botanic bliss

Savvy sybarites know that spas flying the Hyatt flag boast of their anti-chain mentality.  Individual aesthetics and local flavors tend to be the rule.  So it naturally follows that Atabei Spa at the new Hyatt Regency Curacao is no exception.  The floors are whitewashed planks of reclaimed nautical wood – a nod to the island’s heritage, when the capital of Willemstad was the main port of call in the Dutch West Indies.  Gauze curtains billow everywhere, not unlike being onboard a sloop returning to harbor.  A safe harbor is what you’ll find on the menu, however, where healing herbs and extracts from the botanic garden of islander Dinah Veeris form the backbone of treatments like the laraha body scrub, incorporating the bitter orange used in making Curacao liqueur, an age defense facial tinged with sweet lupine and wild mango, or the setebibu recovery wrap, drenched in native aloe.  Most notable is the stemp massage, which uses a trio of large hand-tied poultices filled with rosemary, lavender, bergamot, yerba buena, and amarigue, also known as marjoram.  Soaked in warm oil it’s a deeply gratifying tonic for muscles not accustomed to swimming all day in clear Caribbean waters. (stemp, from the Flemish, “to stamp,” also translates as “to knead” in Papiamento, the local patois.)  Think of them as hot stones with handles.  Larger than what’s used in the poultice massages that were all the rage a few years ago, these vitamin-packed bundles have a secondary benefit as well:  take them home and drop them in the bath for a nourishing respite after a day spent soaking up too much sun.


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