Jo Foley takes a slow boat through some of the best spas in the Caribbean
Islands are magical places and nowhere so much as in the Caribbean. They can be just specks on the horizon like Petit St Vincent or they can have all the glam and razzmatazz of Barbados. Whatever you are looking for, you are bound to find it in one of these sun-filled, sand encircled, palm tree decorated paradises.
It goes without saying of course they have every type of accommodation and activity one could wish for - and that includes spas. Over the last few years, there has been a profusion of new spas opening throughout the region.
And, best of all, they are no longer just looking to Asia and Europe for inspiration - many are now using indigenous ingredients such as coconut, bananas, coffee, sand, mud and of course, rum.
THE SPA at Curtain Bluff, Antigua
Curtain Bluff is not just one of the oldest resorts in Antigua it is also the most iconic, with devotees returning year after year to savour its 15 acres of beach and gorgeous tropical gardens.
And, while it is a truly romantic destination for honeymooners, it is also the most welcoming of places for families. Almost two years ago, it opened its spa with possibly the best location ever - high on the cliffs with superb views. And, to show it means business, it offers one of the most extravagant treatments you could wish for with its signature Caviar and Champagne treatment!
After all you are on holiday so you might as well as spoil yourself. This involves a massage with caviar extracts and essential oils, after which champagne is poured over the body.
If you can think of a better way to use the champagne, why not book one of their other therapies such as an Antigua Sizzle Wrap or a Caribbean Green Coffee version, and then order yourself a glass of champagne while you laze in the infinity-edged hot tub with its spectacular views across the waters to the tiny island of Montserrat way in the distance.
This two-storey spa, right on the bluff, is one of the prettiest in all of the Caribbean, and its rooftop relaxing area with great cushioned loungers and the aforementioned hot tub is very hard to leave.
More info: www.curtainbluff.com.
SILVER RAIN SPA, Ritz Carlton, Grand Cayman
The most luxurious spa of the lot is at the Ritz Carlton, Grand Cayman. Located on 144 acres of land edged with a seven-mile beach which sweeps from the Caribbean Sea through to the North Sound, this palace of opulence sports 365 rooms and suites, five restaurants, a nine-hole Greg Norman golf course, a Tiffany boutique, two outdoor pools, an ocean front Jacuzzi and its own Art Gallery.
Add to that La Prairie's Silver Rain Spa - a vision of crystal, silver and mirrored surfaces to reflect the glimmer of the sea and the shimmer of the bright Caribbean light - and you have true spa heaven.
And, while this spacious and beautiful haven of peace offers therapies from across the world, including Bali, India, Thailand and the United States, it also offers all the specialist anti-ageing beauty and body treatments developed by La Prairie.
There are some great hydrotherapies, as well as seaweed masks, to choose from, which include seawater minerals and algae extracts, plus a number of special treatments for men, such as a deep cleansing facial. Their signature treatment is a Silver Rain - a fusion of exfoliating, cleansing and massage with warmed jasmine and vanilla oils.
More info: www.ritzcarlton.com
CUISINART RESORT & SPA, Anguilla
The Venus Spa is one of the largest and most comprehensive in the Caribbean, set in its own building to one side of the hotel and surrounded by lush and lavish gardens all the way down to a vast white sandy beach.
The hotel, named after the US equivalent of the Magimix (the owner owns the company as well as the hotel), also sports its own hydroponic farm where fruits, vegetables and herbs are all grown in water rather than soil, and many of which are used in the spa as well as in salads and juices at the resort.
But the Venus Spa is its crowning glory, with a wide selection of beauty and body therapies from all over the world, plus a special Healing Waters area for sea and water based therapies.
This special pool, a melange of fresh water and revitalising mineral sea salt, is the centrepiece for a number of treatments including the signature Anguillan Water Journey, which begins with a tropical rain Vichy shower and concludes with an aqua massage in the healing waters.
In between times, a host of alternative therapies are on offer from reiki and reflexology to crano sacrial, along with the more usual body scrubs, wraps and massages, with special attention given to couples and expectant mothers.
If you don't try a healing waters speciality then the treatment to plump for is the heated seashell massage - which, of course, uses purified shells straight from the beach.
More info: www.cuisinartresort.com.
THE BODYHOLIDAY, Le Sport, St Lucia
Not so much a spa or a choice of treatments, more a way of living, even if it is only for a week. This is the place to come if you want activity or relaxation; strenuous exercise or sybaritic laziness - everything is available, but nothing is imposed.
You can do as much or as little as you like. It's great for people travelling alone or for a couple of friends getting away from it all. And, because it is all-inclusive, you know exactly what your spend is before you leave home.
Included is not just all your food and drink (and that includes alcohol) but a host of watersports, including shore dives, golf and tennis lessons and every type of fitness class, from aerobics to tai chi, fencing, yoga and Pilates. Then there is boxercise, bicycling and morning walks, PLUS a 50-minute treatment at the Oasis Spa every day.
If you are in need of additional pampering, there is a menu of manicures, pedicures, waxings and threadings which are all extra, of course. Or, if you want a serious detox, de-stress or weight-loss weeks, these are also on offer.
However, even though there is so much to do and choose from, do make time to explore the island with its tropical rainforests, volcanic beaches and sulphur springs, complete with drive-in volcano and the soaring peaks of the Pitons.
More info: www.thebodyholiday.com.
ELYSEES SPA, La Samanna Resort & Spa, St Martin
Elegant and luxurious, La Samanna skirts the beautiful curved beach of Baie Longue, offering peace and tranquillity, yet it's just minutes from some of the great attractions of this island, from serious duty-free shopping and casinos to a plethora of great cafes, bars and restaurants.
Also available at the hotel are a choice of watersports, from wind-surfing to snorkelling and kayaking, but it also has a state of the art Fitness Centre and the only Pilates studio in the Caribbean, as well as three floodlit tennis courts.
The Elysees Spa, though, is where hedonists head for, with its choice of facials, wraps, massages and scrubs for men as well as women.
Its massage menu offers the lot, including Hot Stone, Thai, Lymphatic Drainage, Swedish and Shiatsu, while there is an extensive choice of facials and body treatments, notably the all-soothing Sunburn Rescue Treatment for when you have over-indulged on sea, sun and wind.
More info: www.lasamanna.com.
SENSE SPA, Little Dix Bay, Virgin Gorda, BVI
Caribbean culture and local remedies are much on show at the Sense Spa at Little Dix Bay in Virgin Gorda, which has nine spa cottages, including one especially for facials.
They also have a dramatic and romantic Cliff Spa Suite specially for couples, which not only has glorious views across the Sir Francis Drake Channel but indoor and outdoor treatment areas, a private patio and dining area plus a hot tub and outdoor shower.
A comprehensive menu of treatments is available using disciplines and therapies from all over the world, although some of the favourites are based on local healing ingredients.
These include a Spice and Coconut Body Bliss, which exfoliates and cleanses, or the alternative Native Grains and Cactus exfoliation - not as painful as it sounds, for the cactus is extracted from the prickly pear, not the spikes!
Also try the Bay Rum Body Revitaliser, which uses herbs and seaweed as well as the local rum for a quick fix in aiding jet-lag recovery. Otherwise, opt for the signature body scrub, incorporating freshly shredded local coconut and mango with organic brown sugar and essential oils. Just good enough to eat.
More info: www.littledixbay.com.