There is a softer side to Miami.  It’s a side that hums with rejuvenation and gives sustenance to the soul as well as the stomach.  A side that indulges luxuriously while keeping in holistic harmony with its glorious, oceanic surroundings.  To experience the Acqualina Spa by ESPA in Sunny Isles, Miami, is not merely to taste the softer side of Miami, it is to be embraced entirely by it.  The spa is nestled within the glorious setting of the Acqualina Resort (distinguished with the impressive title of one of the Leading Hotels of the World)–whose spectacular location rises regally from the Atlantic’s white, sandy shore, creating an imposingly massive yet simultaneously cozy and inviting mix of Mediterranean castle meets Safari meets modern Miami.  And that’s just the lobby.

Down a short corridor, a door opens and all of a sudden you feel like you’ve been let in on a magical secret.  Inside exists an entire atmosphere saturated with wonderful tranquility.  The expert staff is so wonderfully calm and welcoming that you immediately begin to relax–even before you’ve changed into a robe and slippers.

There are hotel spas and then there’s ESPA.  A global brand that seems to have the monopoly on blissful tranquility. Whether you are unwinding in Indonesia or replenishing in Mexico, you know you are getting the best of the best, and can let your grasp of reality loosen for a few blissful, unforgettable hours. The most difficult part of my afternoon spent at the Miami-based ESPA , was choosing to relax with tea and homemade lavender cookies in their exquisite relaxation room, or soaking in the tropical sunshine on the private pool deck, blowing kisses to the ocean while serenaded by the Roman waterfall jacuzzi.

Or even further: perhaps I could lose myself instead in the myriad of indulgence waiting for me in their interior facilities including Finnish saunas, crystal steam rooms, ice fountains, and “experience showers” that feature cool arctic or warm Caribbean mists.  I recommend arriving as early as possible to the ESPA, so when your therapist arrives to escort you to the treatment room, you don’t have the urge to run away like a kid at a carnival, who wants to do just one more thing before going home.  Except in this case, instead of going home your entire being will be coaxed into a state of rejuvenating relaxation.

The experience I chose this time around was one of the signature treatments of the ESPA, the Holistic Spa Retreat.  A five hour litany of loveliness, the retreat began with the Stress-Releasing Abhyanga , paused for an hour to partake of a wonderfully wholesome Spa benito box lunch of salmon and other delicacies, followed by the Super Active Facial.

The Super Active Facial was another completely unique experience.  Easily one of the most relaxing facials I have ever had, the addition of black light technology to reveal otherwise invisible skin conditions, helping the therapist to truly address the unique needs of each person’s face. A ritualistic type of massage, the Stress-Releasing Abhyanga, left me in a wonderful daze.  The state of relaxation that the massage (which focuses on the marma points of ayurvedic practice) is akin to a deeply meditative state.  So deep, in fact, that I almost felt a sense of disorientation as I left the room, stumbling back to the delighted stillness of the relaxation room– New Yorkers are not used to being so relaxed!

– Ava Fedorov

Acqualina Spa by ESPA
17875 Collins Avenue
Sunny Isles Beach, FL 33160

Spa Finder Readers’ Choice Awards Top Ten Best Spas in the World both for Accommodations and Interior Design 2010, Allure Magazine’s ‘Best Day Spa in Miami’ 2009, Spa Finder Reader’s Choice Awards Top Ten Spa Professional Randy Felstead 2009, One of Conde Nast Traveller’s Top Spas in The Americas and Caribbean 2008, Winner of Six Spa Finder Readers’ Choice Awards 2008, and 4 Star Spa by Mobil Travel Guide, and 2011’s Favorite Spa by Socially Superlative Beyond NYC.

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