story and photos by Kayte Deioma
A concerted zen mindset lets me ignore the discomfort of walking on rocks as I make my way slowly around the knee-deep loop of the meditation pool. The rounded stones are designed to massage your feet, but mine are saying ouch – in a good way. I’m not complaining. No one is forcing me to walk this watery path. I’m just doing my best to experience all that Plaza Itapema Resort and Spa has to offer.
Itapema is tucked along a stretch of Atlantic beach just off Brazil’s highway B 101 about an hour up the coast from Florianopolis, in the southern state of Santa Catarina, Brazil.
On the day of my visit, most of the guests at the resort’s Brain Spa are there for a health and fitness makeover. One couple from Argentina is on an annual pilgrimage to try to drop 10 or 20 pounds in a week. A group of young women friends are attempting a last-ditch effort to get the bride among them into a smaller wedding dress. A couple from Sao Paolo is here just to enjoy the pampering and take a brain break from stressful jobs as psychiatrist and attorney.
Unlike my fellow guests, who are here for a full week of fitness classes, health food and four spa treatments a day, I am trying to cram as much activity and pampering as possible into my last day in Brazil before my long flight back to LA.
OK, not really so much activity. I’m completely ignoring the golf course, tennis courts, volleyball nets and rope challenge course in favor of a walk on the beach to watch the local surfers, a leisurely swim in the pool and a water exercise class as my nod to the “fitness” component. After carrying 35 lbs of camera gear on my back for the last 10 days, I’m more interested in the massage I have scheduled. But first I have an appointment for a Manthus treatment.
The Manthus machine purportedly uses localized ultrasound and electrical stimulation to break down fat cells under the skin so your body can eliminate the fat. It’s no surprise that this is a popular treatment in Brazil, where body image is everything. Brazil ranks third, after the US and China for number of plastic surgeries performed, and, according to a 2009 global plastic surgery study, has more liposuction treatments performed than anywhere else in the world.
I am skeptical of any treatment that claims to magically eliminate fat, and this one supposedly requires 10 to 12 treatments per area to see effects. But I’m curious, and it’s not something I’ve run into outside of Brazil, so I want to check it out.
The application of the three-headed ultrasound wand to my belly tickles. A lot. After a half hour of giggling, I have no idea if any fat cells have been affected, but I’m in a jolly mood.
After a light spa lunch of shrimp crepes it’s time for my massage. Katia, my massage therapist offers me a choice of styles in Spanish – there is a plan to add some English-speaking treatment staff, but on my visit, there aren’t any, so Spanish, the most common second language here, comes in handy. I choose a combination of relaxation and deep tissue to get the kinks out of my shoulders and let Katia work her magic.
I’m feeling like a happy noodle by the time I get to my final treatment.
My newly pink toes and blissfully pampered feet leave the spa for the resort’s town car that takes me to the Florianopolis Airport.
On the hour drive back to Florianopolis, I vaguely contemplate a few of the more adventurous ways I could have spent my final hours in the country and conclude that my Brazilian spa day spent chatting with local surfers on the beach, lunching with other guests and trying a very Brazilian spa treatment, was just the right amount of local culture, and the perfect way to say farewell to the delights of Santa Catarina.
See more photos below.
Rooms at Plaza Itapema are beach house simple and in some cases a bit austere. Most have an ocean view from the balcony if not directly from the room. Rates including room and meals, fitness classes, golf, tennis, four spa treatments per day and even child care are at fraction of comparable health spas in the US. During high season, a three-day minimum stay is required, and some holidays require a five-day stay.
Plaza Itapema Resort & Spa
BR 101, Km 145
Itapema, SC 88220-000