Although Panama is best known for the famed shipping canal that joins the Atlantic with the Pacific Ocean, it is also a country in the midst of great development. Approximately 80 minutes outside of the capital city, an isolated stretch of beachside property is also under development. There, the Bristol Buenaventura (Farallon), is situated on a prime piece of real estate. Owners Alberto and Adriana Vallarino fell in love with the property, which was used for cattle pasture and barley, rice, and melon crops, after stumbling across it in 1992 on one of their many trips to the countryside. Realizing the area’s potential, they built a home there, as well as the Bristol Buenaventura. The resort is part of an exclusive gated community and features a private beach club, four restaurants, two bars, a fitness center, and Corotú Spa. Named after a type of tree that is found in the dry forests of Panama, the five-treatment-room spa incorporates a variety of Panamanian elements to make a visit a truly home-grown experience.
In creating the menu, spa director Alejandro Gómez was intent on relying on indigenous ingredients whenever possible. The spa’s four Buenaventura Holistic Retreats provide the greatest example, as each is inspired by Panama itself. Magnetism ($145, 90 minutes) is a signature body polish that exfoliates the skin using a local iron-rich volcanic sand that is carried to the ocean from the Rio Hato river. The Pixbae Wrap ($130, 90 minutes) relies on indigenous herbs and pixbae, a palm fruit. Once the pixbae is applied to the skin, the body is wrapped in banana leaves to lock in the fruit’s nourishing moisture.
Guests are also free to design their own spa journeys with the Corotú Body Wrap ($145, 90 minutes), which includes a choice of body polish, body wrap, and massage. Again, Panamanian ingredients come into play. Two popular options for the three-part treatment are the Organic Body Polish, which relies on herbs, such as aloe vera, basil, and rosemary, from the resort’s sustainable farm, and the Cacao Body Wrap, which is made with cacao beans collected from farms throughout the area. In addition to the indigenous ingredients used in many of the treatments, the spa also depends on skincare products from Natura Bissé and Tara Spa Therapy.
According to Gómez, relaxation and holistic wellness are at the heart of the menu. While one of his goals is to introduce guests to all that Panama has to offer, he is also intent on delivering services that help restore holistic balance. “I want guests to feel the intimate side of luxury,” says Gómez. “It’s a luxury to relax.” It was also important that the menu be easily understood, so as not to introduce any added stress.
With seven therapists, two of whom are dual trained in both esthetics and massage therapy, four attendants, and one spa concierge, Corotú Spa can accommodate approximately 40 to 45 guests each day. Because it is part of a gated resort community, the spa must also cater to residents who own villas there. To make frequent visits to the spa more enticing, Gómez offers them a 10 percent discount. He also encourages both resort guests and residents to visit with a complimentary 15-minute add-on when booking a 60-minute treatment.
Although the spa only just opened a year ago, there are already plans for a bigger facility. The new spa will encompass 16 treatment rooms and is slated to open in mid 2011. In the meantime, Gómez and his staff remain committed to discovering and sharing all that makes Panama a promising spa destination.
COROTÚ SPA AT BRISTOL BUENAVENTURA
OWNERS: Alberto and Adriana Vallarino
SPA DIRECTOR: Alejandro Gómez
OPENED: December 2009
MOST REPRESENTED COUNTRIES: Panama, U.S., Colombia
SPACE: 8,000 square feet; 5 treatment rooms
OFFERINGS: Ayurveda, aromatherapy, body treatments, chromatherapy, couples’ treatments, energy work, facials, fitness, hand and foot treatments, hydrotherapy, makeup application, massage, nailcare, outdoor treatments, reflexology, salon services, scalp treatments, sunless tanning, waxing, yoga
SIGNATURE SERVICES: Buenaventura Body ($115, 60 minutes; $145, 90 minutes), Cocle Facial ($90, 45 minutes), Magnetism ($145, 90 minutes), and Pixbae Wrap ($130, 90 minutes)
MOST EXPENSIVE OFFERING: Ayurvedic Renovation ($190, 90 minutes)
PRODUCT LINES: Framesi, Natura Bissé, OPI, Sebastian, Tara Spa Therapy
EQUIPMENT: Living Earth Crafts, Precor, SpaSoft, Technogym
ARCHITECT: Zürcher (Panama City, Panama)
INTERIOR DESIGNER: V Interiores (Panama City, Panama)