With more than 21,000 spas to choose from in the U.S. alone, just figuring out where to go can tie you up in knots. But don't sweat it: We've identified the top 10.
1. The holistic haven
Elemental Embrace Wellness Spa Retreat in Brighton, Ontario
Trained vaidyas—ayurvedic doctors who practice India's 5,000-year-old system of holistic medicine—oversee the cleanse-and-reboot treatments at Elemental Embrace, a small wellness spa 90 minutes east of Toronto. The number of guests is limited to 20 to ensure a guest-to-staff ratio of about 1:1. Though you can get the usual facials and wraps here, most people come for the ayurvedic treatments (such as swedana, an herbalized-oil massage followed by an intense steam bath, $55) and for colonics ($100). The real standout, though, is the creative, Indian-inspired cooking; dessert is served first to give the body time to break down hard-to-digest sugars.
Best deal: The $317 nightly rate, which includes all meals, daily yoga and meditation classes, evening lifestyle seminars, use of the facilities, and a $136 credit to put toward treatments. 866/212-9355, elementalembrace.com.
2. The celebrity favorite
Cygalle Healing Spa in La Romana, Dominican Republic
Before she opened her full-service, ecofriendly facility on the grounds of the Casa de Campo resort last year, Cygalle Dias's organic facials, massages, and mani/pedis were available only through her mobile spa business—and primarily enjoyed by boldface names like Rosario Dawson. Now, those same services are available to anyone who makes an appointment at Dias's namesake spa. The emphasis is on fresh, natural ingredients: "Pharmacists" mix up individual batches of potions using fruit, honey, flowers, herbs, ground coffee, cornmeal, and more for each client. A popular four-part treatment sampler includes a 30-minute water ritual (alternating between hot and cool pools), a facial that uses local sugar and botanical extracts, a 50-minute massage, and either a wrap or a scrub, all of which take place in spacious bamboo-and-stone suites or in open-air gazebos scattered throughout the resort's garden.
Best deal: Through December 20, a three-night stay runs $594 and includes breakfast daily and a four-treatment sampler. 800/877-3643, casadecampo.com.do.
3. The outdoor adventure
Red Mountain Resort & Spa in St. George, Utah
Set in the shadows of the red-rock cliffs of Snow Canyon State Park, this fitness-focused spa puts hiking front and center. Guests choose from 30 different guided treks each week, some of which explore nearby Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks, as well as the Grand Canyon (about 100 miles away). An adventure concierge is on hand to help guests select the right difficulty level: Explorer treks consist of leisurely walks in the foothills, while Endurance outings are recommended for human billy goats.
Best deal: For $259 a night through the end of November, the Red Rock Girlfriends Getaway includes all meals, daily hikes and classes, gym access, a massage, and an afternoon of guided kayaking or horseback riding. 877/246-4453, redmountainspa.com.
4. The pastoral escape
Spa Eastman in Eastman, Quebec
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It's only about an hour from Montreal, but Canada's oldest destination spa feels blessedly remote, thanks to its setting: 315 acres of ponds, wildflower meadows, and groves of cedar, pine, and birch trees. The 43 rooms are divided among seven buildings across the property, from a bare-bones, solar-powered wood cabin that sleeps two to the spa's original eight-room French-style stone house, equipped with a fireplace and lounge. Some therapists have been with the retreat for more than 15 years—unusual in the spa world—and the staff's certified kinesiologists will help you make the most of the property's nine-plus miles of hiking trails.
Best deal: A $698 three-night Relaxation & Fitness package, which covers all meals, classes, a training session, and five treatments, including massages and a body wrap. 800/665-5272, spa-eastman.com.
5. The exotic hotspot
Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort in La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Plenty of people are drawn to Tabacón for the thrill of bunking at the base of the 5,360-foot (and active) Arenal volcano. Yet it's the hot springs that run through the property and create natural thermal pools that make staying there such a restorative experience. Meandering pathways flanked by tropical plants connect the resort's low-slung buildings, and the treatment rooms in open-air bungalows take in some of the best rain-forest views. Not surprisingly, the spa specializes in volcanic-mud wraps and hydrotherapy treatments, like a sea-salt-spiked Jacuzzi session.
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Best deal:A three-night Yin Spa Package, at $1,496 per room, includes three spa treatments per person—a neck-and-shoulder massage, a reflexology massage, and a facial—as well as a traditional temazcal sweat-lodge cleansing session for two. 877/277-8291, tabacon.com.
6. The place to lose that last 10 pounds
The Oaks at Ojai in Ojai, Calif.
A perfect counterpoint to the fancy, celebrity-studded hideaways in nearby Santa Barbara, the Oaks' unpretentious family-run spa has had its own devoted following for 32 years. The scale of the place is modest—there are 46 rooms in a Spanish-style former hotel—but its clients' weight-loss goals are decidedly ambitious. Guests practice restricted food intake, with daily meals and snacks totaling just 1,000 calories, and spend their days in a variety of noncompetitive fitness classes, many of which are geared toward beginners. Among the 14 offered daily are a handful of throwbacks like aqua and step aerobics, which somehow feel just right in this old-school environment. Facials and massages are extra, but at $80 apiece, they're hardly budget busters—and they make for well-deserved treats after all that discipline.
Best deal: The $189 nightly rate includes all meals, classes, and use of facilities such as the pool and gym. 800/753-6257, oaksspa.com.
7. The good life for less
Rosewood Sand Hill in Menlo Park, Calif.
New resorts often dangle spa deals to help get the word out. That's the case with Sand Hill, a 123-room retreat that opened in April with rates low enough to make its over-the-top luxury accessible, at least through the end of the year. Everything about the hotel broadcasts excess, from the huge rooms (starting at 527 square feet) and designer Italian bed linens to the giant rain showerheads and marble bathtubs. The many freebies at the heated outdoor pool—smoothie shots, melon balls, and frozen grapes delivered hourly to your chaise—will help you forget (momentarily) that you'll be picking up the tab for meals at Sand Hill's pricey rustic-American restaurant (entrées start at $22). Even the spa treatments aim for grandeur: The Forest Sanctuary option includes a redwood-scented body wrap that evokes northern California's outsize natural resources.
Best deal: Until December 31, the A Girl's Gotta Get Away weekend package starts at $185 per night and includes a bottle of sparkling wine, a $100 spa credit, and a $50 breakfast credit. 650/561-1500, rosewoodsandhill.com.
8. The beachfront yoga retreat
Maya Tulum Wellness Retreat & Spa in Tulum, Mexico
At the still-almost-pristine south end of the booming Riviera Maya, an hour and a half from Cancún, Maya Tulum specializes in weeklong programs that are popular with both novices and experts. (Many experienced yoga instructors even come here for training programs to beef up their skills.) Guests stay in the 45 thatched-roof palapas with net-draped beds and private bathrooms, and most rooms have views of the Caribbean.
The larger of the two yoga pavilions accommodates up to 80 people, but bring your own mat if you want to practice on the beach—borrowed resort mats aren't allowed on the sand. (You'll also need to pack your own bug repellent and beach towel—and a flashlight, since the grounds are dark at night.) In the spa, local cacao, honey, and clay are used for the six Mayan-themed wraps, scrubs, and massages. A nopal-and-aloe-vera wrap ensures that even the painfully sunburned can share in the pampering. Seven stunning (secret) hideaways
Best deal: A seven-day Mind-Body-Spirit program costs $1,368 and includes airport transfers, meals—typically casual, seafood-focused Mexican dishes like shrimp ceviche and fish tacos—twice-daily yoga classes, two spa treatments, and two half-day excursions, such as snorkeling at the Dos Ojos cenote or checking out the Mayan ruins at Cobá. 888/515-4580, mayatulum.com.
9. The historic New England charmer
The Spa at Equinox in Manchester Village, Vt.
Last year's $20 million renovation, with interiors by New York City designer Geoffrey Bradfield, gave this 240-year-old southern Vermont resort a much-needed elegant update (think striped sofas, wrought-iron tables, and stylized tree-branch patterns in the rugs). The 13,000-square-foot spa, added to the Equinox in 2005, has a 75-foot-long heated indoor lap pool and a lounge with a fireplace—plus a list of locally appropriate treatment options like a maple sugar body scrub. If you feel like getting out, Manchester Center, less than three miles away, is the perfect place to go bargain-hunting: It's home to dozens of designer outlets, including Burberry, Theory, and Tse.
Best deal: Weekdays from November 1 to April 30, the three-night Cloud 999 package costs $999 per room and includes a $999 spa credit—enough to cover one full treatment per person per day, with just enough left over for a $35 Express Manicure. 800/362-4747, equinoxresort.com
10. The desert oasis
Desert Springs JW Marriott Resort & Spa in Palm Desert, Calif.
At 38,000 square feet, Desert Springs in the Coachella Valley is one of California's largest spas. In the newly remodeled space, you'll find everything from separate men's and women's hammams to digitally programmable Kohler rain showers (for those who must have the water temperature just so). The hotel's 884 rooms are equally well decked out: All have 37-inch HDTV screens, granite vanities, and private balconies with views of the resort pools or the surrounding Santa Rosa and San Jacinto mountains. Of the eight restaurants on the property, the liveliest scenes are at the Lobby Bar and at Mikado, a popular spot for cocktails and sushi.
Best deal: The Escape! Spa Package starts at $409 per room per night and includes breakfast, two treatments, and access to the pool and the 4,000-plus-square-foot gym. 888/538-9459, desertspringsresort.com.