Winter struck Miami on the night I stayed at Canyon Ranch Miami Beach. The wind was howling, hotel guests from up North wore black wool coats and sipped hot soup, and I honestly thought it was going to snow.

On any ordinary vacation day in Florida I would have been totally bummed, but at Canyon Ranch there is so much to do inside that I was thrilled to not have any other options. I can always bum around on a beach, but it’s not every day you get access to one of the most distinguished spa and wellness facilities on earth.

I was invited by the hotel’s managing director Matthais Kammerer (Tweet him – he rocks! He lives and breathes the wellness vacation lifestyle every day) to stay for one night during the holidays when I was down visiting friends. Before I even arrived, the personalization began. Alfredo, one of their program managers, called to arrange my spa visit. After telling him my preferences (a deep, strong massage, something unique) he recommended, with almost no alternative, that I get the De-Stress Chakra Ritual, a 100 minute treatment that is “simply the best”. No argument there, Alfredo! You MUST go down to the end of this post to read about it, because I saved the best for last.

I soon received welcoming emails confirming my itinerary and directing me to the extensive list of activities available that week. At Canyon Ranch, from 7 am til 7 pm every day, you choose as many activities as you can—or care to–squeeze in: beach conditioning, sunrise yoga, yoga Nidra, Kundalini yoga, Pilates with props, mediation, dance, cycling, breathing, core training, boot camp, water aerobics, Buff Ballet Body, Budoko, Kipaz, Kinesis, Gyrokenesis… or you can opt to sit back and learn about the wellness lifestyle at lectures on topics ranging from Chinese tongue diagnosis to treating neck stiffness. Most are included with your stay and are walk-in, but some require sign-ups and/or additional fees.

There’s a full fitness center overlooking the ocean, multiple pools, a rock climbing wall, various restaurants—all with healthy, gourmet menus… and then of course, THE SPA. The glorious spa with its state-of-the-art Aquavana® thermal center, a lavish indoor playground of healing waters, thermal cabins and soaking tubs. It’s like camp for adults who crave relaxation and really hot bodies. I was forming itineraries in my sleep! Would I actually be the type of person rise at the crack of dawn? Are 3 yoga classes too much for one day?

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I haven’t even arrived yet.

Okay, now I’ve arrived.

THE SUITE + LOBBY:

After doing cheerleader-style tumblesaults (in my head, at least) across my gorgeous suite, I slipped out of my clothes and into my luxurious white robe and slippers, sashayed around my contemporary ranch, decidedly content if Miami were to get snowed in for months. I had a full kitchen with granite countertops and a fresh fruit platter, a living room boasting sleek couches and big soft pillows, a 400-thread-count bed that sunk in for days, 2 giant flat screen TVs, and an enormous spa-like bathroom with Italian glass tile mosaics, complete with a deep soaking tub and large multi-jet shower.

After luxuriating in the peaceful company of my cozy King sized bed for about an hour, I headed downstairs to explore. The lobby is a bright, beachy, contemporary place with a handful of gathering areas to play board games, read books, eat snacks and just chill. Almost nobody was outside in the unusual weather (I tried—getting whipped by sand is not my idea of a good exfoliation), but the secluded beachfront forayed into a sunny partio of large, inviting outdoor couches, cabanas, and an infinity pool. The quick and attentive staff are everywhere to set up your chairs and deliver poolside/beachfront food and drinks.

THE FOOD:

If only all restaurants were as diet-conscious and delicious as Canyon Ranch, the world would be a much healthier, skinnier place. All the menus are refreshingly guilt-free and list nutrition information. The Cabana poolside cafe has light options like whole wheat chicken quesadillas (yum), and the Carillon Lounge inside mixes up a full menu of fresh, light, inspired cocktail creations.

In the Canyon Ranch Grill, the main dining area, I recommend the melt-in-your-mouth avocado tartar appetizer (above left) and the Chilean Sea bass (although it’s hard to go wrong with sea bass). Their Whole Wheat flatbread with Fig And Maytag Blue Cheese caramelized onion, arugula and balsamic glaze (below left) was a sweet, carb-quenching favorite of mine, but the most memorable dish was the Baked Artichoke Fries (click for the recipe!).

Breakfast dishes like pancakes and sausage (above right), as well as dessert portions, were kept small to keep the flavor loud and the calories low. However, everything managed to still satisfy me—a tough, yet simple life lesson to tuck away and take home from your stay at Canyon Ranch.

THE CLASSES + ACTIVITIES

In an effort to pack light, sneakers didn’t make the cut for this vacation (mistake), so I had to stick to the barefoot classes, and due to weather, outdoor activities were canceled. Good thing my all-time favorite exercise is yoga. During my 36 hour stay I did Yoga Nidra the first evening, the next morning I did Yoga I-II (power yoga) before lunch and a stretching yoga afterwards, and then in the evening did a breathing/meditation class. The instructors were extremely talented and helpful; one of the things I learned is that there’s an ACTUAL reason I like to do child’s pose during my flow every time in between upward dog and downward dog–I told the instructor I have scoliosis, and she said that it makes total sense that it feels extra good for me to stretch like that. Thrilled to know my flow really serves a purpose—yogi friends, consider this concept when you alter your practice, every body is different.

THE AQUAVANA® EXPERIENCE

If (WHEN) you visit Canyon Ranch Miami Beach, leave yourself ample time to spend in the Aquavana before and after your spa treatments. I’m talking at least an hour on both ends.
Fall asleep on the Thermal Heated Loungers by the HydroSpa, detox inside the Crystal Steam Room, which includes aromatic essential oils and refracted colored light. Relax your muscles inside the Herbal Laconium and Finnish Sauna, dance in the various Experiential Rains, and breathe in the icy juxtaposed blend of menthol, mint and eucalyptus in the Igloo.

THE SPA TREATMENT: 100 MINUTE DE-STRESS CHAKRA RITUAL

Before going into your treatment, and after eating a delicious handful of chocolatey nutty trail mix and reading Vogue in the relaxation room, you will be escorted by your therapist to choose a gemstone from a large bowl in a long, dim hallway leading to the treatment rooms. This stone will set the tone for your spa experience—there is a reason your eye was drawn to that particular one. I drew out a clear quartz stone, which is said to stimulate brain power and aid in clarity of mind. Certainly all clear to me so far.

The ritual took place in 3 parts. First I soaked in the deep, warm salt bath you see above for about 20 minutes to soften skin, loosen muscles and soothe tension with heat. Then, I was assisted in wrapping up in a few of their oversized fluffy towels and taken to a nearby room to complete the next 2 parts, which followed with one of the best hour-long massages I’ve ever had. She used different modalities ranging from Ayurveda to Swedish, and thoroughly addressed every inch of my body with her attentive, energy-infusing hands.

Then came the good euphoric vibrations: Chakra Sound Therapy to balance, tune up and energize my 7 chakras—my bodys’ energy centers. Chromotherapy also played a big role in the treatment–lights on the ceiling steadily changed colors for the full 100 minutes. Each chakra is associated with a different color, and your eyes don’t need to be open for your body to absorb them. Between the light and the sound creating all this newfound free-flowing energy, my energy escaped me and I fell asleep. I can only remember one other spa treatment I feel asleep for–which, by the way, is very flattering to your therapist–but that’s because it was early in the morning. This—this was pure bliss.

Needless to say, I would recommend Canyon Ranch Miami Beach as a destination for all your wellness pursuits, whether you have a week to indulge, or 1 night you want to turn into a full wellness journey. To hold you over until your visit, download the Canyon Ranch iPad Apps and bring the experience to you.

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