Looking at the assortment of services offered by various spas on Vancouver Island, I can’t help but feel hungry, intrigued and slightly confused. A rejuvenating arbutus wrap, hydrating cactus detox, herbal mud soak, and green tea seaweed body scrub are some of the unique services found on spa menus. I never knew the spa world consisted of more than a facial, pedicure and massage.
Being a spa virgin, it’s difficult to choose a treatment from the list of interesting options that often come with a hefty price tag, but promise to leave me feeling renewed, rejuvenated and with a peaceful mind. Eventually, I decide to dive into the spa world with an arbutus wrap at the award-winning Sante Spa on Bear Mountain near Victoria, and soon learn what it means to truly relax.
“It’s a rejuvenating treatment that flushes toxins out of the body,” says spa therapist Karen Vermaak, as I lie down on the heated massage table, anxious to experience what’s in store for the next hour and 45 minutes. “This is your time, so take the time to relax. If you fall asleep that’s a good thing.”
Inspired by the ancient Arbutus trees growing in the mountains outside, the wrap begins with a full body exfoliation to remove dry skin, followed by a light therapeutic clay. Things get interesting when layers of heavy warm towels, plastic and a duvet blanket is wrapped around my body, making me feel like I’m in a sleeping bag I don’t ever want to leave. The experience is enhanced with aromatherapy oils like lemongrass that eventually puts my overactive mind at ease.
At Sattva Spa in downtown Victoria, there’s another unique experience that’s becoming a big hit for the after work crowd — the Waterknot, an hour-long, self-led journey focused on calming the nervous system and melting away stress. Once the eucalyptus-infused steam room turns me into a hot sweaty mess, I step out and put handfuls of ice on various parts of my body. The ice is meant to stimulate circulation, immune and lymphatic systems, and makes me want to get back into the steam room as soon as possible. I repeat this process three times before slathering on mineral rich rhassoul mud from Morocco. Playing with mud is just as fun when you’re an adult.
“We want people to feel emotionally and spiritually better,” says Sattva Spa owner and CEO Heidi Sherwood, noting 42 per cent of her clients are men. “Most people come for stress relief. They just want a time out.”
There’s no shortage of spas offering unique services in and around Victoria, but some of the best spas in western Canada are found up Island. Here are a few worth mentioning:
• Located in Parksville, the Grotto Spa at Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Resort has a unique mineral pool infused with underwater music and a dozen trace elements to sooth muscle and joint aches. Designed to emulate a natural stone grotto, the pool also includes a two storey waterfall and cool-splash cascade. Another unique mineral pool is at Kingfisher Oceanside Resort and Spa near Courtenay, and features sandstone sculpted caves, an aromatic steam cave, a glacial waterfall, and tidal baths with sea salt scrub.
• Treatments involving sea salt and seaweed products are common at spas on the Island’s west coast, such as Sacred Stone Spa and Ancient Cedars Spa in Tofino, and Nurture Day Spa and Drift Spa in Ucluelet, where I discover the joy of Vichy water therapy. Meant to calm the nervous system, the Vichy shower has five to seven pulsating shower heads attached to a horizontal bar that blast water along the entire length of my body as I lie on a wet table covered with towels. It’s a blissful way to receive a message and one that leaves me feeling squeaky clean after being scrubbed with seaweed polish made on Vancouver Island.
Regardless of the treatment you choose, an afternoon at the spa gives you an excuse to relax and take a time out from the stress of everyday life — something we could all use once in a while.