So it comes as a surprise that the spa feels like a haven, with nary a red-velvet pillow or gold pillar in sight. That said, its narrative is no less poetic: Named Tierra Santa—which translates to “holy land”—for Alan Faena’s beach house in Punta del Este, Uruguay, the 22,000-square-foot spa luxuriates in natural light energized by pops of color. I visited earlier this year for one service but ended up staying for hours.
First Impressions: The ocean view seen through the lounge windows immediately caught my attention, as did the chandelier made of multicolored fishing floats. Settled on a modern white lounge, surrounded by embroidered cushions and ottomans, I instantly relaxed in the beautiful surroundings. It wasn’t long before Johanna, a spa attendant, greeted me and showed me to my locker, then the wet area, where I had been advised to spend around 45 minutes.
And I used every spare minute afforded to me in this marble-clad sanctuary—1,200 square feet configured with a hammam, a sauna, wet scrub treatment areas, steam rooms, an ice chamber, and waterfall showers. After cleansing with handmade soap blended with palo santo, an earthy scented essential oil, I reclined upon the hammam’s hexagonal Amazonite plinth for a DIY buff (copper bowls filled with a scrub and clay mask had been supplied to me earlier). Then, it was off to the sauna, all wooden benches complete with comfortable headrests, and the tepidarium, where I covered my skin in sandalwood “Heal” oil, said to balance my seventh chakra, the crown energy centre. In the quaint, dimly lit waiting area, I happily reclined with a cup of rose chamomile tea, and treated myself to an almond- and-date ball.
The Service: I booked the spa’s signature Tree of Life Vibrations (120 min; $400), part of the spa’s Unique Healing Therapies created by Alan Faena’s shaman, Carlos Gomez, from Mexico. My lovely therapist, Yabdale, explained the treatment’s holistic approach—its use of essential oils, chakra energy work, and vibration therapy. “You have to be open to this healing,” she proffered as I eased onto the heated bed, face-down, over a bowl of water and rose oil. Oils were poured along my spine and rubbed in with a circular motion using Brazilian rose stones, and it took me a few minutes to get attuned to the harmonic sounds of the singing bowls. At the start of the service, Yabdale had explained that the vibrations reach every cell because our bodies are made of 80% water. Placed on my energy centres, the bowls eventually lulled me to relaxation.
For the massage, Yabdale used a buttery product called Murumuru. Derived from the Brazilian palm tree, it is highly regarded for its high levels of fatty acids, perfect for hydrating the skin. Afterward, the bowls were played again (this time when while I was face up) before gongs signaled the end of my treatment. I felt slightly disoriented—but in a good way! As Yabdale offered, it’s as if I were floating “between consciousness and semi-consciousness.”
Unwilling to leave, hoping to absorb every last minute of the treatment’s blissful effects, I reclined on a lounger on the spa’s balcony, sipped tea, and dozed.
Noteworthy: In addition to Biologique Recherche and Soleil products, the spa uses lesser-known natural ingredients from Latin America. Treatments incorporate Amazonian white clay rich in forest nutrients; rainforest mud packed with ionic minerals; and a guarana and maca scrub, used in South America to decrease water retention and invigorate the skin. These items are all for sale in the spa’s boutique.
—by Marina Kay