Spa Spectacular

Brazil is known for many things, some that immediately spring to mind are Brazilian bombshells, Carnival, samba music, soccer, and an extreme form of waxing. Thanks to a couple of impressive and ideally located Orient-Express properties, Brazil also boasts two noteworthy spas that capture the country’s innate spirit.  

Blame it on Rio

No trip to Brazil is complete without a visit to Rio de Janeiro, which bears the honor of being chosen to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. Although it often gets a bad rap for crime and violence, Rio is a city that seduces the senses, hence the name Cidade Maravilhosa, or Marvelous City. Featuring breathtaking beaches and mountain peaks that rise from the water’s edge, the city is also home to the famed Copacabana Palace, an iconic landmark on one of the most famous beaches in the world. Adding to the hotel’s allure is the Copacabana Palace Spa, which attracts both locals, known as Cariocas, and visitors alike. 

According to spa director Ricardo Verzola, the spa looks to Brazil for inspiration. “Our spa menu features exclusive treatments that represent the Brazilian soul and serve as a celebration of the Carioca spirit surrounded by a bossa nova rhythm,” says Verzola. Bossa nova, a style of Brazilian music, is played during some of the treatments, giving them a decidedly indigenous feel. Spa-going music lovers will especially enjoy the Bossa Nova ($356, $534 for couples, 2 hours) package, which includes a body scrub and a massage performed to the rhythm of bossa nova songs.  

The Amazonia ($453, $680 for couples, 2 hours 30 minutes) package promotes harmony with nature using hydromassage and indigenous ingredients, such as andiroba oil, Brazilian nuts, buriti oil, and more. “We use Brazilian fruit from the Amazon in our treatments,” says Verzola. “This really sets us apart from our American counterparts. I believe the native products used in our treatments represent the essence and soul of Rio.” It was only natural then that the spa would carry Natura, a popular eco-friendly Brazilian line. “When creating our spa menu, a heavy emphasis was placed on creating treatments and spa rituals that combine water, touch, and rhythm, as well as beauty care,” says Verzola.  

Spanning three floors, the spa features seven treatment rooms, two of which are dedicated to couples’ treatments. It is staffed with nine full-time employees, made up of personal trainers, receptionists, and 15 part-time therapists. In an average day, the staff can handle approximately 35 guests. According to Verzola, his biggest challenge is continuing to build the spa’s clientele. He is especially interested in attracting more locals to the spa. Fortunately, that shouldn’t be too difficult based on the increasing popularity of spas. “Wellness is a growing trend here in Rio,” says Verzola. 

Fall Into Relaxation

Outside of Brazil’s vibrant cities, there are places that speak to the senses, and Iguazu Falls National Park is just such a place. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park also provides the spectacular backdrop to the Hotel das Cataratas and its recently opened Cataratas Spa. Fittingly, the spa’s name means waterfalls in Portuguese. Because most guests come specifically to see the falls’ awesome display of nature, it can be a challenge getting them to the spa. “As the average guest only stays one or two nights, they normally invest this time discovering the National Park,” says spa manager Maren Harzheim. As a result, she and her five full-time employees are working hard to make the spa a special place with products and treatments that support its holistic concept. 

Like the Copacabana Palace Spa in Rio, the spa relies on Natura products for its treatments. “We wanted to offer a high-quality product line—which our guests expect—and stay as authentic and natural as possible,” says Harzheim. “As we are located in a rainforest national park, the products we use have to fit our surroundings. We want to provide an authentic, relaxing experience for our guests, so all the treatments we created are closely related to local culture and nature.” The Essence of Amazon ($118, 60 minutes) massage is especially popular among guests, as it involves them choosing their own personal oil from Natura. 

Although most guests tend to want what they know to be tried and true, Harzheim finds they can be open to new experiences. “Most spa-goers gravitate toward treatments they already know from other places, such as classic massages,” she says. “But if we take some time, communicate with them, and find out their special needs, we are able to recommend a treatment that is a perfect fit.” 

One treatment that is sure to be a draw is an alfresco massage offered near the falls at sunset. This is just one of the distinctive treatments Harzheim and her team plan to introduce next summer. Says Harzheim, “Guests will have experiences like this only once in a lifetime.”  

Cataratas Spa
(Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil) 
Owner: Orient Express Hotel Trains & Cruises
Spa Manager: Maren Harzheim 
Opened: March 2010
CLIENT BASE: 60% male 40% female
SPACE: 3,035 square feet; 6 treatment rooms
OFFERINGS: aromatherapy, body treatments, couples’ treatments, eyelash and brow tinting, facials, hand and foot treatments, makeup application, massage, nailcare, outdoor treatments, reflexology, salon services, scalp treatments, waxing
SIGNATURE SERVICE: Rainforest Scrub & Massage ($166, 90 minutes)
MOST EXPENSIVE OFFERING: Rainforest Scrub & Massage ($166, 90 minutes)
PRODUCT LINES: Bel Col, Colorama, Granado, Natura, Risque
EQUIPMENT: Brudine, Fast Shop, Havaianas, Institute São Paolo, Maletti, Mr. Ma, Performance, SpaEquip, Terapia & Cia
ARCHITECT: Lucia Viera, Viera Sampaio Projetos e Consultorias (Rio de Janeiro)
INTERIOR DESIGNER: Michel Jouannet (Paris)
SPA CONSULTANT: Barbara Morrow (Santa Fe, NM)