Open-Air Relaxation

Four spa resorts on Maui and The Big Island capitalize on the islands' natural wonders

By: Marty Wentzel

Clients have come to expect superior spa services at Hawaii resorts and now these four facilities are capitalizing on the islands’ warm, sunny climate by presenting memorable open-air indulgences.

* Mauna Lani Spa has reserved 15,000-square feet for outdoor health and wellness programs.

Two of its nine thatched hales (huts) are large enough for a couple massage, and all of the hales feature private outdoor showers.

But what makes this Big Island spa especially unusual is its open-air lava sauna, a semicircle of rocks resembling an oversized sofa ($55 for 50 minutes). “It’s very rustic,” said Crystal Poe-Cabatbat, the spa director. “The surrounding lava, palm trees and blue sky provide a real sense of place.”

Clients are covered in black clay and then allowed to relax on the dark rocks as the heat dries the clay. Next, they rinse off in an outdoor garden shower and re-moisturize their skin with body lotion. The treatment ends with meditation and cool tea in an open-air hale. 800-367-2323.

* Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea recently unveiled Spa at Four Seasons, a $3 million 21,000-square-foot facility that includes three oceanview hales devoted to outdoor massage. Here, individuals or couples can relax during a variety of treatments. The most decadent may well be the Hawaiian Temple Bodywork, in which two therapists massage one person ($440 for 110 minutes).

Jeremy McCarthy, the Four Seasons spa director, suggests that clients spend some time outside before their treatment so their bodies can become acclimated to the environment. “Most guests prefer the massage outside at sunset, although it is particularly peaceful to enjoy an outdoor massage first thing in the morning,” McCarthy said. 800-332-3442.

* At Fairmont Orchid Hawaii, the Spa Without Walls program promotes wellness activities that emphasize the healing qualities of the Big Island’s Kohala Coast.

Outdoor treatments are available in any of five oceanside tents, three waterfall tea houses and two garden hales.

“Having a massage in one of our private cabanas next to the ocean is an all-encompassing sensory pleasure,” said the spa’s director, Barbara Bates, who recommends booking the deluxe oceanside experience, which begins with an exfoliating body treatment such as a wrap, followed by a 50-minute massage ($230 for 105 minutes). 800-257-7544.

* At Hualalai Sports Club & Spa on the Big Island, clients can relax in private outdoor spa courtyards with whirlpools, cold dips, open-air showers and glass-walled saunas and steam rooms.

The spa’s nine thatched-roof hales are surrounded by tropical gardens and trickling lava rock fountains. Thad Calciolari, director of the spa, recommends the outdoor Thai massage (105 minutes for $225) in one of the hales.

* Thai massage, unlike other styles, has the therapist and client work together on deep stretches to increase the client’s range of motion. 888-340-5662.