Wellness on the water: 7 idyllic spas by the ocean

Most people love the sound of waves when getting a massage. At these seven spas, you’re getting pampered on the waves.

Vinpearl Luxury, Nha Trang, Vietnam

On Hon Tre Island off the coast of Nha Trang, this lavish retreat comes with the country’s only over-the-water spa sanctuary. Akoya’s thatched-roof wellness suites are the epitome of calm, on stilts above the sea and with floor-to-ceiling windows that open to the ocean they overlook. These very views inspired many of the spa’s signature treatments, from the Thalgo Source Marine Ritual facial, using products infused with antioxidant-rich algae – to the Warm Bamboo massage, for deep muscle relaxation. If you have half a day to spare, book one of the packages: the 150-minute Ultimate Indulgence includes a body scrub, floral bath, four-hand massage, facial and foot acupressure massage. Phew!

Wellness on the water Vinpearl Luxury
Vinpearl Luxury, Nha Trang, Vietnam

Song Saa Private Island, Cambodia

Low in impact, high in style, Song Saa’s 27 thatched-roof villas are scattered over Koh Ouen, a tiny jungle-laced outcrop in Cambodia’s Koh Rong archipelago, off the coast of Sihanoukville. The eco-sensitive retreat’s nature-inspired design flows into the self-billed “spa without walls”, a collection of muslin-draped open-air pavilions dotted around the island – and over its lagoon. Part of the resort’s 100-hectare marine reserve, these warm waters are a blissful backdrop for dreamy treatments, many of which celebrate the country’s wellness traditions: drive away negative energy and be blessed by Buddhist monks, or bliss out with Khmer rituals involving a herbal poultice and detoxifying massage. For added allure, book your therapy under the cover of evening darkness, stars twinkling overhead and waves lapping below.

Conrad Maldives, Rangali Island

From its undersea rooms and restaurant to its overwater bungalows and multiple pools, water sets the scene at this shiny Maldivian resort. And then there’s the Over-water Spa, its glass-floored, semi-open treatment rooms stilted above the Indian Ocean. The five signature Auras rituals are designed to correspond with chakras, whether that’s your heart chakra (to bring harmony) or your sacral chakra (to re-invigorate), with therapists personalising the flow of the therapy according to energy levels. Book the Throat Chakra experience for a deeply purifying two-hour unwind, beginning with a body exfoliation and wrap and ending with a scalp and deep-tissue massage. There are luxe alternatives, including one that nods to the resort’s biggest asset: marine detox, anyone?

Wellness on the water: Conrad Maldives Rangali Island
Conrad Maldives, Rangali Island

Ritz-Carlton Langkawi, Malaysia

As if this resort’s location – amid Malaysia’s 10-million-year-old rainforest and on the beaches of the Andaman Sea – wasn’t calming enough, its six overwater spa ‘cocoons’ induce next-level bliss with their water-themed therapies and private balconies. Designed by Tropical Area Architects to resemble Malay bubus (intricately woven fish traps used for centuries by local fishermen), the wooden retreats feature a treatment menu inspired by the island’s generations of shamans and midwives: our pick is the Mystical Ocean and Earth ritual, which unites a hot stone massage with a marine mud wrap to relax, release tension and restore skin glow.

Wellness on the water: Ritz Carlton Langkawi, Malaysia
Ritz Carlton Langkawi, Malaysia

Kokomo Private Island, Fiji

Your stresses will float away – quite literally – when you practise yoga at Kokomo, where sunrise and sunset salutations are practised on a pontoon, surrounded by ocean. On a 55-hectare private island within easy reach of the immense Great Astrolabe Reef, the resort’s wellness activities are often curated by visiting practitioners. Even when they’re not, the full roster of physical activities is complemented by natural therapies (acupuncture, rolfing) and treatments in Yaukuve Spa Sanctuary, where you can book Mineral Marine Repair facials and Seashell massages, as well as multi-day journeys that include health consultations, body and face therapies, spa cuisine and fitness sessions. Be sure to arrange for your massage bed to be set up on the sand.

Ayana Resort & Spa Bali, Indonesia

Bali has its fair share of incredible spas, but none impress quite as much as Ayana’s Thermes Marins. This frangipani-scented haven is home to the island’s most expansive thalassotherapy circuit, not to mention two glass-encased treatment salas atop enormous rocks in the Indian Ocean. There are 115 steps down the cliff face to these private pavilions, where rose-petal-strewn tubs and treatment beds with water views await. If you’re going to splash out, do so with diamonds, silk, pearls and champagne: the Diamond Miracle ritual is 150 minutes of float-away bliss, from your soak (petals are plucked from 500 red roses) to your Balinese massage (the oil is bound with silk and pearl) to the La Mer facial, using a formula infused with diamond dust. It all ends with strawberries and champagne, of course.

Wellness on the water Ayana Resort & Spa Bali
Ayana Resort & Spa Bali

Bota Bota, Montreal, Canada

You’ve heard about cruise ships with spa centres, but what about a whole boat dedicated to wellbeing? Enter Bota Bota spa-sur-l’eau (‘spa on water’), a renovated barge anchored on Montreal’s St. Lawrence River. Given its setting, the retreat’s water circuit is particularly enticing, encouraging guests to jump between hot and cold plunge pools (some alfresco), followed by stints in a eucalyptus steam room and sauna. The goal is to improve circulation, eliminating toxins and boosting immunity in the process. Broad boat decks have been transformed into idyllic outdoor pilates venues, while the 18 treatment rooms can be booked for massages, facials and body scrubs. When your pampering comes to an end, find a hammock in Bota Bota’s adjoining private garden and gaze over the river pondering your next cruise to this part of the world.

Wellness on the water: Bota Bota, Montreal Canada
Bota Bota, Montreal Canada

This story first appeared in Vacations & Travel magazine, Summer 2019/2020, issue 113.

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