Escape to the Tropics

The pastel playground of South Beach can only entertain the perfectly primped and pedicured for so long. For those looking for an escape from their escape, a short 15-minute drive will take them from the pulsing nightlife and bustling café culture to Coral Gables, FL. This serene residential enclave, made up of sprawling esplanades and Mediterranean Revival architecture, is better known as a cultural hub than as a celebrity hotspot.

European influences, particularly from Spain, are evident throughout Coral Gables in everything from street names—Madrid, Sevilla, and Ponce de Leon Boulevard to name a few—to the rich colors and striking design of the structures throughout the city. The crown jewel of the prevalent Spanish-style architectural motif is certainly The Biltmore Hotel, which punctures the sky with its famous tower, demanding attention from most vantage points in Miami.

The soothing sound of water flowing alongside the bamboo footbridge can be heard from the adjacent treatment rooms.
The soothing sound of water flowing alongside the bamboo footbridge can be heard from the adjacent treatment rooms.

Designated a National Historic Landmark by the Federal government, the lavish Biltmore Hotel, which was built to host dignitaries, royalty, entertainers, and the affluent, still welcomes the same crowd it did when it opened 90 years ago. Keeping in line with the first-class amenities the hotel offers, the Biltmore Spa was expanded and re-launched last year.

Grandiosity is prevalent throughout the Biltmore property, from the gargantuan pool (left), to the majestic hotel lobby (top), to the lush golf course (above).
Grandiosity is prevalent throughout the Biltmore property, from the gargantuan pool (left), to the majestic hotel lobby (top), to the lush golf course (above).

Anointed a Leading Spa of the World, the Biltmore Spa is more than just a place where the ladies go while the men are golfing. With 60 percent of its clientele made up of local residents—an unusual statistic for a hotel spa—the Biltmore Spa has become a neighborhood respite. "People in the area feel like this is their country club," says spa director Martina Perko. "We also have a great demand from local businesses to customize spa packages for private groups, celebration gatherings, and events."

Guests can pull curtains closed around their chaises in the relaxation room for added peace and quiet.
Guests can pull curtains closed around their chaises in the relaxation room for added peace and quiet.

Working with 12,000-square-feet of space, the 46 (mostly full-time) staffers have the room to host such happenings. Tucked away on the seventh floor of the hotel, the Zen-inspired refuge, with a sleek and clean decor, offers picturesque views of its lush surroundings from each of the 12 treatment rooms. The windows in the southern-facing rooms overlook the grandiose 6,700-yard, 18-hole golf course that was built in 1925.

The spa's menu offers sweet treats such as a Peppermint Pedicure and a Chardonnay Pedicure.
The spa's menu offers sweet treats such as a Peppermint Pedicure and a Chardonnay Pedicure.

The idea of superior relaxation is literally carried throughout the spa. Just outside the treatment room doors one can find a bamboo footbridge stretched over a soothing river rock-lined stream. It links the treatment area to the relaxation room where clients can enjoy healthy snacks or beverages and unwind before or linger after services. Billowy cream curtains hang from the ceiling so that guests have the option of spa-ing socially or pulling the curtains closed around them to maximize "me" time. Each teak-like chaise is draped with a cozy throw in case an impromptu catnap is in order.

Guests can enjoy views of the sprawling city from the relaxation room (left) and each treatment room (right).
Guests can enjoy views of the sprawling city from the relaxation room (left) and each treatment room (right).

Of course, the treatment table is also a perfectly acceptable place to be lulled while visiting the Biltmore. Many guests opt for the classic Deep Tissue Massage ($130, 50 minutes; $180, 80 minutes) or for more luxe treatments, such as the Signature Caviar Facial ($220, 80 minutes) or The Hawaiian Lulur Ritual ($300, 100 minutes for one; $560, 130 minutes per couple), which involves a body scrub, lomi lomi massage, and bubble bath laden with orchids. In addition to half-day packages, the menu, based on holistic principles, offers a selection of Lifestyle Kurs: 100-minute services ($260) that each feature a series of treatments designed to remineralize, nourish, and balance the body. Guests even have the option of experiencing select al fresco treatments in the cabanas alongside the Biltmore's world-renowned pool, the largest of any hotel in the continental U.S.

Half-day spa packages offer a great escape for hotel guests and locals alike.
Half-day spa packages offer a great escape for hotel guests and locals alike.

Guiding spa-goers through the lap of luxury at the spa is the cohesive staff Perko has put in place. "Our staff feels a strong commitment to each other, and they strive to be successful in their profession," says Perko. "They are dedicated to providing world-class treatments and educating our guests on individual wellness." Perko claims that hiring experienced and trained employees is the key to success and the only way she is able to tackle her biggest challenge—consistently exceeding guest expectations. To ensure that her staff is always on point, Perko implements ongoing product, treatment, and customer service training programs.

Biltmore Spa
Biltmore Spa

This sophisticated level of hiring and training is a necessity when up to 140 guests are passing through the doors on a day-to-day basis. Even with this many clients, the spa follows up with its emphasis on individual wellness and offers to tailor client-specific regimens, which include retail suggestions for homecare. "Because the effects of relaxation are cumulative over time and no technique to obtain total wellness is the same for everyone, the spa can offer customized programs for guests," says Perko. Clients, especially locals, seem to be receptive to this personal attention from a well-informed staff, and it keeps them coming back for more. Perko knows that all of her and the staff's hard work is worthwhile when she hears positive feedback from the spa's guests. According to Perko, a sincere 'thank you' and 'I can't wait to be back' is music to her ears.

Suggested Articles

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and companies within the spa community are thinking pink and joining the fight for a cure.

Luong Dieu Huong is a spa manager at two spas in Lang Co, Thailand.

In Cabo, local spas are integrating a range of powerful native ingredients into their treatment menus in enticing ways.