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The Hawaiian Spas of Paradise

By: Ed Rampell
Posted: April 28, 2009, from the May 2009 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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Among the spa’s staff is massage therapist and esthetician Rea Cormick. For my facial, which typically lasts 60 minutes and costs $120, Cormick cleaned and removed the dead skin from my face, performed a peel to help minimize fine lines, then applied a moisturizing mask using a sugar-based seaweed wrap to detoxify the skin. Next, spa director Petula Miller led me to a room with showers and two ganban yokus, which is Japanese for “stone bath,”—personal saunas on a domed granite table. For 30 minutes, infrared light and steam induced sweating and stimulated my collagen. The steam treatment includes herbal therapy with clients able to choose from various scents, including chamomile, peppermint and lavender.

To soothe my well-used muscles, Cormick also spent 60 minutes using a combination of Swedish, sports and deep tissue massage on me, applying body butter to my forearms, elbows, fingers, neck and upper back on my left side. “I tried focusing on getting circulation around those areas, loosening up the muscles that were tight, pulling on the tendons,” relayed Cormick. “Afterward, I moved through the body to see where you were energetically blocked. Then I used some hot stones to put heat on areas that were too tight in order to help open them. After that, your body seemed to relax more and do its own healing.” These soothing, customized massages can range in time from 30–120 minutes and cost from $60–220, and they match just right with the serene, relaxing calm that Spa Pure offers.

Waikiki Plantation Spa

Boasting an exceptional view as one of Hawaii’s only spas in a penthouse, the Waikiki Plantation Spa is partially located on the 18th floor lanai, or veranda, atop the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach hotel, with expansive vistas stretching from the Pacific to the Ko’olau Mountains. According to the assistant spa director Kerri Aybar, Waikiki Plantation Spa has 20 spa therapists and six estheticians in a 5,000-square-foot, two-story facility with six treatment rooms and a poolside cabana for seaside massages.

Plantation Spa’s extensive menu includes signature pitta, vata and kapha ayurvedic facials; body polishes and wraps; a fitness package; and bridal party options combining treatments with food and drink. Its Lomi Pohaku signature massage emphasizes Hawaiian-ness, and Aybar notes, “Everyone coming here wants the Hawaiian experience. This is a combination of hot volcanic rock and lomi lomi, a traditional Hawaiian rhythmic massage using forearms and elbows instead of fingertips. Lomi is more of a continual rubbing and friction massage.”

The certified neuromuscular therapist Dana Barthlow adds, “We use heated stones to relax muscle tissues so it’s easier to release tension doing lomi lomi.” Barthlow, who learned her lomi technique in Kauai, continues, “Clients should definitely not be sunburned when they get this treatment.” Luckily, I wasn’t sunburned during my 80-minute Lomi Pohaku treatment, which was immensely relaxing and cost $175. Post-service showers with multiple jets and steam enhanced the experience.