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Hawaii's Inner Beauty

Natural bounty makes it from the pages of history to your next spa treatment.



HAWAII’S SPAS FULLY embrace the healing benefits of ingredients from the islands’ soil and sea, relying on them as the ancient Hawaiians did when nature’s bounty was their medicine chest. They knew the value and use of every fruit, flower, leaf, root, stem, seed, bark, sap, shrub and twig, gathering this knowledge through intense training in laau lapaau (the practice of Hawaiian medicinal plant healing). Many of the same plants, herbs and other gifts of nature in spa treatments today have been used for centuries to enhance health, beauty and well-being.

These endemic and indigenous ingredients from nature — used by Hawaiians even before the first voyagers set foot or canoe on the islands — may have unusual sounding names, but they have time-tested therapeutic benefits.

From the Land

‘Alaea This water-soluble red clay, mixed with sea salt, was a soothing salve in ancient Hawaiian medicine. Rich in minerals and mixed with essential oils, the iron oxide found in ‘alaea is said to cleanse and nourish skin; spas use it in scrubs to exfoliate, tighten and soften.

‘Awa (Kava) Traditionally, the bitter and astringent-tasting root of the plant was pounded, mixed with water and coconut juice and consumed for medicinal and ceremonial purposes by people of the South Pacific. A mild relaxant, the root is believed to alleviate stress, anxiety, insomnia and headaches. Spas include it in soothing body wraps to help ease aches and pains and soften skin.

Ko (Sugarcane) Ancient Hawaiians used the juice of the sugarcane to sweeten their oftenbitter herbal medicines. Hawaiian turbinado sugar derived from cane is a natural antiseptic. Raw sugar’s grainy texture gently exfoliates, is much gentler than a salt scrub and aids in the hydration of dry skin.

Kukui Nut Oil The kukui nut, also known as candlenut, has always been valued for its oil. In ancient times, the oil of the white kernels was extracted to light stone lamps and ti leaf torches. The bark, flowers and nuts all had medicinal applications. Hawaiians used the small five-petaled white flowers and the sap of the green nut to heal chapped lips, cold sores and mild sunburn and the mashed nut to relieve constipation and skin irritations. Today the rich oil is one of the best known natural sources of linoleic and linolenic fatty acids that promote healthy skin and hair and appears in body oils, shampoos and conditioners. Because it is very emollient, it is a favorite massage oil for lomilomi.

Limu (Seaweed) Readily available at the beach, limu is a traditional remedy for coral cuts, stomachaches and general aches and pains. Seaweed, rich in minerals, is considered one of nature’s most complete nutritional sources and in scrubs and wraps helps detoxify the body and nourish skin.

Niu (Coconut) This was once the Hawaiians’ most versatile tree, providing everything from thatching to drink to medicine. Its sweet meat yields emollient oil with a clean scent and conditioning properties for hair and skin. Heated, the oil eases muscle aches; grated, the pulp adds texture and sultry fragrance to body scrubs. The many shapes and sizes of coconut shell make it a handy massage tool.

Where to Splurge

Disney Aulani Laniwai Kula Wai.

Nature as healer is the philosophy behind even the most decadent Hawaiian spa services. Sugar scrubs improve circulation by exfoliating dry, dead skin. Herbal wraps detoxify the body and replenish skin nutrients. Lomilomi with kukui nut or coconut oil eases muscle and joint pain. And the sweet scents of jasmine, ginger and coconut lift the spirit. Here we’ve curated a list of treatments on each island.

Laniwai Spa at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa on Oahu The 80-minute Kilikili signature therapy begins at the outdoor hydrotherapy garden and Pulu (meaning “to make soft or saturate”) Bar, where spa-goers create a personalized body polish from cane sugar or sea salt and traditional fragrances, such as maile, plumeria, pikake and mango. Then, a lomilomi (Hawaiian massage) is enhanced with fragrant coconut oil and misting jets of water and finished with nourishing Hawaiian body butter. $225, disneyaulani.com

Spa Grande at Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort and Spa on Maui A new “farm to spa” treatment menu features local ingredients, holistic application and results-driven rituals. The Royal Niu Coconut Dream is two-and-a-half hours of treatments for two. Couples share coconut water and coconut delicacies before being exfoliated by fibrous coconut husks and a mild coconut scrub, followed by a coconut butter body wrap that includes a scalp and foot massage. Next is a 25-minute coconut milk bath for soft, smooth skin. The finale is a 50-minute massage with coconut oil and shells. The gliding and rolling of smooth coconut tools easily relax muscles, as the pressure can be firm to medium to mellow. $630, grandwailea.com

The Spa Without Walls at The Fairmont Orchid on Hawaii Island Seven of the spa’s 11 body treatments feature local ingredients from the Big Island. Awa Earth & Fire is a 50- or 80-minute soothing lomilomi massage with warm coconut oil, followed by a detoxifying scrub of sandalwood, ‘awa (kava), ginger and oats, and then a hot lava stone massage to ease muscle tension. The treatment is offered indoors, at an oceanfront hale or in a waterfall hale. $189 for 50 minutes, $259 for 80 minutes, fairmont.com/orchid-hawaii

Halelea (House of Joy) Spa at the St. Regis Princeville Resort This elegant spa enhances its exotic treatments with essences of local fruits and flowers. The 90-minute Kauai Waialeale Body Masque, which leaves skin deeply cleansed and detoxified, features a blend of ginger, noni, kava, turmeric, organic aloe and blue-green algae. It is followed by a full body massage that incorporates an oil made with indigenous maile vine. $275, stregisprinceville.com

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