On the Kohala Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii, the calm azure waters of Makaiwa Bay are protected from the surf by coral and lava reefs. Guests at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel laze in blue cabanas and on hammocks between waving palms. The heady scent of ginger, pikake, and gardenia lures them from their reveries to the Asia Pacific—style Mauna Lai spa, tucked away in a village of thatched hales (huts). Surrounded by lava rock and a riot of tropical greenery, the spa is silent except for birdsong. Unique offerings include an outdoor lava-rock sauna and rainforest showers, the la'au meditation and healing garden; and treatments special to the island—ahhh, the Lomi Lomi Hula massage. Nearly all the plantation-style guest rooms are within sight and sound of the Pacific.
Mauna Lani Bay Hotel: www.maunalani.com
Sonoran Desert Delight
Against a backdrop of palms, pools, waterfalls, and wildflowers in the high desert of southern Arizona, Miraval Spa Resort caters to sophisticated, high-achieving types seeking to restore their jangled nerves and tired bodies. The new Mindful Stress Management program offers a strategy for mitigating the damaging effects of stress. After individual consultation, a plan is devised to integrate meditation, an exercise regimen, a healthy diet, and positive behaviors to fend off tension and anxiety, and the guest goes home with a recipe for maintaining a balanced lifestyle. Visitors wishing to skip the planned program can go rock climbing, hiking, or horseback riding in the desert, or choose from a blockbuster lineup of other daily activities, including yoga intensives, nutrition and cooking classes, tai chi, and qi gong.
Miraval Spa Resort: www.miravalresort.com
Redwoods in the Mist
Between the brooding shoulders of the Santa Lucia Mountains and the craggy coastline of the Pacific Ocean, the wild beauty of California's Big Sur is at once romantic and energizing. A thousand feet above the ocean, nestled among hundreds of acres of meadows, gardens, and fern glens, the elegantly rustic Ventana Inn has a quiet country atmosphere. Two lap pools, Japanese hot baths (including clothing-optional areas), and saunas are a welcome comfort at the end of a misty day exploring beaches and trails. At the recently renovated spa, warm pelotherapy alleviates aching muscles and joints, while thalassotherapy, using algae, seaweed, and sensual aromatherapy, melts worries away. Indulge in an astrology reading, guided yoga, tai chi, or a massage. Hike on your own through groves of centuries-old redwoods or take a guided meditation walk. After dark, try the candlelit four-star restaurant. Oversize guest rooms have wood-burning fireplaces.
Ventana Inn: www.ventanainn.com
Karen Misuraca is a travel journalist who lives in Sonoma, California.