Melt your stress away at W San Diego's impressive urban oasis

width=298Whatever/whenever - the service-minded mantra of W Hotels is translated in every aspect of the W San Diego. It was never more evident to me than during an afternoon at the hotel's Away Spa. As I looked ahead to a red-eye flight back to the East Coast, I melted away the stresses from three busy days at a convention while basking in the attentive glow of the spa staff.

Away Spa, tucked on the hotel's second floor, is small but certainly not lacking. The spa has several treatment rooms and offers a full range of services, including facials, body treatments, massages, skin care and in-room services. Through a partnership with REN Bioactive Skincare, Away Spa has created its own line of skincare products using pure plant botanical products. Therapists recommend products for each spa-goer at the end of the treatment. For those interested in maintaining the spa regimen at home, this is a nice touch.

width=348The W San Diego is located smack-dab in the middle of downtown San Diego. The hotel has a strong local buzz, regularly attracting hotel guests and locals to its funky and fun lobby Living Room or to its rooftop beach bar. The hustle and bustle of both the city and the hotel punctuate the W San Diego's energy. However, once inside the doors of the spa, the hustle and bustle are long forgotten. At one point, I even forgot I was still inside the property. Away Spa provides just the right balance of urban activity and oasis calm.

Even before I arrived in San Diego, the spa staff impressed me. I was put in touch with Michael Otto, Away Spa talent coach, who immediately recommended the WoW treatment, a 90-minute massage and facial simultaneously performed by two therapists. I opted for female therapists and spent the next few weeks eagerly anticipating the wonderful-sounding treatment.

Hindsight is 20/20, and scheduling my Away Spa appointment at the end of my San Diego visit was the best move Imade. Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday
and Wednesday were jam-packed, busy and exhausting. Come Wednesday afternoon, I was worn out and not looking forward to a layover in San Francisco and an overnight flight home. The only saving grace for my shot nerves was the knowledge that soon enough I would be pampered and wowed at the W San Diego.

I was early for my appointment and spent the extra time relaxing with a beverage in a private room off the lobby. After filling out the requisite paperwork and detailing my personal preferences (such as massage pressure) and skin concerns (skin type, problem areas), I started to relax immediately. Within a few minutes, the therapists were ready for me.

After brief introductions, they led me through a curtained entryway to the hall of treatment rooms. As far as I could tell, I was the only spa patron scheduled at that time, which gave my experience an extra personal touch. It really feels like pampering when everyone in the place is there to serve you and only you.

Before beginning the treatment, the technicians again reviewed my personal preferences and went over the treatment, explaining who would be doing what and putting me further at ease. As I mentioned before, Away Spa is small. There is no separate area for changing, so my technicians left the room while I changed, and I left my belongings on the room's large windowsill.

I have had spa treatments with chatty therapists and ones where the staff made very minimal conversation. Both suit me just fine. My therapists were not chatty, which, after days of talking to strangers, was exactly what I needed.

The WoW treatment is an appropriate name for this massage/facial combination. At first I was concerned I would not be able to enjoy the massage as much because I would be consumed with the facial, or vice versa, but I needn't have worried. Soon, all my concerns melted away as I relished the calming effects of the dual treatments. While I enjoyed simultaneous services, every one of my senses was stimulated and I was completely relaxed. I truly believe I slept so well on my red-eye flight because I was so at ease.

This was only the second time I had a facial, and it was my first one with extractions. While not exactly pleasant at the time, the aftereffects are well worth the few minutes of discomfort. My skin was smoother than normal for weeks. And the massage helped me take my mind off the squeezing and pressure being applied to my face. I especially appreciated being kept in the know about all the products being used and each step of the facial process.It is important to point out that the therapists really listened to my wants. The massage pressure was just as I requested. The facialist paid special attention to my problem zones. Each experience at the Away Spa is designed in this manner, personally tailored to the needs and wants of each patron.

I won't lie - Away Spa is not the most luxurious spa I've visited. It's not the largest. It's not the fanciest spa around. But it was comfortable, indulgent and just what I needed. So next time you find yourself in San Diego, allow the W San Diego to whisk you away.