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What do you look for in a relaxing spa experience? Plush pillows and artisinal cucumber water, or sleek leather chairs and a dirty martini? All of these spas offer excellent treatments, it’s just a matter of deciding which vibe best suits your mood.
Until recently, the fashion-forward crowd had no refuge from the ceaseless racks of high design at tony Holt Renfrew (poor things). That all changed with the new Holt’s Salon and Spa. Don’t expect couture attitude here; friendly staff seem happily incongruous against the all-white, achingly cool basement treatment rooms and lounge area. A main-floor salon speedily transforms your post-massage hair from oily to oohla-la. 737 Dunsmuir St., in the Pacific Centre, Vancouver, 604-681-3121.
Vida Wellness Spa’s Ayurvedic focus means treatments are geared toward your dosha, or temperament. Based on this, massage therapists can detect anything from career issues hiding behind your right scapula to indecisiveness in your left hip. Vida’s own skin-care line is also targeted to your personality type, so Vatas (read: type As) can get extra relaxation. Vida’s large, calming lounge, stocked with herbal teas and healthy snacks, is one of the prettiest in the city.1010 Burrard St., in the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre, Vancouver, 604-682-8410.
Outside of Istanbul, we’re convinced there’s no Turkish bath more authentic than Miraj Hammam Spa. Leave your western modesty with your shoes as you slip on sandals in the lobby: once inside the steam, you’re au naturel. Plus, you’re ready for the traditional gommage scrub — with black Moroccan soap — afterward. In the Sultan’s Lounge, you’ll feel rather regal sitting on high cushions eating cake and sipping tea; only the few scattered gossip magazines betray your real purpose.1495 W. Sixth Ave., Vancouver, 604-733-5151.
At 12,000 square feet, Spa Utopia is massive, but use this to your advantage. In so much space, there’s lots of opportunity to explore: lounge fireside in overstuffed furniture, sample treats in the spa café (serviced by the Pan Pacific’s hotel kitchen), and browse the shelves of products. With 80 percent of the clientele based locally, know that this is not your typical hotel spa — Vancouverites come here for serious skin care like microdermabrasion, enzyme peels, and other anti-aging procedures.999 Canada Pl., in the Pan Pacific Vancouver Hotel, Vancouver, 604-641-1351.
Absolute Spa’s original, three-level space at the retrofitted Century Hotel can accommodate big groups but still manages to maintain a cozy vibe. A light breakfast or lunch in the Spa Café is included with your treatment, along with chocolate-dipped strawberries and Champagne — most welcome after an oxygen facial, in which oilbased vitamins D, E, and A are rubbed into your skin, which is then finely misted with oxygen for deeper penetration. It’s a favourite with celebs in town for filming.1015 Burrard St., in the Century Hotel, Vancouver, 604-684-2772.
In the pharaohs’ quest for eternal life, they soaked in wine baths — no, it didn’t exactly work for them, but you can give it a shot at the new Nefér Spa Boutique. Owner Nina Gart had the spa’s bath and Vichy massage table hand-carved in Egyptian marble, which is believed to have healing properties. Walls are also clad in intricate marble tiling, and the treatments, like the divine hot-stone therapy, are offered on infrared amethyst mats.571 Cardero St., Vancouver, 604-696-0222.
Don’t let the modest décor fool you: the Honey Dew Spa (2585 W. 16th Ave., Vancouver, 604-734-2343) is a real insiders’ secret. At the back of the Ridge Hairstyling, those in the know head to four tiny rooms for phototherapy, microdermabrasion, and other body treatments like dry exfoliations — all for much lower prices than you’ll find elsewhere in town. Yaletown’s industrial-Zen Skoah (1011 Hamilton St., Vancouver, 604-642-0200), on the other hand, has more of a see-and-be-seen vibe. Downtempo beats and minimalist decor make it a hipster’s skin-care paradise. Take home Skoah’s signature in-house line of products, and play around with their new makeup collection, Chiiki Munki.
Pure white can feel clinical, but Spruce Body Lab’s Yaletown outpost feels less Mayo Clinic, more your best friend’s airy (albeit groundlevel) loft. Wall quotes like “Enjoy the little things because when you look back you realize they were the big things” set a contemplative tone as you head down the hall to your treatment room, the infrared sauna, or the intimate area, replete with four white leather seats that are more Starck than stark. Dermalogica’s face mapping facials are top-notch; an on-site doctor administers Botox.1128 Richards St., Vancouver, 604-683-3220.
Moor mud comes from just five places on the planet, and Western Canadian spa phenom Eveline Charles sources hers from Canada. She claims the lavender-infused version cleanses the liver — the perfect RX after a hedonistic night on the town. The rest of the products, EC–branded, range from hemp body butter to white-tea-and-fig antioxidant lotion. The South Granville location offers a clean, classic look: think bamboo, white walls, and subtle accents of blond wood.1495 W. 11th Ave., Vancouver, 604-678-5666.
The new Som Visao touts itself as an urban ultrasound spa and wellness centre, which essentially means it’s a full-service spa focused on maternity. Treatments for moms or moms-tobe range from facials and waxing to ultrasounds and post-partum wellness programs.3195 Granville St., in the Hycroft Medical Building, Vancouver, 604-732-9901.
Head to Blo (1150 Hamilton St., Vancouver, 604-909-9495) in Yaletown or South Granville (1529 W. 14th Ave., Vancouver, 604-734-7599) — in less than 30 minutes, you’ll emerge with one of eight blow-out styles. Get sultry eyes to match your glossy do at Wink Beauty Lounge (12–712 Robson St., Vancouver, 604-696-9465) where semipermanent lashes double as the real thing. Vivian Ko Gooch, Wink’s “eyelash queen,” offers mobile service.
Behind the deceptively small storefront at Solarice at spaEthos runs a warren of backrooms over two storeys. The small fireside Intention Room gives guests the opportunity to just sit and think (no trashy mags here). The warm lavender scalp massage is the spa’s interpretation of Shirodhara (oil poured over the third eye); plan to lounge for a couple of hours afterward to let the fragrant oil penetrate.2200 W. Fourth Ave., Vancouver, 604-733-5007.