Wednesday, December 15, 2010


~ in moments of stress, changing one’s surroundings is a great cure for this ailment ~

When I need to get-a-way to a luxury spa close to home, Kohler Waters Spa (Kohler, WI) is my preferred destination. The first time I went to experience the spa was in 1995. At that time, it seemed to be an after-thought to this iconic AAA Five Diamond American Club Resort. It was tucked away in its mega fitness center, The Sport’s Core. Suffice it to say, if one blinked, they wouldn’t have even noticed it existed. Fortunately, much has happened since that first experience.

Kohler, WI is home to the factory of the eponymous brand of all-things water. Kohler fixtures and equipment are the definitive water design element for home, business and spa. With its rich history in legal immigration and American ingenuity, the Kohler brand would define the town with its exquisite and practical designs; the brands also include Baker and McGuire furniture and Ann Sacks ceramic tiles. Kohler’s name also defines the location for the multi-award winning resort, which used to be the factory’s housing quarters for sponsored legal immigrant workers. Its name would also define the multi-award winning Spa, and its affinity to all things water. Clearly, Kohler has become a single word that defines and is synonymous with the luxury brand and experience. It is aptly referred to as Destination Kohler.

In 2000, Kohler Waters Spa was finally given its due, and relocated to its permanent location, the Carriage House, which is considered an annex to the main resort, The American Club. The Carriage House has 55 guest rooms, ten of which are their Immersion Suites. Guests can literally stay in their comfy robe and slippers all day and go from room to Spa without any curious looks. The Spa is comprised of nearly 25,000 square feet and occupies over two floors of the Carriage House.

Reception, retail, multi-purpose room, waiting areas and the salon are on the first level. The lower level is comprised of its magnificent water feature (a thirty-foot relaxation pool and eight foot cascading waterfall), additional waiting areas, and gender-specific Respite Rooms (lockers, whirlpool, cold plunge, steam and sauna). There are twenty-one treatment rooms. There’s also a glass enclosed rooftop deck complete with a huge whirlpool, and outdoor patio. The deck and patio were part of the Spa’s 2005 major expansion and remains a very popular event space, especially for bridal parties and girl’s getaways.

The Carriage House is an historic multi-story structure that once housed the pharmacy for the Kohler Company factory workers. It’s somewhat ironic that the place where ill factory workers once sought healing for whatever ailed them continues healing those who seek the space for restoration and relaxation.

Now celebrating its tenth anniversary, and with several expansions and renovations later, a recent trek to Kohler Waters Spa reaffirmed for me that the nearly four-hour drive from my home was well worth the journey. This Spa remains a preferred luxury destination for both the spa aficionado and spa novice.

Kohler Waters Spa has continually stepped up its game by offering innovative water-based treatment therapies that conform to its wellness platform. The Spa made a significant expansion in 2005 to additional space (roof-top pool and open-air patio), existing space (women’s respite room), additional treatment rooms and the addition of ten immersion suites in the accommodation area of the Carriage House. This past July, another major expansion and enhancement program included the introduction of unique signature treatment rooms (Harmony, Acoustic, Riverbath and Stillness) and expanded treatment therapies (Lavender Rain), and a new and proprietary technology VibraAcoustic. This technology includes underwater music’s rhythmic vibrations that enhance the treatment experience.

The Harmony Room is a hydrotherapy treatment room where a steady stream of water flows in a steady downward stream from the ceiling and into the tub. The Acoustic Room is equipped for the VibraAcoustic Bath. Both rooms feature the innovative Kohler Vichy Shower with hydromassage features. The Riverbath Room offers a whirlpool where eight colors are synchronized with changing water flow movements, to simulate currents of a river; the guest has total control of the color synchronization and ebb and flow of the water. In this room is also the Kohler Ambient Rain shower with chromatherapy and a Flipside Handshower to maximize the shower experience. Kohler leads the way in its hi-tech mastery in water research and developments, innovation and uniquely healing and therapeutic equipment applied to their Spa experience. There’s also a Stillness Room, which allows couples an opportunity to further decompress, post-treatment, and experience additional therapies.

In addition to these treatment rooms, new water treatments added to the menu include the Riverbath, Acoustic Bath, Lavender Rain, Stretch & Flex and Sinus Massage. New facial treatments added include the Antioxidant Facial and Acu-Lift Facial.

According to Jean Kolb, Director of Wellness, “We designed these rooms and new signature treatments to further enhance the health and relaxation benefits for which Kohler Waters Spa has long been known. Our goal is to provide guests with the latest in spa therapy while continuing the traditions that have made the Kohler Waters Spa one of the best in the country.”

For my treatment therapies, I enjoyed the Riverbath with Massage (Karen, Massage Therapist) and the Lavender Rain (Melanie, Spa Technician).

After a rest by the Spa’s gorgeous Waterfall, I’m led to the Riverbath Room for my Riverbath with Massage treatment. The treatment began with a full-body dry brushing to prep the skin to receive the benefits of a replenishing mineral bath in a spacious whirlpool. Upon entering the spacious whirlpool, I have full access to the control panel that adjusts the flow of water, which simulates river currents, as well as adjusts the sequence of the chromatherapy colors. Between the gentle flow of simulated river currents and the synchronized colors that correspond to the Chakras, I am relieved of body tension and calmed from any internal dysfunction. A deeply relaxing and tension-relieving full-body massage follows and culminates with a wonderfully hydrating full-body moisturizer. This treatment therapy lasted seventy-five minutes.

After this treatment, I took a slight break to enjoy a light lunch, which included a lovely Kohler Waters Spa Salad (grilled chicken breast with organic vegetables and roasted garlic vinaigrette) and a super-anti-oxidant Pomegranate & Raspberry Smoothie, which I savored throughout the afternoon and on my drive home.

After my light lunch break, I led to the Acoustic Room for my Lavender Rain treatment. This treatment combines the best of a full-body exfoliation, infused with eucalyptus and lavender, and a thorough rinsing using the new proprietary Kohler Vichy shower with hydromassage; following this is a lavender-infused body wrap, foot and scalp massage, and a full-body application of moisturizer. My skin was stimulated and revitalized, and the texture felt like silk; my olfactory was also stimulated and revitalized; the body wrap and extremity massages greatly eased my tension, which helped to relax me. It was the perfect combination of treatment plus aromatherapy. This treatment therapy was an indulgent fifty minutes.

In addition to offering it comprehensive treatment menu of water therapies, face, body and salon-related treatments, the Spa regularly offers Yoga, meditative walking, relaxation technique classes, hair and makeup stylists and how-to classes, and retreats. Some of the Spa’s featured treatment product lines include Kerstin Florian, Red Flower and Skin Authority; the Spa also offers its signature-scented products, Hollyhock, which is indigenous to the area and has a lovely floral scent. The retail section is packed with must-have at-home spa treats, including Yoga gear, meditation and inspirational reading material and music CDs.

~ Kohler Waters Spa Etcetera ~

In addition to the American Club Resort and Kohler Waters Spa in WI, there’s an equally impressive spa in the Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa in St. Andrews, Scotland, which opened in 2004. Equally impressive is the Kohler Waters Spa in the tony Chicago suburb, Burr Ridge, which opened in 2008; this location marks the first time Kohler has had a freestanding day spa. The new day spa is contingent to one of their brand new Design Centers.

To read more about the new Burr Ridge location, this digital magazine's September 7, 2009 edition, “Spa Treatments and Product Experiences-Part III”, presents an in-depth look at this exceptional location. For an additional read, my cover feature review of the WI Spa location can be found online in the “Spa Destinations” section of Spa Management Magazine.

Kohler Waters Spa is a day or multi-day experience, but it’s always a place where one can go to for what I categorize as the four important components of Spa Rx ~ rest, relaxation, revitalization and rejuvenation. Kohler Waters Spa is accessible by car, train or air (Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport or Chicago O’Hare International Airport).

By Terry Herman

Terry Herman is a recognized expert in the industry, and regularly covers issues that include business, management, operations, customer care, treatments, products, and trends. In addition to writing and reviewing, she is also a management consultant and motivational speaker. You can email her at


(Photo credits as represented from the specific brand.)

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