Forget Rice-A-Roni and Ghirardelli Chocolates, the Spa at the Mandarin Oriental is the true San Francisco treat. It seems like it’s always tough for urban luxury hotels to create a real “destination spa” environment when they are confined to a vertical building. Based on the names and prices, I have gone to many top luxury hotels in major cities and expected great things. But instead I have been underwhelmed by spas that were obviously jammed into a few renovated hotel rooms.
So you can imagine I wasn’t expecting Shangri-La when I visited the Spa at the Mandarin Oriental San Francisco. Of course I should have known better. When I lived in New York City, I was a huge fan of the Mandarin Oriental Spa New York, but that spa is in a different hemisphere. Of course I had thoroughly examined the website and knew San Francisco wouldn’t have the same extras (like the Vitality Pool or Amethyst Crystal Steam Room )that are featured in NYC’s larger location.
Frankly, once those elevator doors opened I didn’t need any extras… I felt instantly transported to an exotic luxury spa, perhaps in Bali or Thailand. The ceilings are sky high (so in other words, the Mandarin didn’t break my cardinal sin of taking over a few hotel rooms) and the reception area has two dimly lit areas with sumptuous and silky seating areas.
As soon as I approached the reception desk, I was told to make myself comfortable while the attendant brought me delicious tea and a warm towel to begin my “journey.” He took my street shoes and replaced them with spa slippers. Pure class.janna Tags Luxury Spa, Mandarin Oriental San Francisco, Spa Slut
The Spa Slut came out in all her fabulous glory to find the best spots for moms to be spoiled across the U.S. for Mother’s Day. I had SO much fun writing this piece and of course I got jealous while writing it because I wanted to be at all these spas instead of sitting at home typing in my jammies.
Read my Huffington Post “Mother’s Day Spa Indulgences Across the U.S. Article here!Posted by janna Tags Luxury Spa, mother's day, Spa Slut
Yesterday I made you drool with tales of cucumber water and dark chocolate decadence combined with sweet-smelling amenities like California Woods-scented air and lemongrass bath products — all enjoyed while gazing out of floor-to-ceiling windows facing the Santa Cruz mountains. Welcome to Sense Spa at the Rosewood Sand Hill (about 30 minutes outside of San Francisco). Read Part 1 to this delicious spa saga here and enjoy Part 2 where I relive my two 90-minute sublime treatments below…janna Tags Facial, Intraceuticals, Luxury Spa, Rosewood Spa, Scrub, Spa
Can you believe it’s been a year since I’ve written as the Spa Slut? There’s a reason for that… As much as I’ll whore around at any spa regardless of if it’s getting my shoulders rubbed at the airport or spending $200 on a 50 minute treatment so I can experience what locals consider a “luxury spa,” I refuse to bore you with every mediocre and underwhelming spa I visit. You, my lovelies want a departure! You want to feel like you are experiencing these fabulous spas with me, inspiring you to immediately forward my posts to your husbands and boyfriends as not-so-subtle birthday and anniversary hints! Well, I’m happy to say that this past weekend our Spa Slut woke from her long slumber when she was able to experience true spa decadence once again. The experience was SO decadent I simply cannot fit all the delicious details into one post. That’s right, the Spa Slut is back with a vengeance…
The first thing you experience when you walk through the enormous wood and glass doors of the Sense Spa at the Rosewood Sand Hill (about 30 minutes outside of San Francisco) is the clean woodsy scent of the spa’s signature oil, California Woods by local producer Ajne, which is piped through the air ducts and found in several of the spa’s products and services. The dramatically high ceilings, dark woods and Balinese-inspired furniture of the spa lobby are a departure in itself. The lobby just screams destination spa. Once you check in with the front desk you are asked to sit on the plush couch to fill out paperwork and the front-desk attendant brings you a warm scented towel to begin your journey. Ahhh…janna Tags Luxury Spa, Rosewood Spa, Sense Spa, Spa Slut
I’m shocked by how few women indulge in spa facials. Tune into My Beauty Binge this week to find out why — as the biggest spa slut in the world — I always opt for a facial at the spa. I’ll help demystify the misconceptions about facials and guide you through how to select the perfect one for you, and what you should say to the aesthetician to ensure you get the ideal results once you’re there. I’ll also share with you a couple of my most favorite decadent facials that will have you running to your nearest spa for a 90 minute facial. Binge on!
Download the podcast from iTunes or listen to it streaming on your computer here (it’s the 1st podcast) and it’s free! If you hit the “SUBSCRIBE” button in iTunes you will automatically get all my podcasts!janna Tags Dermalogical, Eminence, Facial, GM Collin, Intraceuticals, Kerstin Florian, Luxury Spa, Oxygen facial, Sensitive Skin
It’s hard for me to get excited about SPF. As long as the SPF does it’s job without making my skin shiny or angry I’m fine with it (I won’t mention any names here but there’s an extremely popular European SPF that gave my skin armies of red bumps). Since NEUTROGENA ULTRA SHEER SUNBLOCK SPF 30 ($12.99) costs about $10 I’ve never been tempted to try the more expensive brands. Until… (you knew there was an “until” coming) I tried Coola! It’s a mineral-based, chemical-free SPF cream with a unique waterless texture. (By the way, according to Coola, because of the cream’s waterless consistency, bacteria cannot form. Added bonus!)
I discovered Coola after a delicious facial at The Biltmore Four Seasons in Santa Barbara. My esthetician Shellie asked me if she could apply SPF. You would think “yes” would be the automatic answer, but in fact I’ve had some bad reactions by applying SPF over rich post-facial serums and creams. Shellie watched me hesitate, “Don’t worry. It’s really gentle and light, and feels great on.” I had too much daylight left in the day to turn her down. As Shellie applied the cream, it felt as though it was evaporating after a few seconds. Very cool. Read the rest of this entry »Posted by janna Tags Coola Sunscreen, Luxury Spa, Neutrogena, Sensitive Skin, SPF, Sunscreen
I heard about Mzia Shiman Spa via GiltCity. While other flash sites like Groupon and Lifebooker can be a bit of a crap-shoot (50% off a facial at a nail salon that calls itself a spa isn’t such a great deal), GiltCity has always been discerning when it comes to choosing spas partners. They take the class up a notch by offering deals from elite spas like The Peninsula, Trump Soho, and Bliss. I saw the deal for the Mzia Shiman Spa back in January offering a 60-minute facial and 30-minute reflexology treatment for $150 (usually $300) and thought I should give it a try. (To be honest, when any spa offers 50% off on GiltCity, I tend to do little thinking and just click “buy”. I’m yet to be disappointed and the vouchers go quickly.)
Once I did my research to prep for my appointment I was a little put off by the bare bones website — no photos, no prices, and very little information. I didn’t let it get to me, since I knew GiltCity would never let me down. After further research, I did find that Allure Magazine had named Mzia Shiman a “Skin Whisperer” and that she’s done facials for the likes of Naomi Campbell, Kirsten Dunst, and Dylan Lauren. I let out a sigh of relief and quickly made my appointment. Read the rest of this entry »Posted by janna Tags Facial, Luxury Spa, Mzia Shiman Spa
Leave your stress and reality at the door of the Spa Palazzo in Boca Raton, Florida. This place literally transports you to an imaginary world. Picture yourself as a hedonistic Fitzgerald character in the roaring twenties (the hotel was built in 1926), or become a Spanish queen bathing in your decadent private quarters (the spa was modeled after Spain’s Alhambra Palace).
The locker room area is equipped with showers, a steam room, sauna, and an inhalation room (a sauna at room temperature deeply fragranced with eucalyptus), and a relaxation area with multiple comfy couches, chairs, teas and such. The locker rooms are nice but would be even nicer if they had skincare available (the mark of a truly luxurious spa) and were still rich with the smell of Honey Coco Mango, which used to be the signature scent of the hotel and spa. I’m not sure if Lucifer himself made the decision to replace the Honey Coco Mango with an awful musky generic line that is given away at every Hilton (ewww), but whomever made that decision should be shot. Hey hotel manager, yeah, I’m talking to you. This has you written all over it. Last time I stayed at this hotel I tipped the housekeeper twenties so she would line up the Honey Coco Mango products in my bathroom. Now, I have to bring my own product.janna Tags Boca Raton Resort & Spa, Luxury Spa, Spa Slut
Sitting here with my multiple layers, listening to my pre-war heater’s inner poltergeist bang pipes together, it’s hard to believe I was just in Hawaii a mere ten days ago. After re-reading Part 1 of my visit to the Mauna Lani Spa, I realized I had forgotten one detail about the spa that I find so cute — instead of robes, patrons are given brightly-colored sarongs to change into. Since a majority of the services are outside, the sarong is brilliant. It’s also fun to see women of all different ages and snottiness walking around looking like tropical Skittles.
This <<I’m pointing both my thumbs at myself>> little green Skittle did the Kona Mocha Scrub her first full day on the island. I love starting a beach vacation with a scrub. I much prefer to wait until I get to the location since most places have scrubs that reflect the local culture and utilize local ingredients. The Mauna Lani’s Kona Mocha Scrub is by far the best scrub I’ve had in terms of ingredients and benefits.
The scrub starts with a rubdown of a mixture of Kona coffee grounds, ground cocoa beans, and sugar. Imagine what that combination smells like… Right, now imagine it 500% better than that. Because of the coffee grounds, the scrub is more powerful than just a sugar scrub, but is still gentle enough for my sensitive skin. The cocoa is soothing and moisturizing while the coffee increases circulation and has a tightening affect.
After I showered off the delicious mocha goodness, I was thrilled to find I could still smell it on my skin. Once I settled back onto the table, the therapist massaged a thick vanilla bean cream into my skin, combining with the mocha scent, leaving my skin soft and delicious. For the rest of the day when people would ask, “How was the spa?” I would raise my forearm to their nose and say, “smell.”
Okay, so I feel bad even telling you my water-boarding story because I beyond love the Mauna Lani Spa. But, I feel like I’m obligated to warn my readers, in case they are ever tempted to venture into the dangerous waters of the Watsu. I’ve seen the Watsu massage offered at other destination spas, but I’ve never been tempted to do it. It just never appealed to me, and I would much rather spend my time with a deep tissue or hot stone massage. So what came over me? I read through their press and the Lava Watsu was by far the most talked about. Their Wastsu massage received glowing reviews from writers and editors. Natalie Epenesa, the Mauna Lani’s spa director, was quoted multiple times saying the Watsu is “not to be missed” and the star of their signature treatments. I thought, “why not?” Here is the description from their site:
Watsu is a passive form of aquatic body work that supports and gently moves you through warm water in graceful, fluid movements. This relaxing, meditative treatment is designed to bring total tranquility to you as your therapist supports, stretches and massages you
Total tranquility…. Right…
Once I changed into my bathing suit and sarong, an attendant walked me through the outdoor spa and healing garden to the lava watsu pool. When I walked up my first thought was the pool structure resembled an amusement park ride, possibly Flintsones-themed. The structure is connected to a real lava tube. I know this because as soon as I walked up, my therapist, a small older man with a white beard, greeted me in a wife-beater and swim shorts, asked me if I would like to see the lava tube. “Sure.”
After our mini-excursion behind the structure to see the lava tube, he continued setting up while I got into the pool. The water is heated precisely to body temperature which would be lovely with a breeze, but the Fred Flintsone structure traps in all the heat, making it that much hotter. I waded around in there until he came into the pool and instructed me to put my arms around him. He cradled me and started swaying me around the pool. My ears were in the pool and I could hear that they were pumping World Music under water. Nice touch, except it kept shorting out, so I would jolt whenever the music came back on full volume. As he swayed me around, I felt two sensations — 1) I was uncomfortable with my proximity to this stranger. For my arms to be around him, up against his chest, while he cradled my body… It was way too intimate. 2) The swaying back and forth with my eyes closed was making me sea sick.
I think he could tell I was straining my neck to keep my face above water so he put my head in a floating head rest. This sounds nice in theory, but I assure you this head rest made the treatment take on a more water-boarding vibe. When the head rest bobbed, it would splash my face with water. My therapist starting stretching me, which was awkward because I was trying to make sure I didn’t lose my balance, and then he started massaging my hands under water. When he massaged my shoulders it felt more like unpleasant rubbing, because it was underwater. Then he started swaying my body in half circles, and all I could think of was that I was going to have to endure 80 minutes of this (as water splashed into my face). I got up, rubbed my eyes, and I told the little man that I’d had enough and that I wasn’t enjoying the service. He looked a little defeated, but he was quite understanding, and rushed to the spa to find us a room so he could do land-locked massage for the remaining minutes. Unfortunately this process took a while and I only ended up getting 40 minutes of massage. It was probably for the better since as soon as I got onto the massage table, I closed my eyes and I still felt like I was swaying in the Watsu pool…
Posted by janna Tags Luxury Spa, Mauna Lani Spa, Spa Slut
How fitting that for my first two “Sunday Splurges” of the year I am focusing on the Mauna Lani Spa on the Kohala Coast of Hawaii? I want to divide the Mauna Lani Spa into two posts for the pure selfish reason of reliving every detail. Well… not every detail. I could do without vividly remembering getting water-boarded during my Lava Watsu Experience, but it’s forever imprinted in my psyche. Let’s not talk about that yet. I’ll leave that tale for next week, but know that the Watsu certainly did not leave a black mark on the Mauna Lani Spa. It is still in my Top 5 Spas of all time.
I am quite familiar with the magic of this spa (obviously I’m not alone; It’s received top accolades from publications like Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler). The entire spa was designed around the history, mythology, and geography of the location. The locker room has outdoor lava rock showers, stocked with delicious coconut and ginger products. I usually first grab an ice cold washcloth and head for the steam room, which fills up with thick steam in 30 seconds with a push of a button. The spa has both indoor treatment rooms and outdoor thatched hales, surrounded by lava rock, a healing garden, and a fragrance garden. There are also two natural lava saunas and a Lava Tube Watsu Pool.
I’ve done the lava sauna before, and I kind of thought it was a waste of money. The open air sauna is a private lava rock walled-in area with a place to sit and spread volcanic mud on yourself or your loved one. Then you sit in the sun and “bake” and then shower off in the outdoor shower. It’s all lovely, but $79 for self-service? Really? At least I can say I tried it. Their spa has more than 50 services on its menu, most of which incorporate Hawaiian culture and local ingredients. Three years ago I discovered their “Fire and Ice” 120 minute facial, which holds the title of being my most favorite spa service of all time.
The “Fire and Ice” Facial is the culmination of everything I hold sacred in a spa service. It is two hours of constant massaging, treating, masking, and luxurious pampering. My esthetician, Shoko Motoyama, began by applying a moisture mask on my hands and feet and then covered them with warm booties. She then basically used every healing and hydrating product in the Eminence Organic Skincare line. Side Note: I don’t know if you’ve ever had an Eminence facial, but I highly recommend it. All of their products smell deliciously of freshly cut fruit and plants. It’s a special experience to devote an entire hour (or two hours if you’re lucky) to this hyper-aromatic experience, trying to guess which products your aesthetician used by scent. This is what a nerd I am — the aesthetician sends you home with a brochure that has a list of all the products, coded by skin type, richness, etc. She will mark off everything she used during your facial and what she recommends for at-home use. I pour over every product, looking at her choices, trying to analyze her reasoning. I have booklets from Eminence facials from 10 years ago. Pathetic, right? I tried to find an easy way on the Eminence website to search for spas offering Eminence facials, but I couldn’t find it. My advice is to cross-reference your location with “Eminence facial” and see what comes back.
Posted by janna Tags Eminence, Facial, Luxury Spa, Mauna Lani Spa