Seaside Serenity at Monterey Bay's Vista Blue Spa

The rooftop deck with its epic views of Monterey Bay is one of the highlights of the property.
All photos courtesy of Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa

Considered the “grand dame of the Bay,” Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa (CA) earned the title thanks to its stunning seaside setting overlooking Monterey Bay. Situated just one block away from historic Cannery Row, the hotel is home to the recently renovated Vista Blue Spa, which has the enviable position of being located on the penthouse level and offering dramatic panoramic views. Not surprisingly, the spa’s location proved to be incredibly inspiring when it came time to renovate. According to spa director Heidi Clark, the spa was overdue for an update. “The remodel reallocated space, making the most of our humble footprint and putting square footage where it mattered most,” she says. “With the spa and wellness industry evolving along with the development of the Monterey Peninsula, our renovation ensured that we continue to grow with these progressions.”

The couples' bath suite at Vista Blue Spa

The remodel of the spa involved updating the treatment rooms, flooring, workout equipment, and furniture as well as introducing a new color scheme that was influenced by the sea. In addition, a new Himalayan salt room and a revamped couples’ suite with side-by-side soaking tubs overlooking Monterey Bay, an oversized shower for two, a private fireplace, and a private deck were added to the mix. According to Clark, the couples’ bath suite is one of the spa’s highlights with its calm color palette and beautiful tubs. “The team was also inspired by the history of Monterey and Cannery Row itself,” says Clark. “Back in the day, Cannery Row was a juxtaposition of the affluent and the blue-collared worker. Inspired by the past, we wanted to maintain that sense of romantic abundance without losing sight of the raw, organic beginnings. The spa is a balance of these two—the organic and raw is balanced by refined luxury.” 

The staff also played a key role in the renovation, as the space was tailored to fit their needs. “We made changes that would only be noticed by the staff, such as soft-closing doors and drawers, reorganized cabinetry, specialized faucets, and thoughtfully placed warmers,” says Clark. “We really focused on behind-the-scenes updates to invest in our team.” In fact, it is that attention to detail to the back-of-house changes that Clark notes as being among her favorite design elements. “First and foremost, I, too, am a therapist,” she says. “I know how these small changes make a world of difference while providing a treatment.” 

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The rooftop deck at Vista Blue Spa

Aside from the location, the spa also sets itself apart with the level of service it provides its guests. “We invest in our team so that they, in turn, invest in our guests,” says Clark. As a result, the updates went far beyond a mere renovation of the space. It also involved retraining the staff on the latest treatments. Revamping the menu, Clark and her team adopted a raw wellness theme inspired by the spa’s coastal location. The idea was to shift from being merely luxury-focused to also providing a more inclusive approach to holistic wellness. “We wanted our menu to feel indigenous, steeped in the prosperous history of Cannery Row and tied to the present luxury that has become synonymous with our location,” says Clark. 

With 42 staff members, 11 of whom are full time, the spa can accommodate approximately 60 to 70 clients in a typical day. The Destress Massage (starting at $170, 50 minutes; $220, 80 minutes) is one of the spa’s most popular treatments. It involves a massage with warm Bagni Di Pisa Mud from Comfort Zone followed by deeper muscle work using D-Age Massage Cream. The new menu also features more facials than before and a number of bath enhancements, such as coconut milk, Himalayan salt, and aromatherapy. The Private Spa Suite (starting at $230 individual, 2 hours; $300 couple, 2 hours) is also garnering rave reviews. “When we posted about the new suite on social media, we got an overwhelming organic response,” says Clark.

The fitness center featuring stunning views of the bay.

According to her, the biggest challenges she faces are a lack of space, online retailers undercutting the spa’s rates, and getting the word out that the spa has more to offer than the hot tub sundeck for which it’s known. “While the view is amazing, inside the treatment rooms is where the magic happens,” says Clark. To compete with online retailers, Clark had to rethink the spa’s retail strategy. “We are moving toward products that are locally sourced and only available in a limited distribution channel, such as a brick-and-mortar store like ours,” she says. 

As for the future, Clark and her team are focused on staying on top of new technology and looking to cultivate unique experiences for guests. “We are really aiming to increase our programming,” says Clark. “I would love to host wellness retreats and educational seminars as well as cater to the client looking for an immersive spa day. Goat yoga would be a fun addition, but because we have space limitations on property, we are thinking outside of the box for other active events.”

The treatment rooms were updated with a new calming color scheme influenced by the sea. 

SPA STATS

  • Owner: Greg Alden
  • Spa Director: Heidi Clark
  • Opened: 1999; renovated June 2019
  • Client Base: 71% female; 29% male
  • Space: 11,000 square feet; 9 treatment rooms
  • Product Lines & Equipment: Circadia by Dr. Pugliese, Comfort Zone, Dazzle Dry, Life Fitness, Living Earth Crafts, Peloton, Pure Fiji, Sobel Westex, SpaSoft, Tara Spa Therapy, Telli Industries
  • Architect: Wald, Ruhnke & Dost Architects (Monterey, CA)
  • Interior Designer: LC Interiors (Sausalito, CA)

 

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