The Sexiest Spas in the USA

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Resort Spas Nationwide / Best US Spa Resort / Luxury Spa Escapes

Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain, Arizona

The Setting

There’s something about desert air. It’s more vibrant, as if compensating for the stark landscape with a richness that is palpable — the gentle breezes are nearly a caress. The mingled scents of sage, creosote, and deep-red earth high up on Camelback Mountain add another layer of gratification. Under the calm gaze of the Praying Monk, a natural rock formation with easily distinguishable features, Sanctuary’s bungalows ensure privacy, sprawled along the hillside and connected by meandering sandstone paths. At night, the twinkling lights of Paradise Valley carpet the desert floor that stretches out beneath the dark silhouette of the mountains.

The Spa

From the Spa Casitas (the sleek modern rooms built closest to the spa), it’s a short walk to the rock and smooth-stucco spa complex, set downhill from an infinity pool that reflects the impossibly blue desert sky. Passing beneath the arched bamboo doorway, I blinked in the transition from bright sunlight to the cool embracing darkness of the anteroom, the only light spilling in from a four-foot-high slit in the opposite wall. The experience gently evolves in the deeper recesses of the spa, such as the sun-filled Meditation Room, where the sound of trickling water and the smell of desert brush wafts in from the courtyard garden. Throughout, spare lines and earth tones calmly eliminate points of reference, heightening the sense of submission.

Satisfaction Guaranteed

Sanctum is the ultimate outdoor suite where stone slab walls spiral inward to a private arena for one or two. After playing in the vitality pool and rain shower, the fire pit ablaze, I surrendered myself to the two-hour, Thai-inspired Luk Pra Kope. Dressed in traditional sabai wear (a loose fitting, thin cotton top and pants), my limbs were stretched and kneaded in the liberating dance of Thai massage. Finally, warm damp compresses smelling of ginger, myrtle grass, and camphor were pressed into my skin, easily penetrating the fabric and my senses, leaving me redolent of exotic spice.

Esalen, California

The Setting

Esalen is proof that God favors sensualists. It’s built on 27 acres of the Big Sur coast — a sublime stretch of shore studded with redwoods, beaches, waterfalls, and, of course, hot springs. Fifty feet above the swirling, crashing Pacific, 119°F mineral water, once revered by local Indians for its healing power, cascades into exquisitely designed cobblestone and concrete tubs. The funky sulfur scent rising from pools scattered across the sandstone deck hints at the water’s richness. Some tubs are exposed to the elements, others sheltered beneath dynamic cantilevered ceilings, and each one sucks the stress from your bones and soul almost instantly.

The Spa

Esalen is more an institute than a classic spa. Yogis, Buddhist teachers, authors, and musicians offer seminars year-round. There are even weekend tantric sex workshops for couples, but it is possible to arrange day spa services. In fact, people come from all over the world just to soak in the famed Esalen baths, and they’re all naked. The changing rooms are coed; the showers, built with sliding glass windows on the seaward side, are likewise unisex — the bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Public displays of self-assured nudity are rampant here — height, weight, body fat be damned. We’re talking contagious self-body-love, and, frankly, there’s nothing sexier.

Satisfaction Guaranteed

Priority #1 is to submerge in the shimmering pools, #1A is to enjoy Esalen’s singular massage. There is a soothing quality to the therapists’ long, sensitive strokes, and they are not clock-watchers. They work until the kinks are smooth and all tension is released. And if you’re too loose to leave, book a room with a view, enjoy the organic seductions they call dinner, and watch the sunset and moonrise over the ocean. Then strip down, feel the night air in all your glory, and hit the baths one more time.

Hotel Hana-Maui, Hawaii

The Setting

Maybe it’s way the Pacific explodes on the black lava rocks of Maui’s easternmost point. Or the sweeping view down the coast from the hot tubs that grace the decks of the seaside cottages. Maybe it’s the changing scents of the foliage as you hike through groves of strawberry guava, past monster banyan trees, into a bamboo forest and find yourself blinking up at 400-foot Waimoko falls … and plunge in. But the real beauty of Hana, an end-of-the-road town of about 1,800 that has barely changed in 50 years, is what’s not here. Outside the resort grounds, there are two stores, one other restaurant, a gallery, and a gas station. No bars, no 18-hole golf courses, no parasailing. Not here, not for 50 miles.

The Spa

The oldest hotel in Maui, the 62-room Hotel Hana-Maui still has its 1946 bungalows, but everything was tastefully renovated not long ago with a zen-like nod to quiet and elegance. You move easily here from indoors to out, from the spa’s garden showers and lava rock plunge pools to spacious private treatment suites, each opening onto a garden that looks out across the mesmerizing bay.

Satisfaction Guaranteed

The sensuality that lies at the root of Hawaiian healing is the essence of three of Hana’s most seductive spa treatments. During the Calming ‘Awa and Spirulina Body Wrap, each leg is painted with a mask made from the narcotic ‘awa (or kava) and spirulina; a strong forearm strokes firmly across your back during the Hawaiian Lomilomi massage; and the gentle placement of hot lava stones on the body during the Honua Ali‘I Hot Stone Massage is surpassed only by a rub down with the hotel’s flower-laced signature aromatherapy oil and a soothing sheen of ti leaf: Such is bliss.

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Resort Spas Nationwide / Best US Spa Resort / Luxury Spa Escapes

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