Bespoke treatments in a fashionable setting

An inside look at the Aviara Spa at the Park Hyatt in Carlsdad


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When the Park Hyatt took over the Four Seasons Aviara last June, many people, including myself, wondered exactly what this meant for that regal duchess, sitting above the estuaries of Carlsbad with epic sweeping Pacific views. I have always loved the feel of this luxe property, with its formal charm and old-school attentive service. Having written for Spa Magazine for seven years, with visits to more than 200 spas across the country, I was particularly curious to see the new vision for the Aviara Spa.

I knew I was in good hands when I walked in and saw director of spa operations Kyra Johnson. Part of a dynamic San Diego duo (her husband is chef William Bradley at Addison), Johnson has opened nine spas for Park Hyatt, including the celebrated Gainey Ranch property in Scottsdale. Right off the bat, she assures me that Park Hyatt has committed to the same luxury standards and service as its predecessor and that 95 percent of the staff has remained. Kudos to them for that. This favorite San Diego spa has been rated in the Top 25 Spas in North America by Travel + Leisure for the past 10 years — and judging from my day there, it should remain on that prestigious list.

The concept centers around personalized wellness rituals, so no two are alike and yet cost the same price. “Historically,” explains Johnson, “the term ‘bespoke’ is used in fashion, meaning every aspect of the garment is tailored to the wearer. The same is true for our spa: Every aspect of the treatment is tailored to your specific needs.” Rather than opting for one type of massage, guests are encouraged to incorporate several modalities. My curiosity is piqued, since I agree that wellness therapies should be personally tailored to the exact needs of an individual, not confined by a set spa menu.

In the airy sunlit solarium I nibble on artisanal cheese bedecked with fans of kiwi, feeling cozy in a Frette robe, Architectural Digest in hand, until my therapist appears and gently whisks me off to our treatment room. I appreciate the open curtains overlooking a simple garden patio with greenery and sunlight instead of a typical dark cave. She spends five minutes thoughtfully interviewing me about my physical and emotional state. How my feet are feeling? Would I like a foot scrub integrated into the massage? Yes, please. Am I sore from working out? How about some stretching too? Great idea. Since the spa carries the prestigious Aromatherapy Associates line (created by Princess Diana’s personal therapist), would I like to add aromatherapy as well? Absolutely. I request something to calm my monkey-chatter brain. Any interest in a dry-brush treatment to enhance my circulation? Why not. Just when I think it can’t get any better, she suggests a little anti-aging eyelift bonus.

I tuck into soft cocooning linens and let her work her magic. At the end of the day, no matter how many bells and whistles are presented, it’s all about the therapist’s expertise. While some people are purists and just want a straight massage, I appreciate all these additional treats; they do, indeed, elevate the experience. The natural brush bristles slough off some of my dry skin; I breathe in the chosen destressing essential oil — notes of frankincense, chamomile, rosemary and geranium — and relax into her hands. The foot scrub brings extra attention to my sore feet, while an adept use of hot towels warms my muscles. The excellent massage sends me into a deep alpha state, on the verge of tipping into sleep. She gently encircles my eyes with lifting serum and then remembers the extra attention I have requested on my scalp. Deep sigh.

My facial is equally enjoyable as expert fingers bath, exfoliate, hydrate and caress my skin with the superior Paris skin line Darphin. The redolent scent of roses fills the air, and I leave with glowing, nourished skin, impressed again by the level of “bespoke” service.
After relaxing in the lavender-scented steam room and dipping in the Jacuzzi, I recline in the old world – style lounge with its beige tiles and Roman columns, sipping champagne and cherishing chocolate-covered strawberries. For those of you who are still wondering what the Aviara Spa is like now, guess what: It’s even better. ­parkaviara.hyatt.com.

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