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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – Citi Hilton Honors Visa Signature Card, Citi Hilton Honors Reserve Card, Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express, Hilton Honors Card from American Express
Never one to shy away from a good spa treatment, TPG Contributor David Hoffmann of the travel blog David’s Been Here shares some of his favorite spa experiences around the world, from beaches to cities to the heart of the Arabian desert.
Timeless Spa at Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa — Dubai, UAE
Being stranded in the middle of a desert doesn’t have to be a bad thing. A Starwood Luxury Collection property where rates start at about $1,140 or 60,000 Starpoints per night (39,000 Starpoints per night through March 8, 2016), the Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa offers an exotic Arabian getaway in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, roughly 45 minutes from Dubai. It also gives you the chance to get pampered at the Timeless Spa, where treatments blend Middle Eastern and Asian techniques. Try the Sodashi Lifting Facial with cooling botanicals ($122), or the Rasoul Ritual – a full-body exfoliation ceremony using mineral clay ($150).
Remember that the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and/or its business version, Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express each offer annual elite credit of two stays and five nights, helping you get closer to SPG Platinum status. However, if you’re low on Starpoints or don’t have these cards, you could book through the online portal for Visa Signature Hotels, where Visa Signature cardholders (e.g., Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Hyatt Credit Card, the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, Bank of America’s Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card, Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve) can earn perks like an automatic room upgrade and free Wi-Fi (when available), free daily continental breakfast, $25 food or beverage credit and more.
AYANA Resort and Spa Bali — Bali, Indonesia
The five-star AYANA Resort and Spa Bali features world-class dining, gorgeous guest rooms and swanky oceanside villas. When you’re not basking beside the Indian Ocean, indulge in award-winning Balinese treatments at AYANA’s spa facilities, such as the two-hour Lava Me Tender treatment – foot soak, deep-tissue massage with warm lava stones and a volcanic earth body wrap ($425).
Room rates start at $296 per night, but if you’re a cardholders of the Platinum Card® from American Express and/or the Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN version, you can book through the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts (Amex FHR) travel portal to receive perks like room upgrades, daily breakfast for two, 4pm late check-out, in room Wi-Fi and more.
Kinan Spa at Belmond Maroma Resort and Spa — Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Set 45 minutes from Cancún, the Belmond Maroma Resort and Spa sprawls along a powdery white sand beach on Mexico’s lush Riviera Maya/Caribbean coastline and offers oceanfront dining and romantic accommodations for couples. With treatments derived from Mayan rituals, its award-winning Kinan Spa provides a tropical refuge to melt away your worries and help you get your groove back. Try the Kinan Body Glow Ceremony with smashed avocado and local papaya seeds ($131).
Room rates at Maroma start at $475 per night, but the property is listed with Amex FHR — and in addition to the program’s usual perks, the unique benefit is a complimentary 50-minute massage at Kinan Spa for two people per room once during your stay.
Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa — Reykjavik, Iceland
Glacier tours, erupting geysers, dogsledding, sod houses and even hot dogs have become synonymous with Icelandic culture, but during a recent trip to Reykjavik with Icelandair, I discovered the country has a tradition of bathing outdoors in geothermal pools that dates back to Viking times. Today, the most famous Icelandic pool is the Blue Lagoon – a giant man-made pool filled with geothermal waters that are thought to have healing properties for skin ailments. I recommend the Luxury Experience for two that includes entrance fees, lounge access, bathrobes and a product gift set (€165/$182) — and also to keep an eye out for more $99 one-way fares on WOW.
Cagaloglu Hammam — Istanbul, Turkey
Listed as one of the “1,000 Places to See Before You Die,” Istanbul’s 300-year-old Cagaloglu Hammam is a traditional Turkish bathhouse in the historic Sultanahmet District. I was advised that this was the most authentic Turkish bath I could get – an hour-long treatment of steaming, soaking and being scrubbed down by a trained tellak in order to renew and purify the body. This ritual has roots in the ancient bathhouses of Rome, and continues to be one of the best ways to rid yourself of dead skin cells. Price for a complete bath service is €50 ($55).
Eforea Spa at the Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock — Sedona, Arizona
Sedona’s enchanting red rock landscape provides a dramatic backdrop to the tranquil Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock, where rates start at $189 or 50,000 Honors Points per night. Situated in the midst of what once was Native American territory, the resort’s Eforea Spa boasts an array of rejuvenating treatments using indigenous botanicals, such as agave, sage, aloe vera, yucca and cactus. A personal favorite is the High Desert – a 60-minute body renewal that leaves skin hydrated and balanced ($145).
If you want to automatically bump up your HHonors elite status prior to your stay, consider the Hilton Honors Card from American Express, the Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express, the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve and/or Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card cards. Note that the Reserve card also provides two free weekend nights annually at any Hilton property — like the Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock.
Remède Spa at St. Regis Bal Harbour — Miami, Florida
Nothing says opulence like a holiday spent at the St. Regis Bal Harbour – a 5-star Starwood resort in the swankiest area of Miami Beach, where rates start at $929 or 30,000 Starpoints per night. The SPG Amex and/or its business version will earn you as much as 5 points per dollar on your spend, depending on your SPG status. This beachside oasis is home to the 14,000-square-foot Remède Spa, where you can sip on Champagne and nibble on chocolate truffles as you peruse the treatment menu. Remède Spa is one of the only spas in Florida offering the 24-Karat Facial that uses 11 exotic ingredients, including Hungarian Moor mud and gold-infused oils to make your complexion radiant ($339).
Spa My Blend by Clarins at the Ritz-Carlton, Toronto — Toronto, Ontario, Canada
With room rates starting at $475 or 50,000 Ritz-Carlton Rewards per night, The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto is an elegant home base for soaking up the city’s museums, street art and cultural festivals. Its on-site Spa My Blend by Clarins was voted #1 Spa in the World by Travel + Leisure in 2013, and its signature customized “My Blend” facial is based on the concept that your skin is as unique as your fingerprint. Products used during the facial are determined by examining your lifestyle and environmental factors before creating the perfect combo for optimal results ($195). Remember that using The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card at the hotel and/or spa will earn you 5 points per dollar.
Bliss Spa at the Viceroy Miami — Miami, Florida
A luxe retreat in the heart of downtown Miami, the Philippe Starck-designed Bliss Spa at the Viceroy Miami features a 5,000-square-foot water lounge that includes marble-paved plunge pools and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Biscayne Bay, as well as mosaic rugs that are reminiscent of a traditional Turkish hammam. The extensive spa menu includes facial, body, maternity and couples treatments, as well as some designed specifically for me – I highly recommend the gentleman’s deep tissue sports massage ($220).
Zara Spa at the Mövenpick Resort and Spa Dead Sea — Amman, Jordan
The Zara Spa at Mövenpick Resort and Spa Dead Sea harnesses the healing properties of the Dead Sea to counter the effects of aging, aching joints and skin ailments. The one-day spa package allows for several revitalizing treatments and access to the spa’s hydrotherapy plunge pools ($423). Stick around the resort for a dip in the ancient Dead Sea – the world’s first natural spa! Its waters are nine times more salty than the ocean and packed with therapeutic minerals. Even the mud along its shores is used for treating skin conditions like acne and psoriasis. Just coat on a thin layer, let it dry until it hardens, then rinse — you’ll look and feel fantastic.
Credit Cards that Don’t Charge Foreign Exchange Fees
Credit cards are accepted at all the spas listed above, but because many of them are set in other countries, be sure to use a card that doesn’t charge foreign exchange fees, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Citi Prestige. See Top Credit Cards with No Foreign Transaction Fees for more suggestions. The Points Guy Assessment: The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great pick for the beginner and the frequent traveler. The CSP has superb travel benefits, double points on certain purchases, and a 50,000 point sign up bonus. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year so this puts it as one of the less expensive cards, while still allowing you to earn one of the most valuable point currencies.
The Points Guy Assessment:
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great pick for the beginner and the frequent traveler. The CSP has superb travel benefits, double points on certain purchases, and a 50,000 point sign up bonus. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year so this puts it as one of the less expensive cards, while still allowing you to earn one of the most valuable point currencies.