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The Road to Wellville

Whiskey Beach, Rande Gerber's new party extravaganza at Green Valley Ranch, has a sixties groove thing going on. It looks straight out of Goldfinger, or at least Goldmember. At night, a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd hangs around the icy-cool, all-white bar and open-air performance stage as stadium speakers blast club tunes into the stratosphere. During daylight hours, however, the tone is naturally subdued by the desert heat. But that's when most revelers recuperate in Dolphin Court Grand Spa, designed by the super-hip, Portland-based firm Architröpolis, which channeled Le Corbusier for the steel-and-glass structure with a waterfall that drops into a reflecting pool flanking the entrance.

According to designer Michael Czysz— who has worked for such pillars of cool as Lenny Kravitz—Dolphin Court's owner underestimated the year-old spa's popularity and is already talking about extending it another 20,000 square feet. This may seem like keeping up with the Bellagios, but the concept of play has always been an important element in achieving a sense of well-being. And frankly, if you're not bent on having some fun with the concept of wellness, what's the point of going to a resort?You can always seek instruction in higher consciousness at an ashram or a monastery, minus the room service and aromatherapy massages.

In Napa Valley, Auberge du Soleil's spa is the perfect entry-level retreat. Guests can dabble in yoga or qigong, hike trails that wind through marshaled rows of grapevines, drift away in a warm-spring infinity pool, and stare into the middle distance in a "tranquillity" lounge, a quiet space reserved for contemplating an oak forest. Six spa treatment rooms surround a serene courtyard of 100-year-old olive trees and acanthus-leaf fountains; fragrant lavender and rosemary flourish in garden beds. The spa's superb body and facial treatments are based on fresh components from Napa gardens and vineyards. (The enviable local resources for natural and organic ingredients will impress purity junkies.) There's no preaching the latest spiritual mumbo jumbo and no pressure to give up nasty little habits; in fact, the inn's restaurant may prove too enticing for the most stoic dieter. Even if you could resist the seasonal menu, the exceptional wine list will trip you up. But to borrow a catchphrase from hippie guru Ram Dass, it's enough to just be here now.

Spa director Peggy Francis, who is also a reiki master, agrees. "People come to us for pleasure, and that's at the crux of healing," she says. "Where the mind goes, the body follows." The staff tries to inspire the well-being of guests with a peaceful, joyous spirit. Everyone smiles, greets you, touches your hand or shoulder. No one checks a watch to see when treatment time is up or rushes a guest out of a room to clean it for the next customer. As Francis says, "Guests are able to relax, go deeper within, and bring that experience home with them. We provide the vehicle, and then it's up to them to do it."

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