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Note: Each spa treatment is being equally honored in no particular order.

There are spa treatments (who doesn’t love a simple massage or glowy facial) and then there are carefully curated, over-the-top spa treatments — experiences that go beyond just relaxing in the moment. One of my personal favorites is not a massage, facial, body wrap, scrub, or even bath (although I love them all)  — but rather a person, Susan King. A session with this beautiful, English, master intuitive counselor and holistic practitioner is like sitting with your favorite aunt (or bestie) over a cup of tea and listening incredulously as she intuitively unravels information no one else could possibly know — and that you are not aware of yourself (until that brilliant ‘ah-ha’ moment).

I first met King decades ago at the Mandarin Oriental, New York Spa where she was offering her extraordinary mind, body, spirit sessions. We met again at COMO Parrot Cay in the Turks and Caicos where one of King’s clients — fashion designer Donna Karan — introduced her to COMO owner Christina Ong. King worked with the brand for more than 20 years. Today, she splits time between the U.K. and U.S. and always, when she comes to New York, I book a session with her at Ildi Pekar Skincare, home of the legendary Hungarian facialist and her I-Pekar skincare line featuring raw honey and Hungarian thermal water. Always, I leave my ‘Susan sessions’ feeling enlightened, balanced, and more on my intuitive game. More on her treatment and other spa experiences we absolutely loved this year.

Intuitive Counseling with Susan King, Ildi Pekar, New York City

Susan king, intuitive counselor
Courtesy, Susan King

In one of the tranquil treatment rooms at Ildi Pekar, King’s words — although spoken in a soft voice — are deliberate. “I can see, feel, and distinguish whether I’m talking about a lover, a spouse, or a colleague,” she says. “I go back in time a bit and then move forward 18 months or so, offering guidance and new insight.” King says she sees her role as a way to put people back in touch with their own inner guidance and help them gain perspective on whatever is troubling them so they can create more choices for themselves. “We’re all more transient,” says King. “We’re far from our families, we’ve lost our infrastructure, so people seek me out as a sounding board. Each one of us possesses intuition; we know exactly what we must do. But hearing that inner voice, remembering it, often gets clouded.” While at the celebrity salon, be sure to try the LIFT (non-surgical, all-natural) facial, a favorite of supermodel Miranda Kerr.

La Mer Baccarat Facial, Baccarat Hotel, New York

la mer baccarat facial, available at baccarat hotel, new york city
Courtesy Spa de La Mer, Baccarat Hotel

The prodigal child of two legendary, celebrity parents — Baccarat, the esteemed French crystal and La Mer, the prestigious skincare brand — the La Mer Baccarat Facial is rocking the spa world. A collaboration between La Mer and Baccarat Paris, the exclusive facial is now available at Spa de La Mer (the skincare brand’s first full-service spa in the world) at Baccarat Hotel & Residences New York. Featuring just four intimate treatment rooms — each with a vaulted tent-like ceiling, custom Baccarat crystal scones, and mural of sea kelp (hand painted by New York artists, Lynda White and Jeff Wood) — the spa is tucked below the hotel’s main entrance and designed to resemble a luxurious European seaside retreat. The soothing sound of waves  and vibrational energies of tuning forks keep the body centered throughout the 90-minute facial, which incorporates deep breathing, a diamond-powder exfoliation, warming massage with signature stones, cooling (Icy Crystal Star) technique, and signature La Mer products. 

Antioxidant Anisillo Leaf Wrap, Origins Lodge, Costa Rica 

origins lodge in costa rica
Courtesy, Laka-Tii Spa, Origins Lodge

Set high in the mountains of Costa Rica, Laka-Tii Spa at Origins Lodge incorporates native healing ingredients, indigenous to the region, into treatments. One of the most decadent comes in the spa’s 90-minute Anisillo Leaf Wrap, utilizing high-quality, locally sourced, medicinal herbs and honey. Lemongrass, melina, basil, and mint — collected onsite in the spa’s  gardens — are combined with local honey and hot water. The mixture is basted on the entire body, which is then wrapped in the heart-shaped anisillo leaf, known for its thick velvety texture, as guests enjoy a relaxing foot and scalp massage. 

Tuscan Bath, Fontanelle Estate, Italy

fresh-flower and salt bath, the wellness sanctuary at the clubhouse by fontanelle estate
Courtesy, The Wellness Sanctuary at The Clubhouse by Fontanelle Estate

I adored this bath. Hidden away in the hills of Tuscany’s Castelnuovo Berardenga just outside Siena, The Wellness Sanctuary at The Clubhouse by Fontanelle Estate was a lovely and unexpected surprise. Following separate 75-minute massages that started with a foot soak in flowers and salt mined in the nearby Tuscan town of Volterra, my partner and I were led into a private chamber lined with votive candles to an onyx deep-soaking tub (for two). Fresh-sliced lemons and oranges floated alongside just-cut pink, yellow, and orange roses from the arbor outside the spa, to which our therapist added more salt (also from Volterra), placed a fragrant salt scrub to use at whim during the soak, and after serving glasses of chilled water (to hydrate) and artfully arranged chocolate-dipped fruit, discreetly disappeared.

Sand Bed Treatment, Aurora Anguilla Resort & Golf Club, Anguilla 

sand bed treatment, aurora resort & golf club, anguilla
Courtesy, Sorana Spa, Anguilla Resort & Golf Club

Inspired by the ancient practice of “Psammotherapapy” (hot sand bathing), this unique treatment — introduced by Sorana Spa at the newly renovated Anguilla Resort & Golf Club — is a first for the Caribbean.  In its most ancient form, participants were buried or covered in warm sand in order to slowly heat the body to reduce inflammation, induce relaxation, and ease a number of other physical complaints. The experience at Sorans is more luxurious. During the Sand Bed Treatment, guests immerse in alpha quartz while experiencing a touch dynamic flow massage. Inversion gravity — to relieve compression and reduce back pain — is complemented by the therapeutic benefits of singing bowls. 

The Fountain Flow, Chablé Yucatán, Mexico

Courtesy, Chablé Yucatán

This one-of-a-kind, three-hour, Chablé Yucatán treatment begins on the banks of a cenote, the Yucatán’s most sacred healing water. Symbolic of rebirth, the welcoming ritual is followed by flotation therapy — raising endorphin levels  and alleviating hormonal stress — in the spa’s flotation tank. Inducing a tranquilizing effect, time in the floatation tank is said to be equivalent to six hours of the deepest sleep. It is while still in this blissful state of relaxation that a body scrub — of fresh herbs and salts — is applied. The treatment culminates in a lymphatic massage (one of my personal favorites) that ever so gently stretches the skin (as far as it will naturally go), encouraging the drainage of lymph nodes and the movement of lymph fluids throughout the body. 

Cover photo, courtesy of Origins Lodge; words by Shari Mycek.