shore Club
  • Spa V, Hotel Victor
  • Uhma Spa

Miami Lakes:

  • The Spa at Shula's, Shula's Hotel & Golf Club

Sunny Isles Beach:

  • Aquagene Spa, Doubletree Ocean Point Resort & Spa
  • Aquanox, Trump International Beach Resort-Miami
  • ESPA at Acqualina, Sunny Isles Beach
  • Le Spa, Le Meridien Sunny Isles Beach

The $99 rate does not include tax and gratuity. Reservations are required.

Get your Grove on

I recently sampled three of the $99 Miami Spa Month treatments. My greater-Miami spa spree began in Coconut Grove, at SpaTerre at the Grove Isle Resort & Spa.

Described as the "apex of relaxation" on Grove Isle, SpaTerre uses many herbs, minerals and essential elements indigenous to the Miami area, while blending in Indonesian, Thai and Balinese influences. The spa offers salon services as well as body treatments, including facial care, spa rituals, massage therapies and what it claims is one of the few Watsu (from "water shiatsu") massage pools on the East Coast. The facility includes outdoor garden areas, taking advantage of Florida's balmy climate and views.

SpaTerre is offering an 80-minute custom massage for Miami Spa Month. Therapists compose a medley of Swedish, pedi-sage and deep-tissue techniques, using essential oils, to create a custom massage experience.

A regular gym-goer prone to back pain, I asked my masseuse for the deepest of deep-tissue massages and got it in spades. The therapist's petite frame belied her powerful grip and expert technique. I left feeling rewarded and relaxed and wrapped up my morning at Grove Isle with an early lunch at on-site resort eatery Baleen.

Feet treat at Mandarin Oriental

I headed a bit north, to the Mandarin Oriental Miami on Brickell Key, for my next treatment, which headed south -- literally, not figuratively. Back and shoulders soothed, I opted to treat my feet to an Oriental Foot Therapy at the Spa at Mandarin Oriental, which is actually offering two treatments at the promotional $99 rate (the other being the Aromatherapy Facial). 

The luxury, five-star Mandarin Oriental Miami was my base of operations for my spa weekend (see Room Key, top right).

Whereas SpaTerre at Grove Isle is cozy, warm and tropical, the three-level, 15,000-square-foot sanctuary at the Mandarin Oriental is more cool and chic, slick and high-tech -- and ultraprofessional.

The Spa has 17 private treatment rooms, six top-floor suites and private cabanas for outdoor spa treatments. Of the "Mandarin" suites, two come equipped with multijet tubs, two are designed for Thai massage and two are customized for couples treatments. The spa also features a state-of-the-art fitness center.

Upon check-in, spa staff seated me, exchanged my shoes for slippers and offered me a cup of chilled herbal tea, before escorting me to the men's locker room and relaxation area with steamroom and sauna. After a shower and a few minutes' steam, I was met by my therapist, who escorted me to one of the whirlpool tub suites, which boasted views of Biscayne Bay, for my Ayurvedic foot treatment.

Propped up on an overstuffed settee, I sipped hot tea while my feet (resting on heated pebbles) and lower legs were bathed and exfoliated in warm water scented with fragrant oils.

My therapist then led me in a few minutes of breathing exercise before instructing me to lie on an extremely comfortable, heated massage table for the second part of the treatment. I wish I could report in more detail on the rest of the experience, but it proved so soothing that I nodded off! 

The Spa at Mandarin Oriental's second Miami Spa Month Treatment is its 50-minute Aromatherapy Facial, described as a "cleaning and relaxing face treatment." Use of a gentle skin refiner, lymph drainage, pressure point massage and a mineral mask is topped off with a deep scalp massage.

Morocco in Miami

Next stop: Marrakech. I mean, Miami Beach, and the new Hotel Victor and its Spa V on Ocean Drive. It might as well have been Morocco; I was scheduled for a Petite Hammam V treatment modeled on the famoud hammam, or steambath, scrub- and rubdowns of Near Eastern and Mediterranean cultures. In fact, I recently enjoyed a hammam treatment in Morocco itself, so I was eager to compare and contrast.

Spa V, located in the lower level of Hotel Victor, is brand-new and looks it. It boasted a similarly chic design sensibility as the Mandarin Oriental, if more exotic in choice of fabric and color scheme, and more intimate in feel, thanks to the lower ceilings that come with subterranean digs. It was cool and quiet, in stark contrast to the humidity and the hustle and bustle just out on Ocean Drive.

The 6,000-square-foot spa boasts seven treatment rooms, including the Vichy Shower Room, a wet room with a seven-head rain bar, and a Romance Room for couples massages, facials and treatments.

Spa V is home to the first coed hammam steamroom in South Beach. The small, ultramodern hammam treatment room lies directly opposite the 500-square-foot steamroom itself; its dominant feature is a heated marble bed.

After changing out of my clothes and into a robe, I was met in Spa V's CoolDown Room by my female therapist, who led me to the steamy hammam room.

A hammam consists, essentially, of being bathed by a complete stranger, so I was a bit alarmed when I wasn't provided with a skimpy paper thong similar to the one I'd donned in Morocco.

My wariness was unwarranted; the therapist skillfully wielded a rolled towel to protect my privacy while cleansing, exfoliating and hydrating every inch of my skin, head to toe. She used a black olive beldi soap, then exfoliated with a rough hammam glove, followed with a mask of Moroccan lava clay and then gave me a hydrating massage with a body milk.

It's hard to top the experience of being tenderly washed with warm water in between these massage and scrub sessions.

The Petite Hammam V is, essentially, hammam tailored to U.S. tastes. Unlike in Morocco, I did not sit on a stool, childlike, with arms raised, while someone scrubbed under my armpits; I lay flat for the entire treatment so it felt more like a traditional massage. Nor was I splashed with water from a tin bucket; rather, I was gently sprayed with an ultramodern hose. Less authentic, yes; preferable for most Americans, a likely yes again.

Spa V staff recommend combining the full-length Hammam V or shorter Petite Hammam with a healing massage and before tanning to prolong suntans. The Relax Me massage, for example, is designed to ease muscle pain, tension and stress.

More on tap in Miami

Miami Spa Month isn't the GMCVB's only off-season promotion. The program coincides with the Festival Season, which offers "nearly nonstop" festival events from April through September. Festivals showcase traditions of the Caribbean, Latin America, Asia and Europe as well as Miami's diverse ethnic heritage, history, sporting events and arts and culture. 

For more general information on Miami, call (888) 766-4264 (888-76-MIAMI) or visit www.miamiandbeaches.com.

 

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