Posts Tagged ‘Mauna Lani Spa’

Monday, January 16, 2012

Spa Slut: The Mauna Lani Spa in Kohala (Part Two)

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…


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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Spa Slut: The Mauna Lani Spa in Kohala, Hawaii (Part 1)

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.  

Getting back to the “Fire and Ice”… She used 1 cleanser, 2 toners, 2 gentle exfoliators, 1 serum, 3 face masks (she actually blended 2 different masks together 3 times, so she actually used a total of 6 masks), 2 eye creams, 1 eye gel, 1 lip exfoliator, 1 lip mask, and 1 lip balm during the treatment. No lie. I have the booklet to prove it.  You would think Shoko would be pretty busy applying all those products, but the majority of the two hours were spent massaging oils and creams into my hands, feet, neck, shoulders, and back using her hands, and hot and cold stones.  The “Fire and Ice” are represented by the hot and cold stones, which when used one immediately after the other, creates a stimulating affect (or at least that’s what Shoko told me).
I walked out of the spa with glowing skin that smelled like a freshly baked fruit pie.  The yum will continue next week when I tell you about my Kona Mocha Body Scrub. And yes, though not yummy, I will also tell you about the waterboarding (my husband insists I have a duty to my readers) during my Watsu massage.
Aloha and enjoy the week!


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