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Weekend Escape: A Spanish-Style Retreat You Wouldn’t Expect in San Diego

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It might seem completely illogical to travel all the way to San Diego and not set up shop directly on one of the many (some, heartbreakingly picturesque) beaches, but spend time at the Rancho Valencia resort, tucked away in the rolling hills of Rancho Santa Fe, eight miles east of the ocean, and you’ll reconsider the merits of a countryside getaway. The spa, housed in its own Spanish-style compound, offers thirty-five treatments—some of which make use of the shower or tub in the private outdoor patio found in many of the rooms. (I had a particularly deep massage that unwound muscles that had been coiling for months and ended with a delicious green juice in lieu of the usual cup of water or tea.) For those who want to jump-start their morning before winding down, a complimentary workout session at the yoga pavilion, sunlight-filled Spin studio, or TRX room are also on offer. Still itching to feel the sea breeze? Hitch a ride to the coast from one of the three complimentary Porsches available to guests.

Why go now: The resort is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year by offering its guests a major party favor: Rates that typically start around $700 are now beginning at $420, and no matter what type of room you book, you’ll get a $250 resort credit until June 30.

5921 Valencia Circle, Rancho Santa Fe, California 92067, ranchovalencia.com

A Beauty Bungalow You Should Visit Before Hitting the Beach

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California is consistently on the cutting edge of green beauty, and keeping pace is Côte, a newly opened nail salon located on a busy stretch in L.A.’s Brentwood neighborhood that boasts an extensive in-house line of 109 hand-poured, five-free (i.e., formulated without formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate, toluene, camphor, and formaldehyde resin) polishes. This “eco-friendly” destination is a literal breath of fresh air—the Cape Cod-like bungalow houses eleven manicure and pedicure stations with both indoor and outdoor seating options. And though Earth-conscious, the total experience is far from crunchy: iPads are available for smudge-free perusing while clients indulge in the spa’s signature Luxe treatment for hands or feet—a service that incorporates an exfoliating massage with the brand’s own sugar scrub, a collagen treatment, argan oil application on cuticles, and for pedicures includes a hot-stone foot massage. Classic manis and pedis, along with stand-alone foot massages, are also on the menu. And post-polish job, you can browse the boutique filled with Côte’s candles and body goods, as well as home and fashion accessories from local designers. But no matter how you decide to de-stress, the fresh scents and open-air space make for an innovative nail care concept where luxe, all-natural products are front and center—a place they should undoubtedly remain.

11714 San Vicente Boulevard, Los Angeles, (310) 820-0906;
coteshop.co

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Destination Hot Body: Two Summer Escapes That Will Whip You Into Shape

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We understand the siren call of the poolside cabana and cocktail list like anyone else, but it’s hard to ignore the new concept of traveling for personal fitness gain that’s sweeping through nearly every kind of vacation spot. The idea: Whether you want a beach retreat, crisp mountain breezes, or the heat of the desert, pair a kick-ass workout with stunning views and chic accommodations to create a luxe summer camp of sorts. It may seem counterintuitive to count down to a vacation only to hit the ground running (sometimes literally) the moment you land, but these trips might just change the way you view your time off.

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What: Hang23 Surf Retreat
Where: San Diego, California

It’s hard to drive a few feet down a stretch of the San Diego coast without spotting a surfboard strapped to the roof of a car. It’s even harder to gaze out over the water without seeing a few—or a small village worth—of surfers bobbing up and down like buoys waiting for the next set. But no matter how influenced you are by the local culture, if you didn’t grow up riding on the waves, your instinct is probably one of quick dismissal. Or maybe you look into learning it during your trip and are quickly dissuaded by the fact that you need to log at least a few hours in the water with an instructor before you can even remotely do it independently, and any sort of concentrated set of lessons usually involves a tent and campfire. Enter Tower23′s inaugural Hang23 surf camp, slated to take place September 25-28. The chic boutique hotel has partnered up with famed champion surfer Izzy Paskowitz to offer guests a package of ten hours in the water with his close instruction over the course of three days—replacing the sleeping bag and tent with a sleek modern hotel room, the s’mores and hot dogs with the California fresh cuisine from the hotel’s restaurant JRDN, and the campfire for a fire pit on the sundeck that overlooks the sands of Pacific Beach. Even better: It’s a total-body workout for your arms (paddling), legs (popping up), and core (keeping balance). By the third day, you might just find that recovering in your room with the balcony door open is the perfect moment of R&R…but the sweet sounds of waves at that point might just lure you back down to the beach.

Rates start at $540 a night and include the surf instruction fees and equipment use during your stay. For more information, visit t23hotel.com.

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What: Mountain Trek
Where: British Columbia, Canada, or Tecate, Mexico

Ever watch The Biggest Loser and wish you could put someone else completely in control of your health—but also sort of wish you could do it in more of a spa-like resort than a sweaty gym? Mountain Trek is your answer—a company that brings you to the breathtaking ranges of British Columbia or otherworldly terrain of the Baja desert in Mexico for a week full of hiking and wellness. The program strips away the distractions, bad habits, and processed food you’ve come to depend on to get you through a high-stress day, while forcing you to push yourself as you traverse through gorgeous scenery. After a day full of hiking, hit the lodge for a different kind of workout class (think yoga, Spinning, circuit training) or visit to the spa (three treatments are included in your stay), then collapse onto what’s possibly one of the most comfortable beds you’ve ever felt on vacation (likely because you’ve never been so exhausted in your life). They tell you when and what to eat and where to go—they even prepare your hiking pack for you—so the only thing you need to worry about is clearing your mind and working your body. You’d think you’d come away from it feeling like you need a vacation from your vacation—over the course of a week you’ll likely hike around 50 miles—but the undeniable energy boost you’ll acquire from getting back to nature will undoubtedly put some pep in your step that first day back in the office.

Mountain Trek operates weekly stays in British Columbia between May and October, starting at $4,250 for the week, and includes everything but airfare. It runs its program at the Rancho La Puerta resort in Mexico in November, starting at $4,500. For more information, visit mountaintrek.com.

Turning Nails Into Art (for Everyone) at Paintbox Studio

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paintboxNail art—as cool as it strives to be—can be a somewhat intimidating experience for the uninitiated. So many options, so little guidance at your fingertips. But at Paintbox, a new nail studio in Soho, the experience is, thankfully, edited to appeal to both novices and the more seasoned nail aficionados. Founded by former beauty editor Eleanor Langston, the 1,500-square-foot space features eighteen manicure stations and a streamlined menu of options designed by Langston and celebrity manicurist Julie Kandalec, who serves as Paintbox’s creative director. “I would often get texts from friends at the nail salon saying, ‘I’m paralyzed by the wall of colors’ or ‘I want to try something new but don’t know where to start,’” says Langston. To that end, Paintbox offers just fifty—not five hundred—polishes of the moment (think Tom Ford, Chanel, Essie, Butter London) and seasonal lookbooks depicting twenty-five highly wearable nail art options, all of which can be further customized to your liking. For spring/summer, the range includes Shadow Boxer, with a geometric cutout pattern, and Divide and Conquer, a simple yet striking take on the color-block trend that doesn’t announce itself as being “trendy.”

Another simplified aspect: the cost. Instead of charging by the stud, the studio offers four tiers of pricing, from $20 for a basic manicure with polish, to $65 for a gel manicure with design. And did we mention the pampering touches? Besides staying open until 9 p.m. most nights, there are iPhone chargers at every station, gratis beverages (champagne!), and even a Paintbar with magazines and Scotch at the ready should your significant other want a tipple while you’re waiting for your moon mani to dry. On your way out, don’t miss the Photobox, where you can take a still-life image of your artfully done nails to post on your social media feeds. #LoveIt

17 Crosby Street, New York City, 212-219-2412; paint-box.com

Is This the Hidden Warhol Factory of Hair?

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When Michael Gordon created Bumble and Bumble Surf Spray in 2001, he—no pun intended—made waves in the hair industry that are still being felt today. Ask any model, hairstylist, or girl-next-door for their go-to products and chances are high that Surf Spray is one of them. Ditto on Hair Powder, an item practically every stylist keeps in their kit that Gordon also introduced to the masses. Gordon sold the brand to Estée Lauder in 2006 and made a documentary about Vidal Sassoon in 2010, and the next chapter in his story might be his most revolutionary yet. Gordon’s new range, Purely Perfect, comprises three detergent-free, nontoxic products (Cleansing Creme, Foundation Creme, Smooth Finish) that take care of all your hair cleansing and styling needs. “Suddenly, to have a product that changes everything you thought you knew about hair—that’s exciting,” says Gordon.

From the first Bumble and Bumble salon opened in 1977 on East 56th Street that re-created the downtown vibe uptown (“What I wanted was an eclectic clientele: the people who had just left school, the artists, the mums, the teachers,” Gordon recalls), to harnessing the creativity he witnessed on magazine shoots and backstage at fashion shows (namely Orlando Pita, who worked for him at Bumble), Gordon has created not simply a salon or brand, but a cultural movement around hair. His approach to introducing Purely Perfect to the world continues that authentic vision. Hairstory Studio, which occupies half of Gordon’s sprawling lower Manhattan apartment, serves as an experimentation lab for Purely Perfect, with former Bumble and ex-Cutler stylist Wes Sharpton and colorist Roxie Darling at the helm. They cast girls and guys off the streets of New York and give them a modern-day makeover. Sharpton and Darling weave their magic, Gordon photographs the transformations, and the whole thing is documented via the Web and social media. “Essentially, it’s stories about hair and how powerfully it affects people,” Gordon says. The studio feels like a contemporary Warhol Factory of sorts, except the vibes are more Zen palace (a Tibetan cook makes the team lunch daily, while Gordon, a practicing Buddhist, serves tea in china cups) than amphetamine-fueled frenzy. Didier Malige stopped by on the morning of our visit to cut the hair of a fan from Australia who had contacted him via Instagram, because he needed a place to do it, and why not? “It’s not that working in a salon is by design boring, but people don’t challenge themselves,” Gordon says. “And if you suddenly get two very talented people together in a room, looking at you completely differently and giving you a chance to look amazing and you go for it, it probably does more good than five years of therapy!”

Hairstylist, photographer, product creator, and filmmaker are all hats that Gordon—who grew up around his mother’s London hair salon—has worn over the years, but fundamentally, he sees himself as a conduit for creativity. “It’s not really a business—the stylists here get paid through their own clients. I’m just hosting the thing,” he said. “I’m a producer…and a bit of a teacher. And because it’s very sincere, because I do love talent, it’s nice.” Gordon describes a scene from a documentary he watched recently on music mogul David Geffen, where a confluence of musicians had taken over Geffen’s house. “Clive Davis was laughing like, ‘David! What are all these people doing?’ You know, in his kitchen, in his pool,” Gordon quips. “And then I walk around my kitchen and everyone’s hanging out eating pizza and I think, Oh wait, that’s me!”

Hairstory Studio is now taking invitation-only appointments for private clients. E-mail thetenthfloor@gmail.com for more information.

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Photos: Courtesy of Hairstory Studio