Oceanside Oasis

San Juan, Puerto Rico,may be known as La Ciudad Amurallada, the walled city, but visitors to this tropical town soon discover it is anything but uninviting. Puerto Rico welcomes travelers from all over the world. With its No Passport Tourism marketing campaign, this territory of the United States, which is often mistakenly thought of as its own country, is attracting many U.S. citizens who can travel there for sun, sand, and relaxation without a passport or the hassle of airport customs.

A beach hammock offers guests the ideal spot to relax and enjoy the tropical atmosphere.
A beach hammock offers guests the ideal spot to relax and enjoy the tropical atmosphere.

Situated on eight acres of beachfront property is The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan Hotel, Spa & Casino, which offers breathtaking views of the ocean. Just a short drive from the historic cobblestone streets of Old San Juan, the resort offers a haven of relaxation at The Spa at The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan. In 1998, the spa opened its doors as the first in any Ritz-Carlton property nationwide. Because of this, the spa needed to meet especially high expectations of the brand's discerning guests while providing them with the unique flavor of the island. As such, the spa offers a nurturing atmosphere for guests to relax their minds, bodies, and souls with a host of face, body, and nail treatments using nutrient-rich flowers and fruits indigenous to the Caribbean Sea and Puerto Rico's El Yunque Rainforest. "Our spa clients are primarily Ritz-Carlton guests who have chosen the brand for the legendary service and consistency for which it is known," says spa director Kimberly Rossi. "We work to live up to this reputation."

Guests don't say goodbye to the tropical pleasures of the Caribbean upon entering the 12,000-square-foot facility because the spa features an elegant Caribbean decor with an island theme. "The colors blue and golden yellow are apparent throughout the spa, representing the ocean and the sun," says Rossi. In addition, bamboo and teak wood, as well as murals of indigenous flowers and birds painted by local artists, can be seen throughout.

Guests can opt for alfresco services, which take place oceanside.
Guests can opt for alfresco services, which take place oceanside.

This theme is also evident in the spa's menu of services, which features an array of face and body treatments using local flowers and fruits. The Rainforest Stone Massage ($175, 75 minutes) uses warm basalt stones and passionfruit essential oil to soften tense muscles and ease stress, while Puerto Rican coffee and warm coconut milk are the main ingredients in the Café con Leche Body Exfoliation ($130, 45 minutes). "We want clients to actually feel like they are on a tropical island in the Caribbean, even while in the spa," says Rossi.

According to her, the menu is kept basic so as not to confuse guests, but they are assured that it is only an introduction to what they could receive at the spa. "Most of our services can be customized and tailored to each guests' specific needs," says Rossi.

Guests can relax by the resort's oceanfront pool and Jacuzzi.
Guests can relax by the resort's oceanfront pool and Jacuzzi.

While the Café con Leche Body Exfoliation and the Rainforest Stone Massage are both popular, the Deep Tissue Massage ($145, 50 minutes; $200, 80 minutes) and The Ritz-Carlton Signature Massage ($135, 50 minutes; $185, 80 minutes) are also among the more in-demand services. More obscure treatments, such as the Detoxifying Spirulina Algae Wrap ($175, 75 minutes), which consists of a body exfoliation and a warm algae cocoon wrap to cleanse and heal the body, and the Remineralizing Mud Wrap ($175, 75 minutes), which replenishes and nourishes the skin, are less popular among guests. "If clients are looking for a unique experience when they visit us, they will request these treatments," says Rossi. "Because basic massage is so popular all over the world, when clients take time to come to the spa they feel that is what they need."

Guests who want to take the spa experience home with them can choose from a variety of Epicuren, Michael Scholes, and Natura Bissé products, which are all available in the retail area. According to Rossi, "We provide clients with a list of the products used during their service so they have the option of maintaining their skin at home."

Indigenous ingredients are used in many of the spa's treatments.
Indigenous ingredients are used in many of the spa's treatments.

With 12 treatment rooms and a team of 55 employees, the spa can accommodate approximately 200 clients each day. While tourists visit the island and the resort year-round, the most popular time of year is Christmas through Easter. According to Rossi, a large number of resort guests come from the northeast U.S. during this time. "There is so much to do here in Puerto Rico, and it is always warm and sunny, so people come down to rejuvenate during those months," she says.

As the destination becomes more popular and more people are incorporating spa visits into their travel plans, The Spa at The Ritz Carlton, San Juan is preparing for this growth by planning renovations to update and modernize the spa. While the relaxation area is currently open to both men and women, Rossi hopes to create separate relaxation areas in the near future. "We hope to undergo major renovations that will help us become more spacious and modern," says Rossi. "For now, we are working on growing our local clientele and creating a relationship with them by offering them complimentary valet parking and frequent visitor discounts. We want to make them loyal Ritz-Carlton spa clients."

The Spa at the Ritz-Carlton, San Juan
The Spa at the Ritz-Carlton, San Juan

Attracting local clients isn't the only obstacle for Rossi. Attracting local estheticians and massage therapists also poses a challenge at times. "The Ritz-Carlton Company is very selective, so finding new talent that not only passes the qualification process but also has experience and lives on the island is difficult," says Rossi. "While we have great employee retention, as the spa grows, we will look to add to the team as well as continue to retain our quality employees."

These experienced and quality employees are crucial in maintaining the spa's reputation for excellent service and for attracting new and repeat clients. "When our clients enter The Spa at The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan, they are looking for relaxation and to be taken care of," says Rossi. "They want to leave feeling better than when they came in. Our team works hard to ensure this happens."

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