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The 20-hand massage at Maui’s Grand Wailea Resort Hotel caters to couples – but singles are also welcomed. (Grande Wailea Resort)
The 20-hand massage at Maui’s Grand Wailea Resort Hotel caters to couples – but singles are also welcomed. (Grande Wailea Resort)

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I remember the smell of sandalwood, a soft, plushy bed and soothing sounds. No, it wasn’t a dream: It was the world’s most labour-intensive 50-minute massage.

To celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2011, the Maui Grand Wailea Resort Hotel created a splashy 20 Hand Duo Massage for couples, with the regal price tag of $2,000 (U.S.). To its surprise, the hotel’s Spa Grande manager Sharon Ogawa tells me, the treatment has endured: It has done six so far in 2013. Solo traveller that I am, I’m experiencing a dialed-down version.

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I arrive an hour early to soak in the full Termé Hydroptherapy experience, with separate men’s and women’s areas including hot tubs infused with bath salts representing each Hawaiian island, and Japanese-style furo baths.

After that, a couple would rejoin for water and tropical-fruit refreshment and a foot bath before lying head-to-head on massage tables; I get right down to business, choosing among several room scents and massage oils and lotions.

A phalanx of white-uniformed bodies surrounds me, a therapist assigned to each arm and leg, plus my head and neck.

I expect synchronized swimming-type team precision but it is more like an orchestra, with each set of hands and each therapist using a range of techniques to strum their own lines and pluck different tight spots, coming together in a symphony of pleasure.

In the couples version, the therapists use eye signals to communicate, at one point co-ordinating a flow-like movement of massaging as the therapists rotate around both bodies, like a wave.

Initially, there is a little of that Thai-massage type “who’s touching what where?” confusion, but as soon as I surrender my curiosity, the benefits become clear: All those tiny sore spots – inside of elbows, wrists, behind the ears – that normally receive only cursory treatment in a full-body massage are lavished with attention from a dedicated pair of hands for a considerable time.

In my post-massage haze, eating a plate of juicy fresh pineapple, I vaguely recall someone saying: It takes a village to raise … something …? Well, it takes a village to lower some things, too: stress, inhibitions and apparently my shoulders, which feel inches lower than when I arrived.

Worth $2,000? I think so.

The writer was a guest of Spa Grande.

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