A spa, in the town that chocolate was built, kicks it up with exotic treatments straight from Cubaaaaaaah.
By Kelly A. Magyarics
I say Hershey, you say…Mojito?
Sure, they don’t refer to the area as “Chocolate World” for nothing—even the streetlights downtown are shaped like Hershey kisses. But this quaint Pennsylvania town also has a tropical connection to all that cocoa. Founder Milton S. Hershey visited Cuba in 1916, and instantly fell in love with it. Since sugar at that time was in short supply due to World War I, Hershey decided to purchase some sugar plantations and mills in Cuba to produce his own sugar for his chocolate concoctions.
Today, the sumptuous Spa at The Hotel Hershey offers up a “Cuban Experience” menu inspired by Hershey’s love of Old Havana. On the menu are both a wrap and body polish made with green coffee, a jasmine-scented soak, and two treatments based on the classic rum, mint and lime cocktail. My best friend Rebecca and I recently visited the spa for a girls’ weekend for a little R&R…Cuban style.
Upon check-in, a spa attendant showed us the two available locker rooms and handed us each a robe and a pair of flip-flops. We opted to arrive in plenty of time to have lunch in The Oasis located inside the spa, mainly because we thought it would be cool to dine in our robes (it was…) The restaurant serves up a light buffet of salads, wraps, breads (including a decadent chocolate one, of course,) desserts and beverages, for $20, waived if you book several spa services.
While waiting for our spa technician to call us in for our first treatment, we had the option to rest in one of three relaxation rooms: one where guests are asked to observe total silence, a small sitting room where quiet chatting is allow, and a large semi-quiet room. The latter features a fireplace, ample seating and a selection of beverages (tea, coffee and hot cocoa) and sweets (blueberry and chocolate muffins.) I could have spent all day in there curled up with a good book. But structured respite was waiting…
My first treatment of the afternoon was the Mojito Sugar Scrub (30 minutes, $65.) After I disrobed (except for a few strategically placed towels,) the technician applied a sugar and lime scrub in a circular motion. I didn’t notice any mint aroma, but it still smelled refreshing. Afterwards she used a hand-held shower to remove the product, leaving my skin exfoliated and feeling soft. This scrub typically ends with the application of a moisturizer, but my attendant told me she would apply that after my last spa treatment so it would stay on my skin.
After a little reading and cocoa sipping in the relaxation room, it was time for the spa’s signature service: the Cocoa Massage. Their “Everything Chocolate” menu has everything a chocoholic could ask for, from a Whipped Cocoa Bath to a Chocolate Fondue Wrap. The chocolate-scented oil she used during my massage smelled so good that I had to purchase a bottle to enjoy at home ($9 for a 2 oz. bottle.)
I ended the afternoon with the Mojito Body Wrap (60 minutes, $115.) The tech applied a lotion rich in white clay and Vitamin C with a paintbrush (I definitely could sense more of a Mojito smell this time,) and wrapped me first in plastic wrap, then a “space blanket” to conduct heat, topped by a wool blanket to trap the heat. I was left to relax in my cocoon for about thirty warm and cozy minutes. After removing the blankets and rinsing me off with a Vichy shower, she applied a moisturizer to my buffed and radiant skin.
If you want to try the Cuban or Chocolate Experience for yourself (the spa also offers treatments crafted from lavender, rose petals, jasmine oil and a whole host of other aromatic ingredients), check out the following details to plan your visit:
Getting there: The Hotel Hershey is about two and a half hours from Washington, DC.
Spa-ing there: Saturdays at the spa are the busiest days, so plan on booking your treatments as far in advance as possible (especially if you are visiting with a group of friends). Rebecca commented that the spa was much bigger than she anticipated, and that she would have felt lost going there alone. Guests can enjoy the sauna, steam room, relaxation rooms, pool and Jacuzzi before, during and after their spa day. Treatments “For the Hershey Man” range from Deep Tissue Massage to a Gentlemen’s Facial—we saw several guys during our stay who definitely appeared to be enjoying themselves, perhaps despite their preconceived notions about spa visits.
Staying there: Right now through the end of the year, rates for rooms in the hotel start at $279, and 20 suites are also available at a higher rate. We stayed in one of the ten premium multi-bedroom Woodside Cottages located behind the main hotel. These border Pennsylvania woods and have nearby walking and fitness trails, and interiors feature marble bathrooms and native stone hearths, along with a porch with rocking chairs. Renting the entire cottage gives you access to a multi-functional great room a flat screen TV, dining room table and wet bar. Rates for one-bedroom in the Woodside Cottages are currently $404.
Dining there: After our day of bliss in the spa, we had dinner in the Circular Dining Room, the most upscale option at the Hotel Hershey. Don’t miss the signature Cocoa-Dusted Diver Scallops with Salsify Purée and Fennel Apple Slaw, or Braised Wagyu Beef Cheeks with Butternut Custard, Sorrel and Pan Jus, on the appetizer menu. The fresh fish on the main course menu was equally impressive, especially the Pan Seared Wild Stripe Bass with Parsnip Purée, Braised Young Leeks, Compressed Grapes and Caper Truffle Vinaigrette; and the Cedar Planked Coho Salmon with House Made Chorizo Sausage, Sweet Potato Hash and Saffron Nage. The staff was very accommodating and paired each of our courses with wines from the by-the-glass menu. Chocolate lovers will find several delish options on the dessert menu, but we selected cheese and a lovely Ten Year Tawny Port. The Circular Dining Room also offers breakfast and brunch. The hotel also has other more casual options including Italian dining at Trevi 5, and casual local cuisine at Harvest.
Sipping there: The Hotel Hershey was built during Prohibition, so The Iberian Lounge started off as a reading room. Still traditionally decorated, it’s now a bar and offers live entertainment on Saturday evenings. Of course chocolate features prominently in the drinks menu in creations like the Mint Chocolate Grenada (Absolute, white chocolate liqueur and crème de menthe,) and the Chocolate Covered Cherry Manhattan (Woodford Reserve, dark crème de cacao, sweet vermouth and a dried bing cherry.) But they also feature classic cocktails, and make a mean Negroni with Bluecoat Gin from Philadelphia.
Kelly Magyarics is a wine and spirits writer, and wine educator, from Northern Virginia. She can be reached through her website at www.kellymagyarics.com, or on www.twitter.com/kmagyarics.