Here's a roundup of the best South African spas.
Best Urban Retreats -- On Mouille Point's trendy Beach Road, with views of Table Mountain and the sea, Elixir (tel. 021/439-2266; www.elixirspa.co.za) is a minimal, light-filled space that combines stone, wood, steel, glass, and slate with a palette of ocean shades. After an Elixir Signature Massage (R320/$44/£23 for 1 hr., including a combination of deep tissue, lymphatic drainage, Swedish massage, and acupressure), grab a bite at the adjoining bistro. Located on the first floor of the Waterfront's Commodore hotel, S.K.I.N Care Clinic (tel. 021/419-3090; www.skinonline.co.za) offers slick, fuss-free interiors and personal attention. The Restorative Head Massage (R250/$35/£18 for 30 min.) is recommended, as are the full-body scrub and Dead Sea Mud wrap and steam (R430/$60/£31 for 1 hr.). Alternatively, head for the Camelot Spa (tel. 021/406-5904) at the Table Bay Hotel for a diverse range of treatments -- the aromatherapy massage treatment (R370/$51/£26 for 1 hr.) is recommended. The Spa at the Cape Grace (for hotel guests only) is African-inspired, offering exotic options like the Thaba treatment for R850 ($118/£61): an application of intelezi (a heavenly aloe vera and eucalyptus gel) to the ankles, wrists, biceps, and head by two therapists who then use a knobkerrie (a traditional African stick) to relieve tension and stimulate muscle tone. For 360-degree city views, you can't beat the 19th floor of the Arabella Sheraton Grand Hotel, where you'll find Altiraspa (tel. 021/412-8200; www.arabellasheraton.com/capetown); try an hour in the state-of-the-art Hydrothermal Capsule, followed by a Balinese Synchronised Massage and a steam bath. The newly opened Angsana Spa at the Vineyard Hotel (tel. 021/657-4500; www.angsanaspa.com) is where you'll see Capetonians in the know leaving fresh-faced and in the pink. Managed and created by the award-winning Banyan Tree Spa team, it offers divine treatments like Ibu's Secret (R480/$67/£34 for 90 min.), a full-body massage followed by a jasmine and frangipani body polish.
Best New Spa -- Serenite Spa Knightsbridge (tel. 021/401-1058; www.serenite.co.za) opened in December 2006 and wowed the local ladies-who-lunch with manicured Zen gardens, an Olympic-size swimming pool, treatment rooms kitted out with the latest technology, and a complimentary African foot ritual on arrival. It's in Canal Walk, a rather vulgar-looking but well-stocked shopping mall, so you can engage in some retail therapy too. Note that by the end of 2007 the Mount Nelson hotel will open its revamped spa premises -- it promises to be spectacular.
Best Seaside Spa -- What more could you want than to succumb to the ultimate relaxation while looking out to sea? The best place to do so is exclusive Birkenhead House Spa, where you can choose from a variety of holistic massages (on the deck overlooking the bay or on the beach below), body polishes, and specialized skin-care treatments. In Cape Town the award-winning Sanctuary Spa (tel. 021/437-0677; www.12apostleshotel.com) at The Twelve Apostles, which lies between mountain and sea on the stretch between Camps Bay and Llandudno, offers seven Eastern-inspired treatment rooms built inside a grotto using natural materials like stone and wood. If you want to check out the sea view, ask for an outdoor massage around the pool.
Best Golf Spa -- Embraced by the Kogelberg, a UNESCO-declared Biosphere Reserve, Arabella's par 72 course -- recently voted the best course in the Western Cape -- sure sits pretty. And the scenery is matched by the guilt-free pleasure of knowing your better half is being given a right royal rubdown in the estate's feted AltiraSPA (tel. 028/284-0000; westerncapehotelandspa.com; Kleinmond, near Hermanus), which ties with Pezula (tel. 044/302-3333; www.pezula.com; in Knysna, Garden Route) as the best golf estate spa in South Africa.
Best Medical Spa -- Cape Town Medi-Spa (tel. 021/422-5140; www. medispa.co.za) is functional and understated, not big on decor but focused on offering you the best of both worlds: modern medical techniques (there's a resident plastic surgeon, homeopath, dermatologist, and GP) and ancient Eastern healing (an assortment of body treatments, plus yoga or Pilates). Renaissance Body Science Institute (tel. 021/487-8840; www.renaissancebsi.co.za) is where the beautiful people come for serious pampering. Owned by world-famous plastic surgeon and founder of Environ skin care, Dr. Des Fernandez, this urban spa cum gym offers everything from antiaging and vascular treatments to nutritional specialists, lifestyle coaching, massage, and -- of course -- a bit of nip-and-tuck.
Best Health & Weight-Loss Spa -- If your main aim is to lose weight as well as improve your sense of well-being, head for St Francis Health Centre (tel. 046/625-0927; firstname.lastname@example.org) in the Eastern Cape. A 6-day course (R5,994/$833/£428) includes a personal consultation, cleansing diet, swimming, aquaerobics, daily steam baths, and massages, and you're guaranteed to return home looking better than when you left.
-- Sally Munro, Travel Editor, Condé Nast House & Garden
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.