A Cooler Caribbean

With its cool slate-grey tones accented only by lush tropical flowers, wide-open spaces, and sexy, modern appeal, Carlisle Bay (St. Mary's, Antigua, British West Indies) is a sophisticated beachfront sanctuary for travelers looking for a departure from the reggae-blaring, brightly colored, slightly garish resorts that populate the Caribbean. Blue Spa, the resort's 17,000-square-foot relaxation retreat, is no exception.

Living Nature, the clean, all-natural product line from New Zealand, is used in many of the treatments at Blue Spa.
Living Nature, the clean, all-natural product line from New Zealand, is used in many of the treatments at Blue Spa.

Designed to inspire peace, calm, and contemplation, the spa is a quiet oasis set away from the main buildings of the resort for guests looking for a singular spa experience as they unplug after enjoying the crystal blue waters of the resort's private bay. Blue Spa, which opened in February 2004, eight months after the resort debuted along the underdeveloped southern coast of Antigua, features six treatment rooms, including a dedicated wet room and a couples' suite. Guests change in the cozy men's and women's locker rooms, which each feature private showers, a steam room, and a plunge pool. After changing, they are escorted to the relaxation area, where island breezes blow through charming plantation shutters, replacing air-conditioning. "Each client is met in the relaxation area and accompanied up the stairs to the treatment room," says head therapist Tricia Thomas. "It is like a small journey before the treatment even begins, and we want to make sure our clients enjoy the entire journey."

Yoga and Pilates are offered in the serene Yoga and Pilates Pavilion.
Yoga and Pilates are offered in the serene Yoga and Pilates Pavilion.

A full menu offers modalities to appeal to all spagoers, from novices to spa connoisseurs. The most popular treatment at the spa is massage, most notably the Blue Spa Well Being Massage ($115, 60 minutes), which was created by the spa staff and incorporates four massage techniques to help improve circulation, ease tension, reduce stress, and relax the body. "It encompasses the entire body, head to toe, treating body and spirit," says Thomas. Other massages, including deep tissue, hot stone, prenatal, reflexology, shiatsu, and Indian head massage, are also available.

The menu offers locally inspired therapies, as well, including the Tropical Fruit Scrub ($90, 45 minutes) and the Tropical Fruit Wrap ($90, 45 minutes), both made with a blend of local black pineapple, mango, and papaya. Thomas says she has also seen more men embrace the spa, with the male-to-female client ratio now around 50/50. Because the resort is a water sports and tennis haven, featuring nine impeccably groomed courts just outside the spa walls, she says her male clients tend to request the therapeutic Deep Tissue Massage ($135, 60 minutes). Thomas says her male clients also like to partake in pedicures and couples' treatments, noting that they tend to be a little more experimental when it comes to spa-going. "Men enjoy the spa treatments, and we are seeing them try lots of new things," she adds.

Plantation shutters allow refreshing breezes to blow through the relaxation area.
Plantation shutters allow refreshing breezes to blow through the relaxation area.

One distinctive aspect of the spa is the use of Living Nature products—it is the only spa in the world to carry the 100 percent natural line from New Zealand. The products are used in the treatment rooms, available for purchase, and provided as amenities in all of the guest suites. The line was discovered by Carlisle Bay owner Gordon Campbell Gray, who wanted to provide his guests with clean, simple luxury at the spa and at the resort overall. "I believe that luxury means handmade and pure," says Gray. "Luxury is comfort." The spa also offers Aromatherapy Associates products, a 100 percent pure plant-based line, for a variety of facial and body treatments, furthering the mission of pure, natural indulgence.

Thomas says Blue Spa is equipped to cater to nearly any guest need—18 full-time staff members can accommodate up to 40 treatments a day during the hours of 9 A.M. to 9 P.M. She says the busiest time of day is normally around 3 P.M., when clients have gotten their fill of the sun. But she says she has also noticed that true sun worshippers don't arrive until after 5 P.M., while skin-conscious spagoers try to fit their treatments in during the sun's most potent hours of 12 P.M. to 2 P.M. On rainy days, Blue Spa tends to run at full capacity all day long. Regardless of the weather, Thomas says she and her team work hard to accommodate the schedules of all of their guests.

Blue Spa is located on a calm, private bay along Antigua's southern tip.
Blue Spa is located on a calm, private bay along Antigua's southern tip.

And for guests who want to indulge in a true destination spa experience while visiting Antigua, yoga and Pilates classes are offered regularly in the Yoga and Pilates Pavilion located near the spa, and personal training is available in the spa's state-of-the-art gym. Thomas says she is also happy to work with Carlisle Bay's award-winning chef Barnaby Jones to create healthy cuisine options.

Cool grey tones and clean lines give Blue Spa a serene, modern appeal.
Cool grey tones and clean lines give Blue Spa a serene, modern appeal.

As for Blue Spa's future, it is looking bright. Plans for expansion are in the works for the facility. The salon, which offers a full menu of hair and nail services, is being refurbished, and an extensive retail area will be available to spagoers by summer's end. Gray is also making plans to break ground on several luxury villas on the property within the next year and is considering creating a satellite spa facility amid those homes. —Julie Keller

Curtain Bluff Resort

Situated on the southern tip of Antigua, Curtain Bluff Resort holds true to the idea of island living. Comprising 20 acres of lush tropical gardens on the Curtain Bluff peninsula, the 72-room resort forgoes air conditioning in favor of ocean breezes and is conspicuously absent of radios and televisions. Also missing from this security-conscious world we live in today are keys for the guest rooms and suites. Instead, a relaxed, unpretentious vibe puts guests instantly at ease. For those who need a bit more help disconnecting from the outside world or those who simply want to indulge, Curtain Bluff offers a host of in-room spa treatments.

Tropical palm trees and picturesque ocean views can be seen from Curtain Bluff's beachfront terraces.
Tropical palm trees and picturesque ocean views can be seen from Curtain Bluff's beachfront terraces.

Taking advantage of the natural surroundings, all of the rooms and suites feature beachfront terraces which serve as the ideal location for al fresco treatments. Although the resort doesn't yet have a freestanding spa building, that fact by no means limits the menu, which includes a number of facials, invigorating body scrubs, and massages. The menu also features the Seaweed Wrap ($130, 90 minutes) and the Aloe Wrap ($140, 90 minutes), both of which soothe sunburned skin. Reiki ($90, 60 minutes) is available for guests interested in energy work, and physiotherapy and osteopathic consultations ($100, 60 minutes) are provided upon request.

According to assistant manager Wendy Eardley, who helped develop the menu, the most popular treatment at Curtain Bluff is the Deep Tissue Massage ($90, 60 minutes). Although the number of in-room treatments performed daily vary, it's typically anywhere from one to 12 in a day. The resort has five on-call therapists who are at liberty to use products of their own choosing.

Al fresco treatments are a guest favorite.
Al fresco treatments are a guest favorite.

Despite the popularity of the in-room treatments, Curtain Bluff has plans to add a spa later this year. According to Eardley, the decision came in response to the need for a separate space in which to offer treatments as well as the desire to stay competitive with other resorts. The new spa will be approximately 2,500 to 3,000 square feet and include five to six treatment rooms. "We will be building from scratch on the water's edge past our tennis courts and gym," says Eardley. It'll give guests just one more opportunity to find nirvana on the island once known as the "gateway to the Caribbean." —Heather Mikesell

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