Every holiday season, the same question looms: What to get someone fastidious about her appearance but difficult to shop for? Lingerie is too intimate, grooming aids too practical, perfume too predictable. Here’s a suggestion from the Don CeSar resort on St. Pete Beach: a membership to its luxurious gulf-front spa.
The legendary “pink palace,” opened in 1928 and host to countless luminaries through the years, recently underwent a major interior renovation. (The outside remains the same distinctive pink.) The three-story Spa Oceana, in its own space near the pool, now offers a wide range of discounted beauty and spa treatments for a $99 monthly membership fee.
At the Don’s invitation, a friend and I recently visited the spa to check it out and get pedicures. I usually have my toes done at a big, overly bright shopping center salon that has about the same ambiance as that of a nearby Publix. At the Oceana, clients are greeted with soft lighting and music in a chandeliered lobby. A window looks out over the beach and palm trees.
I opted for the hour-long Bali Breeze pedicure. Settling into an adjustable massage chair, I set the controls to gently knead my back. The pedicurist draped a warm wrap around my neck and eased my feet into what looked like a large crystal bowl filled with warm water and scented salts.
It was a bit early for Champagne ($12 a glass) so I sipped coconut water and nibbled from a little cup of nuts and dried fruits — the flavored water, fruit and nuts were complimentary — as the pedicurist clipped, filed and scrubbed. Then she smoothed a rich cream called marshmallow melt over my legs and covered my feet with a mask of shea, mango seed and cocoa butters.
The final step was applying coats of a sparkly deep pink polish. My toes looked like little gems. It was the best — and most relaxing — pedicure I’ve ever had.
For the monthly fee, members receive a 25 percent discount on hair services, a 15 percent discount on retail items and spa services (the pedicure was a discounted $72 including tip) as well as complimentary valet parking with a scheduled spa treatment. And this is especially attractive: Members get one 60-minute Swedish massage or organic facial a month, and those can be rolled over to the next month if not used.
The Oceana also has steam rooms, aroma-infused whirlpools and lockers for member use.
While waiting for my friend’s appointment, we walked over to the main part of the Don and had lunch in the Society Table restaurant — peach Bellinis and Caesar salads with grilled shrimp. We browsed the gift shops and boutiques, noting that the ice cream counters that were on the front side of the Don before the renovation are now in the back at Uncle Andy’s Market, a full-service sundries shop new to the hotel.
By early afternoon, morning clouds had cleared and the sun was coming out. I took the elevator up to the third level of the spa and went out on its expansive rooftop terrace. From there, the view over the gulf and up the beach was stunning.
That view alone almost seemed worth $99 a month.
The Don CeSar, 3400 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach. 844-338-1501. doncesar.com/spa.