The golden stone building in the shadow of Monte-Carlo’s grand Belle Epoque Casino and Hotel deParis looks more like a regal villa than a wellness center, but then, this is Monte-Carlo, where the therapeutic powers of sea water get the same architectural respect as the hotels and casinos of the fabled playground.

Monte-Carlo was already a thalassotherapy pioneer in 1908, when SBM, the major hospitality company of Monaco, built the Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo on a dramatic site overlooking the Mediterranean. In 1995 the spa underwent a major makeover that transformed its decor and facilities, installing pink marble, pale wood, stainless steel, and expansive glass windows that filter natural light throughout the four-level, 70,000-square-foot building.

, Monte-Carlo's grand Belle Epoque Casino and Hotel deParis

Exterior of the Monte Carlo spa, with Casino at rear and Hotel de Paris at left. Photo courtesy of Monte-Carlo S.B.M.

Two heated sea water pools are the centerpiece of the new facility, a large one with a wall of tall arched windows open to the sun and sea for swimming, and a smaller shallow “analytic” pool on a lower level for treatments. In both, the Mediterranean seawater is piped in from an area about 1,000 feet from shore and 130 feet deep to avoid any surface contamination, and is re-circulated every 24 hours.

There are now 37 treatment rooms; 43 therapists; a hammam; two saunas; a fitness center; a beauty salon with a staff of eight; several relaxation areas and terraces; and L’Hirondelle, a restaurant serving a gourmet health menu. And a boutique, of course. The spa accommodates 120 people for treatments and roughly another 120 for the other Thermes activities, including beauty and fitness.

Couple treatments at the spa, Monte-Carlo's grand Belle Epoque Casino and Hotel deParis

Couple treatments at the spa. Photo courtesy of Monte-Carlo S.B.M.

For my morning at the spa, what could be more convenient than a walk from my room at the Hotel de Paris through an underground marble-lined hallway? I could have worn my bathing suit and the terry bathrobe in my room, but I was going on to lunch so opted to change at the spa. A similar underground passage connects the Hotel Hermitage.

As the spa is noted for thalassotherapy, I had requested marine treatments. My program was on a printed schedule tucked into a waterproof plastic sleeve that I was to hand each therapist. Very efficient. Even more heartening was the hand-written message alerting everyone to avoid a vigorous massage on my bad back: “Massage Doux. Ne pas toucher le BAS du DOS“. Merci.

10:00, Mud Wrap, 20 minutes

In a small room with a shower, a therapis tslathered me with mud, wrapped me in plastic, then tucked me into a warm “sleeping bag.” “Was this Mediterranean mud?” I asked. No, she replied, from the Dead Sea. After a lengthy shower—it isn’t easy to clean off all that mud—I put on my bathing suit and moved on to the analytic pool for my second treatment.

Underground walkway between spa and Hotel de Paris, Monte-Carlo's grand Belle Epoque Casino and Hotel deParis

Underground walkway between spa and Hotel de Paris. Photo by Joan Scobey.

10:45, Underwater Shower, 12 minutes

Metal structures along one side of the pool provide anchors to grab while your hydrotherapist aims a water hose at different parts of your body. It’s a delicious gentle underwater massage, not to be confused with the spa’s alternative je tshower, a more vigorous hosing attacking fat and cellulite that is not done in the pool.

11:15, Monte-Carlo “sur mesure” massage, 60minutes

The spa’s “made to measure” massage is a highly customized treatment, accounting for all your preferences. As requested, my massage was firm but gentle, and entirely avoided my lower back. I would describe it as a Swedish massage, though they didn’t. Noteworthy: no new-age sound track, and a jaw-dropping glass-walled relaxation room with three wicker lounges swathed in gauzy white netting that overlooks the yacht-filled harbor. Bliss.

My program was a Monte-Carlo Harmony package for 260€, including use of the aqua fitness activities–heated sea-water pool, panoramic fitness room, sauna, hammam and solarium—and lunch at L’Hirondelle. It is one of several day programs ranging from 160 € to 260 € that combine marine treatments and massages.

A Spa Sampling

Here are some of the vast variety of treatments and relaxation programs; for the complete menu, log on to www.thermesmarinsmontecarlo.com. All prices are per person in Euros.

Marine Treatments:

Sea-Peel: 45 minutes; 135€

This peeling is done with salt from the Dead Sea, specially selected for its high concentration in active trace elements.

Monte-CarloAffusion Massage 2 or 4 hands: From 20 minutes; 88€

Administered by 2 or 4 hands, this massage with shea butter aromatized to suit your needs.

Body Wraps: 20 minutes; 65 €

Partial or total, with micronized algae or mud from the Dead Sea, these body wraps, either warm or cold, procure extremely effective re-mineralizing, slimming and relaxing effects.

Bath with algae 20 minutes; 58 €

A sea water bath enhanced by micronized and hydro solubilized algae.

Bath with colored salts and essential oils: 20 minutes : 55 €

A sea-water bath at a comfortable temperature.

Jetshower: 12 minutes; 55 €

This revivifying jet of sea water, whose pressure and trajectory are medically defined, for an in-depth massage that decongests areas of fat and cellulite.

UnderwaterShower: 12 minutes; 55 €

Administered in the pool and less vigorous than the jet shower. this treatment allows the hydro therapist to use a different approach on the areas to be treated.

Cellu-marineShower: 12 minutes; 55 €

Administered in the pool, like the underwater shower, it is its partner for slimming purposes. The jet’s trajectories are designed to decongest areas where cellulite and fat are stored (hips, abdomen, thighs, ‘‘jodhpur thighs,” inner knees).

Massages:

Made to Measure: 30 / 45 / 60 /90 minutes; 98 / 135 / 158/ 220 €

Taking into account your preferences and needs, the therapist chooses the best-adapted techniques for massages: tonic massage, relaxing massage, draining, kneading, smoothing.

Monte-CarloMassage with 100% Organic Argan Oil: 60 / 90 minutes; 180 / 242 €

Exclusive to Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo, with 100% pure and natural argan oil from the cooperative of Berber women in Morocco. Its richness in essential Omega 6 fatty acid and Vitamin E helps restructuring and moisturizing, while its active ingredients combat aging of the skin.

Foot Reflexology: From 30 minutes; 80 €

Monte-CarloStar Massage: 60 minutes : 135 €

A massage for the scalp, hands and feet ensuring total relaxation for the body while stimulating the ‘‘reflex” zones.

Ayurvedic Massage: 60 minutes : 160 €

This Indian massage unknots muscular tension and restores the flow of energy. Combined with specific oils, it tones the body while eliminating toxins. Massage performed on a futon.

Shiatsu: 60 minutes; 165€

Thaï Massage: 60 / 90minutes; 165 / 220 €

This complete massage offers alternate stretching movements and acupressure to stimulate your energy flow. Massage performed on a futon.

LymphDraining: 45 / 60minutes; 100 / 135 €

Gentle and slow pressure and skimming, to alleviate both venous and lymphatic circulatory disorders, reduce edema, eliminate toxins, combat water retention and the formation of cellulite.

Sportsmassage: 60 minutes; 165 €

Guests at all four SBM hotels—Hotel de Paris, Hotel Hermitage, Monte Carlo Beach Hotel and Monte Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort—receive a Carte d’Or (Gold Card) giving them complimentary access to the Thermes’ swimming pool, sauna, hammam, and fitness equipment (plus many other resort facilities). Non-hotel guests can buy a spa day pass for those facilities for 90 € (no treatments included).

Hotel de Paris and Hotel Hermitage have special 2-6-night spa packages; see pages 28-29 of the Regeneration brochure, at www.thermesmarinsmontecarlo.com.

Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo, 2 Avenue de Monte-Carlo, 011-377-9806 6900, www.thermesmarinsmontecarlo.com.