Del Mar, CA, a coastal enclave just north of San Diego, is a haven for aficionados of ocean-inspired pursuits—surfers crest the tops of crashing waves, dolphins frolic just a few feet from shore, and the tides pull in a colorful collection of shells, starfish, and seaweed. The Beach Boys crooned about it in "Surfin' USA," and its 15th Street Beach was ranked number 10 in Time magazine's list of the "100 Greatest Beaches in the World." It should come as no surprise, then, that the region's newest spa retreat takes its inspiration from the area's sparkling shores. Spa L'Auberge at the elegant L'Auberge Del Mar oceanside resort debuted in June, just in time for SoCal's busy summer season, as part of a comprehensive $26 million renovation of the property. Created to emulate an inviting beach cottage, the spa is a stand-alone haven for hotel guests and locals alike who are looking for a blissful, beachy retreat.
The beach community of Del Mar, CA, serves as inspiration for the spa, which features ocean-themed artwork and accents in each of its 10 treatment rooms, including the Couple's Suite.
The walls of the 5,000-square-foot, 10-treatment-room spa are awash in bright colors. These vivid hues are offset with crisp white accents and bleached-wood floors, and walls are adorned with vintage surfboards and black-and-white images of bikini-clad beach-goers circa the carefree days of "Beach Blanket Bingo." Seashells, starfish, and vases filled with candles and sand further add to the ocean-inspired ambience. "We wanted the spa concept to depict a tropical, modern-styled beach cottage with fresh, vibrant colors and textures, and fortunately, we had a free-standing building to play with," says Cary Collier of Blu Spas and Collier & Collier Spas (Whitefish, MT), the project's spa consultant and interior designer. "Del Mar has a strong surfing and beach community history. To help tell the spa story and for guest interest, we chose to capture the history of the area and the resort with the artwork by using historical and current photography and surfboards from the beaches of Del Mar. The art images make people turn their heads and smile, definitely a mood maker for the overall personality of the spa, which is cheerful, fun, cozy, and comfortable."
Further adding to the spa's cheerful appeal is the fact that none of the treatment rooms are the same—varied colors, ceiling shapes, textures, artwork, and lighting options are seen in each of the 10 rooms. "This spa has a large local following, and even for repeat resort guests, it is my belief that there is promotional and emotional caché in having uniqueness to each treatment room for a boutique spa," says Collier. "And to avoid the usual 'prison-corridor' effect of most spas, we used seascape and sky images to create mural wall coverings at the end of the treatment corridors including a spattering of single and series pieces of surfing and fun beach artwork, all of which was created by local artists."
The private outdoor garden in the Couple's Suite features an inviting tub, a day bed, and lush flora and fauna.
The sea features prominently on the menu, as well. Along with a collection of massages that is ideal for easing the ails of a day in the ocean and skincare services to help battle the drying effects of the sand and surf, the spa offers three signature beach-inspired body treatments. Bask ($175, 80 minutes) includes a foaming seaweed and pumice scrub, a slathering in a mask of nutrient-rich seaweed, and a massage with seaweed-infused lotion; Surge ($175, 80 minutes) involves a skin polishing using Pacific Ocean salts combined with caviar and algae, a hot stone massage, and an invigorating foot rub; and Drift ($175, 80 minutes), is a combination of an orange peel body buff, a green sea mud mask, a lomilomi massage using jojoba mud, and a scalp massage. Also popular are the Seaside Sojourns ($250, 1 hour 50 minutes), globally influenced body treatments that include a scalp massage or foot treatment, a body polish, a wrap, and a massage inspired by the chosen destination. Guests can envision foreign shores with four different Sojourns, including the Amazonian Escape, the Asian Escape, the Moroccan Adventure, and the Polynesian Journey.
Clockwise: Spa-goers can while away the hours in the outdoor relaxation area; the spa's beachy theme continues in each of L'Auberge Del Mar's 120 guest rooms; the resort offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.
The spa also features an open-air co-ed relaxation area with a firepit for getting cozy when there is a chill in the air and a romantic Couple's Suite, a garden oasis that includes both indoor and outdoor areas and treatment tables outfitted with SO Sound Therapy systems. The suite has a vaulted ceiling and pendant lighting, and one long wall behind the treatment tables has a mural wall covering of blue sky and ocean. There are indoor and outdoor showers, and the private garden has a large day bed and a shell-shaped tub surrounded by flowers and lush foliage. "The spa suite is a 'feel good' space that makes you want to linger," says Collier. There, treatment-for-two highlights include Shorely Sweet ($340 per person, 2 hours 30 minutes), which features a body treatment ritual, a bathing service in the outdoor garden, and a massage, and Balinese Breeze ($340 per person, 2 hours 30 minutes), which involves a body scrub, a couples' bath, and a massage infused with intoxicating tropical scents.
Found adjacent to the main resort building as a stand-alone structure, Spa L'Auberge was designed to emulate a sunny beach cottage.
Because beautiful beaches often go hand-in-hand with conservation, philanthropy and eco awareness were vital when it came to selecting the products used in the treatment rooms and sold at retail. Among the many lines featured at the spa are Jamu, Olavie, Pevonia Botanica, SkinCeuticals, SpaRitual, and Thali'sens. "We selected these lines because the companies not only support the environment but they are actively involved with charitable organizations," says spa director Jeannette Handson. "We were very selective in the lines we carry. We wanted to partner with companies that were serious about the environment and the people who use the products. Because of this, we were able to create wonderful treatments that are not only very unique and therapeutic but are also environmentally friendly."
Handson was equally discerning when it came to her team, selecting 24 experienced employees who can perform a maximum of 100 treatments per day to man the spa. "We hired massage therapists with more than one thousand hours of school and who are continuing their education," says Handson. "Additionally, our manicurists and estheticians have previous resort experience, and they must stay current with the industry. We encourage continuing education, and we offer ongoing on-site training."
Though the spa is relatively new, Handson and her team are making great strides to get the word out to both hotel guests and SoCal natives. Room keys feature a sleeve with revolving spa offerings printed on them—most recently, a 20 percent discount was given for guests' first services. In-room product samples and marketing materials and a welcome call from the hotel concierge also encourage guests to test out the spa. As for locals, special promotions, such as a $20 discount on a 50-minute treatment Monday through Thursday, change monthly. But whether they are coming from near or far, "our guests are looking for great services and a memorable experience combined with great value," says Handson, who promises that at Spa L'Auberge, achieving these goals is a shore thing. Surf's up!