Exuma: Four Seasons Emerald Bay
Passing through the lobby and down the palace-like staircase of the Four Seasons on Great Exuma, I had the same rush I'd just experienced flying over the Bahamas Bank and its indigo and seafoam-green swirls of shallow water dancing alongside ribbonned white sandbars. At the resort, the rush was from the incongruous sight of full-on Four Seasons opulence set down on one of the Out Islands that, up until now, was a laid-back retreat more accustomed to dive lodges and fishing boats than world-class resorts.
I followed a series of walkways winding through lavishly planted grounds where every variation of hibiscus basked in the bright Bahamian sun. Luxurious suites were strung along the pristine sandy shore while rooms were arrayed in multi-story hotel buildings overlooking the pools and the beach. Golfers were playing on the Greg Norman-designed championship course running atop the peninsula that embraces one side of Emerald Bay; other guests were sporting on the blue water and alabaster beach or bouncing balls on the clay courts. But I, of course, had come to visit the spa.
Set apart from the main resort area is the tranquility garden, with private pools and Jacuzzis for spa guests to use pre- and après-treatments. Rising behind the garden is the two-story, 32,000-square-foot grand spa. Glass walls bring the outside in; visions of yellow hibiscus, lantana and allamanda followed me into the lobby.
I was led upstairs by Deanne, a Bahamian who exuded warmth and just the right nurturing undertones. My first stop was at adjacent "wet" rooms Day Lily and Orchid (all 17 treatment rooms have flowery names). Vases filled with shells were topped with lighted candles, and peaceful photos of water and sky hung on the walls. A hydrotherapy tub was already topped off with buttermilk orange aromatic bubbles. Deanne helped me down into the deep water and turned on the jets. As the steam rose, she layered cool compresses on my forehead, offered sips of water and massaged my head, neck and back.
Properly softened, I was then escorted to the other room and laid beneath the arms of a Vichy shower. Papaya and mango compote was rubbed onto my skin then rinsed off as part of the cleansing ritual that was followed by an application of warmed aloe oil. Deanne then sprinkled sea salt (gathered from the ponds on Little Exuma) up and down my body, working it into my skin using circular motions. After another rinse, a final soothing massage began with a generous application of oil and ended with me floating in a supremely blissful zone.
When I roused, it was time for lunch and a nap surrounded by the technicolored blooms of the tranquility garden. The only thing worth moving for was to follow Purni, a Balinese masseuse, who took me on my next sensory journey. I lay on my stomach covered in orange and gray batik sheets while her knowing and healing hands gently rolled my skin, centering me in preparation for longer, smoother strokes and caring presses. As I drifted in and out of consciousness, I had no idea if I had been there for an hour or a week.
Four Seasons Resort & Spa at Great Exuma at Emerald Bay: 242-336-6800; fourseasons.com.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication