The next big thing in spas -- Ko Olina's Ihilani

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KO OLINA -- If a mood-altering experience in one of Hawaii's more pristine locations appeals to the senses, then the Ihilani Spa may be the ideal retreat.

The Ihilani Spa is a sanctuary found in a stand-alone structure at the JW Marriott Resort at Ko Olina -- a half hour's drive from the Honolulu airport.

There were many factors during my visit that convinced me the Ihilani is the next big thing in spas, and some of them are directly related to the hotel and its location.

Situated on the western shores of Oahu, the hotel is on what locals refer to as "the undeveloped side" or "what will be the next Waikiki."

The reason is that the western coastline of Oahu is a somewhat undeveloped region that has seen slow but steady increases in hospitality, timeshare and rental properties in the last decade.

Here in Ko Olina -- at one of the only hotels on the island where you can watch the sun set into the ocean -- guests get the feeling they are miles away from the populated beaches of Waikiki. It's a perfect spot for a spa.

As she readied my thalasso treatment bath, part one of my adventure into the realm of well-being, spa director Robin Desha explained how she uses color to increase perception and "better your state of mind."

It's like the mood ring of the 1970s, only in reverse. Wear a mood ring on your finger, and it turns a color that reflects your emotions -- dark blue if you're happy, black if you're blue.

Here, color changes mood.

Research -- available for reading at the spa to all who inquire -- shows that certain colors can evoke specific moods or feelings from within a person, simply because those colors are composed of different wavelengths.

Even ancient Egyptian healers used this technique.

According to Desha, they separated rays of light with a prism-like device, flooded chambers with different colors and instructed the patient to sit in a room whose color would, as Desha said, "do you best."

I was as skeptical as you might be upon reading this.

After picking my essential oil, which was to be matched with my desired mood effect (read color), I plunged into a large tub of filtered seawater, sat back and relaxed.

Slowly, the lighting in the room changed colors, giving me time to decide in which one I would like to be immersed.

I chose a deep indigo. The attendant set the timer for 25 minutes and left.

I was transfixed. I was meditative. I was, as they say, "in the mood." I had been transported to a place rather different from the one in which I had begun the day.

Next I made my way to the treatment room for my lomi lomi massage. Always having been one for aesthetics, I noticed right away that the room I entered was not your typical massage venue, which is normally cramped and tight, and it had vaulted ceilings, which emitted the perfect amount of light.

The 25-minute Thalasso with Color and Aqua Essence is $70; a 50-minute lomi lomi massage is $115. Swedish, reflexology, hot stone, aromatherapy and shiatsu massages are also offered.

The spa features a number of body scrubs and wraps that rehydrate and purify the skin, such as the Cool Ti Leaf Wrap and the Ginger and Maui Sugar Body Scrub. These add-ons range from $50 to $125. Men's and women's salon and facial treatments are also available.

Hotel rates range from $350 per night to $2,500 for a beachfront suite. For more information, call (808) 679-0079 or visit www.ihilani.com.

To contact the reporter who wrote this story, send e-mail to [email protected] .

Teens sample healthy living

KO OLINA -- A spa program for teens ages 12 to 15 will be tested in the coming weeks, according to Robin Desha, spa director at Ilihani.

"We will not be painting girls' nails glittery colors or talking about the latest fashion fads," Desha said. "Our program will get kids excited about healthy eating and better living through exercise, adventure, meditation and yoga."

Kids who enroll will learn the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables and will participate in such activities as surfing, hiking and scuba diving. The programs will feature guest speakers, such as professional surfers and hula dance teachers. -- B.B.

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