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A Manuel Antonio Massage

Destination: Manuel Antonio

I awoke with sore arms at 5:59 a.m. (exactly one minute before the alarm went off), thinking about yesterday's huge sailfish success. After a shower I grabbed a mango for breakfast from the supermarket on the road between Quepos and Manuel Antonio.

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While these tropical fruits are available year-round in Costa Rica, they seem sweetest during the months of January and February -- and the stickiest, messiest kinds are always the best.

I took a taxi to The Falls Resort, my hotel for the next few nights in Manuel Antonio. I was impressed by the hotel's beautiful landscaping and attention to detail. Opening the door to my air conditioned suite, I marveled at the bed littered with fragrant flower petals. An hour after settling in, it was time for my day with Evelina Bolognini, the owner of Holis Spa.

Five years had elapsed since my last Pilates class, and I had forgotten how intense the exercise could be. Derived from yoga and with a similar emphasis on stretching, Pilates is focused on strengthening the core and lengthening the spine. Evelina gave me a private class to demonstrate specific movements and breathing exercises -- including my favorite, "rolling like a ball."

After so much exercise, I was ready for a restful "Total Body Awareness" massage. This unique treatment combines deep tissue, reflexology, Thai massage, osteopathy and acupressure techniques, with the goal of helping patients better understand and care for their bodies.

I filled out a general health questionnaire and discussed it with Evelina. Having been trained in body work and holistic therapies, she had a sixth sense for finding her clients' aches and pains. "Everyone's body is unique," she said. "Giving a massage is like reading a book. I can read the history and energy in your muscles with my hands, just like I could read a written biography about your life with my eyes."

By simply rubbing my legs and feet she surmised a wealth of information about my health history, including items not reported on the survey. Every hour that passed felt like 15 minutes, as Evelina worked the fibers of my arms, hands, neck and shoulders. She sometimes hit a trigger point and my body would twitch, signifying the effects would be particularly long lasting. Just when I thought my back had fused with the massage table, it was time to flip onto my stomach for another hour.

By the end of the massage I felt like a wobbly gelatin mold. Best of all, my spa day wasn't even finished. I rinsed the massage oils off and prepared for a 75-minute Essenthya facial.

An esthetician named Michelle led me into another room, where several bowls and vials were laid out on a table. Every single component of my treatment would be completely organic, from the cleansing volcanic clay to the soothing aloe grown in their backyard.

Michelle assessed my skin type, and decided that tamarind would be the best exfoliating cleanser for my sensitive dermis. There was no scrubbing since the enzymes naturally removed the dead skin cells. A clay and yogurt cleanser, vinegar toner, and tamarind exfoliate were applied.

Next, she covered my face with a cooling chocolate mask and placed chamomile tea bags over my eyelids. The caffeine in the chocolate acted as a stimulant for blood circulation, but it also made me hungry.

I relaxed for 20 minutes before she removed the mask with a hot towel, and then proceeded to pat my face with aloe. After a massage with essential oil blends, my skin was flawless.

At 5:00 p.m., I floated out of Holis Spa in a delicious trance. In no condition to walk home, I plopped down at the bus stop and tried my best to stay alert. When I returned to The Falls Resort, I melted into my enormous bed and enjoyed the deepest sleep of my life.

A Manuel Antonio Massage in Pictures

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