It's no surprise that Monterey County's spas consistently earn national and even international acclaim. The scenery is relaxing enough, but the treatments will take you to the next level of zen. Monterey County spas are inspired by the natural beauty of their surroundings, with oceanfront facilities, unique amenities and treatments incorporating locally grown products.
Big Sur Spas
One of the area's well-recognized indulgences is the Spa at Post Ranch Inn, ranked highly on the Condé Nast Traveler "Top 50 Hotel Spas - US Mainland" list in 2011. With shaded lawns overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the setting alone is spectacular - but treatments such as the Big Sur Jade Stone Therapy and the chamomile, calendula and jasmine-infused Wildflower Facial truly raise the bar. (Other highlights: private yoga and meditation instruction, shaman sessions and guided nature hikes.)
In its own nod to Big Sur's spirited side, The Spa at Ventana offers creativity classes and astrology readings along with a clothing-optional pool, hot baths and refreshing treatments. The Santa Lucia Wine Wrap is an antioxidant-rich exfoliating gem that hydrates and revitalizes the skin, while the Essence of Big Sur Herbal Massage soothes sore muscles with lavender, pine, sage and other organic herbs.
Another only-in-Big Sur spot: Esalen Institute. Its natural hot springs baths are located just 50 feet above the Pacific, and the outdoor massage deck features a living roof planted with native coastal grasses.
Carmel Valley Spas
Just at the mouth of Carmel Valley is one of Monterey County's newest additions, the Refuge. This unique oasis invites guests to heat up, cool down and relax in their sauna, steam room and various plunge pools. Massages are also available for the ultimate in relaxation.
In Carmel Valley, The Spa at Bernardus Lodge uses organic lavender grown on-site for its "Lavender Bliss" scrub. Signature vinotherapy treatments reflect the region's grape-growing legacy - during the Chardonnay Pedicure, sip the resort's own award-winning chardonnay as a grape-seed scrub lightly exfoliates; Vineyard Romance is a couples' treatment combining a lavender-grape-seed bath with a warm grape-seed-oil massage. An open-air therapy bath, steam room, Vichy shower and fitness center further distinguish the spa.
The new Aiyana Spa at Carmel Valley Ranch uses botanicals grown on-site, and a spa sommelier creates custom-blended infusions, oils and lotions for guests. A spa concierge also offers personal consultations to help visitors get the most from their treatments. The highlight of the spa's mind-body wellness program is an outdoor yoga platform overlooking Carmel Valley
Overlooking the water, the Monterey Plaza Hotel's Vista Blue Spa is a seaside sanctuary with a fifth-floor rooftop sun deck, outdoor whirlpool tubs and full-service fitness center. The Monterey Sea Mineral Massage and Body Polish is a true treat, but the Condé Nast Traveler "Top 50 Hotel Spas - US Mainland" honoree's ultimate experience is Bliss on the Bay. Enjoy a dry body brush and pineapple papaya scrub, followed by a therapeutic massage incorporating lemongrass, blue cypress and juniper berries. It's all wrapped up with a warm blanket and a stress-melting scalp massage.
At the other end of Cannery Row, The Spa at Intercontinental the Clement offers a holistic approach to wellness, incorporating natural and organic services and products. Just a mile away in downtown Monterey, the Spa on the Plaza at Portola Hotel and Spa is the largest day spa in Monterey, offering over 60 therapeutic treatments.
Pebble Beach Spas
Travel + Leisure recently honored The Spa at Pebble Beach, a 22,000-square-foot space specializing in wraps, water treatments and rejuvenating massages. The 75-minute Red Flower Ritual purifies and pampers with ginger, cherry blossom rose and wild lime silk oil. Weary golfers should book the Post-Golf Therapy package, which focuses on tired forearms, neck and lower back. Other spa highlights include two Vichy showers, sauna and steam facilities, and a full-service salon that offers classic straight-razor shaves and barber services.