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Spa-cation: a mind-body reboot

Transform your next beach vacation into a wellness holiday

There’s a growing sector in the travel market that centers on destination spas, on health and wellness retreats. This summer is the perfect time to plan yours. Spa-cations are fast-becoming the new way to relax and more importantly nowadays, “unplug” from the modern world. These spa vacations can be as grand as a trip to a luxurious spa resort abroad, or via local spa sanctuary. This first of a three-part summer special is about creating an authentic beauty and wellness vacation within your reach.

When on vacation or a business trip—visiting a new country, hotel or resort, or any place for that matter— you can almost always find me heading out to the spa. If I’m out to spend for more than the usual massage, I go for head-to-toe pampering. If I need something quick and inexpensive, I try a hand or foot spa, or maybe even a head or dry back massage. If time or budget doesn’t permit, I visit the place and review the spa menu over tea.

A spa visit for me, like going to restaurants, is a great way to experience a place and learn about culture and heritage. I’m also bound to discover something new and learn about signature services, techniques, or special oils and natural ingredients used. Like that Lulur turmeric scrub in Bali, or the heavenly, stress-melting hot stone massage in Seoul at The Four Seasons Hotel and specialty spas, or even the hard and borderline-painful (yet effective!) foot reflexology massage in Taiwan. Everyone offers something different: a unique treatment or approach to an otherwise standard spa service.

  • Destination: Spa-cation—planning a spa and wellness holiday is as easy as planning a trip to the beach
  • Rain The Spa at the Pico Sands Hotel offers a complete rejuvenating experience. You can also book your spa treatment at Pico de Loro’s Santelmo Cove for an exclusive spa sanctuary
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  • Coast to coast.  Island and cove-hopping at Hamilo is a great way to explore its marine-rich, turquoise waters
  • Heavenly hideaway. Book your own private island and set up a spa session for the ultimate spa-cation
  • Destination: Spa-cation—planning a spa and wellness holiday is as easy as planning a trip to the beach
  • Rain The Spa at the Pico Sands Hotel offers a complete rejuvenating experience. You can also book your spa treatment at Pico de Loro’s Santelmo Cove for an exclusive spa sanctuary
  • Coast to coast. Island and cove-hopping at Hamilo is a great way to explore its marine-rich, turquoise waters
  • Heavenly hideaway. Book your own private island and set up a spa session for the ultimate spa-cation

 

Blissful beauty

Spa-cations however, need not be intricately planned. And we don’t even have to travel far. Here in the Philippines, we house some of the best spa and wellness centers in the world (in Manila, Batangas, Cebu, Bohol, Davao, and Palawan to name a few). Aside from these spa destinations, what most of us forget is that we can integrate a spa escape during our usual summer vacations—whether that means a trip with family or a few close friends, or a personal trip for much needed me-time.

One recent discovery is Pico de Loro Cove at Hamilo Coast. Located at Nasugbu, Batangas, it is a sprawling seaside sanctuary, 90 minutes away from Manila.  Whether you choose to stay at a fully furnished condominium or at the Pico Sands Hotel, it is very suitable for group trips, most especially for a total mind-body reboot. I have been to the place quite a few times but until recently, I have found a way to elevate my experience of the resort and residential area.

You can start your wellness retreat with morning meditation followed by a morning run. If you’re like me and prefer running outdoors with a view, instead of working out on a treadmill while watching TV in a cramped gym, you’ll easily enjoy jogging from Pico’s man-made lagoon, making your way towards the beach. You can explore the whole property leisurely and at your own pace. If you need a more energizing boost, you can bike, play tennis or hit the gym at the Country Club.

The best way to incorporate your spa-cation on a regular family holiday is to capitalize on finding places that offer many options for both family and alone time. After you’ve squeezed in and established some time for yourself, you can get back to spending time with family. Here you can hit the pool or the beach with family, and try out group activities. Recreation here run the gamut from the usual water sports (jet ski, kayak, paddle board, and wind surfing) to nature-tripping like bird watching and hiking. But since Hamilo Coast houses thirteen coves, including three marine-protected areas, snorkeling and scuba diving are easily at the top of the list.

 

The escape plan

A great activity would be the island and cove tour where you can cruise along the private coastline of Hamilo. You can enjoy the sun, sea breeze, and the view as you kick back in your boat. You can check out Turtle Island and an elephant-shaped island (Balibago), or explore a small cove called Etayo cave. Here you can pass through, weather-permitting, to check out the bats. But the best part of Hamilo is jumping into crystal clear waters—so make sure to be brought to snorkeling or diving sites.

The highlight of a Hamilo Coast spa-cation doesn’t end there. I’ve discovered that it has an untouched, hidden gem that most visitors like me don’t know about. Perfectly tucked away and only a few minutes by boat from Pico de Loro Beach and Country Club is Santelmo Cove—a secluded beach where you can start, or end, your wellness trip. For four hours, you can have this island all to yourself! A pristine paradise, Santelmo offers itself as a heavenly hideaway to its guests. With its fine white sand, turquoise waters and rich marine life, it is dubbed as “Little Boracay.” Like your own private island, Santelmo gives you a renewed sense of how to spend a stress-free vacation. There’s no noise, no neighbors, but there’s lots of breathing space. Swim, snorkel or simply lounge by the beach. You can even have a special lunch or dinner by the beach set up for you. Or maybe have a small picnic after all that swimming.

This insider tip is the key to having the ultimate wellness retreat—upon booking Santelmo Island, remember to book a spa service from Pico de Loro Hotel’s Rain The Spa. With the advantage of being away from crowds and being left to just the beauty of nature, Santelmo is where you can have your very own spa sanctuary. I can’t think of a more tranquil setting to relax and rejuvenate than at the heart of nature.

In a little nook on the island under the shaded trees, you can engage your senses. They can set up your quiet zone: get a blissful spa treatment, have real shut-eye time, and fully detach from electronics (or “e-tox”).  A spa experience as personalized as this is a great way to elevate your wellness experience.

 

Rain The Spa

Conveniently located at the Pico Sands Hotel’s ground floor is the intimate set up of Rain The Spa. I highly recommend their signature Barako Body Scrub and Hilot massage, an invigorating spa-cation combo. Kape barako which is Batangas’ strong coffee, awakens the senses and nourishes the skin. Mixed with citrus oils, this in-house concoction reduces water retention, diminishes cellulite, and naturally brightens skin.

I personally like my massages with heavy kneading, and the traditional Filipino hilot does the trick. The technique of hilot lies in addressing tight muscles that cause heaviness or pain, relieving the body through soothing strokes and applying the right amount of pressure. This Filipino art of healing uses deep and long strokes to bring back balance and a harmonious flow—clearing out energy imbalances from stiff spots, or lamig as we call it. They use banana leaf-infused virgin coconut oil and essential oils to enhance its benefits. This decadent spa session recharges the tired body, mind and soul.

You can book during the day and take a dip in the tub with a view of the serene lagoon, get in the sauna and prepare for the treatment. You can opt to book late afternoon or early evening for a good night’s sleep. Reserve the spacious executive suite for you and your partner, or again, just book it for yourself. Other noteworthy treatments include Indulgence Glow for a scrub with body and scalp massage for renewing skin, a Deep Cleansing Facial for radiant skin, and a Refresh or Rejuvenate spa package for hydrotherapy, massage therapy, and overall well-being. The use of vegan and organic ingredients endemic to Batangas, India, China, and Egypt makes the spa well worth a visit.

On your next trip, as you prepare your action-packed itinerary, set aside some time for a spa-cation. Many of us are unaware of wellness offerings in most hotels and resorts. A little research can go a long way; take the initiative and create your own idea of a wellness getaway, making use of what is readily available in the area. In the end, this will make your summer vacation as much a restful and rejuvenating experience, as it is fun.

 

Pico de Loro Cove is located at Hamilo Coast, Brgy. Papaya, Nasugbu, Batangas; for more information, go to www.picodelorocove.com or www.picosandshotel.com, or contact (2) 464-7825 or 45, (2) 464-78888