Spas are de rigueur at any luxury resort, these days. But from the moment I approached the 92-year-old ficus tree that stands sentry-like, in front of the curved double-staircase leading to the Apothecary Portal, I knew that there was nothing standard about what awaited me, inside the five-acre, Bill Bensley-designed Spa Botánico at Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve.
Filled with the myriad local botanicals grown and harvested for use in the spa’s various treatments, it was the soothing aromas of basil, lavender, lemongrass, pineapple, and rosemary that thrilled my olfactory senses as I entered. There, once my eyes had adjusted, the vista of the Reflection Pool and the pineapple garden beyond beckoned me, through the Apothecary Portal and out the other side.
An attendant, having greeted me and checked me in for my treatment, answered any inquiries while leading me on a tour of the expansive five-acre facility, through the Men's Purification Gardens—with their lagoon-like pools of both cool and warm water as well as rain-showers and a steam room—to the beautifully-appointed Spa Pavilions, where the locker room awaited, as well as the treatments that followed. There are also Couples Pavilions, cosseted groves where the romantically inclined can steam and bathe in their own private Eden.
And if you’re seeking a truly unforgettable (and Instagram-able) experience, try to book your massage in one of the Treehouses, built especially for such purposes. I did, and opted for the “Dorado Deluxe,” a 90-minute combo-platter featuring a pair of treatments and a pair of massages.
Once I climbed the stairs to the platform of my private Treehouse (complete with gently billowing gauzy white curtains and a thatched roof) I begin with an exhilarating lemongrass exfoliation treatment, followed by a nourishing scalp-and-hair masque; after which the experience reached its crescendo with the Manos Santas Massage—taking its name from the island’s customary healers-cum-herbalists (the literal translation is “holy hands”)—that included one of Spa Botánico’s three blends of infused massage oil (Vitality, Serenity, or Muscle Ease - I opted for Serenity), to enhance the experience; and concluded with some Thai stretching.
A visit to Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve’s Spa Botánico is at once transformative and transportive, to be sure, but with one disclaimer. It occurred to me while musing over the experience both during and after my Treehouse experience at Spa Botánico, that, at that moment, there was nowhere else on the planet to which I’d want to be transported; while ever since my return, I’ve daydreamed on multiple occasions about returning to that Treehouse, thereby inspiring my new Calgon-inspired mantra, “Spa Botánico, Take Me Away!”
Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve
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[Editor's Note: A different version of this article appeared in the March/April 2020 issue of Celebrated Living (ink Global)]