Route 27 in Water Mill, New York, is one of the fanciest, beachiest, and most crowded thoroughfares anywhere. The traffic jams (Tesla-on-Jaguar-on-Cadillac-on-Maserati) are epic, the prices of all things but especially the houses are stratospheric, and it’s a few hedge-lined country roads away from some of the most spectacular beaches in existence.
It’s not where you’d expect to find one of the most serene, perfectly executed spas on the planet. But the giant wooden gates (shou sugi ban is the name for the ancient Japanese process of charring wood) open and you’re in a different world.
WHAT I PACKED
(And set out, ever so artfully, along my Georgia O’Keeffe–esque sculpted plaster bathroom shelf.)
Naturopathica Lavender & Turmeric Protective Moisturizer SPF 50goop, $68
I discovered this best-for-the-beach, sinks-in-better-than-anything SPF on this trip. It smells of lavender, leaves no trace, and feels amazing going on—I now carry it everywhere, always.
goop Beauty 15% Glycolic Overnight Glow Peelgoop, $125/$112 with subscription
Best thing to bring on any trip—it takes up no space and makes such a difference. My boyfriend and I both did one, and the glow was definitely noticeable the next day.
Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serumgoop, $195
The ultimate good-skin serum. I have to take it wherever I go. It smells so good, it feels so good, and it makes my skin look better than anything—anything—else.
Vintner’s Daughter Active Treatment Essencegoop, $225
I was trying Vintner’s second product, the yin-to-the-genius-serum’s-yang skin essence, on this trip. It feels like water and smells like apple cider vinegar, and you can feel it working as it sinks immediately into your skin.
True Botanicals Vitamin C Boostergoop, $90
I mix this with water and splash it on every morning. It leaves my skin brighter, fresher, and protected from free radicals, pollution, and sun—and it works for every skin type.
Furtuna Skin Rinascita Delle Olive Replenishing Balmgoop, $225
If you walk on the beach, go swimming in the ocean, or generally expose yourself to the elements, you need to melt some blue balm into your skin immediately afterward. It’s rich and supremely soothing, and it sinks right into your skin. It feels (and smells) so good, it’s hard to resist reapplying constantly.
Megababe Smoothie Deogoop, $14
This incredible, life-changing deodorant from the brilliant Katie Sturino smells fantastic, glides on like a dream, and works no matter how hot, sweaty, or nervous-making the day.
goop Beauty “The Martini” Emotional Detox Bath Soakgoop, $40
Bring this on any trip, truly. Even if you’re staying in a Hampton Inn, you will feel indulged, happier, and healthier. (However, it must be said that one of these baths in a wooden Japanese tub is, as you might imagine, next-level.)
goop Beauty Colorblur Glow Balmgoop, $34
No one needs makeup at a spa, but this pot of moisturizing color—I dab it on my cheeks and lips—is an instant mood booster.
ILIA Lip Wrap Overnight Treatment Maskgoop, $26
Do this ultrarich lip mask right before bed to feel extra indulged; I also love it during the day.
Shou Sugi Ban is a world that’s somehow both minimalist and full of rich detail. I glided through the corridors and the beautifully kept gardens on my way to massages made more incredible (every therapist, whether they’re doing a treatment or a ceremony or a full-on fitness class, is absolutely top-notch/best-in-NYC-level) by the fact that you choose from one of three exquisitely scented In Fiore body-butter balms and they massage you with it.
After being massaged all over for an hour and a half with the thick, citrusy, insanely luxurious balm, I knew I could never live without it again. There are regular and infrared saunas adjacent to the 10 treatment rooms (there are also hot, medium, and cold outdoor tubs), and the infrared was especially incredible.
After the sauna, I drifted back along stone pathways under wide American trees—the landscaping is spare in a Japanese vein but East-End-of-Long-Island-appropriate, a beautiful mash-up—stopping off at the exquisite tea bar where you taste and try, explaining your exact mood so the tea expert can tailor their recommendations to suit the moment.
There was lots of drifting dreamily at Shou Sugi Ban, but there were also incredible yoga and meditation sessions, out-there wellness ceremonies, and intense fitness classes (I can’t stress the quality of the instructors enough) in an epic outdoor room that had heaters in the ceilings if you needed them. We sweat a lot, read by the pool, lounged in the enormous barn-ceilinged relaxation room, and went on truly transformative hours-long walks along the stunning beaches.
Chakras were aligned, and crystals cleansed the air. And many of the more out-there therapies (shamanic sessions involving a raw egg, energy-shifting Reiki) are another compelling reason to go.
My favorite was a nighttime cacao ceremony led by the absolutely brilliant (and gorgeous—you’ll want what she’s having for sure) shaman Mar Harrsen. A cacao ceremony, it turns out, is what a much-better-tasting, easier-on-the-digestive-tract, nonhallucinatory ayahuasca ceremony might involve. The idea—communing with the spirit of a powerful plant—is similar, in any case. With only a few candles flickering, Harrsen ladled out cups of hot, molten cacao (like a cup of Parisian hot chocolate without the sugar) for the assembled circle of guests and led us through a meditative ceremony as we sipped the delicious, richly bitter drink. If you love chocolate, magical realism, sleeping like a baby, and dreaming weird, mysterious dreams, I cannot recommend a cacao ceremony more highly.
Sleeping was easy. The rooms, as alluded to, are a Georgia O’Keeffe–esque fantasy of natural materials, woven house slippers in your size, and filmy linen robes. Ask for a bathroom with a wooden Japanese tub. The other tubs are gorgeous and sculptural, but the wood is just magic (especially when having a goop bath in it).
Important Note Re: Deliciousness
Eating was even easier. You could justify visiting Shou Sugi Ban solely for the food. Scallops were smoked in hay and bathed in herb oil and accented with Japanese salt plums. Fish tacos came wrapped in enormous nasturtium leaves. And at breakfast, there were insanely delicious rice bowls with poached eggs, marinated seaweed, and pickled vegetables, along with the freshest nut butters, the fluffiest just-made yogurt, the jammiest (local, of course) boiled eggs, and incredible vegetable juices. Consulting culinary director Mads Refslund emphasizes foraging and terroir in the menu, with employees going out to the fields and beaches every day to find new things to try and serve—there’s also an on-site garden—and executive chef Sabdiel Cortes makes it all happen with exceptional charm. (They welcome you into the kitchen to show you what they’re doing, let you taste as they’re cooking, and share recipes with extreme generosity.)
Even the bread was worth writing home about—and actually inquiring after: The staff drive to NYC and back just to get specially baked seed rye and carrot rye from Ole & Steen. (If you’re in NYC, run, don’t walk, to get that seed bread.)
And whether you’re bread-inclusive or bread-phobic, run or walk (it’s probably faster than driving) to Shou Sugi Ban House for a week or a weekend. If ever there were a true momentary respite from the world, behind the gates on Route 27 is the improbable place.