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Spa Getaways


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Pour yourself into a milk bath at Gaucin. Drink up a ginger tea wrap at Spa Mystique. Get stoned—a hot-stone massage, that is—at the Spa at Pebble Beach. Those are just some of the offerings at Dana Point’s St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa, the Century Plaza in Los Angeles and the Inn at Spanish Bay in Pebble Beach. As an ongoing sign of devotion to our readers, we’ve assiduously researched each getaway. Don’t thank us—just read on, and prepare to enjoy.

massage tables at the st. regis monarch beach resort and spaDana Point

The St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa’s new Gaucin facility bathes guests in upscale splendor

I feel like a warm giant cornflake. That’s my first thought after slipping into a bango del latte (milk bath) at Dana Point’s Gaucin. A hydrotherapy tub is relaxing my muscles through 48 water jets. A lovely spa attendant has added bath salts and spritzed the air with a lavender scent. Then she adds the treatment’s namesake to the bath water—half a gallon of vitamin D milk. Yes, just like the kind in the red cartons at Ralphs.

As years pass, I find myself more open to the various pampering options available at spas. Not long ago, I was a dude who wouldn’t be caught dead in a tub of milk—much less one fortified with rosewood and palmarosa flowers. Yet here I now sit like a bulky latte garnish, with cucumber slices covering my eyes, no less.

Owing to my still-transitional phase into spa maven—and partly to having skipped breakfast—I eventually opt to eat the cucumbers. The oranges and raspberries left alongside the tub also quickly disappear. When Brenee, my attendant, returns, she replenishes the scene with a whole plate of cukes and sliced green apples. Not since I was 4—when Mom would respond to a request for a Scuba G.I. Joe, or one of those Captain Crunch diving subs—has tubside service been so eagerly offered and accepted.

Gaucin, a 30,000-square-foot facility, is a year-old addition to the lavish St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa, an upscale resort’s idea of an upscale resort. Reference to the 400-room St. Regis as “a beachfront property” is a bit of a stretch, though. The Pacific Ocean is definitely viewable from the Tuscan-inspired terrace (overlooking a grass lawn and a collection of swimming pools and whirlpools). But it’s a five-minute tram ride to Dana Point’s Monarch Beach.

Especially at night, a tram is recommended to get to the Monarch Bay Club restaurant. It’s essentially off-property, but staffed by St. Regis employees, and offers artistic portions of fresh seafood.

A serious discussion of seafood, however, begins and ends with The Restaurant, a casually elegant (and soon to be more creatively named) eatery on the third floor of the St. Regis. Jumbo shrimp and shelled crab claws are complemented by creatively delicious scallop and calamari salads. It’s off the charts.

If you overdo it at the brunch, the gym inside Gaucin welcomes you for free (a disappearing trend at many upscale spas). Each and every treadmill, exercise bike and cross-trainer has a personal, flat-screen TV (in fact, nearly every TV on property and in guest rooms is digital and/or high-definition).

After a spin on the treadmill, 25 treatment rooms are available for a luxurious wind-down. I get an hour-long sports massage from the lovely and talented Brenee, particularly adept at scalp massage, who is owed personal thank-you notes from every joint in my body.

Maybe as my personal spa repertoire continues to expand, I’ll check out some of Gaucin’s signature body treatments and wraps—including the salas per aquam (making use of Moor mud and ground rosemary), the avocado cream wrap or the orange frappé wrap (a recipe of oranges, honey and yogurt). Why do I suddenly feel the urge to return to that brunch?

Better yet, it’s time to go lie down. The St. Regis hasn’t been open long enough to have been appraised by the hotel-rating organizations. But when the ratings do arrive, look for the stars and diamonds to come by the handful. My first-class, first-floor suite—complete with a patio—has a golf course view. A cool in-room design touch: a cantilevered window that separates a spacious bathroom from the bedroom. Back-to-back days found me watching the main room’s 32-inch digital TV through that window, while relaxing in the extra-deep sunken bathtub. Latte not included.

—Ron Donoho

If You Go

The St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa in Dana Point can be reached at 800-722-1543. A superior room starts at $375 per night; the superior executive suite goes for $800. A presidential suite (complete with your own butler) runs you $3,500.

Gaucin’s phone number is 949-234-3367. Treatment rates vary: A full-session massage with a 25-minute bath is $177.

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