Rotorua's exceptional spa offerings have won international acclaim at this year's World Luxury Spa Awards, confirming the city's reputation as the number one spa destination in the South Pacific.
The Wai Ora Day Spa, located on the shores of Lake Rotorua, has just been named the New Zealand winner across three categories of the 2012 World Luxury Spa Awards and was a finalist in the two remaining categories.
Rotorua's geothermal water and mineral-enriched mud have been revered for more than a century and the city offers a diverse range of spa opportunities - from a simple soak in bush-lined thermal streams through to luxuriously-appointed spa complexes.
Maori massage and indigenous herbs play a special role in local spa culture which ensures Rotorua is an experience like no other. Mud wraps, baths or masks exfoliate the skin and volcanic stone therapies are unique treats; a Miri Miri massage begins and ends with a karakia (prayer); and herbal saunas use indigenous kawakawa leaves.
Wai Ora Day Spa owner Bryan Hughes says Wai Ora means 'healing waters' and the surrounding geothermal resources and mud have been used for more than 700 years. The spa has developed a unique 'New Zealand Cultural Spa Regime' based on the healing traditions and techniques of Maori. Three very different but equally as special experiences are on offer.
Wai Ora's 'Historic Spa Experience' is based on the sulphurous waters and geothermal mud found at Hells Gate, where the spa culture of New Zealand first began. The 'Nature Spa Experience' occurs on Mokoia Island amid clear natural soda mineral hot springs. While the 'Contemporary Spa Experience' takes place at Wai Ora Day Spa and consists of a full range of indulgent spa therapies and treatments.
World Luxury Spa Awards 2012 executive manager Marinique de Wet says Wai Ora Day Spa won Best Luxury Spa Destination, Best Luxury Spa Group and Best Luxury Mineral Springs Spa and was runner-up in the categories for Best Luxury Day Spa and Best Luxury Spa Resort. It is the second year running that Wai Ora Day Spa has achieved such success, and the awards are seen as the highest honour in the spa industry.
Rotorua's iconic Polynesian Spa has also achieved high praise as being named among the world's top 10 thermal, medical and natural spas six times in the past decade by Cond� Nast Traveller magazine's European readers - the only spa outside of Europe to achieve such accolades.
The Polynesian Spa celebrated its 40th anniversary in April this year. The old baths of the mid 1900's have been transformed into the internationally-renowned spa that it is today complete with five refurbished Lake Spa Retreat rooms and an impressive new entranceway currently under construction. Marketing executive Simone de Jong says the Polynesian Spa caters to a wide range of groups, with the Family Spa, Adult Pools and Priest Spa, Luxury Lake Spa and Private Pools all available.
"For those who want some extra relaxation and pampering there is our Lake Spa Retreat where we offer a wonderful range of facials, beauty treatments and massage including Aix spa massage under jets of warm water," says de Jong.
Hot mineral bathing is also an integral part of the therapies at Polynesian Spa where guests can enjoy the hot mineral bathing and watch the clouds of steam arise from the lake. Two types of mineral waters feed into the Polynesian Spa's 26 pools, each with their own therapeutic properties.
"Visitors find great relief from the Priest Spring for tired muscles, aches and pains due to the acidity levels of the mineral water, whereas the alkaline water from the Rachael Spring leaves skin feeling silky due to the antiseptic action of sodium silicate," she says.
Rotorua's spa opportunities are constantly evolving and the latest commercial addition is tucked away in the forest at one of the city's most luxurious lodges.
Treetops Lodge & Estate is the ultimate place to relax and unwind, and director of sales Cristina Magni says the new spa will open shortly to help extend its guests' experience and entice members of the public to visit.
"This new spa is going to add to the Rotorua region a luxurious experience of deep relaxation and reconnection in our unique native forest with a range of body, facial, hand and feet treatments," she says.
What really sets Rotorua apart from other spa destinations in New Zealand - and around the world - is the city's abundance of natural geothermal pools and streams. A short walk, car journey or boat ride is all that's required to enjoy such a simple pleasure.
Popular spots include thermal streams like Kerosene Creek where a hot spring flows downhill through natural bush. Bathers have excavated small smooth rocks to form miniature hot pools and an old fashioned corrugated iron changing shed is also on hand for everyone to use.
For those who have access to a boat, a trip to Hot Water Beach at Lake Tarawera is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience. A hot spring can be found in the western corner of the lake and you can form your own warm pool on the shoreline simply by collecting large rocks to keep the water in one spot.
Another low-cost alternative is the Manupirua Springs Hot Pools at Lake Rotoiti. This special spot is accessible by boat or kayak, and is the perfect place to warm up on a crisp winter's day or to enjoy a romantic evening under the stars.
Destination Rotorua Marketing general manager Oscar Nathan says Rotorua's reputation as New Zealand's ultimate spa destination is well deserved. "Nowhere else in the world will you find such a diverse range of spa offerings. Each is blessed with stunning scenery, excellent service and a unique cultural connection which only Rotorua can provide."
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