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California spas: body wraps, massages and facials--now they're for golfers and stressed execs, too.

Here at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa in Southern California, usually the main attraction is the championship golf course rather than the state-of-the-art spa. But increasingly, CEOs are putting down their golf bags and discovering that massages, body wraps, facials and aromatherapy can tune up the body and improve productivity after the stress of cranky board meetings and frustrating press conferences.

The best spas for chief executives combine golf and tennis with a full menu of spa services and a well-equipped gym for weight lifting and cardio training. They also offer all the tools needed to stay in touch with the office (not that it's always encouraged): high-speed wireless connections and well-staffed business centers and facilities for executive retreats, as well as convenience to major airports.

While resorts in places such as Tucson, Boca Raton and other balmy locations enjoy loyal followings, several properties in spa-rich California are establishing themselves as major draws for CEOs. The list includes La Costa Resort and Spa, the Four Seasons Aviara, the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay and the lesser-known Ojai Valley Inn & Spa.


In the 19th century, the wealthy journeyed to Europe's great spas to "take the waters," but today the spa experience is about total body pampering. Executives who indulge in a facial for the first time find that their cheeks begin to glow; those who opt for a massage often find relief from chronic discomforts such as stiffness in the neck or soreness in the lower back.

Once primarily women, nearly a third of today's visitors to spas are men, estimates the International Spa Institute in Lexington, Ky. "We're seeing a lot more men today who appreciate having a massage, and it is not uncommon for them to come back for a second appointment with us during their stay," says Elzbieta Czaja, a massage therapist at La Costa Resort and Spa near San Diego.

Nestled in the artsy village of Ojai and surrounded by the Topa Topa Mountains, the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa has yet to receive widespread attention. The 220-acre resort is 73 miles north of Los Angeles International Airport (and 45 miles from Santa Barbara) along a winding two-lane road that passes through orchards and fields of row crops. Once a retreat used by the Crown family of Chicago, Steve Crown, a grandson of the industrialist Henry Crown, has overseen its development into a top-notch resort comparable to the trendy Little Nelle's in Aspen, which the family also owns. The Ojai spa was originally developed in 1923 by another Midwesterner, Edward Libbey of Libbey Glass fame, who commissioned golf architect George C. Thomas to design the championship fairways and greens on the resort's rolling hills.

Not part of a big chain, the Ojai spa keeps an intimate feel, like the country estate it once was. The Crowns have recently invested $70 million to renovate the Spanish Colonial-style resort over a two-year period. Up-dated are the conference center with two ballrooms, the golf shop, the spa and 305 rooms with four-poster beds, fireplaces and terraces, some of them strung with hammocks. The spa now sports 28 treatment areas, including a hideaway zone--a 3,500-square-foot penthouse accessed by a private elevator. It combines four private guest rooms and two living areas, a meditation loft, a sauna and an outdoor whirlpool.


The spa at Ojai has a few treatments designed for men, says Thad Hyland, the managing director. These include the golfers' therapeutic massage, to comfort aching hands, arms, lower back and shoulders; a sense-awakening body wrap of menthol and camphor; and a facial that incorporates a Swedish circulatory massage for the neck and a Shiatsu pressure-point massage for the scalp. The signature treatment at Ojai is called Kuyam, named after the Chumash Indians who first inhabited the valley. It consists of a combination of warm, soothing mud, herb-infused steam, guided meditation, two cleansing showers and a finale that involves sipping herbal tea while wrapped in a warm linen towel and reclining in a lounge chair.

For those who weary of such head-to-toe pampering, Ojai is one of the rare resorts to offer horseback riding, with trails leading into the foothills on a nearby 800-acre ranch. Hikes on well-marked paths into the surrounding mountains are another option, as are Tai Chi, yoga and watercolor painting.

A pedestrian and biking trail leads from the resort to the nearby village of Ojai and its numerous art galleries, restaurants and trinket shops. In town, there's also a farmers' market selling organically grown herbs, fruits and vegetables. On Sunday afternoons, the offbeat Deer Lodge holds a pig roast that attracts a few tourists as well as hunters and aging Harley riders.

A drive south toward San Diego leads to La Costa Resort and Spa and the Four Seasons Resort Aviara on opposite hillsides above a lagoon. Their lobbies are bustling with conventioneers who have just flown in from the frigid temperatures of Detroit, St. Louis and Pittsburgh and are anxious to hit the golf course early in the morning.

The Four Seasons has an institutional feel about it with many rooms overlooking a giant pool, but its Arnold Palmer-designed golf course, sculpted among three valleys, mostly makes up for that. For hikers, a trail along the lagoon weaves by marshland, sagebrush, eucalyptus trees and yucca plants. For couples, the spa offers side-by-side massage tables, a Vichy shower for two, a private outdoor whirlpool, a fireplace and an intimate lounge.


The village-like ambience of La Costa, which has welcomed both Hollywood celebs (from Lucy and Desi Arnaz to Calista Flockhart) and innumerable business execs, has recently been spiffed up by a multimillion-dollar renovation. The golf course, which has played host to the PGA Tour's Tournament of Champions for 30 years, has also been restored. The resort is a tennis players' mecca with 19 courts, four of them clay.

La Costa's owner, KSL Resort, also hasn't skimped on the spa, which is designed in a California Colonial style with a 25-foot-high bell tower that rings each hour. The spa hostess asks all guests their reason for visiting: to indulge, to invigorate or to inspire themselves. Guests can choose from lavender, rosemary, sage or other herbs to blend in with oils for an aromatherapy massage to suit their mood.

La Costa, which has been on the leading edge of spa trends for years, has recently introduced the Chopra Center, a new age health center using yoga and meditation to achieve a balance of body, mind and spirit. An executive from IBM who stayed there recently said he found the 20 sun salutations to be an excellent stress reliever and plans to do the poses daily. The ancient Indian Ayurvedic massage is another option, and its choreographed rhythms can increase circulation and boost the immune system. When it's time to do some work, La Costa's separate conference center offers verandas and poolside patios for outdoor events and team building.

Up the coast at the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay, located about 30 miles south of San Francisco, the Pacific Ocean features among the amenities the resort has to offer. Perched on a rugged bluff, the resort is designed to resemble a grand seaside lodge of the 19th century. The golf course features ocean views from every hole, as do many of the 261 guest rooms and meeting rooms. The spa also is designed with the golfer in mind, with a massage tailored for muscles used in putting and club swinging motions.

Still not relaxed? Try the co-ed Roman mineral bath. While you're at it, light some candles. You may forget all about the office, and the golf course, too.


California's geographic diversity means the state's spas can offer everything from cool mountain retreats to hot desert oases--not to mention the magnificent coastal vistas of the Pacific Ocean.


Ojai Valley Inn & Spa

905 Country Club Road

Ojai, CA 93023


The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay (pictured above)

One Miramontes Point Road

Half Moon Bay, CA 94019


Four Seasons Resort Aviara

7100 Four Seasons Point

Carlsbad, CA 92009

(760) 603-6800

La Costa Resort and Spa

Costa Del Mar Road

Carlsbad, CA 92009

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Title Annotation:EXECUTIVE LIFE0
Author:Fannin, Rebecca
Publication:Chief Executive (U.S.)
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Apr 1, 2005
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