Sea of Tranquillity

The Virgin Islands live up to their name as an unspoiled place where pleasure and relaxation go hand in hand.

By: David Swanson

Resorts in the Virgin Islands, both U.S. and British, are tempting travelers with a bouquet of spas.

Earlier this year, on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts added a new 5,200-square-foot spa at Little Dix Bay. The facility is at the west end of the property, on a 100-foot-high bluff with sweeping views of a number of deserted islands on the horizon.

The open design is reminiscent of Rosewood’s other noteworthy spa resort, Las Ventanas al Paraiso in Los Cabos, minus the Mexican influences.

With walls of hand-set pebbles, coral-stone pathways and a reception desk made of driftwood, the atmosphere emphasizes Virgin Gorda’s natural environment, building on environmentalist Laurance Rockefeller’s original design concept to bring the outside in.

The focal point is a two-tier plunge pool, accented by boulders and an infinity edge. A stone path leads from the pool down to a tiny, isolated beach.

There are nine treatment cottages, plus a 672-square-foot spa day suite, which can be booked for private treatments for one or two people. It has an open wall for unimpeded sea views, and its own plunge pool, dining area and bathroom with outdoor shower. The spa suite can be rented for as long as eight hours.

Fifteen different massages are featured at Little Dix Bay, plus eight Caribbean-flavored treatments such as the Neem Leaf Facial, the Bay Rum Body Revitalizer and the Goat Milk and Honey Wrap.

"The spa adds to the resort’s serenity and tranquility," said David Flack, the general manager. Flack, who was appointed to the post in late 2002, notes that the facility was booked solid last Christmas, even by repeat guests, some of whom had been apprehensive about the resort’s addition of a spa. "Everybody is responding very well," he added.

Across the indiscernible border, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Rosewood’s Caneel Bay on St. John has taken a different approach to relaxation with the debut of the Self Centre.

Jan Kinder, a registered nurse and educator for renowned mind/body expert, Dr. Deepak Chopra, runs the program. The Self Centre features an extensive program of activities such as yoga, meditation and breathing exercises, which are designed to relieve stress.

The Self Centre is housed in a building overlooking the sea, which is several hundred yards from the main resort area. Sessions include: Aqua Chi, which combines the natural energy and resistance of the Caribbean Sea with Eastern-influenced movements; Breathwalk, which integrates specific patterns of breathing, walking and meditation; and Yoga in Chair, which teaches upright yoga positions that can be performed at a work desk or in an airline seat. Couples sessions are also available.

Caneel Bay General Manager, Brian Young, said that Rockefeller, who built the hotel in 1954 and Little Dix Bay in 1964, seemed pleased with the Self Centre on a recent visit.

"He said, 'I always intended for Caneel Bay to be a place for spiritual renewal,' " Young said. "We’ve tried to be faithful to his vision, and keep Caneel as a place of nature and refuge."

On St. Thomas, The Ritz-Carlton completed a $75-million expansion, which includes 48 new guest rooms and suites, plus a boutique spa, salon and fitness center.

Luxurious treatment rooms, open-air cabanas, an outdoor relaxation terrace and a fully equipped workout studio overlook the ocean. In-room treatments are also available.

The development also encompasses 80 two- and three-bedroom residences, which are part of The Ritz-Carlton Club. The addition extends the property northward, along a previously unused beach, which has been renamed Coconut Cove.

Decleor and Carita products are used at the spa, and signature treatments include the Radiance and Protection Facial and the Le Renovateur Body Treatment, which involves a concoction of sunflower seeds.

Also on St. Thomas, the Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort opened its $1.5-million Journeys Spa last summer, close on the heels of its $7-million renovation, which finished in 2000.

Touted as the largest full-service spa in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the all-inclusive resort offers two treatments to guests staying two or three nights. A feature treatment is the Beach Stone Massage.

There are 300 newly renovated rooms, all with private balconies, including nine luxurious suites.

On St. Croix, The Buccaneer resort revamped its spa program last year, renovating and upgrading the facility and bringing in a professionally trained staff and spa management company, WTS International. Also, the facility changed its name to Hideaway Spa.

Michael Dance, the spa director, takes a holistic approach to treatments, and integrates Oriental therapies with traditional Swedish massage. Highlight treatments include the Sedona Mud & Algae Gel Wrap and poolside sunset massages for individuals or couples.

There’s also a Golf-Tennis Sports Massage for relaxing your client’s stiff neck and shoulders, getting them into shape to send the ball down that long fairway, painlessly.

Located on Mermaid beach, luxurious villa-style accommodations have sitting areas with picture windows and marbled patios or balconies with views of the sea and Christiansted harbor.

The 55-year-old Buccaneer continues to be one of the Caribbean’s best resort values, with rates starting at $295 in the winter; $215, summer. Breakfast is included, but taxes and an energy surcharge are extra.