Though most travel and wellness junkies would love to partake in an Eat, Pray, Love encounter in Bali, the expense and day-long flight is often a limiting factor for those who make their homes stateside. Thanks to the charming Balinese-inspired Aarna Spa at Paséa Hotel & Spa (Huntington Beach, CA), an authentic option is much more readily available. From the spa entrance to the design elements to the product lines to the healing ocean vibe, this 5,800-square-foot, eight-treatment-room retreat offers a bonafide Balinese experience from the shores of SoCal.
The spa derives its name from the Sanskrit word aarna, which means “wave” or “ocean.” Balinese hand-carved teak entry doors with brass pulls lead guests into the spa sanctuary, carved wood art panels line the entry corridor, and other furniture and custom Balinese accents and art can be found throughout the space. The treatment rooms are named after flowers found growing in the Bali countryside, such as Alamanda, Canna, Gardenia, Ixora, Lotus, and Jasmine, and the spa also features its own lush outdoor relaxation area that is inspired by Bali’s lovely landscapes and inviting gardens. Known as The Garden, it provides a peaceful area to relax with cabanas, lounge seating, a firepit, a custom water wall, and a black granite Quan Yin Goddess, known as the Goddess of Compassionate Loving and Kindness, on display. According to spa director Marissa Edwards, there are many reasons for the spa’s Balinese focus, ranging from the surf culture and idyllic beaches that are also part of the area’s lifestyle to the rich Balinese artistic influences and faith traditions that are embraced by spa lovers who have a more spiritual side. “There is intention behind the flow of relaxation spaces and treatment spaces that truly send you on a journey once you pass through the hand-carved wooden doors,” she says.
The spa offers a variety of services, but those using one line in particular, Jamu, are yet another nod to Bali. A new range of treatments using Jamu products created with Indonesian ingredients recently debuted. A highlight is Ocean Devotion ($279, 80 minutes), which was created in partnership with Jamu founder and healing practitioner Kim Collier. It involves essences of Balinese flowers and a gentle exfoliation with coconut and grains and integrates Himalayan salt stones from Saltability and Balinese rituals and massage techniques.
Several other lines used in services, including Epicuren, Intraceuticals, and Kerstin Florian, offer marine ingredients or are ideal for treating the bodycare and skincare needs of clients who are exposed to the region’s sun, sand, and surf. A prime example is the Marine Ultimate Facial ($319, 80 minutes), which incorporates Kerstin Florian’s luxe caviar line and is perfect for those with a penchant for decadent ingredients who also may need to nourish their skin after a day at the beach.
Although there is an influx of global travelers who visit the beachfront hotel and spa, most of the spa guests are relatively local, hailing from Southern California, and in particular, Orange County. As such, the property’s Club Blue membership program, which offers promotions in the spa, restaurants, and in the hotel, is quite popular. “Using our loyalty program, we promote signature treatments and facials through targeted email marketing,” says Edwards. “Additionally, we recently hosted an Escape to Aarna evening, an after-hours spa open house for local guests that featured mini treatments, retail promotions, and wellness activities.”
A seasoned team of 15 treats up to 100-plus guests in the spa that can accommodate 88 daily treatments, some of which are duet services that take place in the luxe couples’ suite. Among them is a Recreation Guru, who offers team-building and wellness programs, as well as a Club Membership coordinator, who curates new experiences for current and prospective Club Blue members, many of which involve the spa. It is the team that Edwards credits being a big part of distinguishing the spa from others in the spa-laden area. “Many of our staff members have multiple years of experience all in four- and five-star and -diamond spas. And by random luck, we have an all-female back-of-house team that operates like a modern family with executive-level experience.”
Another standout is the spa’s retail area, which Edwards says includes “everything guests need to pamper the skin and body—candles, clothing, suncare, totes, jewelry, must-grab lotions and potions—but my new favorite is a logo water bottle with an incredible bluetooth speaker attached.” The team is trained to display products post-treatment and suggest homecare, while the spa concierge works to uncover guest wants, needs, and impulses and directs them to various retail options. “We try to make our displays shoppable, with plenty of testers and opportunities to touch and feel the product,” says Edwards.
All of these efforts are part of the team effort to stay relevant and prominent in a saturated spa market. “We are constantly trying to create a unique appeal for our guests and at the same time create almost instant loyalty once they arrive,” says Edwards. “Our incredibly talented and genuine team help with that tremendously.”
Jamu’s Collier agrees. “Marissa Edwards, her extraordinary spa team, and this beach-vibe location attract both local and international spa-goers seeking a Bali holiday, without the 18-hour plane ride,” she says. “I tell people that if they cannot make it to Bali, make it to Aarna Spa.”
Owner: The Busch Group
Spa Director: Marissa Edwards
Opened: June 2016
Client Base: 70% female; 30% male
Space: 5,800 square feet; 8 treatment rooms
Products & Equipment: Aura Candles, Beyond Yoga, Booker, Coola, Epicuren, Frette, Intraceuticals, Jamu, Jaxsea, Kerstin Florian, Kopari, Life Fitness, Little Sparkles, Living Earth Crafts, Lolia, Mary’s Nutritionals, NuFace, Peloton, Saltability, Spa Equip, Vitamin A, Vuori, Zendals
Architect: RD Olson (Irvine, CA)
Interior Designer: Kay Lang + Associates (Los Angeles)