Fort Lauderdale just can’t seem to shake its reputation as a place where college kids behave badly. As one local recently bemoaned, “Nobody believes this city has dramatically changed until they visit and see it with their own eyes.” The strip of low-slung motels that once lined the beachfront has been replaced by soaring buildings bearing names like Ritz-Carlton, W, Hilton and Westin. Luckily for locals and visitors, most of these hotels have in-house spas (all of them open to day guests), making the area an inviting destination for those seeking serenity as well as sun.
One of the best ways to treat yourself on a sun-filled trip is by having a good cleansing facial. The Spa Atlantic offers 7 of them—including one specifically for after-sun and another customized for men; acid peel and vitamin C add-ons are also available. Spray tanning is an option for those who avoid the sun but would prefer to look like they don’t, and the Signature Beer Treatment, a wrap-and-soak combo, offers a nod to the area’s former spring-break popularity. The spa’s lovely private pool is available to anyone who books a treatment. Or you can buy a day pass to gain access to the steam room, sauna, Jacuzzi and locker room.
601 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd.; 1.954.567.8085; atlantichotelfl.com
Bonaventure Resort & Spa
Guests are offered a glass of champagne pre- and post-treatment at this spa in Weston, a 40-minute drive from the beach. At 48,000 square feet, aLaya is one of the largest spas in southern Florida, with 30 treatment rooms (5 with Vichy showers and 3 for couples), a spa café with a nutritious, organic locavore menu, an outdoor private pool and Zen garden, and a very large gym with separate yoga studios. After a round of golf on the property’s championship course, get rejuvenated by a salt-therapy or mineral-marine bath, followed by a hand-and-foot reflexology session.
250 Racquet Club Rd., Weston; 1.954.349.5500; bonaventureresortandspa.com
W Fort Lauderdale
At 4,000 square feet, Bliss is smaller than other area spas, but it offers a full range of treatments. You can snack on brownies in the waiting area, and then try a treatment that also involves edibles, albeit healthier ones. The 90-minute Carrot and Sesame Body Buff takes place in the spa’s Vichy shower room, with the therapist clad in waterproof overalls and wellies. The scrub itself, prepared on-site prior to your treatment, is a mixture of grated carrots and essential oils. It’s rubbed onto your skin, followed by a blend of milk (a natural exfoliant and moisturizer) and honey. You let it all soak in for 20 minutes; then you’re scrubbed with sesame seeds and sea salt, and covered in body butter.
Bliss offers add-ons and upgrades for most treatments. If you’re planning to spend a lot of time in the sun and sea, you might opt for the Hair Dew while wrapped in the above carrot concoction. This conditioning treatment, delivered via acupressure scalp massage, leaves your hair silky smooth and smelling like vetiver.
Bonus: The spa’s sunny private balcony is a lovely alternative to the sometimes less-than-serene pool area. Spa guests can order meals from any of the hotel’s restaurants and dine there alfresco.
401 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd.; 1.954.414.8232; wfortlauderdalehotel.com
Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale
The Spa at the Ritz-Carlton epitomizes upscale Zen. The picture windows in its elegant relaxation room frame expansive views of both the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean. There’s nothing trendy here, simply a menu of treatments done very well. The Skin Fit Lifting facial, dubbed “Pilates for the face,” consists of a “facial workout” using microcurrents from the NuFace toning device, followed by a retinol SkinCeuticals gel peel. The Intuitive Ocean Treatment, 2 hours of pure indulgence, combines aromatherapy (delivered via scrub, massage and full-body mask) with a soak in a chromatherapy tub, where lights change color every few minutes, which is said to calm the mind and the body.
1 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd.; 1.954.302.6490; ritzcarlton.com
Heavenly Spa by Westin
Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa
The spa scene’s newest addition, which recently opened in Hollywood, 10 miles south of Fort Lauderdale, is a 14,000-square-foot beauty inspired by the sea in soothing shades of blue, green and gold. The 10 treatment rooms include one equipped with a Vichy shower; a large couples room with ocean views from the soaking tub; and a halotherapy steam room, where you breathe steam infused with salt and essential oils. Try the Energizing Scrub, which uses olive grains to exfoliate the skin, or book a 25-minute aromatic scalp-and-shoulder massage with a moisturizing hair oil. The 2-hour Indulge journey includes a dry brush exfoliation, hydrating wrap and full-body massage.
The 24-hour, 2-story gym is just as impressive as the spa. Besides all the expected equipment, it offers yoga classes and guided runs. Left your workout gear at home? You can borrow New Balance shorts, tees and shoes for a $5 fee. The café’s menu of “SuperFoods Rx-infused” dishes includes sushi, salads and sandwiches.
3555 S. Ocean Dr., Hollywood; 1.954.602.8400; diplomatresort.com
NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.