For decades, Palm Beach, FL, has been a high-end playground for the world’s rich and famous. Its inviting white-sand beaches, Worth Avenue’s luxury boutiques and restaurants, a number of decadent hotels, and incomparable oceanside manors are havens for political, Hollywood, literary, and society movers-and-shakers looking for a tropical, yet sophisticated, escape from the everyday.
Now, with the March opening of Eau Spa at The Ritz-Carlton, Palm Beach, part of a $120 million transformation of the resort, this discerning crowd has a glamorous new spot to kick off its Manolos and make itself at home.
Splashing about with the rubber duckies that float in the women's lounge hot tub is one of many quirky perks of visiting the spa.
Every aspect of the 42,000-square-foot, 19-treatment-room retreat invites visitors to embrace the spa's philosophy of "Pause. Play. Perfect." Upon arrival, guests light a floating candle, make a wish about their spa journey, and release it into a cavernous wishing well. They can then begin their passage through a spa that was designed to be whimsical, fun, and decadent, where lingering is encouraged and playfulness is promoted. "Our vision for Eau Spa was centered on the guest's sensory awareness and ability to be present," says Simon Lewis, owner of The Ritz-Carlton, Palm Beach. "Eau Spa is about letting yourself have a good time in a completely carefree and open environment, not necessarily a sacred place where you have to whisper."
The heated chaises in the Bath Lounge (above) are an ideal place to allow the concoctions made at the Scrub & Polish Bar (below) to soak in.
When making an appointment at Eau Spa, guests are encouraged to arrive early and partake in the spa's Scrub & Polish Bar ($75), where an on-site mixologist lets them sample a number of scented scrubs, oils, and lotions and creates a custom kit that includes a freshly made body scrub, body butter, a hand loofah, a body mist, and an instructional card. Guests can then apply the ingredients at their leisure, circulating through a Bath Lounge that includes a water shower and a hot tub, heated chaises, a sauna with a disco ball hanging from the ceiling, a steam room with penguin statues and a snow globe, and a steam shower. For clients who are in a more playful mood, rubber duckies float in the women's lounge hot tub, while men can spray their troubles away with an arsenal of water pistols, one of several silly nods to the spa's name, which means "water" in French.
The lush, fragrant plants in The Self-Centered Garden were selected for their ability to attract butterflies (and, apparently, fairies).
The co-ed 7,000-square-foot Self-Centered Garden is another spot that is ideal for whiling away the hours. It includes a waterfall bench with heated water to massage necks, backs, and shoulders and a number of comfy chairs suspended above a reflection pond. Lavender, jasmine, and mint fill the air, and the plants are used in a number of treatments, while other flora was planted specifically to attract the butterflies that flit from bloom to bloom. To encourage multiple-hour escapes, a menu of healthy—and not-so-healthy, but quite tasty—dining options can be enjoyed in the garden throughout the day. Guests can also await services in either the men's or women's Eau Zone relaxation lounges, where scrumptious mini cupcakes and an array of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages provide the perfect pre-and post-treatment refreshment. "Eau Spa is not your grandmother's spa," says spa director Kirstie Bolitho. "At most spas, you come in, change, have a treatment, and that's it. Eau Spa invites you to linger the entire day."
The Self-Centered Garden, designed to encourage guests to linger, features cozy hanging chairs (pictured), a glittering sun dial (below right), and a life-sized chess board (below).
Though the spa's common areas are enticing, the 19 treatment villas, boasting names such as Cheeky, Frivolous, Flirty, Naughty, Proud, Selfish, Sassy, and Vain, and the intriguing menu of services are equally appealing. Twelve villas feature private outdoor gardens and showers, and three couples' villas include outdoor tubs, showers, waterfalls, and day beds. A popular package for couples looking to canoodle is the Eau-so-in-Love ($650, 2 hours 25 minutes), which includes a candelit bathing ritual for two, a private Scrub & Polish Bar experience, a couples' massage, and a sampling of the spa's signature passion-inducing elixir that is infused with essences of diamond and turquoise.
The spa also caters to its high-profile guests with its Bejeweled Collection of services, which incorporate elements of platinum, pearl, quartz, ruby, and sapphire. The Ruby and Sapphire Massage ($190, 50 minutes; $260, 80 minutes) heals and rejuvenates, while the Platinum and Bejeweled Face and Body Ritual ($550, 2 hours 30 minutes), which includes a facial, a chakra cleansing, and a massage, provides the ultimate in precious pampering. "Palm Beach is known for its gala nights and decadent parties, so the Bejeweled Collection is all about the 'bling,'" says Bolitho, who adds that the spa also caters to those who believe diamonds are a girl's best friend with the Diamonds-in-the-palm-of-her-hands ($175, 60 minutes) manicure and Diamonds-on-the-soles-of-her-shoes ($200, 75 minutes) pedicure. These nailcare services, as well as haircare and makeup applications, are performed in Eau Spa's funky salon beneath chandeliers and under the watchful eye of fanciful gargoyles sporting polished nails, just one more quirky design element that adds to the spa's charm. Also appealing is the trendy Eau Spa Beautique. Along with products by La Thérapie, the signature Eau Spa line, and Elemis (the spa is operated by its parent company, Steiner Leisure, and the products are used in most of the services), trendy clothing, jewelry, shoes, bags, books, and fun—and sometimes naughty—gift items are available for purchase.
Since it opened in March, the spa has attracted a wide range of diverse, educated spa-goers. Approximately 60 percent of the spa's clientele are resort guests, 10 percent are tourists staying at other area hotels, and 30 percent are locals. Bolitho says she is watching those local numbers steadily increase, thanks to a series of networking events held in The Self-Centered Garden and a number of summer specials, including a $50 promotion that allows residents of the area all-day access to the spa and a Scrub & Polish Bar experience. "It's a great value for a day of perfection," she says.
Among Eau Spa's features are a wishing well
Whether they are accommodating the needs of locals or out-of-towners, Bolitho says it is her stellar 76-member team, outfitted in billowing cream uniforms rather than the traditional black tops and pants, who work hard to keep the Eau Spa experience seamless, even when the daily capacity of 239 treatments is reached. "We have employees from the U.K., the Philippines, Poland, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, India, and Jamaica," she says. "Plus, our staff members all go through extensive training at the Florida College of Natural Health, in addition to holding a state license."
A cut-glass chandelier made of stemware
Moving forward, Bolitho and her team plan to fulfill their mission of making Eau Spa the top spa in the U.S., all while maintaining its fun, flirty vibe. "We spent a lot of time exploring spas around the world and felt that this is a time for a change," she says. "People go to a spa to enjoy themselves, not to be told what not to eat or drink or that they need to whisper or tiptoe. Spas can be fun and decadent—this was the design brief for Eau Spa—all the little details make each experience unique."
Several couples' villas with private outdoor gardens.