Heavenly Healing

Though it has plantation roots dating back to the 1600s, Hilton Head, SC, is relatively new to the East Coast vacation destination scene, with modern development beginning as late as the 1950s. At that time, a man named Charles Fraser purchased 19,000 of the barrier island's 25,000 acres of land and set into motion plans to create a stunning resort community that also preserved the land's natural beauty. Since then, the area has become a mecca for tennis, golf, and ocean-inspired pursuits (there are 300 tennis courts, 23 golf courses, and 12 miles of beaches). It boasts 30,000 residents and more than 2.5 million visitors each year who enjoy the myriad hotels, resorts, and villas that dot the landscape. It has also maintained an ecologically sound approach to development since the '50s, a rather avant-garde practice at a time when the green movement was barely in its infancy, so the island is also home to pristine salt marshes and lagoons and countless magnolia, palmetto, and moss-draped oak trees.

While there are a few day spas and one other hotel spa on the island, surprisingly, it has not yet fostered a thriving resort spa community. This made it an ideal site for yet another pioneering effort—the first Heavenly Spa by Westin in the continental U.S. The nine-treatment room retreat opened in April at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa. Since then, it has been attracting clients in droves. It seems that visitors had been yearning to add spa to their action-packed escapes, and the Westin's spa was heaven-sent. "Up until this year, Hilton Head has not really had a typical spa scene," says spa director Amy Wilson-Moghina. "We are thrilled to be a driving force behind the development of a destination spa scene for Hilton Head."

The oversized tub in the expansive couples' suite is an ideal spot for hydrotherapy treatments for two.
The oversized tub in the expansive couples' suite is an ideal spot for hydrotherapy treatments for two.

The spa features a simple, modern, and elegant design that boasts dark woods, rich colors, and cool blue accents. Included in the 8,000-square-foot space is a river rock and glass tile waterfall wall in the spa entrance, two facial rooms, a couples' suite with an oversized soaking tub, men's and women's locker rooms with saunas and relaxation areas, and a co-ed relaxation room that features both water and fire fixtures. "Great thought was given to the design of the facility to keep the treatment space tranquil," says Wilson-Moghina.

A serene spa aesthetic is a vital part of the Heavenly Spa designation, but to achieve the Heavenly Spa title, which currently graces only three other spas in the Westin portfolio, the spa must appeal to all five senses and offer a selection of signature experiences and treatments that pamper both the body and soul. At Hilton Head, guests are greeted with a signature blueberry and white tea elixir and are given a warm herbal pack to relax the shoulders prior to any treatment. The air is also infused with refreshing aromatic scents, and every treatment begins with the presentation of a Burden Basket where guests can symbolically place all their worries. During the treatment, the basket is placed outside the room to encourage guests to enjoy a stress-free experience. The Heavenly Spa Massage Table—a takeoff of the Heavenly Bed concept in which all Westin hotel rooms feature plush signature beds—is an equally blissful part of the Heavenly Spa experience. The bed features a state-of-the-art padding system; a face cradle that is designed to overlook a glass bowl filled with white flowers and signature aromatherapy blends; and plush lightweight linens. Another Westin exclusive is Rollerssage ($115, 50 minutes; $185, 80 minutes), a massage that incorporates heated crystalline spheres, selected for their energy-enhancing qualities, that are rolled over the body during the relaxing session.

Picturesque views of Hilton Head's lush flora and fauna provide spa-goers with a serene sense of place.
Picturesque views of Hilton Head's lush flora and fauna provide spa-goers with a serene sense of place.

Westin's Heavenly Spas must also exhibit a respect for the spa's location. Because nature is such a vital part of Hilton Head's heritage, indigenous elements are an important focus for the spa. Sweetgrass baskets, which are woven from the aromatic grasses found in the region, are a local tradition. The burden basket and several other baskets used for decoration were all woven with sweetgrass. Also, the spa offers a signature product called Sweetgrass Surrender, which is used in the locker rooms as an amenity and sold in the retail area. The products are also used in the Sweetgrass Foot Massage ($110, 50 minutes) and the Sweetgrass Surrender Salt Glow ($65, 30 minutes), a skin-smoothing body treatment.

The spa also pays homage to local traditions with the use of indigo, which, as a crop, had a "profound effect on the economic history of Hilton Head Island," according to Wilson-Moghina. The color indigo also has an association with energy, and the spa offers four treatments that are based on the vibrational energy from the purple-blue shade that is said to soothe the mind via an association with the third-eye chakra. "These treatments relax the muscles of the body and soften, detoxify, and purify the skin," she says. "Plus, they offer additional benefits of energy balancing. The aim is to offer a well-rounded wellness experience, not just a spa treatment." Among the indigo-centric treatments are the Indigo Massage ($115, 50 minutes; $185, 80 minutes), after which guests receive a small blue stone to take away as a reminder of the experience and to encourage them to live a life of balance and renewal; the clarifying Indigo Wrap ($115, 50 minutes); and the energy-balancing Vibrant Facial ($115, 50 minutes) and the Indigo Facial ($115, 50 minutes), both of which use Astara Biogenic Skincare products.

A river rock and glass tile water wall greets guests upon arrival with the soothing sound of running water.
A river rock and glass tile water wall greets guests upon arrival with the soothing sound of running water.

Along with the use of Astara in the Hilton Head location, Comfort Zone was chosen by Westin as one of the Heavenly Spa product lines of choice due to the similar philosophies of the companies. "Beyond providing a venue for physical rest, relaxation, and recovery, we seek to uplift our guests and encourage them to focus on the betterment of self, elevation of spirit, enhancement of mood, improvement of outlook, and total personal renewal," she says.

Still, Wilson-Moghina credits her talented staff for making the guest experience most memorable. The staff includes 10 coordinators and attendants, three estheticians, eight massage therapists, four nail technicians, and two hair stylists/makeup artists who work full-time. Part-time and on-call employees are also on-hand during the busy summer when families head en masse to the island for vacation. Though the spa opened at the start of high season and remained busy throughout the summer, Wilson-Moghina says she's already got some promotions in place to boost business throughout the slower winter months. Among them are several packages that include spa treatments with the room rate, such as the Awaken Your Senses package starting at $159; the Renew Your Spirit package starting at $209; a Girls Getaway retreat starting at $359; and a Spa Gift, Reward Yourself...Spa and Spree package starting at $279 that includes accommodations, breakfast, a spa credit, and a gift card for shopping.

Heavenly Spa by Westin
Heavenly Spa by Westin

As for the future, Wilson-Moghina says she hopes to continue to grow the spa's business locally and provide services that will support the growth of Hilton Head as a spa destination. She's also excited to have her Heavenly Spa contribute to expanding the spa horizons of her guests. "I think that we are just at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what mainstream spas can do for a society," she says. "If we can provide a touch of the unconventional along with a traditional bit of relaxation, I think we are doing ourselves a favor. It gives people a chance to open their minds to something different while remaining in their comfort zone."

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