Two Canadian spas take it to the next level
A True West Coast Experience
Located in the small town of Parksville, BC, on the east side of Vancouver Island, Grotto Spa takes a distinctly West Coast approach to offering guests a small slice of paradise. While the spa belongs to the Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort, all of its facilities are located in a separate building, heightening the feeling of exclusivity and relaxation. For each guest, that sense of paradise is awoken before their appointment even begins.
“Every treatment starts with a dip in the mineral pool,” says Paulina Alexander, Spa Director. “We invite guests to arrive an hour before their treatment. It’s a warm water pool; it’s infused with minerals and trace elements to help detoxify the body and relax our guests before they start a treatment.”
The mineral pool is not only the spa’s signature feature, the spa was literally built around it. The rocky, textured walls, which are adorned with tropical leaves, mimic the aesthetic of a naturally formed ocean-side cavern and inspired the name Grotto Spa. The pool, filled with pristine blue water, features a two-story waterfall and a cool splash cascade that contrast with the mineral-infused warm waters.
As guests make their way to their treatment rooms, they are greeted by an authentically West Coast interior design. The furniture and artwork are provided by local vendors that highlight the natural beauty of Vancouver Island, featuring plenty of wood, tiles and natural boroughs. The Relaxation Lounge on the third floor is equipped with several fireplaces and plush seating, which Alexander describes as her favourite place to relax at the spa.
THE MINERAL POOL IS NOT ONLY THE SPA’S SIGNATURE FEATURE, THE SPA WAS LITERALLY BUILT AROUND IT. THE ROCKY, TEXTURED WALLS, WHICH ARE ADORNED WITH TROPICAL LEAVES, MIMIC THE AESTHETIC OF A NATURALLY FORMED OCEAN-SIDE CAVERN AND INSPIRED THE NAME GROTTO SPA.
A KNACK FOR ORGANIC
While 50 per cent of the treatments Grotto Spa provides are massages, Alexander says the signature body treatments are what really allow the spa to stand out. The 90-minute treatments include a body wrap, a body glow to gently exfoliate and refine skin texture, and finishes with a relaxing massage. Each treatment uses organic ingredients from Eminence Organic Skin Care and Beauty Through Balance.
“It’s important for us to use product lines that are of the highest quality and that they are provided by suppliers who are very focused on their own practices of sustainability, ethical environment and social practices,” says Alexander.
Beauty Through Balance is a smaller product line that uses local ingredients, including hand-harvested West Coast seaweed and organic Canadian glacial clay. Eminence Organic Skin Care offers a much larger selection of more than 150 products. “It allows us to be able to provide a completely custom and personalized treatment for our guests that is also results-oriented,” says Alexander. To end their visit on a satisfying note, guests are invited to visit the Treetop Tapas & Grill restaurant, which is available exclusively for spa guests. The restaurant maintains a mandatory robe and sandal attire rule, and offers the choice of one or two selections of tapas, or the popular “Endless Tapas” option, where guests can sample a wide variety of chef selections. Recipes for tapas have a distinct focus on fresh, local seafood. “It’s really a great mix between the spa-inspired antioxidant cuisine and a lot of decadence as well,” she says. “It’s an experience of dining unlike any other in Canada that I’ve ever come across.”
FEEDBACK IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS
The staff members at Grotto Spa are no strangers to hard work, which has resulted in several accolades over the last few years. Most recently, Grotto Spa was the highest-ranked spa in Canada in Spas of America’s Top 100 Spas of 2015.
In 2014, Grotto Spa became the first spa to earn the Spa Industry Association of Canada’s Education Award, which traditionally is given to school programs or individuals involved in spa training. “It came to us just based off of our training initiatives, how much we’re committed to making sure that our team always has opportunities to grow, develop and be the very best,” says Alexander. Part of the intensive training initiatives include designated training hours for staff members each month, mandatory quarterly training sessions on all of the spa’s skin care lines, as well as monthly meetings. “[We] make sure that the team is always communicated with, is part of the decisions that we make, and that their feedback and ideas for improving treatments are always taken into consideration.”
That drive for improvement has seen Grotto Spa through its 13 years of operation. Since its inception in the spring of 2003, the spa has overseen a third floor expansion due to its popularity, which led to the addition of the Relaxation Lounge and restaurant. Their efforts in routinely following up on guest feedback, from social media sites to their own guest surveys, have led to an average guest satisfaction rating of 94 to 97 per cent. “The whole philosophy of our spa is that there’s no guest feedback that isn’t welcome,” says Alexander. “No matter how good you perceive you’re doing, there’s always an opportunity to grow, so that feedback is what guides our decisions every day.”
“IT’S IMPORTANT FOR US TO USE PRODUCT LINES THAT ARE OF THE HIGHEST QUALITY AND THAT THEY ARE PROVIDED BY SUPPLIERS WHO ARE VERY FOCUSED ON THEIR OWN PRACTICES OF SUSTAINABILITY, ETHICAL ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIAL PRACTICES,” SAYS ALEXANDER.
Grotto Spa Facts
Size: 20,000 square-feet
Number of treatment rooms:21
Number of staff:80
Retail: Eminence Organic Skin Care, Beauty Through Balance, Gehwol, OPI