California and Arizona’s wellness getaways are needed now more than ever. The properties are planning accordingly for the visitors who are likely to end up on their doorsteps in 2021. Spas and hotels have revamped services and introduced new amenities designed to help people connect with the outdoors and shake off the baggage that comes with uncertainty and loss.
“This year, our lives have been derailed,” says Gigi Richardson, spa and wellness manager at the new Rush Creek Spa near Yosemite National Park. “We’ve had no self-care. We’ve been homeschooling. We want to bring people to a place where they feel optimistic once again and recharged.”
The spa, the first to open on Yosemite’s western edge, opened in November with strict cleaning standards and social distancing protocols in place. Immediately, guests started arriving from the Bay Area and beyond. Richardson recalls a male client who was stoic when checking in, but who she soon spotted splashing in one of the spa’s waterfalls. “When you come out smiling, mission accomplished,” she says.
Here are five of the best regional wellness getaways, both big and small, lesser-known and established, offering everything from transformational sleep treatments to ancient water rituals so visitors can start anew.
Post Ranch Inn
Big Sur’s Post Ranch Inn (from $925) continues to set the bar for what a health-centered getaway can be. The environmentally friendly hotel, with accommodations built into a cliffside, is introducing a sleep program in February. One of the country’s foremost experts on sleep, Michael Breus, Ph.D., acts as guests’ sleep guru. Breus believes people fit the description of one of four sleep chronotypes: the bear, the wolf, the lion or the dolphin. His personalized tips for achieving more restful sleep include meditations and guidance on room temperature. New sleep-inducing treatments have also been rolled out, including Crystal and Gemstone healing. Guests place a dream stone, a piece of ocean-polished Big Sur jade, on the heart chakra and perform a Native American purifying ritual to clear the way for deep sleep. During the Herbal Tea Ritual, guests select herbs and flowers from the inn’s garden to create a calming blend to take home.
Post Ranch Inn guests can enjoy massages and other treatments in the spa, an open-air tent or their room. Three of the property’s Mickey Muennig-designed Ocean Houses, with curved roofs covered in grass and native plants, had extensive renovations in 2020 that included adding wine barrel wall paneling, custom furniture and outdoor soaking tubs. Post Ranch Inn’s use of nontoxic cleaning supplies and chemical-free sheets and mattresses add to the overall feeling of well-being.
Rush Creek Spa
The new 5,000-square-foot spa at Rush Creek Lodge (from $160), designed by San Francisco-based Anthony Laurino (Shoreline Hotel, Hotel Tomo) takes cues from its awe-inspiring neighbor. Yosemite’s Carlon Falls-inspired custom waterfall coves offer guests a chance to sit on a bench while warm water cascades down the wall behind them and over their shoulders. “The water washes away any heaviness. It’s the ultimate 2020 detox,” says Richardson.
Cool Mist Showers, ideal after spending time in the Himalayan Salt Sauna, re-create Yosemite Falls’ fine mist, and the Warm River Rock Beds emulate the park’s smooth granite rocks when baked in the sun. There’s also a covered outdoor lounge, an amber-hued Aromatherapy Steam Room — perfumed with eucalyptus and lemongrass — a granite waterfall hot tub and five treatment rooms. Mindfulness is a part of each treatment. During a Swedish massage, therapists use a sound bowl to quiet guest’s wandering minds and hot stones to balance chakras.
The wood-and-stone Rush Creek Lodge, opened in 2016 by two Bay Area dads, is grand but never pretentious. Guests can also choose to stay at Evergreen Lodge, a historic property with 88 cabins, seven miles away.
Guests at Sedona’s Enchantment Resort (from $359) can still embark on a life-changing journey even though the property’s Mii amo Spa is closing for a significant renovation and expansion this year. Seven spa suites with relaxation areas and large bathrooms will feature cupping, astrology, aura photography, reiki and craniosacral therapy where a practitioner balances the flow of cerebrospinal fluid from the top of the head down the spine to relax and alleviate stress, to name just a few treatments. Enchantment’s intuitive practitioners are like therapists but better. It’s located in Sedona’s Boynton Canyon Vortex, and guests swear by the healing effects of a visit.
While certain rituals are also on pause, guests can participate in Morning Celebration, a guided mediation encouraging a positive start to each day in the light-filled Canyon Studio. Enchantment’s new Trail House, introduced at the end of 2020, allows guests to connect with outdoor adventure like never before. The modern, earthen concrete structure, which blends in with the red, rocky landscape, is a dedicated place for cycling and hiking guides to plan trips and educate guests about their surroundings. There’s also a mountain bike shop and interpretive center. State parkland surrounds the canyon, providing easy access to miles and miles of rugged trails. Two hundred and eighteen casita guest rooms and suites, each with a patio or deck overlooking the canyon, are Southwestern inspired with adobe fireplaces, wood beams and patterned wool blankets.
Carmel Valley’s Refuge day spa (from $52), built in 2011, specializes in hydrothermal therapy, an ancient Greek and Roman tradition of using hot and cold water to heal certain ailments. Hydrotherapy is common in Europe, but not so prevalent in the U.S. The rare coed outdoor relaxation spa encourages visitors to do a Thermal Cycle. The three-step process begins with heating up in a steam room or sauna for five to 10 minutes. Then guests do a 60-second cold plunge (Refuge’s Nordic pools are the temperature of an icy river), followed by relaxing in an Adirondack chair near a fire pit or a zero-gravity chair. Doing the cycle several times soothes aches and pains, boosts the immune system and releases endorphins.
Spa-goers who visit the two-acre property overlooking the Santa Lucia Preserve will feel like they’ve stumbled on an exotic swimming hole. Refuge has six hot pools with cascading thermal waterfalls, natural bluestone pool decks and walkways lined with native drought-resistant plants. The spa offers Swedish or deep tissue massages for even deeper relaxation, and Refuge enforces a strict no-cellphone policy to ensure complete peace and silence. An almost entirely outdoor facility, Refuge was able to reopen in August when Covid restrictions were lifted. Masks are required while checking in, in the locker rooms and during a massage, but not while using the pools or outdoor relaxation areas.
Carmel-by-the-Sea, a European-inspired village with cottages right out of a Charles Dickens novel, and the valley that stretches inland have many wonderful hotels.
Stylish and affordable CIVANA (from $329 per night or $599 all-inclusive), a Sonoran Desert retreat outside Scottsdale dotted with palm trees and cacti, believes wellness and happiness go hand in hand. Nothing is overly restricted or regimented. A wellness journey here could include yoga on the lawn and lounging by the pool, cocktail in hand, or a packed itinerary with rose garden meditations, desert hikes, outdoor sunset spin classes and socially distanced sound-bowl and stargazing sessions. The resort offers about a dozen complimentary movement and fitness classes daily. There’s no judgment, and anything goes.
CIVANA, which reopened in September, also has a refreshing approach to healthy eating. Executive Chef Scott Winegard’s seasonal menus at Seed, the on-site cafe and specialty market, and Terras, the resort’s dinner destination, are focused on whole-food ingredients. Guests will want for nothing when dining on a sourdough spelt waffle with peaches or Sonoran chickpea pasta with smokey butternut queso. CIVANA also has a hydrotherapy spa with 22 treatment rooms. Guests are encouraged to “take the waters” before or after a treatment like the Sonoran Sea Facial, which includes a layered massage that mimics the ocean’s rhythms to release jaw tension and soothe headaches. The Aqua Therapy Circuit has an oxygenated relaxation pool, a cold deluge shower and a German-designed sauna with five steam levels. It’s the only one of its kind in the continental U.S.
Due to constantly changing Covid-19 guidelines, we recommend that before planning a visit you contact the spa for current status and any requirements.