the RIVER SPA
Casa Bonita Tropical Lodge
Baharona, Dominican Republic
The road is not scenic, and it is a very long drive to Casa Bonita Tropical Lodge from the Santo Domingo airport. (Helicopter transfers are available.) Once you get there, however, you will not want to leave. In fact, load up your Kindle, or bring a good book, because it will be tempting to lie down by the Infinity pool, order up a Mojito from the open bar, enjoy a plate of delicious ceviche and never even move.
Long a weekend getaway for a prominent Dominican family, Casa Bonita has been transformed into an eco-lodge (and now member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World). Located on the southwest side of the island, in the Bahoruco Forest, the beautiful 160-acre property features many unique connections to nature.
At the Tanama Spa (“Butterfly,” in Taino), an enchanting spot with thatched-roof huts without walls, the open outdoor setting is thick with butterflies by day and fireflies at night. Under the keen eye of gifted Spa Director Azucena Montes, a third-generation healer, the Spa has been well-conceived and beautifully executed. “The concept is to preserve the culture of the region,” says Montes, “which has many healing traditions.”
Organic ingredients for treatments are grown locally, or on-property, and mixed by hand. Cacao and coffee are used for body exfoliation. Larimar stone from the Dominican Republic—the only place it is found in the world—is the basis for Cieba Azul Massage (Blue Stone Massage). Hair treatments feature coconut, honey and aloe vera. The detoxifying “Taino Steam Bath” is offered in a Temazcal.
But the River Massage, pictured here, in the Riosito River, is the most unique, in one of the most relaxing spa settings you will ever experience. “The sound of the river is so healing,” says Montes, “it has a special energy.” Indeed. The 14 villas and one suite (the owners are building 12 more) are partially run with hydroelectric power from the river.
If absolute and total relaxation is simply too much for you, you can try the zip line Canopy Tour or hike on property. Or take a drive (then a boat ride) to Lagoon Oviedo, a UNESCO Biosphere Preserve and refuge for many species of birds and iguanas. But you will want to return to the spa, to swing in a hammock and enjoy a sip of herbal tea, made locally by hand. casabonitadr.com
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Pico de Gallo
Casa Bonita Tropical Lodge
6 chilis picante
1 white onion
3 cups lime juice
2 ripe red tomatoes (large)
2 c. chopped coriander
1/4 c. spicy pepper (cayenne), or sprinkle to taste
1/4 c. salt (or sprinkle to taste
Chop all ingredients. Mix together lime, salt, and pepper separately. Then combine all ingredients. Enjoy with chips or as a garnish to meat, eggs or fish!
the RAINFOREST SPA
St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort
Rio Grande, Puerto Rico
The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort lies at the edge of El Yunque, one of the most spectacular tropical rain forests in the world. The lush setting is home to an award-winning Audubon Gold Signature Sanctuary where bright tropical birds flit by in bursts of color, sea turtles hatch eggs in a protected environment by the beach, and a nursery on-property grows ginger, sugar cane, and lemongrass, used in the Bahia Beach Organic Ritual at the Spa, where guests choose ingredients to personalize their scrub. Locally-inspired Rituals also include the Native Stone Ritual, a healing massage with obsidian that is cultivated in the area.
The new Spa Without Walls service offers guests the opportunity not only to customize treatments, but to also choose their location—a shaded strip of beach, a leafy spot under a palm tree, or a hidden patch of grass covered by dense foliage. The property is committed to sustainability, with sensors that conserve water, no plastic cups, rainforest showers that reduce water use, LED lighting, and more.
“From ownership down, there’s a philosophy of being in harmony with the environment,” says Mark Bodnar, Spa Director. “They did a great job designing the resort to look like we were meant to be here,” he says. stregisbahiabeach.com
the TREE SPA
At Hidden Pond, the Tree Spa—a treehouse, really—is suspended eight feet above the ground, and tucked into a birch and balsam thicket. Restful, bucolic and about as close as you can get to communing with nature in a spa setting, the three treatment rooms are connected by a wooden walkway artfully suspended through the trees. The arboreal theme continues inside, with mirrors framed in tree bark, birch cabinets, and circular tables made from interwoven branches. In addition to herbs like rosemary, mint and lavender, hand-picked from the Hidden Pond farm, the Spa uses herbal skincare products from Farmaesthetics, a natural line whose founder, Brenda Brock, hails from a six-generation farming family.
The Pure Fusion Bamboo Therapy Massage incorporates healing modalities from China, Japan and Indonesia, using heated bamboo sticks to stimulate circulation, lymphatic drainage and relaxation. The Pure Luxury Facial not only nourishes the skin and takes down puffiness in the face, it features a moisturizing treatment for feet and legs and a gentle stimulation of neck, arms and shoulders.
“Hidden Pond is a celebration of nature, so when we were looking to build a spa for guests, what better place than to set it nestled among the treetops?” said Justin Grimes, general manager. kennebunkportresortcollection.com