Spas Made Simple
1. The holistic haven
Elemental Embrace Wellness Spa Retreat in Brighton, Ont.
Trained vaidyas—ayurvedic doctors who practice India's 5,000-year-old system of holistic medicine—oversee the cleanse-and-reboot treatments at Elemental Embrace, a small wellness spa 90 minutes east of Toronto. The number of guests is limited to 20 to ensure a guest-to-staff ratio of about 1:1. Though you can get the usual facials and wraps here, most people come for the ayurvedic treatments (such as swedana, an herbalized-oil massage followed by an intense steam bath, $55) and for colonics ($100). The real standout, though, is the creative, Indian-inspired cooking; dessert is served first to give the body time to break down hard-to-digest sugars. Best Deal: The $317 nightly rate, which includes all meals, daily yoga and meditation classes, evening lifestyle seminars, use of the facilities, and a $136 credit to put toward treatments. 866/212-9355, elementalembrace.com.
2. The celebrity favorite
Cygalle Healing Spa in La Romana, Dominican Republic
Before she opened her full-service, ecofriendly facility on the grounds of the Casa de Campo resort last year, Cygalle Dias's organic facials, massages, and mani/pedis were available only through her mobile spa business—and primarily enjoyed by boldface names like Rosario Dawson. Now, those same services are available to anyone who makes an appointment at Dias's namesake spa. The emphasis is on fresh, natural ingredients: "Pharmacists" mix up individual batches of potions using fruit, honey, flowers, herbs, ground coffee, cornmeal, and more for each client. A popular four-part treatment sampler includes a 30-minute water ritual (alternating between hot and cool pools), a facial that uses local sugar and botanical extracts, a 50-minute massage, and either a wrap or a scrub, all of which take place in spacious bamboo-and-stone suites or in open-air gazebos scattered throughout the resort's garden. Best Deal: Through December 20, a three-night stay runs $594 and includes breakfast daily and a four-treatment sampler. 800/877-3643, casadecampo.com.do.
3. The outdoor adventure
Red Mountain Resort & Spa in St. George, Utah
Set in the shadows of the red-rock cliffs of Snow Canyon State Park, this fitness-focused spa puts hiking front and center. Guests choose from 30 different guided treks each week, some of which explore nearby Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks, as well as the Grand Canyon (about 100 miles away). An adventure concierge is on hand to help guests select the right difficulty level: Explorer treks consist of leisurely walks in the foothills, while Endurance outings are recommended for human billy goats. Best Deal: For $259 a night through the end of November, the Red Rock Girlfriends Getaway includes all meals, daily hikes and classes, gym access, a massage, and an afternoon of guided kayaking or horseback riding. 877/246-4453, redmountainspa.com.
4. The pastoral escape
Spa Eastman in Eastman, Que.
It's only about an hour from Montreal, but Canada's oldest destination spa feels blessedly remote, thanks to its setting: 315 acres of ponds, wildflower meadows, and groves of cedar, pine, and birch trees. The 43 rooms are divided among seven buildings across the property, from a bare-bones, solar-powered wood cabin that sleeps two to the spa's original eight-room French-style stone house, equipped with a fireplace and lounge. Some therapists have been with the retreat for more than 15 years—unusual in the spa world—and the staff's certified kinesiologists will help you make the most of the property's nine-plus miles of hiking trails. Best Deal: A $698 three-night Relaxation & Fitness package, which covers all meals, classes, a training session, and five treatments, including massages and a body wrap. 800/665-5272, spa-eastman.com.
5. The exotic hotspot
Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort in La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Plenty of people are drawn to Tabacón for the thrill of bunking at the base of the 5,360-foot (and active) Arenal volcano. Yet it's the hot springs that run through the property and create natural thermal pools that make staying there such a restorative experience. Meandering pathways flanked by tropical plants connect the resort's low-slung buildings, and the treatment rooms in open-air bungalows take in some of the best rain-forest views. Not surprisingly, the spa specializes in volcanic-mud wraps and hydrotherapy treatments, like a sea-salt-spiked Jacuzzi session. Best Deal: A three-night Yin Spa Package, at $1,496 per room, includes three spa treatments per person—a neck-and-shoulder massage, a reflexology massage, and a facial—as well as a traditional temazcal sweat-lodge cleansing session for two. 877/277-8291, tabacon.com.