Whether you choose a treatment on the beach or the privacy of the indoor sanctuary, The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Miami offers a unique and uplifting sun-and-sea experience
Upon entering the treatment room at The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Miami – well before the treatment begins – my body immediately kicks into relaxation mode. I had been expecting to see, beyond the light lacquered door, a cosy and enclosed space. Instead, I’m calmed by the sight of a spacious suite dressed in beige, bamboo and linen.
A Couples Suite with views of Biscayne Bay
In this private sanctuary of serenity, there’s enough room to take a deep breath, plus a whole lot more. At the far end, three marble steps lead to a raised platform large enough for the jet-stream bath, rainforest shower and chaise; and huge, dramatic windows offer breathtaking views of Biscayne Bay.
‘Would you like me to adjust the lighting?’ asks my therapist, Irma Rodriguez, who begins to expertly operate the two sets of curtains lining the vast expanse of glass. ‘We can make it as bright or as dim as you like.’
I decide to let the sun stream in, as I rarely get to watch Miami from a height that hovers above the sea line. In a city that’s constantly making international headlines for one thing or another, be it the endless stretches of blue waters, the bustling business district, or its high frequency of celebrities, rare is the spot that satisfies all of Miami’s offerings.
Enter Mandarin Oriental, Miami. Located just blocks away from the downtown skyscrapers, yet tucked along the sparkling water’s edge of the bay, the resort is a magnet for discerning locals and world travellers alike. There are two restaurants serving mouthwatering food, a bar that mixes 250 varieties of icy martinis and, of course, The Spa.
In the name of all things serene and pure, The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Miami has for the third consecutive year been awarded the prestigious Forbes Travel Guide Five Star Award. With three luxurious levels, 17 private treatment rooms and six large suites, the sanctuary uses holistic methods and products with natural ingredients to pamper and reinvigorate guests.
Downstairs from the lobby and privately located off the hotel’s waterfront deck, The Spa is just a few steps from an infinity pool, which seems to overflow into the glistening bay. It’s a soothing outdoor scene, for sure, but inside is where tranquillity really begins to engulf all the senses: a semicircle of bamboo lined with candles, serving as a backdrop to the reception desk, dazzles my eyes. And my pressure points are indulged before a therapist even appears.
‘Would you like a pair of spa sandals?’ asks the receptionist, who, upon my approval, instantly swaps my stilettos for a pair of soft slippers. Then she produces a tray of hot tea accompanied by a cold towel and a fuchsia petal garnish.
The Spa Serenity Room in the Mandarin Presidential Suite, where therapists are on hand 24/7
The tea is delicious to sip as I approach the locker room, where I place my belongings behind large cedar doors. For pre-treatment preparations, there’s a steam room or sauna to help melt the stress away. And as someone whose rush from the gym to the office usually results in cosmetic casualties (leaving the most critical essentials at home), I’m delighted to note the stock of necessities, from razors to toothpaste and, thoughtfully, contact-lens cases and hairbands; I take one as I’d forgotten to tie my hair back and tuck it into the pocket of the cosy robe in which I’m now wrapped.
I’m told that my therapist will retrieve me from the relaxation room; however, I’m not sure I’ll agree to leave. Relaxing in one of the cushioned lounge chairs, which are crafted in the shape of a horizontal ‘Z’ to cradle your head, support your spine and prop up your knees, waiting for the therapist is, quite frankly, a treatment in itself.
‘Are you ready for your massage?’ asks Irma, who enters the room with a voice and a smile so gentle she’s the only person in the world who could entice me out of there.
Together we head up in a glass elevator which soars above the pool and beach, the latter being a spot that offers the Miami spa experience in overdrive with its Oasis Beach Club. Beachfront, just up from the surf’s edge and on the sand, lies The Spa Serenity Cabana, which comes with a flat-screen television and an iPad. Reserve it for a day, complete with two aromatherapy massages, iced green tea, fruit, sunblock and your very own beach butler. Alternatively, you can simply book a treatment on the beach, such as a deep tissue massage or even cold stone therapy. On this occasion, however, it’s three floors above the sand where I find my relaxation haven.
Inside, tranquillity really begins to engulf the senses
After deciding to incorporate the city’s view into my spa experience – the windows work just one way, so only I can see out – it’s time to indicate a few more of my preferences. First, the temperature of the massage table, which is adjustable and, at my request, turns toasty warm. Then I choose from a selection of six aromatherapy oils which the therapist will use to personalise my treatment. I decide to relax with a Quintessence oil blended with warming ginger, and settle onto the bed.
The Oriental Essence massage is one of The Spa’s signature therapies and Irma’s hands expertly press out the muscle tension, starting from my neck and shoulders, working down to the most sensitive pressure points on the bottom of my feet, and then eventually back up to my scalp. When she turns me over – facing upwards – to skilfully knead the other side, I notice the Oriental linen draped from bamboo hovering high above the bed.
‘How’s the pressure?’ she asks. It’s perfect, until the very end, when several delicate chimes – not to mention my unwound muscles and newly balanced emotional state – indicate that 50 minutes have passed. The transition of spa professionals is seamless, because before I even consider moving a gently relaxed muscle, another therapist, Yolanda, glides in to say I’m positioned just right for my facial.
Thai massage in The Spa’s sleek Oriental Suite
My treatment is a Rejuvenating Facial Peel, which, to spoil my story’s ending, has a mystical ability to firm my face and lift away years. After a refreshing mask before the scrub, Yolanda presses a cold rose-quartz-stone roller over my cheekbones and forehead, taking it back behind my ears. ‘It is known to have healing properties,’ she explains. ‘All the products I’m using are made with natural ingredients.’
That includes the food. And, it turns out, when stress is completely eliminated it restores the appetite. The Spa staff happily provide me with a menu from the hotel’s waterfront Café Sambal, from which I choose a riceless roll of fresh tuna and salmon, polished off with a fruit smoothie bursting with berries.
Finally, my feet get the pampering treatment. The Reviving Foot Therapy is a pedicure performed in a special area with deep black granite footbaths set under plush leather chairs. Using a scrub and stones, which the pedicurist presses from my foot’s arch, over my heels and up along my calves, my feet are exfoliated and rejuvenated, with better circulation.
To finish, I choose from a selection of Essie and OPI nail polishes in a palette of fashionable colours. My nails are shaped neatly into small squares and painted to look bright and glossy.
I leave in the warm afternoon sunshine, thinking about the splendour of The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Miami. It’s deservedly award-winning, with therapies that are far from skin deep. The treatments strip away stress, eliminate toxins, and rebalance your whole being. This leaves your mind refreshed, your thoughts clear and your energy rebalanced. It’s this type of equilibrium that perhaps best defines the meaning of true beauty.