For women, pedicures and full-body salt rubs are as essential as flossing. Men, however, must be dragged to their first spa treatments. An hour later, they're converts--as long as the right elements are in place. Men need plasma TVs, blue robes instead of white, darker colors all around, same-room massages for couples, GQ and Cigar Aficionado in the magazine rack, whiskey instead of champagne. At the Kara Spa at the Park Hyatt Los Angeles, men are ushered into private rooms where they disrobe and receive treatments in absolute seclusion. The Argyle Salon & Spa in West Hollywood reserves for males the wood-paneled, 1920s-style, carefully named Executive Men's Barber Suite. There a fellow is swathed in hot towels, warm foam and after-shave oil, free to watch sports and sip cordials. Or beer. And, says the Argyle's special projects director, Kavita Rao, "most guys go for the beer."
Truth be told, even the most enlightened men feel the need to suffer so they can enjoy being pampered; they want to channel their inner Sir Edmund Hillary before they will agree to have their eyebrows plucked. In that spirit, we offer a sampling of spas around the state where guys can be guys:
The Fairmont Sonoma
Mission Inn & Spa
Why go? Weekend athletes need pampering too
Price: $1,200 to $1,600 for two; including two nights at the hotel and one spa treatment per day
David Erlich, director of spa operations at the Fairmont Sonoma, makes his living taking athletes to the edge and back. "I like the intense crazy people," he says. A sports aficionado, Erlich created a special program called the Extreme Weekend that is a favorite with the guys: They alternate between working out and kicking back. "For an athlete to spend the whole weekend idle is a little unnerving," says Paul Osborne, a Menlo Park-based marketing manager and triathlete who frequents the man-friendly spa. "For me, the ideal would be to get a good workout, come back and enjoy a good massage." Extreme Weekend participants get a high-tech fitness assessment with an exercise physiologist, followed by a dietary consultation and a personal strength-training session. "Then they get turned over to me," Erlich says. Ouch: The typical Erlich Saturday workout consists of a one-hour swim, a two-hour bike ride and a massage or facial, followed by dinner (with recommendations from the nutritionist). "Sunday, we'll do a really cool hike that's pretty aggressive, maybe in Glen Ellen, and after that we would do a bike ride in Jack London state park, and then maybe do a bathing ritual and then a sports massage with a deep-tissue upgrade." (877) 289-7354; www.fairmont.com/sonoma
The Ashram, Calabasas
Why go? For the pain
Price: $4,000 per week
To call The Ashram a spa would be misleading. And cruel to anyone who believed us and signed up. With rustic headquarters in the Santa Monica Mountains, this pricey program is a dawn-to-dusk, no alcohol, no meat, hiking-intensive boot camp with, let's be honest, no frills. Perhaps it follows that about 40% of the clients are male. "Men don't have time for stuff that doesn't work," says Catharina Hedberg, the Ashram's director.
Andy Goldfarb, a venture capitalist from Boston, has endured the program 10 times in the last seven years and likes the spartan attitude: "They give you almonds to eat during the hikes. If you ask for an extra almond, they say 'No.' I think for a type-A man, there are not many environments that I'm in where people will say 'No' to me."
Guests rise at dawn, hike into the mountains, return for a lunch of vegetarian sushi or raw hummus salad, followed by daily massages. (OK, there is one frill.) In the afternoon they are treated to Pilates, weight training, aerobics in the pool, Watsu, yoga meditation and an all-organic dinner. "Then they pass out," Hedberg says. Spiritual benefit is not far behind, "I don't wear a watch when I'm there," says Goldfarb. "And to go eight days without a watch--it's such a refreshing change." (818) 222-6900; www.theashram.com
The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel
Why go? The Beachcomber Foot Repair
for tender tootsies
Price: $575, including surfing lesson
and four treatments