The spa vacation is nothing new for the luxury set. For some travelers, though, it doesn’t make sense to fly half-way around the world only to hide out in a non-descript spa that could really be anywhere. Common trends in spa technology and even spa décor have made many facilities seem practically identical, whether they are found in New York City, Paris or the Caribbean.

The Sentidos en Rio Real hotel in Marbella, Spain, is bucking this trend with the opening of the intimately sized Petite Sérénité Spa. This exclusive mountainside oasis was designed and built to emphasize "“ rather than disguise "“ a sense of place and timeless indulgence, rather than bow to the “international spa" concept that has become so prevalent at so many other facilities around the world.

“We have nothing against mass-market contemporary spas," said Isidre Andreau, director of Petite Sérénité. “They are fine for a clinical treatment, hair coloring or even a therapeutic massage, but they tend to be a bit generic and certainly fall short of offering an authentic local experience. The concept at Petite Sérénité is to take advantage of our location along the Costa del Sol’s most picturesque coastline and embrace the availability of local Andalucian ingredients, design elements and treatment techniques."

You won’t see vials of Botox or Restylene at the Petite Sérénité. What you will find resembles the supplies in a traditional Spanish kitchen or organic garden more than what is usually found in a spa. Olive oil, mint, chamomile, local flowers, herbs, native plants and regional citrus fruits are common ingredients in treatments at the Spa. The Malaga Flower Exfoliation, for example, utilizes sea salts mixed with jasmine and geranium flowers to create a body scrub that removes dead skin cells, rejuvenates the skin and creates a long-lasting softness. In another signature treatment, the Rosemary Ritual Massage, the therapist mixes fresh essence of rosemary with massage oil to give an energizing massage that is relaxing to the body, but invigorating to the mind and spirit.

Standard treatments, such as massages, pedicures, body wraps and facials take on a new life when infused with traditional Andalucian methods and products to create entirely new and innovative therapies, many of which were designed by the Spa’s own herbalist. Even the décor is local, with native hardwoods and carved stone being used in the construction.

To help introduce travelers to the tranquility of the Petite Sérénité Spa, the hotel is offering a free chamomile and mint massage to guests staying three nights or more, though the end of 2007.

Another main attraction at the Sentidos en Rio Real is the Golf Academy, supervised by Spanish golf legend Alfonso Piñero. Professional instructors coach golfers of all levels on key aspects of the game, utilizing high-tech swing-analysis equipment combined with years of personal experience.

Lessons take place on the hotel’s own par-72 course that stretches across a beautiful valley, softly sloping from the mountains to the Mediterranean. True to the gracious style of Andalucia and the Sentidos en Rio Real hotel, all golf lessons include a picnic along the garden-like course.

The hotel is just two miles from the heart of Marbella, the sunny seaside town long known as a favorite hideaway for the rich and famous. It blends traditional Spanish architecture with Asian and Mediterranean influences, along with enough modern touches to give the property a stylish and luxurious feel.

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