Le Méridien Ra Beach Hotel & Spa
About an hour’s drive south of Barcelona
, past scruffy beach towns along the Costa Dorada, Le Meridien Ra Resort and Spa stands out from its neighbors on a beautiful length of the Mediterranean. Inside the resort gates, an elegant central building, buffed out for the 21st century, does not fail to impress. Originally built as a tuberculosis hospital for children, the hotel has turned its focus from illness to wellness: A three-story modern addition contains the Explore spa, with treatments ranging from all sorts of massages and facials to ayurvedic experiences and thalasso body masks with iodine-rich algae. After treatment, clients are encouraged to prolong the self-care vibe with a visit to the roof, where an indoor-outdoor complex offers glamorous sun beds on a deck, steam and sauna rooms, as well as a pool with stations for bubble jets of varying intensities as well as shoulder-massaging water spouts and soothing currents. Guest rooms are spacious and cleanly modern with midcentury design touches (an angular sconce beside the bed, a curvy Hans Wegner-inspired chair and stool) and a mild color palette. Generous cabinet space speaks to the resort’s summer season—many repeat guests come for a week or two. (For additional space, families can opt to rent one of the on-site apartments.) The resort’s kitchen, which draws inspiration from Catalan traditions, is inventive and playful, employing some molecular gastronomy techniques without any fussiness. Small dishes—accompanied by tiny pearls filled with local vinegar or topped with foam or served in paper cones—are perfect for summer appetites (and can be augmented by more traditional seafood, fish, and ham dishes). The beach itself is a wide, sandy stretch planted with a few palm trees and several rows of beach loungers and umbrellas. Beach servers ferry food and drink from the airy dining pavilion, and a masseuse offers complimentary chair massages. The Mediterranean here, a vivid blue, contains 10% more iodine than elsewhere—a health benefit espoused both by the religious order who ran the sanitarium and by the resort now. As a brand, Le Meridien supports local arts and culture and this hotel is a bright example of that ethos: among many offerings, it hosts literary festivals, visits to the nearby studio of a ceramic artist, cooking lessons on the nuances of Catalan rice dishes, winery tours, live music in the gardens, and is home to four grand bronze sculptures by Salvador Dali. But for all these options, days can pass lazily, too, with a lunch under the grape arbor, or a round of backgammon on the shady terrace facing the beach, accompanied by a glass of rosé. ¡Salud!