Spa Tripping

More visitors these days are coming to Hawaii not only for sun, surf and sand, but for spa experiences

By: By Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi


abhasa at Sheraton Waikiki

Moana Lani Spa at Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort

Spa Pure at The Wyland Waikiki Hotel


Read about Oahu surfboard artist Ron Artis now.

More visitors these days are coming to Hawaii not only for sun, surf and sand, but for spa experiences that showcase the islands’ beautiful environment, unique cultural traditions and relatively stress-free lifestyle. According to 2006 research from the state’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism — the latest available — 16 percent of visitors from the western U.S. visited a gym/health spa on their most recent visit to Hawaii. That number was slightly higher (18 percent) among baby boomers. Those figures show an increase over 2005.

 The Ocean Massage takes place in a warm saltwater pool at Spa Pure. // © Outrigger Hotels & Resorts
The Ocean Massage takes place
in a warm saltwater pool at Spa Pure.
According to Jay Talwar, senior vice president of marketing for the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, baby boomers account for 32 percent of the state’s visitors from the western region — the single largest generational segment.

“A focus on health and wellness has taken center stage in the lives of American consumers, especially among the ranks of aging baby boomers who are practically obsessed with retaining their youth through a regimen of health and fitness activities,” said Talwar. “These healthy lifestyles not only pervade their everyday lives, but spill over to their vacation activities as well.”

Three of the state’s newest spas are located at hotels in Waikiki on Oahu.

Spa Pure

Pure pleasure is the aim of Spa Pure, which opened at the Wyland Waikiki Hotel in April. Measuring just 1,038 square feet, it is cozy compared to the spa facilities at most other resorts in Hawaii, but its spa director Dennis Miller, who also serves as the head therapist, guarantees a memorable experience.

“I’m most satisfied when I’m bringing my years of professional dance, yoga and meditation training into an original form of floating massage we call Ocean Massage,” Miller said. “It’s done in a warm saltwater pool, half of which is covered by a roof. The gentle movement of the water helps alleviate stress.”

Ganban-yoku (a stone bath) is another of Spa Pure’s innovative treatments. Clients lie on a heated 570-pound Indian granite table that induces profuse sweat to flush toxins from the body. The heat also increases the production of collagen, and “softens” muscles.

The table is partially covered with a steam dome, in which a blend of chamomile, lavender, rose and other dried herbs and flowers is placed. Clients can tuck their head inside a towel to inhale the herbal steam, enhancing the benefits of the aromatherapy.

“We operate on leisurely ‘Hawaiian time,’” said Miller. “The staff does yoga stretches between appointments, so they are pleasant, relaxed and enjoying their own inner smile as they greet you.”

Moana Lani, A Heavenly Spa by Westin

When it opens in September, Moana Lani (or Heavenly Ocean) will be a 16,000-square-foot oasis at the Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort.

“Travelers today are more stressed and pressed for time, and they’re searching for experiences that will help them feel relaxed, renewed and refreshed,” said spa director Lena Mossman. “Westin resorts around the world are focused on providing these types of experiences, including Heavenly Spa by Westin facilities. Moana Lani is the first such spa on Oahu and the only beachfront spa in Waikiki.”

Among its amenities are two couples’ treatment suites with private oceanfront lanais and whirlpool tubs and a 24-hour Westin WorkOut fitness center.

Moana Lani’s menu incorporates authentic Hawaiian traditions. For example, a Hawaiian healing prayer will be chanted at the beginning and end of each lomilomi massage. Also, a bowl with alaea salt, known for its restorative powers, will be placed at the door of each treatment room; to create the unique mixture, a small amount of alaea clay, rich in iron oxide, is added to sea salt, which gives it a red color. Guests will symbolically place their problems in the bowl before their treatment.

When the treatment is completed, the salt will be transferred to a larger bowl along with salt from other rooms. At the end of the day, all the salt will be put into the ocean, carrying guests’ troubles out to sea.

The abhasa Spa

The word abhasa is Sanskrit for “illusion,” but Peter Georgeson promises the rejuvenation clients feel when they leave the Sheraton Waikiki’s abhasa spa, set to open in October, will be very real. Georgeson is the director of Venere Corporation, which owns the spa and its sister spa of the same name.

“After owning and operating abhasa at the Royal Hawaiian hotel for seven years, we’ve developed a formula that we know works well,” said Georgeson. “Although abhasa at the Sheraton Waikiki will have a different ambience, the same basics will apply: top-quality customer service, a highly trained professional staff, exceptional treatments and a spotlessly clean facility.”

The new spa will occupy about 6,000 square feet on the fourth floor of the hotel. It will offer a luxurious relaxation lounge, steam rooms for men and women and eight treatment rooms — four for individuals and four that can accommodate couples. Georgeson describes its offerings as “uncomplicated, with a focus on massages and facials delivered with the highest level of service and skill. Our mission is to lead the way with top-notch fundamentals and physical skill instead of high-tech equipment.”

Although the new abhasa will be in the largest of Starwood’s four Waikiki properties, it will be the smallest spa in the group. In Georgeson’s opinion, however, bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better.

“Our focus is quality over quantity — delivering very boutique spa experiences,” he said.