On the Road: Aqua Nail Bar & Boutique (Santa Barbara, Calif.)

Aqua is decked out in cool, hip shades of teal and green that perfectly represent the salon’s name.

One of my fondest memories of growing up in Santa Barbara is of me and my best friend Rita riding our bicycles to the Fairview Shopping Center (Santa Barbara doesn’t do strip malls) to spend our “hard-earned” allowance on various goodies. Now living in Los Angeles, I have noticed my hometown go through many changes, most of them for the better. A prime example is the Fairview Shopping Center. I have memories of boring 1970s-style buildings — as were many of the stores located in the city. But recently, not only has the center been updated in terms of decor, but it has also been updated in terms of stores and businesses. Aqua Nail Bar & Boutique is one of these new shops.  

On a recent trip home I visited Aqua with Rita, and as I took my first step through the door, I knew this salon was definitely a change for the better. Aqua is decked out in cool, hip shades of teal and green that perfectly represent the salon’s name, and we were immediately and warmly greeted by owner Claudia Papa. Papa opened Aqua in September 2005, and it is the second of two salons she owns in Santa Barbara. According to Papa, the clientele at Aqua varies depending on the time of day. From moms to older women, teens to pre-teens, Aqua provides numerous signature services to suit a variety of tastes.  While I was there, two young girls were getting the Li’l Mermaid pedicure — and it just so happened to be their first pedicures ever. The Pure Fiji Mani and Pure Fiji Pedi incorporate a soothing, moisturizing blend of lotion direct from Fiji and are two other services offered at Aqua.

Rita relaxed in Aqua’s comfortable built-in spa chair while Martha (a 20-year nail tech veteran) provided her with much-needed pampering and gave her the Pure Fiji Pedi. I decided my hands needed the rejuvenation of the Pure Fiji Mani, and another tech, Christine, started off my treatment with a wonderful coconut-milk soak. She later applied the super-hydrating Fiji lotion and wrapped my hands in warm towels. Christine also recommended I add an individual paraffin treatment, which I agreed to because it had been quite some time since my last manicure, and the effects of swimming had definitely taken their toll on my skin.

The Spa Soft Aromatherapy and Paraffin Treatment was just like heaven, and breathing in the lavender scent put me in a calm, relaxed mood. After the service, not only were my hands soft, but my skin felt really hydrated. If this nail bar had been around when Rita and I were growing up, I know most, if not all, of my allowance would have been spent here. Aqua Nail Bar & Boutique proves that change can be good, and I am sure Rita and I will be back to pamper ourselves at this new little gem.  

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