SPA SPOTLIGHT: The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Half Moon Bay
By Kathy Chin Leong

When is the last time you were rocked like a baby? This is how Stephanie began my Mojito body scrub, the newest and yummiest treatment added to The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Half Moon Bay menu. Actually dubbed The Body Cocktail, I was given the choice between The Mojito, Pomegranate Cosmo, and The Martini. The service also entitles you to a coupon for the actual cocktail when you are done.

For the uninitiated, the Ritz is a regal megaspa, at 16,000 square feet, with 16 treatment rooms, separate men and women’s lounges, a co-ed Roman mineral bath as well as separate male and female bubbling whirlpools, and generous real estate in the locker rooms with sauna, and showers, hair dryers and all the accoutrements you need for gussying up. It features a wide arrray of facial and massage treatments, and a hair salon strategically located across from the spa. Inside you will find a luxuroius manicure and pedicure area.

As I lay face down on the table in the wet room, Stephanie gingerly laid a towel atop my body, set her confident palms on my back and began slow, gentle rocking, to and fro. What a reassuring pleasure and gift of touch. I had the privilege of being the first customer to sample this new treatment that consists of a mild scrub made of sugar, lime essential oil and mint leaves. Usually, I’m not a huge scrub fan because my skin is sensitive to scratching. Sometimes scrubs can be more like scrapings, which for some reason, are too painful for me to enjoy, even if the outcome is supposed to be good for you. I recall an awful scrub in Ireland where the technician used a large bristle brush on my dry skin. I could have sworn the bristles were made of stiff boar’s hair.

In this case, Stephanie applied the moist sugar paste using tender pressure with slow strokes, and the experience was so gently exfoliating that I was half asleep on the table. Next came the Vichy shower, a chrome arm with 7 small shower heads, to wash away the granules. The warm water and steam melted away any stresses that came from the daunting questions of what to buy Mom and Dad for Christmas.

The best was still yet to come, for after patting me dry like a baby, now came the a warm shea butter massage with the added treat of flat round stones that encircled my palm. The effect was ethereal as she traveled the smooth rocks up and down my body, in slow-motion it seemed, smoothing out any roadblocks along the way.

It was so magical that the sensation immediately took me back to my childhood when my grandmother took a warm boiled egg and tucked it into a handkerchief to roll over my face and chest when I was sick. She would place a shiny penny in the kerchief and say that it would take away the bad wind. When she was done, she opened the fabric, and there it was- a black penny. It worked every time.

During the course of the scrub, I couldn’t help thinking I was the part of a recipe for an exotic sugar cookie. After all, she buffed me with sugar, alcohol, and shea butter, what Stepahnie termed as "the ultimate hydrator."
What impresses me at this spa is the professionalism and expertise of the technicians. Each time I come I feel like I learn something. On my pamper day at the spa I tried a Spa Sampler package, which consists of a Mini Facial, Massage, and Manicure, each 30 Nancy, my esthetician was quick to remind me that folks who book a brow wax or a facial should not do it any closer than 36 hours before a party. "You want to make sure your face won’t breakout or have a reaction," she stresses.

Next came my one-hour facial at the Ritz, which left my skin glowing and refreshed, polished like a marble statue. Karen, a well- experienced facialist, used the Naturopathica line, and I loved the Environmental Defense Mask, dark red, black cherry enzyme granular paste which had skin lightening effects. I had a experinec tenstionation and it perked up my skin, and I looked very radiant and alert when through.

If you are going to a party, a couple of days in advance, make the trip up to see Eyebrow Master and Esthetician Extraordinaire, Nancy, who is extremely thorough and works hard to create a polished look with clean curves so you won’t look like Mickey Mouse or the McDona’ld’s golden archeds when through. 

The Ritz is called the Ritz for a reason. This was my third time at this spa over the course of five years, and each time I’ve experienced consistent quality with professionals who are well versed in their areas of expertise. When you come in for a pre- or post- holiday treatment, I will warn you now: you will be tempted to be come a regular.

The winter cold will dry out your skin. Spa director Melinda Milner recommends the quintessential "Pumpkin Experience," a four-hour escape with a Pumpkin Body Peel, The Half Moon Bay Facial, The Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Manicure and Pedicure. Why pumpkin? The signature Half Moon Bay gourd is bursting with vitamin E and Beta-carotene- antioxidants that promote anti-aging.

Other treatments to weather-proof your delicate body include: Aromatherapy Body Polish, 45 minutes, $150 . Mineral-rich Dead Sea salts with essential oils are scrubbed onto your body, removing dead skin, invigorating sensory nerve endings and stimulating the flow of nutrients to the skin. Fresh Lavender Wrap, 60 minutes, $180.  The intoxicating aroma of lavender fills the room with this treatment, which begins with a dry brushing exfoliation followed by a lavender shea butter massage. The body is then wrapped in warm blankets. A light scalp massage is the final step. Healing Stone Therapy," 75 minutes, $215. This is an ideal massage for soothing tired and cold muscles as smooth, warm stones serve as extensions of the therapist's healing hands.  Carita Intense Hydrating Renovateur, 60 minutes, $165, to hydrate thirsty skin.

Take All the Credit Spa Package starting at $399, includes $100 credit for spa treatment of your choice, plus one night accommodations. Available through Feb. 29. Double or single occupancy.

Body Cocktail, $160, for one hour with your choice of The Martini, Pomegranate Cosmopolitan, or The Mojito in a sugar scrub that is billed as the "ultimate libation." Get it "on the rocks," and you can add hot stones for $40 and have another 30 minutes of massage bliss. You get the real cocktail in the hotel lounge after your treatment. Price increases to $180 starting Jan. 1.

: 15-minute brow touch up, $40; 30-minute brow design, $50, 30-minute spa manicure, $45.

: The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Half Moon Bay
One Miramontes Point Road
Half Moon Bay


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