Where the flavors of Hawaii are smoothed on in the treatments
Pineapple, papaya, coconut, coffee – the ingredients can make Hawaii spa menus sound like the breakfast buffet. As with restaurants, some spas make an effort to distinguish themselves through the artfulness of their island-sourced concoctions, the refined quality of their service and the comfort and beauty of their setting.
Leading that list is Kauai’s Spa at Kukuiula, the spa equivalent of the French Laundry for exclusivity. Until last year no one could book an appointment unless they were among the 101 Kukuiula Club members who own property at the luxurious South Shore community, put down a minimum of $50,000 for club initiation and pay nearly $2,000 a month in club dues and homeowners fees.
But the pool of potential spa patrons has widened ever so slightly to include guests staying at one of Kukuiula’s eight Club Cottages. (Eight more are under construction and due to open within six months.) Cottage rentals start at $1,000 a night, plus a $350 cleaning fee.
From the three-bedroom, 2,200-square-foot cottages, it’s a short walk to the spa, an open-air oasis of private lava rock showers, plunge pools, punee (Hawaiian daybeds) and a serene pool area as hushed as a temple, except for the sounds of the waterfall. There’s no menu: All massages, body treatments and facials are customized, with prices beginning at $185 an hour, including gratuity. (No cash is allowed to sully the hands here.)
In this guest’s case, the recipe for an expertly applied body scrub included papaya, pineapple and grapeseed, followed by a green tea and ginger C-enzyme mask. Understanding that all those edibles might stimulate the appetite, the Spa at Kukuiula stashes homemade granola bars, trail mix and other organic treats around the 20,000-square-foot facility, and offers dried fruits and nuts and island tea after spa services.
While few may be able to sample this indulgence on Kauai’s South Shore, other elite spas have innovatively incorporated Hawaii’s bounty into their menus. A sampling of highlights:
The Spa at Koa Kea, Kauai
What better way to wake up and smell the coffee than with this boutique spa’s Awakening Kauai Coffee & Sugar Ritual? The 80-minute treatment starts with a body exfoliation using Kauai organic coffee, Hawaiian sugar, organic macadamia nut oil and organic vanilla essential oil, followed by a 50-minute full body massage ($185).
The spa’s five plush treatment rooms are tucked into the secluded upper story of Koa Kea, itself a jewel-box hotel on the Poipu shore, not far from Kukuiula and the state’s largest coffee plantation.
Hualalai Spa, Hawaii
This 28,000-square-foot complex of gardens, water features and bamboo-framed cabanas on the Big Island sets a high standard. In order to book treatments, you must be staying at the Four Seasons Hualalai, where nightly rates start at $945, or be a member (or guest of a member) of the Hualalai Club, which requires ownership of one of the resort’s million-dollar-plus residences, a $250,000 membership fee and monthly $3,000-and-change dues.
Members are entitled to luxuriate in treatments such as the Island Glow, an 80-minute “exfoliating experience” that incorporates sugarcane, coconut oil, local honey, locally grown organic vanilla beans and cinnamon ($235). There are also customized scrubs, polishes and facials that incorporate a variety of island and other ingredients found in the well-stocked spa apothecary.
The Spa at Travaasa Hana, Maui
The several hours’ drive along the scenic but tortuous road to Hana justifies a treatment or two, in the ocean-view wing of the famously low-key resort, formerly known as the Hotel Hana-Maui.
The 60-minute Firming Facial is a veritable smorgasbord, beginning with a hydrating combination of organic jasmine, avocado, macadamia nut and papaya. It’s followed by a rejuvenating blend of organic cocoa bean, sandalwood, hibiscus and other essences; a restorative mix of fruits and plants such as andiroba and neroli (bitter orange); and a brightening finish of sun-dried sea algae, organic aloe, green coffee oil and licorice root ($135).
The Ihilani Spa, Oahu
A mix of Greco-Roman style and tropical esprit, the multistory spa at the Ihilani JW Marriott has been a West Side destination since opening in 1993. It has maintained its discreet cachet even after the 2011 debut of Disney’s looming Aulani resort next door.
The spa’s 50-minute Maui Ginger Sugar Scrub ($115) takes its inspiration from awapuhi (wild ginger) and the sugarcane from the nearby Ewa Plain. For those who need to rehydrate – perhaps from too much time in the sun – the same ti leaves that keep steamed pork and fish dishes succulent at a luau are used to provide relief in the 50-minute Cool Ti Leaf Wrap ($65).
Spa at Kukuiula, (855) 742-0234, www.kukuiula.com. Nonmembers must first book a Club Cottage through the Parrish Collection, (800) 325-5701, www.parrishkauai.com/kukuiula.
Spa at Koa Kea, (808) 828-8888, www.koakea.com/spa-experience.
Hualalai Spa, (808) 325-8000, www.fourseasons.com/hualalai/spa.
The Spa at Travaasa Hana, (888) 820-1043, https://www.travaasa.com/hana.
Ihilani Spa, (808) 679-3321, www.ihilanispa.com.
Jeanne Cooper writes the Aloha Friday column and Hawaii Insider blog for SFGate.com. For more Hawaii spa news and photos, see her Aloha Friday column.