Speaking in broad strokes: A solid hotel is a beautiful place in a great location. And who could find fault with that? But then there are the hotels that are so much more than a place to sleep, and the locations that can’t be reduced to the sum of their amazing views. We’re talking about those rare trips that are truly life-changing. Maybe you’ve been through a tough breakup or a rough patch or you need clarity or you have your own reasons and they’re private, thank you very much. Whatever the impetus, it’s between you and your god. But there are nine hotels out there that can help. Don’t think of them as resorts as much as transcendent reset buttons.
Ibu Ketut Mursi
BLIND INTUITIVE HEALER AT MANDAPA,
A RITZ-CARLTON RESERVE, BALI
Perched on the Ayung River in Bali’s luminously green Ubud region, this elegant jungle hideaway has its own sawah (rice paddy) and a century-old, flower-bedecked temple. And on a recent visit, we discovered something that will get us back there: the Traditional Balinese Healing Touch program. Led by sightless healer Ibu Ketut Mursi, it taps into her heightened sense of touch to offer relief for a wide range of emotional and physical issues. Working through a translator (she speaks very little English) Mursi is often able to deftly pinpoint any physical problems even if her client hasn’t said a word. From there, aided by her assistant, Ibu Kis, she works to realign or release blocked energy through bodywork or reflexology, and she may recommend specific movements or yoga poses. Herbal remedies are her specialty, among them her family’s secret herbal oil blend—passed down from her grandfather, also a Balinese healer—which contains coconut oil made from nine different varieties of sacred coconut.
Mursi cautions that healing does not happen instantly but occurs gradually, with consistent practice of her advice. But those who visit her are elated by the mental and physical lightness that a session brings—and often come back, again and again, to seek further guidance.
WATSU AND WATERDANCE THERAPIST AT RANCHO LA PUERTA IN MEXICO
Tecate, Mexico, an hour south of San Diego, is the home of Rancho La Puerta, a 3,000-acre wellness retreat at the base of Mount Kuchumaa (it’s a sacred site for the area’s indigenous Kumeyaay people). A major draw is its lengthy roster of on-site healers, one of the most popular being aquatic therapy practitioner Dave Towe. Buff, tattooed, and shaven-headed (but gentle and encouraging), Towe administers Watsu (a mix of “water” and “Shiatsu”), a unique form of bodywork conducted in water that’s ninety-six degrees, the same temperature as the skin. As you float in the quiet, Towe guides you through stretches that relax muscles and release tension and trauma (tears are not uncommon).
Post-Watsu, many go on to book Towe’s WaterDance session. After being stretched and massaged at the surface of the water, you’re given a nose clip and gradually brought entirely under water. Towe guides your underwater movements through signals and touch—while this is happening, time feels weirdly suspended—and regularly brings you to the surface to take a breath. Not surprisingly, this warm, womblike atmosphere is especially conducive to healing; many say they emerge from the water feeling reborn. Book early: Towe’s waitlist can stretch for months.
DREAM INTERPRETER AT MIRAVAL LIFE IN BALANCE SPA IN CALIFORNIA
This 30,000-square-foot Orange County wellness mecca at Monarch Beach Resort offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, the rare presence of alcoholic drinks at the spa’s bar, and more than seventy signature treatments. A standout is Bjorklund’s dream analysis. A session with the sunny, positive Swede, an internationally recognized expert with a master’s degree in psychology, is like a casual chat with a friend. All the while, however, she is skillfully winnowing out unconscious emotional patterns, repressed feelings of anger or sadness, and what she calls “the juicy emotional stuff” that you might not even be aware of.
Dreams, the communication between our conscious and unconscious mind, allow us to process our experiences or emotions in a safe place. They have multiple levels of interpretation, and Bjorklund gets down to them quickly with a volley of pointed questions. (What are you scared of in this dream? What does it symbolize? What would happen if that fear came true?) Recurring dreams are of especial interest to her because they’re often symbolic of life challenges that keep popping up. A session with her flies by, and it’s a useful way to better understand yourself.
CRYSTAL THERAPIST AT THE FOUR SEASONS HOTEL NEW YORK DOWNTOWN
New Yorkers rejoiced when the town’s go-to crystal healer Rashia Bell set up a residency at the sleek, buzzy Four Seasons New York Downtown. In the soothing confines of one of the hotel’s seven plush treatment rooms, the radiantly calm Bell uses guided meditation as she places various crystals and stones on your chakras to help you tap into your own intuition and find inner balance. After leading you through some breathing exercises, she has you imagine a clock spinning backward, then gently asks what you envision—which can be surprisingly vivid—and how you feel. Then, based on your responses, she changes out the stones, pulls cards, and administers Reiki (Bell is certified in Reiki as well as crystal healing).
Bell is deeply attentive, reacting quickly to any changes, both mental and physical. If she notices tension in your jaw, she’ll place lapis on your throat for relief. If you wish to transition to a different vision, she’ll nudge things along by placing purple kyanite on your third eye. If a vision is frightening, she’ll lay on amethyst and pyrite for protection. Afterward, she hands over a pack of custom-selected crystals and stones for you to take home. Later, an incredibly detailed analysis and maintenance plan will arrive in your inbox—ours was nine pages long—with affirmations to recite and suggestions for crystal placements.
You may feel a little groggy post-session, so a few languid laps in the hotel’s seventy-five-foot pool or a stint in the spa’s dreamy eucalyptus steam room may be in order.
LAOTIAN NATIVE HEALER AT ROSEWOOD LUANG PRABANG IN LAOS
With a mere twenty-three rooms, this deeply romantic luxury encampment, tucked in the lush Southeast Asian jungle, feels intensely private. Masterminded by the renowned Bill Bensley (he’s designed many of Asia’s most stunning hotels and resorts), it is deeply rooted in the culture of Luang Prabang, down to the tiniest detail.
The property’s Sense Spa is no different. It offers a number of treatments based on ancient practices—the most notable being the Lost Remedies of Mr. Xong. Yes, that sounds like the enticing plot of an adventure novel, but this eminent local healer’s deep knowledge of time-honored Laotian remedies spans more than a quarter century. A native villager from the Hmong ethnic group, Mr. Xong treats a long list of ailments using herbs and plants that he has foraged from the surrounding forest.
He meets clients in the spa, which is on a verdant hillside in three tents set over a stream (thanks to a pane of glass set in the floor, you can watch the stream rush by during a treatment). For his Hmong herbal massage, Mr. Xong cut the herbs fresh and makes them into a warming poultice. He then begins chanting to prepare himself and remove all the negative energy from the room. The treatment ends with more chanting and a closing ceremony that asks for luck, peace, and harmony.
SHAMAN AT ROSEWOOD MAYAKOBA IN MEXICO
A stay at this all-suite retreat, set on a mile-long sugar-sand beach in Mexico’s Riviera Maya, is as near perfection as you can get, and its Marry Oneself ceremony makes the experience that much deeper and richer. The three- or four-night trip focuses on self-love and is led by Montiel, the hotel’s resident shaman—the third generation in her family with the gift.
The journey begins with a private consultation with the petite, caftan-clad shaman. She crafts a customized itinerary that blends spiritual lessons incorporating the four elements of the universe—fire, water, earth, and air—with guided activities focusing on health, self-love, and enlightenment. The purifying fire ritual, for instance, takes place in a temazcal (a Mayan sweat lodge), and the ceremony uses scorching volcanic rocks and herbal medicine. For earth, Montiel conducts a “walk of silence” on the beach. Each day incorporates various spa activities along with energy readings and a mud cleanse.
It culminates with a serene wedding ceremony held at sunset next to a tranquil cenote, during which Montiel burns incense, showers you with flower petals, and chants in the Nahuatl language as you recommit to yourself and vow to exercise self-compassion. It’s the ultimate in self-care.
PAST LIFE REGRESSION THERAPIST AT MII AMO IN SEDONA, ARIZONA
Mii Amo sits in the shadow of a red rock canyon that’s sacred to Native Americans. It’s also a goop favorite, thanks in part to its phenomenal practitioners. Manriquez-Fox, a bubbly, upbeat clinical hypnotherapist, has been the resort’s in-demand regression therapist for six years. The sessions take place in one of Mii Amo’s no-frills treatment rooms. After inquiring about any issues or concerns, she has you lie on a massage table, covers you with a blanket, places a satin cover over your eyes, and starts a light hypnosis (you’re able to talk with her throughout the process).
Once you’ve reached a pharmaceutical-grade meditative state, she asks you to envision a hallway with doors and bids you to enter one and describe what you see. It can be a vision, a feeling, a sense of place, or other people (as she says, “Go with it and stay open, even if it feels a little odd”). Then she gently asks questions (“Who or what is around you? Do you know them? Do you feel you are related? Do you know what time period you are in?”). The visions may be surprisingly vivid, and unexpected emotions may bubble up. It’s fascinating and slightly eerie—a reminder that everything is temporary, we’re connected to something larger, and it’s entirely possible that we’ve all been here before.
SPIRITUAL COUNSELOR AND INTUITIVE AT OJAI VALLEY INN & SPA IN CALIFORNIA
Spiritual treatments are the raison d’être at this vast, 220-acre historic property, fresh off of a $70 million renovation of its luxe Spanish-style casitas. If you’ve had a breakup or a loss, funny, straight-talking Furst, who’s not above dropping F-bombs, will give your spirit a rigorous cleanse and refresh.
Furst has had extensive training in Native American spiritual practices—particularly Lakota—so each session includes a meditative guided journey with Native American drumming, prayers, and song while you hold sacred stones. All of which is meant to connect you with your spirit guides. There’s also a psychic interpretation of your choice of wisdom cards. She closes the session with specific recommendations of rituals and tools to achieve clarity, tap into your inner wisdom, and connect with your higher self.
TOLTEC SHAMAN AT MONTAGE LOS CABOS IN LOS CABOS, MEXICO
Baja California’s Montage Los Cabos is perched where the desert meets the glittering waters of the Sea of Cortez, and its big draw is the 40,000-square-feet spa—the largest in town. The lengthy list of wellness programs includes fire ceremonies, blessings, and family soul retrievals. Presiding over it all is Ortega, a trained ceremonial guide of the Toltec tradition who restores energetic pathways and, as he puts it, find answers to life’s seemingly impossible questions.
Every evening, Ortega—slim and white-garbed, a headband encircling his close-cropped grey hair—leads a guided ceremony on the hotel’s sweeping lawn overlooking the sea (where whales are seen from the beach during the season). Called Canopy of Stars, it’s a ritual of purification, transformation, and stargazing, performed to the melodious sounds of the lapping waves. Even better, you can book him for a customized experience to allow you to, say, achieve closure or banish negative energy. Or you can receive a blessing, usually performed on the beach early in the morning or at sunset. To receive it—as the sun rises or sets over the Santa Maria Bay, while Ortega burns sage as he chants and prays—is to be enveloped in the most remarkable sense of peace.