Turnberry Isle spa lives up to billing as Miami’s best

Calla lilyHAVENTURA, FLA. – My introduction to Turnberry Isle Resort & Club wasn’t under the best of circumstances: I arrived late evening after having missed my flight and during a windstorm.

The guard at the gate requested my name.

“Dial,” I said.

“First name?” he quizzed.

“Cynthia,” I responded before being allowed to proceed. But once I pulled beneath the porte-cochere and a bellman quickly opened the car door to escort me to reception while another whisked my luggage to the room, the resort’s exclusivity became unadulterated hospitality.

This visit to Turnberry was to experience its spa, anointed by Zagat as Miami’s best. Located several miles north of the city – the resort is close enough to Miami to sample its thrills, yet comfortably removed from the hub to avoid its round-the-clock commotion.

Turnberry Isle is a 300-acre retreat. It has long been noted for 36 holes of championship golf, a tennis program led by Wimbledon legend Fred Stolle, an intracoastal marina and now – its $10 million U.S. spa facility.

The Spa at Turnberry Isle was expectedly impressive. Its dramatic centerpiece is a huge glass wall enhanced by a circular mahogany and wrought-iron staircase that curves upward towards a dome skylight.

Water and light are inspirations throughout the 25,000 square-foot structure – Florida sunlight filters through its signature three-story window. All the while, water from an oversized ochre-colored vase softly spills into the fountain encircling it.

In its three years on the scene The Spa has developed a reputation – one that in no small part has been shaped by director Tammy Pahel.

She’s become the Christopher Columbus of the spa world because of her perpetual quest to discover innovative, yet effective, body and beauty secrets – ones she continues to traverse the globe to unearth.

Consequently, The Spa’s menu reads like a travelogue – Bali Spice Ritual, Passage to India, Thai Coconut Scrub, Omni Salus (Italian for “total well being”), and my choice – an Australian Aboriginal-inspired specialty called Dreaming Body Ritual, 110 minutes, $275 (all prices in U.S. dollars).

“Surrender to your senses. Close your eyes and let your body choose,” said my technician – named Vonnie.

From a selection of muds, salts, essential oils and body oils (each product imported from Australia), I let my nose guide my body’s needs.

“The mud you selected is for stimulation and the oil provides energy.

Your body’s telling us something.”

I was almost too tired to agree. But I comfortably settled in and the ritual began.

“We’ll start with a footbath.”

Vonnie knelt before me and bathed my feet in a bowl of warm water liberally sprinkled with Australian flowers and herbs – the tradition is an age-old sign of welcome and respect.

A salt scrub, Mala Mayi body wrap and the application of a Quandong hair masque followed, as did a visit to the steam room – to enhance the products’ penetration.

After a Vichy shower I returned to Vonnie and the treatment room– freshly showered and shampooed – for the Kodo body massage and a Mirri facial. No body part was neglected.

“The best part of our rituals (Australian, Thai, Balinese, Eastern Indian) is the continuity – the same technician in the same room. It helps with relaxation,” said Vonnie.

I agreed that Turnberry’s “one-stop shopping” is not only best for the soul but for my checkbook too.

“What is the best facial for my skin type?” I quizzed spa director Pahl.

She responded without hesitation, “Revitalizing Cell Facial,” 50 minutes. The brochure describes it as a “Swiss facial based on cellular therapy and specifically designed for skin regeneration.”

The treatment features state-of-the-art skin care cosmetics called Cellcosmet.

Skin specialist Lea explained that they’re from Switzerland – are non-greasy, good for any skin type (including acne) and produce immediate results.

And they’re especially effective for those 35 years of age and older. As I had recently celebrated my 39th birthday (again), her last remark captured my attention.

Thus, my own quality assurance test was in order.

Cellcosmet was originally developed for burn victims so I tested the Ultra Vital cream on a fresh curling iron injury.

No novice to this type of burn, I knew from experience that the healing process is endless.

But after only a couple of applications the burn began to heal. Bottom line: a jar of miracle cream was added to my personal skin care collection.

At the conclusion of this multi-day spa fest, I sank into a pedicure chair for the Aboriginal-inspiredJina Foot Treatment,70 minutes, $66.

The technician began, “Don’t worry about the past – it’s gone. Don’t worry about the future – it hasn’t happened yet. Just think about now.”

The Spa at Turnberry Isle is open to hotel guests and private club members.

An assortment of spa packages is available.

For information call 800-327-7028 (resort), 305-933-6930 (spa) or go to www.turnberryisle.com.