When I heard the phrase urban spa, I envisioned lying on the sidewalk of a busy New Jersey intersection, my tense shoulders massaged by the soft loofa of a middle aged crossing guard named Bertha.
The gusts of dust from cars passing by would be the feature treatment designed to exfoliate and the melted gum that had formed an epoxy seal on my lower hip would be deemed â€œtherapeuticâ€ and â€œinvigoratingâ€. What was in store in reality though, at Panama City's first lifestyle urban spa, was not much like I had expected.
From the street, Alta Vita Spa doesn't look like much. It's fenced in by a tall gate and imposing door that, to the first timer, appears to guard someone's private residence. Once you get inside though, it's a different story. Various ferns and palm fronds droop lazily into the walkway semi-concealing the outdoor yoga studio: a roofed bamboo floor with inviting pillows and several on looking statues hiding in the foliage. It's quite welcoming.
The spa is situated in a newly-renovated home, around 70 years of age, with old exposed stone walls. The entry way, changing areas, and consultation rooms contrast it well, designed in this new-age chic, with frosted glass and relaxing sitar music coming from the walls. In all honesty, it takes a while to figure out just what the place actually is.
It's a lifestyle spa. They offer most of the traditional spa services such as manicures, pedicures, and massages, but what sets Alta Vita apart from the rest of the humdrum spas in Panama is their passionate, almost-fanatical obsession with high-tech gadgetry and better living. See, for example, the Power Plate machine which at first appears to be some sort of time-transportation device. This exercise contraption includes a platform which vibrates intensely, thus stimulating muscle contractions something like 30 times per second.
Or take the Ozone. This capsule-like appliance that welcomes you with two out-folding refrigerator doors. You sit in the chamber and close the doors, head poking up through a cushioned hole at the top, as if preparing for some sort of bizarre spa-induced decapitation. Then, the machine pumps in O3 or ozone into the chamber opening up your pores then injecting something I can only describe as steamy restorative heaven in a basin.
Alta Vita Lifestyle Spa has an upstairs area, renovated to the style of Victorian vogue: large cushy chairs, sleek yet plush lighting, and several off-shooting rooms for massages and lotion/treatment creation. Keep in mind, that my initial urban spa visualization was not completely off, in that they are in fact located near a large intersection and clients have to understand and accept the fact that car horns and, in my case, a screaming broom salesman may enter the lifestyle spa realm. This can be annoying, but it's easy to overlook when evaluating the overall quality service that's provided.
They offer life coaching and lifestyle consultations on how to live better, healthier lives which I'm sure all of us could prosper from. With extensive experience in the field, their experts might just be the only of their kind and quality in Panama. In addition to pampering, the team at Alta Vita concentrates on getting to know you first and taking their business as it grows one client at a time: a refreshing and impressive achievement in the world of cookie cutter spas with bad incense sticks.
I plan on going back sometime very soon, as leaving the place you feel like you've been re-born, but without all the hassle of learning to walk and talk and fish for marlin all over again. It is most certainly a welcomed addition to Panama's bustling and ever-growing capital. Now if they could just get someone named Bertha on-board.
Just tell them Matt the Ozone Maniac sent you: 507 390-9919 or firstname.lastname@example.org