Though Napa Valley makes persistent headlines for its lovely weather, fine dining, award-winning wine, and elegant accommodations, there is another charming valley that is enticing aficionados of the good life. Carmel Valley, which is located about 120 miles south of San Francisco, has been making the transition from a sleepy farming community to a haven of delicious food and wine, glorious golf courses, memorable shops, and high-end resorts. The 300 days of sunshine and average temperatures in the 60s and 70s don’t hurt, either. In fact, some say the beguiling region is giving Napa a run for its money. Helping this along is Carmel Valley Ranch, which recently underwent a $35 million renovation. The upgrade of the 500-acre resort included an update of all 139 guest suites, the addition of two new pools with adjacent outdoor dining areas and fire pits, the beautification of the 18-hole Pete Dye-designed golf course, and the debut of the 10,500-square-foot Spa Aiyana. “Spa Aiyana, which is named for the Native American word for ‘eternal flower,’ is an ideal name for our spa, which is nestled in the treetops overlooking the Ranch’s rolling hills, fields of lavender and flowers, ancient oaks, and abundant wildlife,” says spa manager Clint Wall.
In fact, it is the area’s charming natural beauty that provided inspiration for nearly every aspect of the spa, which includes 11 treatment rooms, three of which are VIP double suites with fireplaces. The spa also features spacious men’s and women’s locker rooms with steam saunas, relaxation areas and terraces, a co-ed Relaxation Lounge, a manicure and pedicure salon, and a fitness center. Spa guests also have access to a wellness program, which encourages them to interact with nature by enjoying hikes, meditative walks, and yoga on the nearby hilltop yoga platform.
The spa menu is inspired by four gardens—Lavender, Herb, Aiyana, and Alchemist—and incorporates fresh herbs; botanical extracts; and floral, aromatic, and herbal oils. “The opening spa team worked closely with a botanist who masterfully paired native ingredients from the Ranch, including lavender and herbs from our organic garden, with other compelling elements that reflect Carmel Valley,” says Wall.
The lavender menu items, in particular, take advantage of one unique indigenous offering. The Ranch features 7,500 lavender plants spread around the property that were planted specifically to nourish the colony of 60,000 Italian honeybees who provide nearly 100 pounds of honey each year. New this summer and coinciding with honey harvesting season is the Lavender Honey Wrap ($140, 60 minutes; $205, 90 minutes), which is available through October and uses homegrown lavender and honey harvested on property. Other lavender treatments include the Lavender Garden Swedish Massage ($135, 60 minutes; $185, 90 minutes), the Sweet Lavender Poultice Massage ($145, 60 minutes; $210, 90 minutes), and the Lavender Garden with Reflexology ($140, 60 minutes).
According to Wall, the Herb garden treatments use fresh herbs to boost vigor, vitality, and mobility. The Arnica Therapeutic Massage ($145, 60 minutes; $210, 90 minutes), for example, is a sports-inspired treatment that uses arnica and various modalities to restore mobility and comfort. Aiyana garden treatments reflect the power and allure of flowers, and floral oils are used to uplift the spirit and regenerate the skin in treatments like The Floral Mist Massage ($140, 60 minutes; $205, 90 minutes), which uses jasmine and orange blossom oils. Wall says Alchemist is the most exotic of the four gardens, with treatments designed for more adventurous guests. They pair aromatic oils and botanical extracts from around the globe with touch, intuition, and sound. The Ranch Alchemy Massage ($140, 60 minutes; $205, 90 minutes) begins with a spa sommelier preparing a bespoke blend of alchemic essential oils designed to address individual needs. A stimulating dry brushing is followed by a massage with the therapeutic oils.
Further adding to the all-natural appeal are several eco efforts, including an organic rooftop located outside the second-floor lounge, pedicure chairs and equipment made with sustainable materials, green spa products, recycled bottles for the spa’s own branded lotions and oils, and lavender soap wrapped in recycled paper and hand-tied with string. Guests can also take some of the bounty of the spa home with them, thanks to a 1,000-square-foot lifestyle and wellness boutique located in the Lodge, which is the main building that houses the lobby and the Lodge Restaurant. “Several themed sections offer a diverse array of merchandise including spa products, culinary gadgets, outdoor activity gear, gardening products, books, and our beloved honey and Carmel Valley Ranch swings,” says Wall.
For all of these reasons and more, Spa Aiyana remains one of the resort’s most popular spots, which doesn’t surprise Wall. “The newly re-imagined Carmel Valley Ranch is a sophisticated playground for all ages,” he says. “And perhaps the most restorative play happens at Spa Aiyana.”
Owner: Geolo Capital
Spa Manager: Clint Wall
Opened: October 2010
70% female, 30% male
10,500 square feet,
11 treatment rooms
aromatherapy, Ayurveda, body treatments, couples’ treatments, energy work, facials, fitness, scalp treatments, hand and foot treatments, massage, nailcare, Pilates, prenatal services, reflexology, sunless tanning, waxing, yoga
Floral Mist Massage ($140, 60 minutes; $205, 90 minutes), Sweet Lavender
Poultice Massage ($145, 60 minutes; $210, 90 minutes), Arnica Therapeutic Massage ($145, 60 minutes; $210, 90 minutes), Eternal Blossom Body Essence ($195, 90 minutes), and Neroli Gold Body Treatment ($195, 90 minutes)
MOST EXPENSIVE OFFERING
Ultimate Infusion Oxygen Facial ($355, 2 hours)
Amala, Body Bliss, Intraceuticals, OPI, Private Label, SkinCeuticals
Cirrus, Collins, Comphy Co., Living Earth Crafts, Kashwére, Millennium
by Harms, SpaFinity
Paul Davis Partnership (Monterey, CA)
Ann Emich-Patton, Savvy Spas (Scottsdale, AZ)