Indulge yourself with a day at a San Luis Obispo County spa

April 3, 2007 

Relaxation should be a goal of any weekend or mid-week getaway. And a trip to the spa is an ideal way to indulge that desire.

A day at the spa is no longer just about a massage and facial. Today’s spas combine high-tech treatments with ancient healing therapies that nurture mind, body and spirit. Interested in ancient Hindu Ayurvedic healing? Care to try aromatherapy? Want the latest in ultrasound technology to zap away cellulite? You’ll find them all and more at San Luis Obispo County’s destination spas. Here’s a look at three of the top spots.

La Bonne Vie

Tucked behind the upscale Dolphin Bay Hotel & Residences in Shell Beach, La Bonne Vie would be easy to miss. But this luxury spa, aptly named after the Italian phrase for "The Good Life," is worth seeking out.

The spa’s décor is clean and modern with polished concrete tile floors, sleek, contemporary furnishings and a few, well-placed touches of opulence. Seashell accents and a color palette that captures the hues of sand and water remind you that you’re just steps away from the edge of an ocean bluff and one of the most spectacular views on the Central Coast.

La Bonne Vie offers pampering treatments that range from holistic therapies to cutting-edge technologies. You can indulge in an herb poultice treatment (used to trace energy pathways and pressure points), a skin polish with Ayurvedic exfoliating powder or reflexology. At the same time, you can take advantage of innovative treatments such as particle-free dermabrasion or the Dermasonic procedure, which claims to reduce the appearance of cellulite and even stimulate new facial collagen and elastin production.

The spa has traditional spa offerings including massage, body treatments, facials and warm stone treatment along with beauty services such as manicures, pedicures, hair removal and sunless tanning. Several treatments are combined with aromatherapy.

Prices range from $20 for lip rejuvenation to $110 for an hour-long classic Swedish massage or $150 for a cellulite reduction treatment.

Before or after your session, be sure to relax awhile in the comfortable indoor lounge or enjoy the crisp ocean air in the outdoor lounge. Replenish with a beverage or meal selected from the special spa menu of dishes prepared by Dolphin Bay’s Lido restaurant.

2723 Shell Beach Road #131, Shell Beach, 805-773-5003, www.labonneviespa.net

Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort

Avila Beach’s Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort bills itself as an integrative retreat center, blending Eastern and Western philosophies of health and well-being and giving equal attention to mind, body and spirit.

Concealed behind the more modern hotel facilities is a turn-of-the-century Spanish Revival structure that houses the resort’s spa. Eleven treatment rooms open to views of the oak and palm-shaded courtyard and lawn area. The spa’s eclectic décor marries Spanish wrought iron, modern local art and Asian accents.

Treatments are geared toward relaxation and well-being. Massages are a combination of techniques including Swedish, shiatsu, reflexology, cranio-sacral therapy and energy healing. Facials incorporate Ayurvedic principles. Unique offerings include dry brush massage, aromatherapy blanket wrap and scalp massage.

Prices range from $60 for a half-hour massage to $155 for an Ayurvedic facial with marma energy point and breath technique. Each treatment includes a half-hour soak in one of the facility’s secluded, hillside mineral spas, which are also available for an hourly rate.

Sycamore’s spa is just one component of its integrative approach to health. You can register for a yoga, Qi Gong, or Zazen meditation class held in its hilltop Healing Arts Center. The Integrative Healing and Counseling Center offers services that range from hypnotherapy to Ayurvedic consultations. For a small fee, you can participate in a group hike to nearby Avila Beach or scenic vista points. Free and open to the public, the complex’s meditation garden and labyrinth are a great spot to unwind.

After all of this activity, you’ll want to indulge in the gourmet yet healthy Mediterranean-inspired fare offered at the onsite Gardens of Avila restaurant.

1215 Avila Beach Drive, San Luis Obispo, 800-234-5831, 805-595-7302, www.sycamoresprings.com

River Oaks Hot Springs & Spa

Paso Robles also has a long history with natural mineral springs, which are purported to ease everything from skin afflictions to muscular aches and pains.

River Oaks Hot Springs & Spa takes advantage of such a spring, as well as an idyllic setting in the midst of Paso Robles wine country, away from the bustle and noise of town.

The red tile roof, courtyard fountain and Spanish architecture give the spa the ambiance of a true wine country retreat. The décor is minimal and simple with earthy colors, muted lighting and Mission-style furnishings. Locker room facilities are large and nicely appointed.

River Oaks offers a selection of more traditional spa treatments, including massage, hot stone therapy, facials, back treatment, herbal wrap, salt glow and waxing. One of their most popular packages is the date night special which, for $200, includes a couple’s massage, hot tub soak, champagne and dinner at the nearby Seasons restaurant.

Prices range from $10 for lip waxing to $70 for an hour-long full body massage or $125 for a 75-minute salt glow treatment with massage.

Each treatment includes a complimentary soak in one of the five mineral tubs, which can also be rented by the hour. Tubs are "open air," with only a privacy-protecting partition keeping you from the great outdoors.

The best evidence you’re in wine country? You can order a glass of wine to enjoy while you soak or relax. Beer and champagne are also available, along with fare from Seasons restaurant. If weather permits, be sure to enjoy your meal or beverage at one of the spa’s outdoor picnic tables. Any wine tastes better when paired with the rarest of all pleasures: utter peace and quiet.

800 Clubhouse Drive, Paso Robles, 805-238-4600, www.pasohotsprings.com

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