Note to any spa diva who thinks she knows her strokes: You haven't had the long stroke "rolling pin" effect until you've been paired with a therapist with 35-centimetre forearms. At 5-foot-11, Jnana at Coral Reef Club's Spa in Barbados gave me one of the most robust sachet-driven treatments in recent memory. Unlike the Thai compresses that are as big as a triple-decker burger and so packed with camphor that they pretty much pound you into sweet submission, this spa's sachets are pillowy, coconut-oil-saturated bundles of joy. Jnana works up and down my spine, taking the long way round to bliss. The slow cooker, an ordinary kitchen staple, keeps the bundles warm and fragrant for the duration of this 80-minute Floral Neuro-Aroma treatment. One of the more specialized offerings on the menu, it's a great way unblock urban build-up and settle into Bajan time.
Steaming, fragrant rose petal, jasmine, orange blossom and golden seed compresses combine to ease and uplift overworked muscles, a simply hypnotic and sedative end-of-day treatment.
Coral Reef Club's spa decor reads like a tongue-in-cheek anti-Sandy Lane aesthetic. As Sandy has long reigned as the grande dame of Barbados's resorts, it takes bold moves to strike a different pose. The spa here is darker and more masculine, a far cry from airy, billowing fabrics and coral colours. The spa is a fortress within an already discreet hotel, with no paparazzi thronging to snap frequent visitors Prince Harry or Hugh Grant. Bajans barely batted an eye when Gwyneth Paltrow hit Barbados earlier this year to tape an episode of Who Do You Think You Are?, tracing the path of her great-grandmother, a Barbadian seamstress. Indeed, this island is as relaxed as it gets, the perfect antidote to the 9-to-5 grind. It's safe (a gambling ban puts off less savoury society), with free education at all levels for the nation's youth. Today, I burned more calories playing a variation of water-polo-meets-monkey-in-the-middle with 15 local kids than I ever have in a posh hotel gym. Though nearby hotel staff "monitored" the scene, the kids played with impunity, seeming to know their rights, as there is not a single spec of private sand on this island. Viva Barbados.
Coral Reef Club at Porters, St. James; Barbados; 246-422-2372; coralreefbarbados.com; $210 for 80 minutes.
Special to The Globe and Mail