Best Of :: Shopping & Services
In an unassuming shopping center in Little Havana, a tiny salon holds just a handful of chairs. Opening the front door pauses all Spanglish conversations and starts some serious stares in the sudden pin-drop silence. Simply ask for Susana Rodriguez, a 40-something Cuban woman with short blond hair who works in platform stilettos at Franci Beauty Salon. Her English is minimal, but pointing and uttering "keratin" is all that's needed if you don't habla. Rodriguez has a loyal following among her daughter's friends and their parents, and for $150 (depending upon hair length and texture), she'll soak and treat your strands in chemicals, straighten them, and dry them. It's a three-hour process for long hair, and the fumes are barely breathable. When you exit, though, not even Miami's humidity will cause your newly glossed locks to frizz.
"Today I'm going to chill in an igloo" is a phrase you probably never anticipated saying in Miami, but thanks to the Carillon Hotel & Spa, you really should. During a sultry, humid South Florida summer, cooling your blood inside an ice sculpture reinforced with three arctic mist "experiences" (in menthol, mint, and eucalyptus scents) actually sounds like a damn good way to spend a day. To do that, you'll need some serious cash: $295 to be exact. That's how much a day pass costs for Carillon's 70,000-square-foot world of relaxation and rejuvenation. But considering all the outlandish benefits that come with that pass, it seems like a bargain. You get a 50-minute tailored massage from a therapist, more than 40 fitness classes to choose from, pool access, and use of all the regular spa facilities. Try a Caribbean Monsoon (a "rain experience") or stare at the starlit ceiling and let all your worries melt away in the herbal laconicum — a warm ceramic room infused with herbs and private seating niches. There's even mindful relaxation therapy to get your brain as chill as your muscles via a soothing massage on vibrating sound tables that retune brainwaves.
Readers' choice: The Standard Spa
A short sampling of Miami's rankings in various national surveys last year: the seventh worst traffic in America, the fifth least affordable rentals, and the fourth worst place for recent college grads to move. Is it any wonder that last year, real-estate blog Movoto ranked Miami the third most stressed place in the nation? That's why you need a glorious, 50-minute massage, stat. And no one in Miami does it better than Lapis, the spa at the historic Fontainebleau resort. Soft music plays in the background while guests slip into a soft robe and rubber slippers. Before the rub begins, guests can take in the other considerable amenities, such as a swimming pool and a warm waterfall. Lapis offers various treatments, but perhaps the one that will give your muscles a workout is the "weekend warrior rehab," a combination of deep-tissue massage mixed with hot stones to "ease pain, tension, and improve mobility and range of motion." Those 50 minutes of heaven cost $165 — a hefty investment, but think of how Miami's national rankings could change if we all took a few minutes for a legit massage. America's number one Zen city, here we come.
Readers' choice: The Spa at Mandarin Oriental
Miamians aren't known for being wallflowers. So why shouldn't our fingernails match the personality of the city that birthed the Golden Girls, Tony Montana, and "surfbort." If you're looking to take that vivid loudness to a whole new level, there's one spot in town that can turn your nails into a work of art: Miami's freshly minted Vanity Projects. The salon, which was previously a pop-up during Art Basel, recently opened a full-time shop in Little River — its first outpost after establishing its street cred in Manhattan. It's easy to see why Vanity has received genuine art-world love: These guys can draw just about anything you want on your fingers. Tribal prints and talking lips? OK. Comic book heroes and attitudinal cats? Sure, why not? Vanity Projects offers custom colors, gel or regular polish, and a seemingly endless supply of inspiration for your nail art designs. Starting at $30, their work is generally priced per nail.
Wanna look like Christie Brinkley at 61 or Halle Berry at 48? Facials — lots and lots of facials — are the answer. Perfect skin doesn't come from over-the-counter creams, no matter what Big Cosmetics might want you to believe. To look firm and glowing into your later years, professional skincare is a must, and Leelou Salon and Spa is all about pampering your pretty face. Betsy, the resident facial queen, starts by analyzing your unique epidermis and adjusting as needed — because skin rarely stays the same. Try a $95 customized facial and lie back while she cleans, scrubs, extracts, masks, massages, and moisturizes your outer layer. Products and equipment are as fancy-pants as anything celebs use, and the private rooms have a spa-like vibe with soft lights and Zen tunes. You'll walk away feeling refreshed, relaxed, and, most important (particularly in Miami), ten years younger.
It's not a crime to want to look your best, particularly if it's a special occasion and there's a certain ex to impress. This is where the makeup-wielding wizards at Gee Beauty come in. Their signature "Red Carpet" service (for $60) includes 35 minutes with an artist who uses the company's beauty line to even out your skin tone, enhance your eyes, and contour better than a Kardashian. And by "better," we mean "more natural looking," because the mantra here is to emphasize each client's God-given attributes. It's why the "Secrets From the Chair" service ($125) is so great: For one hour, one of the friendly Gee gals teaches you her insider tips and tricks so you can be the pro. Then, two weeks later, you get to come in for a complementary followup where you apply your own makeup under their expert guidance. Plus, this Bal Harbour shop's beauty boutique and salon can shape and tint your brows and lashes ($20 to $35) to help round out your fabulous look.