By: Maryann Hammers
Most spas tout the "three R's:" relaxation, rejuvenation, and renewal. But we've rounded up a global list that embraces a fourth "R" – romance. Aromatic mineral pools and private, candlelit, seaside massage terraces are just a few of the perks found in our favorite romantic spas. But with spas springing up everywhere, you want to be sure you don't end up wasting money at an overpriced (or over-hyped) facial factory. We sent spa expert (and former editor-in-chief of Spa Magazine) Maryann Hammers to seek out the most alluring, luxe spas across the planet. Start your pampering plans here with these 10 romantic spas that all promise to help you love your body.
Arán Valley, Spain: La Pleta
THE ROMANTIC SPA The Occitania Spa (www.lapleta.com) in this tranquil mountain lodge feels like a calming, aromatic cavern, with flickering candles and a mysterious atmosphere.
SETTING With 72 trails, an average annual snowfall of 32 feet, and a top elevation of 8,234 feet, Spain's quaint Pyrenees resort of Baqueira (www.baqueira.es), which lies 220 miles north of Barcelona, is a winter-sport-lover's haven.
SIGNATURE TREATMENT Sign up for an intimate Two Lovers' Massage, and follow it up with a hot soak. Walk on the pebbled "reflexology pathway" and let the smooth stones underfoot massage your soles while streams of water run over your calves and ankles.
MORE THAN MASSAGE Alpine skiing, mushing, mountaineering, and everything snow.
CUISINE Sink your teeth into chicken paillard stuffed with mushrooms, and follow it with a glass of mulled wine or a shot of cassis, the locally made, sweet purple liqueur.
Atlanta: InterContinental Buckhead
THE ROMANTIC SPA Soothe yourself at this urban, eco-friendly spa, centered on holistic treatments that incorporate pure, organic, herbal products from labels like Amala, Jurlique, and Woodsprite.
SETTING The InterContinental Buckhead (www.ichotelsgroup.com) is set in Atlanta's distinguished Buckhead area, long known for its upscale shopping and dining scene.
SIGNATURE TREATMENT The indulgent, nearly 4-hour long Body Indulgence Package includes a 60-minute facial, a 90-minute massage, a 60-minute reflexology foot rub, and a 15-minute scalp treatment.
MORE THAN MASSAGE Gallery hop in trendy South Buckhead, shop the area's boutiques, then dance all night at nearby clubs.
CUISINE Take a seat at the raw bar at the lobby-level Au Pied de Cochon, a rococo-style French brasserie, and feast on aprhodisiac oysters.
Idaho: Coeur d’Alene Resort
THE ROMANTIC SPA Relax surrounded by waterfalls, fountains, and lake views from every window. The romantic spa suite features side-by-side waterbeds, which double as massage tables, while a trio of crackling fireplaces keeps things cozy.
SETTING The eponymous resort (www.cdaresort.com) unfolds in northwest Idaho's sweet and scenic town of Coeur d'Alene, set on the shores of one of the world's most beautiful alpine lakes, just a 40-minute drive from Spokane, Washington.
SIGNATURE TREATMENT Experience the healing powers of water with the Pure Essence Shower. An overhanging rain-shower head drenches you while another jet massages your shoulders and neck, and 19 sprays target other parts of your body.
MORE THAN MASSAGE Ski, snowshoe, or snowmobile at nearby Silver Mountain.
CUISINE Start the meal with caramel-braised muscovy duck and finish with a hot huckleberry soufflé at a lake-view table for two at Beverly's, the resort's hallmark eatery.
Los Angeles: Sofitel
THE ROMANTIC SPA LeSpa features individual tea service, products from Paris Decleor and Carita, heated-rock foot soaks, and foot massages before every treatment.
SETTING Between Hollywood and Beverly Hills, this romantic spa is set within perfect proximity of shopping and nightlife.
SIGNATURE TREATMENT LeSpa's new Touch of Love treatment is tailor-made for couples. Learn massage techniques from an experienced massage therapist during a 50- or 80-minute session, then take home a booklet outlining the massage routine and a customized aphrodisiac aromatherapy blended oil to practice at home.
MORE THAN MASSAGE Shop with the stars in the designer boutiques on Rodeo Drive or explore walkable L.A. neighborhoods like Santa Monica and Silverlake.
CUISINE The hotel's restaurant, Simon L.A., doles out yellowtail carpaccio laced with cilantro, mint, and citrus vinaigrette, and tosses a mean filet-mignon Cobb salad. Follow it with chocolate avocado pudding.
Los Cabos: Las Ventanas al Paraiso
THE ROMANTIC SPA In this ultra-exclusive retreat (www.lasventanas.com), take treatments in your suite, private terrace, or the spa's outdoor desert garden.
SETTING The resort embraces a stretch of beach between the colonial town of San Jose del Cabo and the festive Cabo San Lucas, at the tip of Mexico's Baja Peninsula.
SIGNATURE TREATMENT The Sea and Stars Night Massage turns your terrace into a personal paradise, as two massage therapists come to your villa for an 90-minute couple's massage. Keep the good vibes humming after they leave by lighting the wood-burning adobe fireplace, and retiring to the Jacuzzi overlooking the ocean.
MORE THAN MASSAGE Cruise around Baja in a convertible Mini Cooper, available on site. Stargaze by night and check out movie stars by day at one of the hotel's seven pools. Or ask the resort's "Department of Romance" to cook up a sexy picnic or moonlit carriage ride on the beach.
CUISINE Chef Fabrice Guisset prepares six different variations of ceviche dishes daily, as well as seared red snapper with ratatouille.
Ojai, California: Ojai Valley Inn & Spa
THE ROMANTIC SPA In a whitewashed adobe with heirloom herb gardens, fountain courtyards, and working fireplaces, this historic Spanish-style spa-resort (www.ojairesort.com) is a cozy, romantic hideaway.
SETTING Nestled against the Topa Topa Mountains, southern California's Ojai is dotted by ancient oaks, scented by lavender fields and orange groves, and crisscrossed by horse trails, creeks, and bike paths.
SIGNATURE TREATMENT The Kuyam ("coming together") experience includes cleansing mud, dry heat, inhalation therapy, and guided meditation. Follow with a Massage Duet.
MORE THAN MASSAGE Golf on the 18-hole championship course, or wander over to the Artists' Cottage for classes on subjects ranging from painting to wine tasting. Take advantage of free mind/body activities like yoga, pilates, dance, spinning, and hiking.
CUISINE Sit outside under the oaks with a frisky El Jefe cocktail, made with Patron Anejo, Tabasco, fresh lime juice, and agave nectar. Or try a Central California coast local vintage, like the full-bodied Ojai Vineyard Syrah.
Prague: Mandarin Oriental
THE ROMANTIC SPA Built in the 14th century, this former Dominican monastery emanates mood, atmosphere, and beauty. The couples suite is made up of two underground rooms connected by a gothic corridor with a private relaxation area.
SETTING This luxury hotel (www.mandarinoriental.com/prague) opened in 2005 and is set in Prague's fairy-tale-like Mala Strana neighborhood, an ideal base for romantic city walks.
SIGNATURE TREATMENT Linden trees – the Czech Republic's national emblem – are loved for their honey-scented blossoms and heart-shaped leafs. Indulge in the tree's romance and history with the Linden Blossom Scrub followed by a steaming pot of Linden blossom tea.
MORE THAN MASSAGE Wander the cobbled streets of Old Town; shop for crystal; or explore the unique Bauhaus-meets-Medieval modernity that is Prague.
CUISINE Take afternoon tea in the airy Monastery Lounge and nibble on finger sandwiches and warm scones with marmalades, jams, or cream.
Tucson, Arizona: Starr Pass
THE ROMANTIC SPA The bright and airy Hashani Spa at one Tucson's JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort (www.jwmarriottstarrpass.com) highlights its Southwestern theme with saguaro sculptures and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Tucson Mountain Park.
SETTING The secluded sand-colored resort in the Sonoran Desert borders Saguaro National Park and opens out to a cactus forest.
SIGNATURE TREATMENT Cupping Therapy, an ancient Chinese purification technique, uses glass suction cups to eliminate toxins, improve circulation, and relieve pain for full relaxation and de-stressing.
MORE THAN MASSAGE Hike, mountain bike, or stroll on rocky trails through the magnificent Sonoran Desert.
CUISINE Seared diver scallops with roasted poblano, polenta cake, and black-bean puree pair well with homemade black pepper-infused tequila, perfect for sipping.
Turks and Caicos: The Regent Palms
THE ROMANTIC SPA Tranquil, torchlit reflecting pools envelop this neo-colonial resort's (www.regenthotels.com/thepalms) award-winning spa, which spreads across more than an acre's worth of meditation areas, including a lush garden filled with a cluster of intimate treatment cottages.
SETTING Grace Bay Beach, where pink flamingos glide overhead and perfectly formed conch shells are scattered about the powdery white sand, is a mere 75-minute flight from Miami.
SIGNATURE TREATMENT The 30-minute Mother-of-Pearl Full-Body Exfoliation contains pulverized conch shells and your choice of aromatherapy oils.
MORE THAN MASSAGE Hobie Cats, snorkel gear, and kayaks are free. But you may not want to leave the $1.8 million Infinity pool, with rotating sun pods and a hot tub "island." Sunbathers enjoy sorbet, aromatherapy mists, and iPods.
CUISINE Munch on fresh ceviche with plantains on a pool banquette in the water.
Vail: Park Hyatt Beaver Creek
THE ROMANTIC SPA Enjoy slopeside views from your massage table and soak in the aromatic Water Temple mineral pool. Choose among four spa suites at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek's (www.beavercreek.hyatt.com) sanctuary, some with fireplaces and balconies, others with oversize granite tubs and private side-by-side steamshowers.
SETTING Beaver Creek has 1,625 acres of skiable terrain, a yearly average of 330 inches of snowfall, and 300 days of sunshine.
SIGNATURE TREATMENT The Ginger Peach Cure incorporates freshly ground ginger, orange peel, raw sugar, honey, and essential nut oils into a sumptuous scrub and massage.
MORE THAN MASSAGE Ski, snowboard, ice skate, or shop for designer clothing in nearby Vail, a bustling and world-renowned aprés-ski spot.
CUISINE Settle down by the firepit with a S'mores Kit and a Hot English Toffee – a body-warming concoction made from Burnett's coconut vodka, butterscotch schnapps, Kahlua, and hot cocoa.