SpaHalekulani keeps it simple: Service is first

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WAIKIKI -- After two years and $20 million of improvements and renovations at Halekulani, one of Waikiki's most luxurious yet understated hotels, the day spa is open.

And, as with its namesake, SpaHalekulani's predominant philosophy is simple: Service comes first.

"It's not a megaspa," said spa director Tony Young of the modest facility. "It's simple."

Young said he didn't want SpaHalekulani to be a place where gangs of people waited to have their names called.

"I don't like the bottleneck at the check-in and checkout; I like people to feel like they're the only ones there," he said.

Only two chairs sit in the waiting area, where the bark- cloth-and-bamboo theme of the decor evokes the Asian, Hawaiian and South Pacific cultures that inspired the spa's treatments. Even the water hyacinth design of the foot cushions complement the bamboo floors, grass curtains and shoji doors leading to the treatment rooms.

The minimalist approach carries over to the salon, as well, which is not meant for complete make-overs but for finishing touches. Clients will find just one shampoo bowl and two pedicure stations, and attendants don't do perms or artificial nails because of the offensive smell.

The facility provides a private outdoor patio on which to relax before or after treatments, along with a menu of healthy snacks.

But the best part of sitting on the patio -- besides the snacks -- were the mango lomi sticks, which the spa provides for self-treatment. I used these sticks -- two inches wide and set at a 45-degree angle -- to apply pressure to my back, and they worked amazingly well.

My Body Wrap treatment began when Flora, the therapist, cleaned my feet and then massaged them, pounding their bottoms with a puili, a bamboo implement used in hula dancing. A ringing sound added to the stimulation.

Once I was in the private room, Flora exfoliated my skin with hibiscus scrub, then sent me to my own private sauna -- a steam shower in the room -where I baked before rinsing the scrub from my body.

The spa has mastered the art of refined service, anticipating a client's needs and getting out of the way. For example, during my 10 minutes in the sauna, I peeked out to find a tray on which an orchid, bottled water, a cup of ice and a chilled washcloth were waiting for me.

After the scrub and steam, Flora rubbed a clay-based masque on my skin, then wrapped me in a cocoon of blankets and what resembled a giant piece of tinfoil. The wrap molds to your body and keeps you warm -- probably as close as any adult will come to feeling a momentary return to the womb. I've found other wraps claustrophobic, but I was able to relax during this one.

Another rinse in the shower revealed silky skin. A brief massage with moisturizing lotion completed the treatment.

The 105-minute Body Wrap costs $250. All massages are the same price: $180 for 75 minutes and $230 for 105 minutes.

Heavenly Journey, a four-hour body treatment, massage and facial, with refreshments, costs $640.

The spa also will present guests with seven relaxation suites, including two suites for couples, one of which can be transformed into a bridal room.

Brides can use the room for $100 per hour. The suites are equipped with regular and/or steam showers, therapy beds, a plunge pool, changing areas, lockers and private restroom facilities. Treatments ordered in the room come with an additional cost.

Spa rates are commissionable when incorporated into an accommodations package. For more information, call (800) 367-2343 or visit www.halekulani.com.

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