Every time I visit Gaia Retreat & Spa, it’s slightly different. Dirt paths become paved walkways. Fabrics and lighting change style in the main lodge. New signage helps you find your way around the grounds. A new gym and yoga studio appear. Higher end accommodations dot around the property. WIFI gets added in the rooms (YAY!). A new signature line of products are introduced (and strongly marketed by co-owner Olivia Newton John’s image). From a business perspective, it’s smart and well-paced investment that keeps the PR machine growing and the awards rolling in.
Despite the growing guest numbers and changes all about, it’s still a very intimate experience. Check-in is a casual affair on the sofa accompanied by tea and fruit, the friendly wait/everything staff instantly learns your name and takes interest in your story while catering to your every need. The atmosphere is casual and you are welcome to walk around in your spa robe anywhere and everywhere. The grounds are still luscious and beautiful (even in a severe drought). And the food — the food is gorgeous, plentiful, healthy and simply the best part of your stay. Everyone says it — just look at scrambled eggs Gaia style as one example:
What was different to this veteran spa goer on a recent visit, are probably things most wouldn’t notice. The family dining table sat empty night after night and people instead, dined solo or with their travel companions. The spa was a-buzz with new and more therapists running about, even during the normally calm mid-week. The parking lot was full with cars from neighboring states. Every day there was a great stack of luggage on the front steps of people coming and going (one of the things I do appreciate about this spa is you can arrive and depart on any day of the week). And I was actually one of a handful of Americans this time around, much to my great surprise!
None of this was drastic change, just enough to make me take notice. Hmmmm, “If this were my first visit, would I have come back again?,” I wondered. I missed dining with others — all having comically different food restrictions the wait staff knowingly handles with ease; comparing notes on treatments and therapists; and winning the inevitable discussion about who traveled the farthest for their stay in paradise. The frenzy in the spa mid week caught me a bit off guard and I swear I heard the same wrap-up schpeel after treatments that somehow compromised my zen.
But in the long run, is that even possible? Three days of beautiful surroundings, gentle exercise, being rubbed and scrubbed and eating healthy food while adjusting to a new time zone is three days well spent and zen enough, regardless.
So yes, it is still the place for me and will continue to be my first stop upon arrival down under whenever possible. It’s the perfect way to recuperate from the dreadful flight and with the exchange rate so positive, a great deal — which explains the plethora of Americans about.