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Top 10: Hottest hotel spas

No longer an add-on afterthought, hotel spas are becoming innovators in the field.
The Spa at Chiva Som
The Spa at Chiva SomChiva Som / Chiva Som
/ Source: Forbes

It's pretty much conceded by industry professionals that the spa market is nearly mature. There aren't too many more consumers out there to convert, unless you count the men who will likely never be any more than occasional dabblers.

But at the same time, more and more hotels are fine-tuning their spa services in response to increased guest demand. At least in the U.S., it seems, if you don't have a spa, you're not really a full-service hotel.

Luxury hotels have been partnering with beauty companies, offering unusual treatments that go beyond the standard facial and massage. They have created spa spaces that are destinations rather than afterthoughts and treatments geared toward male clients. These concepts may have a ripple effect on hotel spas in the coming years.

Taking advantage of abundant square footage, soaring ceilings and an air of tradition that's elegant and not stuffy, Ritz-Carlton, part of Marriott International (nyse: MAR - news - people ), has set the standard for domestic hotel spas. But even a champ has to develop a few new tricks to stay at the top of the game. This February the company launched a joint venture with Prada Beauty for a select number of Ritz-Carlton spas to distribute its products.

At first glance, it seems like a mismatch: Spas have long used professional products that clients could mainly buy only through the spa or direct from small manufacturers. Yet Prada Beauty products are available at department-store outlets like Neiman Marcus (nyse: NMGA - news - people ) and Saks Fifth Avenue (nyse: SKS - news - people ). But Prada Beauty's skin care line is superior to more ho-hum private-label ventures that fashion houses sometimes offer, and its name has far higher brand recognition than any traditional spa line. Ritz-Carlton gets to burnish its grande dame image with the more trendy and youthful Prada.

New York's Hotel Gansevoort opened in 2004, and while occupancy in the trendy Meatpacking District lodge has been high, its nightlife-addicted guests have also clamored for spa amenities. Lacking land to expand, the hotel made use of what could be considered the basement area--its new G Spa is one floor down from the lobby.

The space is not large, but it is innovative: The hotel is marketing it as a first-of-its-kind "hybrid spa-lounge." Past the reception area is a bar, which opens around 10 P.M., after the spa closes. Through a nearby door and to the right is a "wet area"--hot and cold infinity pools accented by candles and flanked by leather banquettes. Spa clients hang out there during the day; hotel guests can lurk after closing.

A marble walkway separates the wet area from the three treatment rooms constructed of crimson-tinted glass (facials and massage are the specialties of the house). After hours, all the equipment fits into cabinets, so the rooms become canoodling palaces. It might not be everyone's idea of a relaxing spa experience, but it's certainly a creative use of square footage.

In-room massage services are yesterday's news--and they still haven't drawn men in great numbers to experience other spa services. But some spas won't take men's disinterest for an answer, even if it means invading sacred ground: the golf course.

CordeValle, a Rosewood Resort in San Martin, Calif., offers a "Pre-Shot Routine" massage that can be done anywhere from the driving range to the 18th hole of its course, designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Therapist and chair will show up regardless of where a player is on the course--the idea being that once bitten, golfers will flock to spa central for such treatments as "Nearest Point of Relief," to alleviate tension and tight muscles, or a pre-game upper-body treatment called "Starting Time."

Now, if someone could find a way to transport flat-screen TVs and salty snacks out to the course as well, men would never have to return to the hotel.