The Vanderbilt Ritual of the Hammam

If you are a spa maven and want to have an entirely luxe experience, head to the Vanderbilt Spa at the new Condado Vanderbilt Hotel in San Juan for the authentic Vanderbilt Ritual of the Hamman, the very first in Puerto Rico. Popular in Turkey, Morocco, Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries, this was my first experience in a Hammam. I have been to many spas that boast Hammans, however, many are just hydrotherapy treatments with vichy showers — today’s experience at The Vanderbilt Spa was the real deal.

The Vanderbilt Spa Hammam

The Vanderbilt Spa Hammam

The spectacular Italian marble Hamman with domed starlit ceiling is a visually stunning setting reportedly costing over $400,000 to build and every bit aristocratic in design. The treatment is 80 minutes of total bliss performed in a spectacular marble room where you relax on a goebek tas (a marble table heated to 108 degree.)

I must admit, laying on the majestic marble table in my pestemal (large fringed cloth draped over me) and waiting to be exfoliated to release stress, impurities and tension, I couldn’t help but feel like I was either an Arabian princess ready to experience the royal treatment or being prepped as a sacrificial lamb.


Copper Tas: copper shallow pan.

After the scrub with a kessa (a rough cloth mitt made from natural plant fibers), a copper tas (copper shallow pan) is used to warm the body in a water dance poured over you to rinse away the toxins and dead skin cells.


Kazan: an ornate silver bucket

Then a cotton torba (muslin or cotton pillow case to aerate and create bubbles) is used to aerate olive oil soap to create magical bubbles in a kazan (ornate silver bucket that is filled with warm water and used with the torba to create the bubbles that are massaged onto you.)

The room gets quite warm, so Alicia, my therapist, kept draping my head in icy cold cloths, a welcome relief. I swear I lost a few pounds from the soothing cocoon like warmth of the marble room.

Alicia, my Hamman therapist

Alicia, my Hamman therapist

The finale of the treatment was a rain shower rinse in the hydro-shower with various aromas and sounds to complete the Hammam experience. Within a push of a button, I was under a polar mist, in a Caribbean storm with sounds of thunder crashing and then blasted in a summer monsoon.  I felt like a kid who wanted to push the buttons six more times but knew my wonderful treatment had come to an end as refreshing mint tea awaited me. It’s a totally regal experience at the hottest new hotel in San Juan.

Summer Monsoon

Summer Monsoon

Individuals: 80 minutes $280 | For two: 80 minutes $560 USD

Helen Lugo, Executive Spa Director

Helen Lugo, the ever-delightful Executive Spa Director

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