Anam, a Buddhist Bar and Spa in Old San Juan

Anam Day Spa in  Old San Juan is located next to Parque De Las Palomas park on the water.
Anam Day Spa in Old San Juan is located next to Parque De Las Palomas park on the water.

I literally stumbled upon this little day spa while roaming the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan. My husband and I decided to take a few suggestions from our concierge and Pinterest, and hit just one or two of the more than a dozen of recommended eateries and vistas recommended. What happened was pure serendipity. After a short walk up to Fort Cristobal, a little retail therapy at some local stores, and a great meal at a bean-to-bar chocolate cafe, (Casa Cortes ChocoBar restaurant that was on my hit list) we decided to ditch the list and just walk towards the water. We wanted to just see the city from a different perspective and allow it to open up to us in its own way. We literally happened upon a huge marble plaque that stated “home of the original pina colada.” So, of course we had to have a couple of those! Our bellies were still full from the chocolate cafe, or we would have eaten at Barrachina Restaurant, as well. The food coming out of the kitchen looked authentic and smelled amazing. We came to a a beautiful gate behind which was a small park with the most beautiful knotted and twisted shade trees. A plaque explained the park and a bronze pair of shoes. We sat on a bench and took in the view of the cruise ships, sailboats, and water. After some time resting our legs from the hilly climbs of the city we glanced over and noticed a day spa. This was no ordinary day spa. It was a Buddhist-themed bar in the front of the building and a day spa in the back. Was this a reverse mullet? Party in the front, business in the back? The sign outside posted modest prices, and spa services included cocktails. Are you kidding me!?! As a practicing Buddhist (I need a lot more practice) and a spa enthusiast and now, a mildly buzzed tourist…I thought my head was going to explode. Was this sheer luck or was it karma? I don’t know, but we had to go in. It was not a hard sell for my husband. We had no plans for the evening. He spied several very large flat screen tvs and and a full bar with beer taps. Of course I could use another spa treatment. My answer is always yes! YES!

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I chatted up the owner/bartender, Marcos Long, who had impeccable English, and was happy to round up a manicurist for me. My service would include a sangria. I explained my desire to stay on the rum vibe we had started and he was more than happy to make me a special frozen drink at no additional charge. Sometimes, my husband will join me for a pedicure, but the lure of the sports and the beer taps proved stronger than my pitch, and I happily took my seat in the manicure chair while he bellied up to the bar. Heidi was a fairly new technician, and her English was not as great as the owner’s, but she gave me a great manicure. She was so young and cute. She shared with me her time behind the chair and the name of her pet beta fish as she scrubbed, rubbed, washed and groomed my nails in preparation for the polish. While we were chatting, I noticed a rhythmic drumming sound.  As Heidi applies polish, I realized the drumming was not recorded music, but rather Thai massage.  I hadn’t noticed the two massage tables behind the heavy drapes! Another guest pulls back the drapes, hands a wad of money to the massage therapist, and thanks the owner’s wife for another awesome weekly massage. Turns out the owner’s wife is a Thai massage therapist, and he is a bar owner, so they just combined their businesses. Brilliant, in my humble opinion.

Later, not wanting my nails to smudge, my husband and I decide to sit outside watch the cruise ships leave port. It was a fantastic sight to take in as the sun set. Outdoor bar seating at this spa, next to a beautiful park, this was a great and unusual way to end the day.

My tips for visiting Anam?  I wish I had known Mrs. Long,  the owner was actually trained in Thai massage, in Thailand, if I go back to San Juan, I am totally booking massage with her!  If you are visiting from a cruise ship, this is a great late afternoon stop to end the day. Spa and nail appointments are not required but if you are in a large group, call ahead. The owners would be happy to get a cab for you to get back to the ship on time, as they know exactly when the ships depart. The last spa appointments are around 7 pm, so 3 or 4 pm would be perfect to see the park, get a treatment, have a drink, and catch a cab without stress. Tell them I sent you. Cheers!

Ritz-Carlton San Juan and sightseeing by private car

Ritz-Carlton San Juan and sightseeing by private car.

The Salt Cave and Spa of White Sulpher Springs is a holistic place of healing

 

The Salt Cave and Spa in Lewisberg, WV
The Salt Cave and Spa in White Sulpher Springs, WV

This was not my first visit to a salt cave, but definitely my very favorite. I might even say this could be my favorite day spa to date! The facility is extremely well thought out, clean and beautiful. My curiosity was at an all-time high when I first found out about this new spa. Photos on the website confirmed that I would be making a trip to White Sulpher Springs as soon as possible. The Salt Cave and Spa was just completed and opened to guests in July. It builds on the American tradition of wellness in Greenbrier County, with a focus on preventive and restorative health. The treatments offered at this unique and enchanting spa resonate with those of us who believe spa services are part of our integrated health care.

 

Offering a mix of alternative healing therapies and an impressive salt cave, this day spa is unique and gorgeous. Salt caves found in nature have been used for centuries to help with various breathing issues such as allergies, cystic fibrosis and the common cold. Interest has reawakened for halotherapy (salt therapy) as a modern healing modality due to the lack of side effects. Salt has a natural ability to reduce inflammation and boasts antibacterial and antifungal properties.  Although the mechanism of action is not known, physicians and healers continue to prescribe the healing benefits of halotherapy. Personally, I love treatments that can be both soothing and restorative, particularly when received in such an inspiring natural environment. The cave itself is new, built with love and a passion for preventive health by the owners. The couple, both artists by trade, also live and farm on this one hundred acre property.

I enlisted an adventurous friend of mine, Denise, to daytrip with me to Lewisburg area in West Virgina. As a regular at the world renowned Greenbrier, I am very familiar with the scenic drive to the beautiful mountain town. After studying their treatment options and discussing Denise’s wishes for the day, I hatched my plot. We would leave at the crack of 9:30am. No need to get up super early for this road trip. I also “borrowed” my husband’s convertible for the day. I definitely think that helped give a cool vibe to our adventure. We enjoyed a warm, open air drive and arrived in downtown Lewisburg just in time for lunch. I suggested one of my favorite downtown restaurants from among the many excellent ones Lewisburg has to offer. Once we were properly fed and watered, we had some time to shop. We had to go to Yarid, an upscale shoe store downtown. Locals know that all the discounted stock from the  several other locations are sent to the downtown Lewisburg Yarid location. With full tummies and now a trunk full of discounted designer shoes and handbags, we were ready to embark on our spa portion of the day.

 

To say that this day spa is unique or special really does not do it justice. Upon arrival, we were greeted by Michelle and given a Mason jar of water that she had retrieved that morning from a natural mineral spring just down the road. This spa actually has sulfur water available for guests and treatments, but natual mineral water is better tasting for drinking.  This unusual greeting really set the tone for the day at the spa. The staff was eager to share their knowledge on the many healing therapies offered, and their own personal rituals for health.

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The Salt Cave and Spa in White Sulpher Springs, WV

I arranged the signature Edgar Cayce massage for both Denise and I. What makes an Edgar Cayce massage different from the popular Swedish massage is the philosophy, technique, and training involved. Edgar Cayce is known as the father of holistic healing. Michelle, our massage therapist, was trained at the famous Edgar Cayce holistic spa in Virginia Beach. Michelle uses a personal philosophy of being a channel for personal growth and wellness. She made her intentions clear on our arrival that restorative and healing therapeutic techniques would help soothe the mind and body. Her desire was to relax the body, and stimulate the nervous system, organs, and rotate our joints and limbs, in an effort to coordinate our mind and body for an overall feeling of wellness. So what does the Edgar Cayce massage looks like to the average non-new age trained client? The massage begins with special Edgar Cayce oil applied in long soothing strokes very much like a Swedish massage. During my 90 minutes on the table, Michelle would intermittently work on various body parts in a specific sequence as part of the Cayce method. She would pull and stretch our arm and leg joints alternately. Michelle also used Jin Sin Do techniques, which are a deep finger techniques applied to muscles and organs to as in acupressure. Done properly, this technique is known for inducing a trance-like state. She also took care to address my lymphatic system through massage. Her pressure was enough that the massage was therapeutic while still providing a relaxing experience. My experience was profound. I loved it!

While I was in with Michelle, Denise took advantage of an amethyst biomat and light therapy session. This heat treatment involved lying on a table on top of a special mat that has an amethyst core. Its infrared heat penetrates the body 6-8 times more deeply than a regular heating pad. The concept is to increase your core temperature and increase your negative ions, helping with cell turnover. The technology was developed for use in space. While reclined on a massage table with the biomat on top, Denise just reclined and let a second infrared light therapy shine down on her. This special infrared light was positioned above her . It also provided deep heat, but was not uncomfortably hot. Again, the treatment is intended to heat the body and speed up cell turnover for quicker healing. Denise enjoyed relaxing in the beautiful spa room.

My second treatment was the Sacred Journey–part mental health session, part meditation. Cari, my therapist, is also a psychic medium! This was a spa treatment so unique, it deserves a separate post, check back for part 2 of this journey. Denise and I catch up after our second treatments for our final treatment, a visit to the salt cave. This salt cave is absolutely gorgeous. A beautiful, tall, arching ceiling with embedded lights that simulate stars, and stalactites coated with Himalayan salt, support the overall design and function of this healing cave. I was mentally transported to a place that took me out of my normal routine. What a beautiful therapy to book following other spa services.

 

Salt cave time is booked in 45 minute sessions. Additional therapies can be booked in the salt cave as well, including guided meditation and yoga classes. This salt cave is large enough to accomodate a group of friends, yet has an intimate feel due to the stunning lighting and design. Micron-sized crushed Himalayan white salt is forced through a special air handling system in the cave to create a microclimate. The salt was not noticeable on our skin or clothing, but did make our throats a little dry. Denise and I were happy to rest post treatment and spend some girl time together chatting as we had the cave to ourselves.

What to know, before you go:

Regular visits to the salt cave achieve better results, but a single 45-minute session has the same healing effect as a three-day visit to the beach! Have you ever noticed how acne clears up on a beach trip??? Yup, antibactierial qualities in the salty air and water is duplicated in this cave.

It is advised that you bring your own clean white socks to wear in the cave. Walking on the crushed salt also provides a nice reflexology massage to your feet. Denise and I both wore comfortable street clothes, but yoga clothes would be a great option for added comfort.

The staff is well trained to book multiple guests with different treatments to maximize a full day at the spa. Call ahead and they can help take the stress out of a group outing.

Time in the salt cave is not recommended for people experiencing infections accompanied by a fever, patients with active tuberculosis, or people under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Children are welcome to visit the salt cave.

The cave is kept at a constant temperature and is truly a four-season spa. I would love to snuggle in at this cave in the winter, or escape the heat as we did on this trip in the summer. Fall is a perfect time to visit, with spectacular fall foliage and mountain views enjoyed en route.

 

 

No special consideration was given other than being a paying guest at this spa. This is my life.