As the summer winds down and the chances of a last-minute fantasy vacation wanes, the desire for something adventurous or unusual increases. Another year without anything more exotic than a mariachi group at your neighborhood Mexican restaurant, or a foreign film from Hong Kong, or a detective novel set in Finland, starts to wear on your psyche.

Well, unfortunately I cannot offer a free trip to Thailand, but Santa Monica’s Raven Spa can transport you there virtually, if only for a couple of transcendent hours. Situated in what long ago used to be a theater, the space sports unusually high ceilings and fanciful moldings, setting the stage for a spa treatment with a touch of drama.

I liken the experience of entering to walking into a jewelry box, arresting in its ornamentation and color. The sounds of a fountain and traditional Thai music fill the air, and the rooms seem to open up like Russian Matryoshka dolls. A Sphinx stands sentry, and chandeliers decorate the enormous central courtyard to let you know you’re not in Kansas anymore.

A staycation for the bold, Raven Spa offers up a veritable plethora of original services that take you nearly around the globe. From the Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage, to the Swedish massage, to Chinese acupuncture treatments, to a Turkish soak & scrub, the options abound.

I decided to partake of a traditional Thai massage and was led upstairs to a romantically curtained “room,” dark except for hazily filtered light that enhanced the feeling of venturing into a mysterious medina. 

I like a lot of pressure to try to rid myself of the hours of sitting in front of a computer screen, and this ancient treatment combines acupressure, stretching and rhythmic massage to melt away any accumulated tension. For $15 dollars extra, a traditional Herbal Ball can be added. This is like a hot compress that helps relieve chronic pain in the joints and muscles.

At the finish, barely able to move I was so relaxed, I headed back down to the elaborately tiled courtyard and sat in a sumptuous, throne-like chair to drink the hot, steaming tea I had been served along with a refreshing section of navel orange. The scents of citrus and herbs filled my nose as I breathed in more deeply than I have in months.

Raven Spa has a menu of services, including facials and waxing, and you could easily spend an entire day adrift in the metaphorical souk. At the very least, you’ll have had an unusual experience to revel in as you get back to work and school and real life.

Raven Spa is located at 208 Pier Ave., Santa Monica. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (310) 399-4747 or visit