Not all fitness takes place inside, which is a boon to those who crave the great outdoors. Out on the lawn by the bay, it is common to see the ghostly silhouettes of yoga practitioners striking poses against the sun as it rises over Tampa Bay. Morning walks are part of the fitness center's regular offerings, and bicycles are available for those who would like to pedal along the bay to Phillipe Park, a 50-acre park about a mile north of the resort. The town of Safety Harbor also has a charming downtown -- good for walking and bike-riding -- that sits practically at the resort's doorstep.
Guests can arrange golf tee times through the resort at three area country clubs -- the Eagles, Wentworth and Westchase. Golf instruction is offered daily with a resort pro.
When it's time to eat, The Café pleases palates with a generous, creative menu. Lunch, for instance, features such choices as smoked salmon Caesar salad ($10) and pan-seared jumbo lump crab cakes with mango scotch bonnet, aioli and jicama ($9). Dinner entrees include pan-seared sea bass with sweet butter, braised asparagus, roast red pepper compote and a warm coriander vinaigrette ($20), as well as basil marinated chicken breast with toasted almond rice, cinnamon-scented baby squash and a light chicken broth flavored with peach puree ($15). If this doesn't sound like the kind of fare you want because you've been whittling the pounds away in the fitness center, spa package participants can opt for a pre-selected "spa cuisine" plan that features leaner offerings.
A top choice
As a resort spa, Safety Harbor is highly regarded. In the Reader's Choice Awards in Spa Finder magazine's September/October 2002 issue, Safety Harbor was rated among the top 10 resorts nationwide in the areas of best massage, fitness program, tennis program and "best value for your money." It also was named one of the best resort spas for 1999 by National Geographic Traveler magazine.
Unfortunately, time doesn't allow me to sign up for one of those award-winning massages. A 25-minute facial will serve as my introduction to the spa's services, which include reflexology, nail and hair care and treatments such as thalassotherapy, which involves "decongestant" essential oils, a marine mud wrap and special massage movements; and the fango mask, in which Italian mud is smeared on the body to deep-cleanse, nourish and smooth. Massage techniques include shiatsu, during which pressure is applied to stress points; shirodhara, in which warm oil is poured on the forehead; Reiki, which involves channeling energy through the attendant's hands; and Swedish, the classic form of massage. After a massage, you even can have hot basalt rocks applied to your muscles to achieve higher levels of relaxation.
All this sounds exotic compared with my facial, which the resort's booklet describes as a "refresher facial, combining cleansing, exfoliation and hydration appropriate to skin type."
The attendant, a woman in her mid-30s, has me lie face up on a table. When I'm situated, she scoops my bangs out of the way, securing them under a wide hair band. She then dims the lights and gets down to business, first removing my makeup, then cleansing my face and using an exfoliation cream and a chilly toner. She applies a moisturizing mask and leaves me to relax for several minutes. Before she departs, she compliments me on my skin's tone and asks if I have a "program." I tell her I do, hoping she won't give me the hard sell about "essential" salon products I need. She doesn't.
Friends who have gotten facials have told me I should expect a massage of my neck and shoulders during the treatment. The swirling massage the attendant performs on my face is wonderful, but I'm disappointed when she stops there.
Still, my 25 minutes having passed much too quickly, I emerge from the small treatment room relaxed and rejuvenated. I wobble lazily back down the long hall with its undulating floor. When I reach the waiting room, I select a bag of green tea and sit, content to do nothing but dip the bag hypnotically in and out of steaming water I hold in a foam cup.
Safety Harbor, it seems, has quickly worked its magic on me.
Contact Lisa Roberts at 407-420-5598 or Lroberts@orlandosentinel.com.