September/October  2004 



by Lillian Africano

Like other Asian countries, Singapore has a long tradition of rites and rituals to enhance health and beauty. But it's only in the last dozen or so years that spas began to proliferate, both in luxury hotels and as freestanding facilities in this island country’s many upscale malls. Singapore has become an urban spa hub in Southeast Asia, attracting not only visitors from other countries, but also residents. A 2003 story in the Straits Times reported that Singaporeans are using their spas in record numbers.

Spa growth seems likely to continue, given the appeal of Asia as a destination, the popularity of spas among international travelers, and the growing global acceptance of “total wellness” as a health concept.

Singapore’s spas tend to offer an amalgam of treatments and philosophies from both East and West. A spa might, for example, feature the Hot Stone massage that's on so many American and European menus along with “Kung Fu Bouncing Herbs Therapy” or “Tarzan on a Rope.”

A Singapore spa staple is “skin lightening”--with serums, enzymes, and something called “placental whitening,” with the promise of fairer complexions and the general fading of dark pigmentation.

Water features, based on European hydrotherapy, also seem to be a strong trend, as demonstrated by the number of facilities, particularly the newer ones that offer water-based treatments.

Singapore’s spas tend to offer an amalgam of treatments and philosophies from both East and West.


With its Amrita brand Raffles International, the company that owns and operates the historic Raffles Hotel here (as well as other boutique hotels worldwide), has taken the lead in developing luxury spas. In Singapore there are three Amrita (the word means “nectar of eternal youth” in Sanskrit) locations. Amrita spas can also be found in Europe, South America, Australia, and the United States.

The flagship spa, the largest in Singapore (50,000 square feet), was built at a cost of SD$8.5 million and is located at Raffles The Plaza (2 Stamford Road; Tel. 65-6336-4477; ).

The décor is Asian-inspired, but the menu is global. Massage options range from Swedish to Shiatsu to Ayurvedic techniques, with prices from SD$45 to SD$170. There are equally varied options in body wraps and scrubs, as well as the water treatments (SD$65 to $190) that are a component of all the Amrita spas. Skin care (SD$65 to $150) is comprehensive; facials use algae, vitamins, fruit enzymes, moor mud, hydroxyl acids, and classic aromatherapy oils. The spa has a well-equipped gym and classes in kick-boxing, tennis, Pilates, and yoga.

The second, smaller Amrita Spa in the Raffles Hotel (1 Beach Road; Tel. 65-6337-1886; has a more intimate quality. As it is for the exclusive use of hotel guests, and as the hotel attracts affluent travelers from around the world, the atmosphere here is of quiet luxury. The facility has six treatment rooms, VIP suites for couples (with private Jacuzzi, aroma steambath, shower facility, and a lounge area), a picture-postcard relaxation verandah, and a swimming pool with a pool bar.

Here, too, spa guests will find a menu that is rich and varied. Among the packages offered are: the Gentlemen’s Executive Rescue (2 hours, 55 minutes for SD$345), which includes an salt and essential oils exfoliation, an Aromatherapy Massage, and a Gentlemen’s Facial, and the Amrita Spa “Total Indulgence” (5 hours, 25 minutes at SD$650), which includes a Thermal Mineral Body Scrub, a one-hour full body massage followed by a Deluxe Pedicure, a 2-course spa lunch, a Spa Manicure, and a Traditional European Facial.

The third Amrita spa is at the Swissotel The Stamford (2 Stamford Road; Tel. 65-6338-8585).

Note: At presstime the US dollar was equal to about SD$1.70.


The upscale Saint Gregory brand has also established a major presence in Singapore, with four spas: the St. Gregory Therapeutic Spa, St. Gregory Marine Spa, St. Gregory Javana Spa, and the St. Gregory Aroma Spa.

 The St. Gregory Aroma Spa, located at the Conrad Centennial Singapore (2 Temasek Boulevard; Tel. 65-6333-9166;, offers face and body treatments featuring Elemis products. The massage I received here was intense, almost combative, yet exquisitely focused. Hands and feet were pushed and pulled, stretched and pounded, manipulated with a powerful digital pressure. The scalp massage was also vigorous, so when the therapist climbed onto my back, I asked what kind of massage she was doing. “Asian,” she replied. Explanation enough, for when she was finished, I felt very, very good. The 50-minute massage here is SD$100.

Also offered is the Ancient Chinese Tui Na Massage (50 minutes for SD$120), performed by the spa’s Chinese physician (advance booking required). This is a combination of acupressure and massage. According to traditional Chinese medical practices, most illness is caused by poor blood and energy circulation; this 2,000-year-old massage technique focuses on specific problem areas.

Wraps and scrubs complete the spa’s “Heavenly Body Treatments.” The menu features several facials along with specialized treatments, like the Japanese Silk Pro-Collagen Eye Treatment (45 minutes, SD$90), which uses Japanese silk protein to oxygenate and increase cellular renewal around the eyes.

Complementing the spa is The Centennial Fitness Club, as well as a splendid outdoor pool. These facilities are available to hotel guests; however, St. Gregory also has a membership plan, which offers discounts on various services and products at their various spas.

The Grand Plaza Hotel's Saint Gregory Marine Spa (10 Coleman Street; Tel. 65-6432-5588) may well be one of Singapore’s most luxurious facilities. Water treatments are the stars here: hydrobaths, Swiss shower, blitz shower, effusion shower, and marine Spa pools. Non-guests who book appointments have access to the spa’s extensive facilities; for couples desiring treatments, there are luxurious VIP suites.

At the Plaza Hotel’s Saint Gregory Javanese Spa (7500 Beach Road; Tel. 65-6290-2028), the floor is decorated with tiny seashells and the decor hints of Bali. This is Singapore’s first Indonesian-themed spa. Treatments were developed by Susan-Jane Beers, a local authority on Indonesian herbal health and beauty treatments. They include Javanese Lulur Scrubs and Balinese massages along with a full selection of face, hair, and body treatments.


Last December, the M Hotel (81 Anson Road; Tel. 65-6224-1133; launched a new “Waterfloor” spa, with a menu of therapies themed around the revitalizing qualities of water. Priced from SD$45 to $160, the treatments are given in the hotel’s private spa suites, which are equipped with state-of-the-art hydrotherapy facilities and independent music and lighting control, so guests can customize their spa experience.

Treatments include Vichy showers, flower baths, and "body cocoons.” Of the several bath options, the flower bath (30 minutes, SD$45) may be the most appealing. Who wouldn’t enjoy being immersed in rose and jasmine petals for a half hour?

The signature Body Cocoon (60 minutes, SD$160) combines dry skin brushing for exfoliation and warm algae to boost metabolism, reduce fluid retention, and detoxify the system. Marine plants, which are rich in minerals and enzymes, leave the skin moisturized and hydrated. The treatment concludes with a scalp massage. There is an outdoor pool area, which includes two “massage” pools. The adjacent glass-walled gym has state-of-the-art fitness equipment.


Other top hotel options, include the cosmopolitan and Asian-influenced Aspara spas, at The Goodwood Park Hotel (22 Scotts Road; Tel. 65-6732-3933), The Fullerton Hotel (1 Fullerton Square; Tel. 65-6877-8183), and The Amara Hotel (165 Tanjong Pagar Road; Tel. 65-6879-2555).


Visitors and locals who want a spa getaway just minutes from downtown may choose the 5-star Sentosa Resort & Spa (2 Bukit Manis Road; Tel. 65-6275-0331; The resort, which has a private beach and offers good golf and tennis facilities, is situated high atop a cliff on 27 acres of woodland overlooking the South China Sea. Nearby is the Spa Botanica, Singapore’s first garden spa, which features mud pools, float pools, the Galaxy Steam Bath, and an intricate labyrinth.

The Botanica Escapade package, starting at SD$298 per room, includes one night in a deluxe room, buffet breakfast on the terrace, admission to the attractions of Sentosa Island, a 30-minute beauty flash, 30-minute therapeutic back massage, and use of the mud pool, the labyrinth, and the swimming pool in the spa gardens.


Singapore has scores of day spas, big and small, luxurious and simple. I visited Spa Esprit Downtown, located at 290 Orchard Road ((65) 6836-0500) in the posh Paragon 2 mega mall (Fendi, Gucci, Escada are among the top names found here).

There’s a sense of whimsy at work here — witness such treatment names as “Instant Brownie,” “Cheeky Chai Detox,” and “Tarzan on a Rope.” This last treatment was not, I was told, as daunting as it looks in the illustration showing a rather substantial therapist astride a client’s back. However, I still chose the less athletic Mud Stones Massage, which combined the soothing effect of heated stones with the detoxifying and mineralizing properties of the mud.

This was followed by a classic facial; the combination erased the last traces of jet lag and left me feeling relaxed and energized from head to toe.
For a quick pick-me-up, Singaporeans often stop at one of the many foot reflexology centers that have popped up in shopping centers all over the city. For the adventurous visitor, it can be fun to browse the ethnic neighborhoods of Chinatown and Little India, just to see what traditional healing arts and rituals are available there.

With so many options--from a day of pampering at one of the city’s sophisticated spas or a 15-minute foot massage in a shopping mall—it’s virtually impossible to leave Singapore without experiencing something that feels good.




© 2004 Worldwide Spa Review Magazine