K’alma Spa Bringing Some Calm to Ocean Drive

Ocean Drive

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

K’alma Spa Bringing Some Calm to Ocean Drive:

Can it also bring the locals back?

In the middle of Ocean Drive, a street known for its party atmosphere, there’s a new space that’s all about calm. While that may be an uncommon charactistic for Ocean Drive, the space does share a common trait with a lot of Miami Beach – a Latin American flavor. We're talking about K’Alma, the first full service spa on Ocean Drive now in the soft launch phase at the Victor Hotel. Its owners and the hotel’s general manager believe it’s another step toward elevating Ocean Drive – and bringing local residents back. 
Marizza Contreras' first foray into the spa business was in 2004 with the mobile spa concept, Miami City Massage, offering in-room spa services at luxury hotels in Miami and Miami Beach. In 2018, she launched K’Alma Spa Concepts and Management and serves as its CEO. In addition to spa management, the company has developed spa concepts for underutilized hotel spaces such as relaxation areas and a wellness garden. She recently signed a contract with the W Hotel to run their spa program for them but what she’s really wanted to do is create a spa featuring crystal color therapy from her native Peru. The Victor Hotel gave her that opportunity.
“I’m beyond excited,” she said. “For how long we’ve been working on this concept and finally somebody welcomed us with open arms and said 'Do what you want to do'… and this happened in the middle of Ocean Drive which is crazy!”
It’s a new concept that emphasizes the “healing power from the crystals” along with self-awareness and spirituality. Contreras understands that isn’t for everyone and that many clients “just want to come for a massage, for the party,” but that’s okay with her.  “The spa is creating an amazing energy. No matter whether you want it or not, you’re going to be feeling it.”
The spa includes seven treatment rooms, hydrotherapy included, a sauna, relaxation room, meditation room, crystal library, men’s and women’s shower areas, and a retail space. Shamans work with spa coordinators on programming and services. There is also meditation for children and vibration singing bowls for parents and children.
Contreras’ husband Craig Carter has been very involved in the effort to turn around Ocean Drive. In addition to heading up Strategy and Planning for K’Alma, Carter has consulted with restaurants on the iconic street who have been labeled “bad operators” for practices that have included aggressive hawking and misleading menu pricing. His efforts have included helping to change the culture.
He understands the challenges but believes “everyone in Miami Beach wants the same thing. The residents want Ocean Drive to be beautiful and successful and filled with lovely experiences for them. The visitors want Ocean Drive to be beautiful and lovely and special and filled with beautiful experiences. The business owners want the same thing. The City wants the same thing.”
“We’re all working toward the same goal but it’s so fragmented in the conversations that are happening,” Carter said pointing to “so much anger.”
Enter the K’Alma Spa at the Victor which Carter believes can contribute to turning the conversation and atmosphere around. 
“There’s nothing for residents on Ocean Drive anymore,” he said. “We want to give people a reason to come back to Ocean Drive, to experience a different energetic level of what’s happening.”
He pointed to the Celino Hotel in the 600 block of Ocean Drive which will soon join The Betsy in the 1400 block as anchors on both ends that elevate the experience on the street while K’Alma offers something in between. The Victor is located in the 1100 block.
“We’re commited. We’re investing money in whatever everyone else is saying is downtrodden,” Carter said. “We don’t believe that. We’re putting our money where our mouths are. My interest personally is in making sure Ocean Drive is going in the right direction, is even stronger, because we have a fiscal investment in Ocean Drive.”
The spa, he said, returns massage to its intended form. “The original intent was to provide for the next journey, to take a moment and get ready to recover from a journey. It was very spiritual… and healing. A lot of that has been lost.” 
“Peru is a culture with a completely different approach to health and wellness,” Carter said. “Some people don’t understand it here but I think that is important and [Contreras] really leaned into bringing some of that authentic Peruvian healing to this country.”
Treatments and crystals are specific to individual rooms which brings us to something else clients may not understand at first. Contreras says “The room will choose you. You will not choose the room.” The stone “that wants to work with you” will choose you. But don’t be put off if the whole idea scares you. She said the concept will also work for people who don’t want to open up to it.
That said, she added, “It’s such a beautiful concept… the treatments and connections that we’re going to create. And we’re in the middle of the madness, right? But that’s the place that needs it the most.”
Carter added they want the spa to not only be “the soul of the hotel” but also “the spiritual center and the soul of Ocean Drive because I think it’s kind of lost that.”
Chauncey Copeland, General Manager at the Victor, said, “I think it’s a great addition, obviously to the Victor, because I think it provides a wonderful experience… a physically enriching experience but also spiritual because they have a multi-layered approach to their treatment… I think it’s amazing and unique.”
Copeland agrees the spa elevates the Ocean Drive experience. “People who have seen Ocean Drive over a period of years, it does need to rebound a little bit and I think this is a great step in that direction along with the initiatives the municipality is doing and also proposing.”
Guests at the Victor and its sister properties which include the Breakwater and Casa Casuarina on Ocean Drive will be able to enjoy the spa. Will it also help bring residents back to Ocean Drive? “As we know, that’s something which is sorely lacking lately,” Copeland said. “As a Miami Beach resident and a long-time resident of the area, I’ve seen how a lot of the locals don’t come here… it does give a reason for the locals to come in.”
For more information, visit the spa website.

Photos: K'Alma Spa


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