The spas that are dotted around these exotic islands boast individual and natural packages which capture the essence of the Caribbean to pamper and invigorate visitors with local herbs and botanicals.
Travel writer and Caribbeanophile Judith Baker picks five of her favourites.
Half Moon, Jamaica
The first time I set foot on this larger than life, colourful island which hums with vitality, music and passion I knew this was going to be a life-long love affair. The second largest island in the Caribbean, Jamaica has a big personality which is also one of the regions’ most lush, with the serene Blue Mountains as its backbone. Montego Bay is the island’s cultural hub which resonates with reggae, rum but also its own brand of relaxation. Here I found Half Moon, which has been one of Jamaica’s top resorts for 50 years and has perfected the art of unwinding in luxury. I was in regal company here, Prince Harry visited on his recent trip to Jamaica and the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Princess Anne have also stayed at Half Moon.
Already pampered and treated like royalty by a butler in my private villa, I ventured to the resort’s Fern Tree Spa, which sits in over an acre and features both indoor and outdoor sanctuaries. I could have opted for one of the spa suites, where treatments are delivered in a private hotel room atmosphere, but I was keen to try a Bush Bath, a traditional Jamaican speciality. The Jamaican Bush Bath is enjoyed in large, hand carved outdoor bathtub. Based on a Jamaican tradition, the bush bath aids in cleansing and revitalisation while relaxing the mind and spirit. Freshly picked herbs, roots, leaves and fruit are steeped in hot water and added to a soothing bath – lowering myself into the Bath under the tropical sky I was immersed in the fragrance, romance and unique atmosphere of this sensational island in the sun.
Jungle Bay SPA DU SOLEIL Dominica
Dominica is the Nature Island of the Caribbean, home to mountains, waterfalls, lush rainforests and rushing rivers rather than the white beaches of other Caribbean islands. I learnt quickly that barefoot luxury are the keywords here, as the island rejoices in simple but beautiful and totally natural remedies and indulgences. Dominica is in itself a natural spa, with its bubbling warm waters with therapeutic qualities.
The Jungle Bay’s Spa du Soleil features five private, semi-open studios suspended along the cliff side overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. With its rustic atmosphere, the sounds of real tropical birds swooping overhead and the ocean surf below there was no easier place to relax. The spa treatments are inspired by ancient traditions and blend natural ingredients to bring the body into balance and harmony. The aromatherapy massage for lovers at the dedicated couples massage studio looked romantic, and as The island’s Waitukubuli has just been extended a foot pampering treatment after a long day of hiking was tempting, but I plumped to simply sink into the spa’s signature massage which uses a unique combination of Coconut oil, Castor oil and Bay essential oil.
ONE AND ONLY OCEAN CLUB SPA Paradise island, The Bahamas
There are over 700 Bahamian islands, many of them uninhabited. The capital Nassau, on Great Providence Island, is glitzy and glamorous but a short hop from here found me in Paradise. Literally. Paradise Island is home to exclusive homes owned by the rich and famous, but also paradisiacal resorts such as the One & Only Ocean club, where I found my own personal oasis. The resort is one of the most elegant and sophisticated in the region, and was once the private estate of A&P heir Huntingdon Hartford II. It still has the air of an exclusive colonial manor, steeped in charm and character.
As I was being led by the therapist down to my spa treatment a tiny hummingbird led the way and hovered at a hibiscus blossom by the garden gate. The surreal moment was just a taste of the heaven to come. Under the shade of a white cabana, overlooking the pristine white sand and turquoise waters, rests an idyllic setting for the perfect massage in paradise while listening to the soothing sounds of ocean waves. Afterwards I enjoyed fresh tropical fruit and herbal tea presented in a Japanese style tea ceremony.
Spa Cove, Renaissance Island Aruba
One of the quirkiest things to do on Aruba is visit to the Aloe Vera museum. Aruba used to be the biggest Aloe Vera exporter in the world so it should be no surprise that this plant – now famous across the globe for its skin beneficial properties – should be feted here as the king of beauty ingredients. After watching this unassuming looking plant being prepared, oozed and bottled I discovered that the Arubans are equally meticulous its application. Spa treatments on the island are indulgent –the secluded Spa Cove offers the ultimate in tropical, open-air spa treatments like the Caribbean Morning Couples Package – with Swedish massage for two, bottle of champagne or four frozen cocktails and a fresh fruit platter. For singletons as I was on my visit, treatments range from cold stone massages to deep tissue massages and reflexology. Spa Cove is located on Aruba’s private Renaissance Island – available exclusively to the guests of the Renaissance Marina Hotel and the Renaissance Ocean Suites –a firm favourite with celebrities (among others, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes held a party there).
AWAY, W Hotel & Spa, Vieques Island, Puerto Rico
Vieques, a tiny island off the coast of Puerto Rico is the epitome of the old laid back ‘Caribbean as it used to be’ where you can still see the odd wild horse prance along the deserted beaches past colourful beach shacks. Here is where I came across the fabulous W hotel Vieques, which had just opened last year when I visited. In keeping with the W brand the resort is stylish and eco-friendly but is in perfect harmony with its unspoilt low rise tropical surroundings. ‘The Caribbean unwound’ is how the manager described it to me. Recycled woods, clean lines and open spaces add to its ambience and the spa, called simply AWAY, lives up to its name. Within seconds of entering the cool treatment room I was drifting away in a dream as my feet were attended to by an expert reflexologist and in a short time they were flip flop perfect. With stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean set to a soundtrack of breaking waves AWAY draws inspiration from the earth, wind and water, and the spa’s Zen design features soothing rivulets and little canals.