Living the Life at Canyon Ranch


When Canyon Ranch Living, located in the heart of Miami Beach, was announced a few years back, an audible cry of joy was heard from the spa-goers and tranquility seekers who swear by the brand’s inimitable style of organic pampering. The plans called for opulent residences and hotel suites alongside an 70,000-square-foot Canyon Ranch Spa, Wellness, and Fitness Center, complete with common areas for play, sports, meditation, and relaxation, creating a community dedicated to the healthy lifestyle, with doctors, nutritionists, and fitness experts on staff. While the plans all looked fine on paper, the resulting reality manages to trump what even the most steadfast spa dreamer could conjure.

Because it’s one thing to hear that a property will have an indoor rock climbing wall with ocean views, but it is another to strap on the harness and reach for the nooks and crannies that cover the wall. It is one thing to read that the spa will incorporate North America’s first ice igloo; it’s another thing to step in and experience the heated floors (so your feet don’t stick) while being misted with eucalyptus-scented ice waters. And it’s one thing to buy a multi-million dollar residence on the property, site unseen; it’s quite another to fully immerse oneself in the lifestyle that abounds at the resort, which is properly being billed as like no place else on earth.

It’s not just the incredible range of offerings at the resort and residences that sets it apart, although that is a main component of the allure. Really, the magic starts with the one-of-a-kind location in the old Carillion hotel on Collins Avenue—a classic locale that hosted greats in its heyday. The location is secluded from South Beach’s “center of action,” a welcome change for tranquility addicts. While this is a destination spa, Miami Beach is, in and of itself, a destination. The resort responds accordingly, encouraging interaction with the outside world. But its proximity to the hustle and bustle (mere minutes) also adds to the appeal, because let’s be honest: while the idea behind Canyon Ranch is a complete physical and spiritual detox, the reality of a resort in Miami Beach is one that offers a little debauch decadence. Hence the wine menu and organic cocktails at Canyon Ranch Grill, a feature unique to this incarnation of the spa resorts.

And, of course, there is the beach. “It’s a location like no other,” says Eric Sheppard, owner of WSG, the developer behind the resort. He refers, of course, to the building’s perch on the sand where the 6-acre property stretches along the Atlantic for the duration of its three towers, two of which are residential. The center tower, which houses the hotel, spa, and wellness center, is aptly the center of the action. Here, guests and residents alike can indulge in what can only be described as a complete wellness experience.

 “To express this concept of a spa and wellness lifestyle, we wanted to translate healthy living into a fully realized environment.”

The experience begins the moment guests select the length of their stays, which can be optimized through “total health packages.” These packages go well beyond the typical scrub, massage, and wrap treatments offered at destination spas; they are comprehensive health and performance packages that include medical evaluations in the state-of-the-art biochemical laboratory. “We have one of the only bone density scanners in [Miami],” explains Sheppard. When combined with the body composition, hearing, vision, and lung function tests, nutrition, Chinese medicine (Sheppard himself was planning an acupuncture session with one of the staff doctors for an arm injury) and healthy lifestyle consultations, hormone and adrenal stress testing, and other functions, it is abundantly clear that this East-meets-West haven has all of the tools necessary to redefine the concept of healthy living.

In addition to being poked and prodded by the finest medical doctors, guests have full—and complimentary—access to the strength and cardio training studio, equipped with computerized stationary bikes, treadmills, weight machines, and more. These items are linked through the Wellness Key System, which monitors performance and logs workout history on a microchip key. “When you come to the machine, you stick in the little chip,” Sheppard explains. “Based on a routine our trainers have created for you, it tells you how many reps you have to do, how hard you have to push yourself.”

This is all complemented by an array of daily fitness classes, which range from the typical beachside yoga and weight training classes in one of the many studios to the not-so-typical classes like Wet Boot/Dry Boot, a boot camp with a water bound twist. The education process does not stop there; every day includes classes and lectures on a variety of health-related subjects.

And, of course, there is the spa, the centerpiece to the whole operation. Guests enter the spa through Aquavana, an extensive European thermal suite that includes a crystal steam room, experiential rain shower, Finnish sauna, foot spa, herbal laconium, hydrospa, and the aforementioned igloo. Guests are encouraged to utilize one of the sensory journeys that involve immerging the body in contrasting temperatures, which in turn helps drain toxins from the body. From Aquavana, guests are led to the relaxation lounge where they are met by the therapist and escorted to one of 22 treatment rooms.

From there, the sky is the limit. Indulge in the aromatherapy massage, or opt for the more exotic Ashiatsu Deep Barefoot Massage, where the therapist holds onto an overhead bar while exerting varying pressure with his or her feet. There are more clinical neuromuscular and sound therapies and ayurvedic body rituals that are based on traditional healing systems of India. In total, the spa menu lists more than 30 exotic treatments that help guests strive toward a state of Zen, a quest that begins as soon as one enters through the resort’s doors.

The décor, designed and executed by the Rockwell Group, is intended to invoke feelings of calm tranquility. The lobby features a monolithic coral wall with a linear pattern of bronze strips and glass panel inserts of Michael Palladino’s photography. Custom terrazzo floors with seashell inlays, rustic wood concierge tables, and a four-story hanging mangrove-wood and agate sculpture complete the initial experience.

The building includes a wide array of inviting spaces, including a library with hand-painted floral sliding panels and an intimate conservatory that leads into the café. Canyon Ranch Grill, bathed in warmth by the backlit wormwood veneer columns and an oversized lantern at the sommelier station, includes an exposition kitchen that doubles as a classroom for guests who are looking to learn more about healthy, mindful cooking.

For those who choose to live at Canyon Ranch, all of this wonder is just at their fingertips, all the time. Designed by Arquitectonica architects and the Rockwell Group, the spaces pay homage to the beautiful beachfront locale (with oversized steel and glass balconies) as well as to the healthy lifestyle (with designer kitchens to “inspire artful meals” and whirlpool tubs). “To express this concept of a spa and wellness lifestyle, we wanted to translate healthy living into a fully realized environment,” explains David Rockwell. “We used indigenous materials and handcrafted features to provide comfort, and also to encourage connections to the marine landscape.” Closings have begun on the luxurious residences, with a large percent being done in cash, an unheard of feat in this market, especially since residences range from $500,000 to $6 million. While many original buyers were thinking that the home would be an ideal pied-à-terre, Sheppard has already received notice that some are opting to call Canyon Ranch their permanent home. “One woman called to tell me that after visiting the resort, she was putting her D.C. home on the market,” he explains. “So many people bought this place sight unseen, and when they do see it, it just blows them away. It is a way to completely immerse oneself in a totally different lifestyle on a daily basis.”

And the lifestyle is such a diverse one. Not only is it a beachfront resort in the middle of Miami Beach, it is a wellness community full of successful, likeminded individuals. While vacationers and spa-goers have an opportunity to experience the resort for short bursts of time, for those that are lucky enough to call it home, Canyon Ranch redefines living.