Top spas in historic Savannah: Massage, facials, aromatherapy & more

Surely, a good massage is one of the most ahhhhhh-eliciting experiences available on the planet. Add in all those funky feel-good special treatment options and we're talking about a veritable pleasure palace.

Massage isn't just for pleasure, either. It offers significant health benefits. Laurie Craig, co-founder and president of Georgia Massage School in Suwanee, Georgia, and a massage educator who is recognized by the American Massage Therapy Association and the American Massage Conference, knows a thing or two on the subject.

"Massage not only feels good, but there are many health benefits gained by receiving skilled therapeutic touch," said Craig. "There are both mechanical and reflexive effects of massage therapy. The mechanical effects are direct effects of touch that include moving venous blood and lymph and addressing tight muscles and scar tissue. The reflexive effects are associated with the nervous system and create an overall feeling of relaxing by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system."

Most spas offer a varied selection of massage and treatment options including foot massages/reflexology and, one of my favorites, a massage that incorporates warmed stones on your back. Many spas offer treatments designed for men, women or couples; offer products for sale that are used by their professionals; and typically have info pages to help you get the most of your massage. Generally, you should arrive 15 to 30 minutes before your service is scheduled.

Maybe you want a light touch that provides just a gentle, soothing rubdown. Spas are all about customized experiences, and all reputable spas offer massage at several levels of intensity and pressure. It's best to let them know your preferences when you call ahead to make reservations so they can set you up with the person best suited for your personal proclivities. While you're at it, tell them whether a male or female masseuse is best for you.

My personal massage preference? I want a masseuse to lean in with a hard-core, show-no-mercy massage that elicits the occasional involuntary groan of sheer pleasurable relief -- like the one I had recently at Savannah's Sweet Water Spa, which has excellent service and is full of menu options.

Sweet Water Spa owner Somer Patton has a renewed energy at her spa, bringing in experienced Spa director Teresa Baker and sprucing up the whole operation. Sweet Water offers about a dozen different kinds of facials, including a special men's facial and also one that uses red-light therapy, as well as peels and dermaplaning and other treatments such as mud wraps, body scrubs and slimming wraps. Sweet Water has package deals of up to four-plus hours, offers both male and female massage therapists and has a private suite for couple massages. Sweet Water can even handle up to seven massages or seven facials at one time, so if a little spa party with friends is what you have in mind, this is a good spot.

Sweet Water Spa. 148 Abercorn St., Savannah. 912-233-3288;

Other Savannah spas to check out:

Spa Bleu

Spa Bleu calls itself "An Organic Retreat in the Heart of Savannah" and it's a moniker that seems well suited to the establishment. Its Organic Thermal Body Treatments involve a variety of natural ingredients including sea salt, Savannah Bee honey, green tea, warm cinnamon, rosemary mint and more. Indeed, one of its signature offerings is the intriguingly named Rosemary Mint Organic Foot Ritual. Overall, Spa Bleu offers massage, facials, manicures and pedicures, thermal body treatments, spray tanning, make-up application, waxing and more. Special packages are available as are four-and-a-half and six-hour extravaganzas. Spa Bleu has a private couple's suite for couple massages.

Spa Bleu. 101 Bull St., Savannah. 912-236-1490;

Milan Day Spa

Milan Day Spa is another Savannah favorite and offers eight facials, along with special add-on treatments, myriad micro-dermabrasion treatments, a slew of waxing options, mani and pedi options and spray tans. Milan's signature massage is a two-hour treatment that includes an exfoliating sugar scrub and seasonal therapeutic mask applied to the back, followed by a combination of Swedish, Deep Tissue and Aromatherapy full-body massage. They also have couples massage and a number of special packages, including one for men and a "his and hers" package. As a plus, Milan Day Spa has a spa concierge who will assist you with reservations for some of Savannah's great tours, dining reservations and similar services.

Milan Day Spa. 10 E. Broughton Street, Savannah. 912-236-4900;

Heavenly Spa by Westin

One of Savannah's top spas is located inside The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort, the AAA Four-Diamond resort situated on Hutchinson Island at the Savannah River. It's accessible by a complimentary (and pleasant) ferry boat ride from River Street and available to anyone, resort guest or not. Heavenly's signature massage involves a heated compress and customer's choice of essential oil blends worked into your body at whatever level of pressure suits you. It also offers a Hot River Rock Massage, a Sports Massage, and all manner of treatments including such standouts as the Detoxifying Seaweed Body Wrap, the Rosemary Citron Sea Salt Scrub, and an aromatherapy bath in a hydrotherapy bathtub with water jets.

Heavenly Spa by Westin. The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa, 2 Resort Drive, Savannah. 912-201-2250;

Magnolia Spa

Massages, body scrub, body wrap, facials, eye treatments, manicures/pedicures, paraffin hand treatments, waxing, you name it, Magnolia's got it. The Savannah Marriott Riverfront spa also has separate spa facilities for men and women that feature steam, sauna, relaxation rooms, showers and toiletries. Fruit-infused water and teas, as well as light snacks and fruit are served throughout the day. Magnolia's signature massage offers medium-depth pressure and your choice of blended essential oils, while heat herbal packs help your muscles relax even further. It also offers a hot stone massage. The spa features nine special packages, including the three-and-a-half hour Gentleman's Retreat with a Deluxe Sports & Fitness Massage, Gentleman's Facial and Gentleman's Pedicure. Magnolia is located inside the Savannah Marriott Riverfront hotel on the main lobby level, adjacent to the Atrium Lounge.

Magnolia Spa. Savannah Marriott Riverfront, 100 General McIntosh Blvd., Savannah. 912-233-7722;

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