Hillside Hideaway


Located in the heart of historic downtown Sausalito, CA, Casa Madrona Hotel & Spa is perched on a lush hill overlooking Richardson Bay and offers picturesque views of the waterfront. A longtime resident of the upscale Bay Area community, the property was built in 1885 by William Barrett, secretary-treasurer for the San Francisco Gas and Electric Company, and his wife, Clara. Privy to incredible views of the San Francisco Bay, the lavish home was later sold in 1906 and converted into the original Casa Madrona Hotel. Like many longstanding properties, it eventually fell into disrepair after World War II and began attracting the city’s growing beatnik population as a temporary place to crash. It wasn’t until 1959, when the French Deschamps family renovated the hotel and opened the highly acclaimed Le Vivoir Restaurant on site, that it got a new lease on life. Unfortunately, a series of mudslides severely damaged Casa Madrona’s foundation in 1973, and it was declared unsafe and scheduled for demolition. Good fortune once again prevailed after years of legal maneuvering from attorney John Mays, who took control of the property in 1976 and restored it to its former glory with the addition of 16 hillside cottages. It also earned a place on the National Register of Historic Places. A 3,000-square-foot spa was later introduced in 2002 along with additional renovations.

Today, the hotel is once again beginning a new chapter in its 126-year history. Most recently, it benefited from a multimillion-dollar facelift that made over the hotel and the Spa at Casa Madrona. According to spa director Karen McFarlane, the renovation involved a total upgrade of the facility, the addition of new steam rooms and furniture, a repositioning of some of the treatment rooms, and new flooring and tilework. The year-long project was essential to keeping not only the hotel fresh and relevant but also the spa. “The entire hotel was undergoing a complete renovation, and it was important to highlight the spa as a serious competitor in the area,” says McFarlane.

With a new concept in place, the spa is poised to attract savvy spa-goers. “Our concept is unique and speaks to the four elements of life—earth, wind, fire, and water—from which we created unique spa offerings and worked with a botanist to create custom products,” says McFarlane. In choosing product lines for the new spa, she opted for Thalgo, because it is well established in the European spa market, has a strong focus on training, and incorporates marine ingredients, which was a key requirement. McFarlane also liked Body Bliss’s innovative and creative approach to aromatherapy. PINO Natural Spa Therapy was chosen to complement the spa’s nailcare services on account of its natural ingredients. “We knew we didn’t want to go the traditional route with the nailcare product offering but rather find something that provided us with a more creative approach.” As such, the spa offers four aromas that are based on the four-elements concept. “Guests can choose which one speaks to them and enjoy it throughout their nail service from beginning to end,” says McFarlane.

As for the future, guests will soon be able to enjoy an inviting outdoor space. Accessible from the spa lounge, the area will incorporate the elements to fit with the overall concept. “An overhead pergola made from reclaimed wood will provide wonderful shelter without blocking natural light and sunshine, a feature of fire and water will each create ambience and tranquility, and outdoor planters will be filled with plants that are reflected in our custom treatments,” says McFarlane.

With a staff of 10, the spa is able to accommodate approximately 30 60-minute treatments each day. According to McFarlane, her biggest challenge is keeping up with the demand for services. Fortunately, that’s a challenge the entire staff is more than happy to meet. “We have a wonderful, loyal following of local clientele and many repeat guests who have been visiting Casa Madrona Hotel for years,” says McFarlane. “They are just raving about the new spa.”


Owner: MetWest, managed by Terra Resort Group

Spa Director: Karen McFarlane

Opened: 2003

Re-opened: June 2011



70% female

30% male



5,500 square feet;

5 treatment rooms



aromatherapy, body treatments, eyelash and brow tinting, facials, fitness, hair and scalp treatments, hand and foot treatments, massage, nailcare, prenatal services, reflexology, waxing



Earth and Sky—Jasmine Flower Celebration ($195, 90 minutes)



Age Defying
Vitality Facial
($195, 90 minutes)



Body Bliss, Cirepil, Clarisonic, CND, Elizabeth W, Jelly Cat, Kashwére, La Natura, OPI, PINO Natural Spa Therapy, Rosy Rings, Thalgo, VoluSpa



Caldera Hot Stones, European Touch, Golden Ratio,
Paragon, Sanijet, SpaSoft, Touch America



Kim Deetjen,
Truex-Collins (Burlington, VT)