Water, Water Everywhere . . .
First Lady Michelle Obama’s recent urging to “just drink up” got us thinking about the many health benefits of water. This, in turn, got us thinking about spas, particularly those where H2O plays an important part in the treatments, the setting, or both. Here are five spas across the country where you’ll truly experience the healing properties of water—whether you need to be soothed or rejuvenated.
#1: Bedford Springs, Bedford, PA
The eight mineral springs here have over 200 years of history. The Native Americans recognized their healing properties. So did some 10 presidents, including James Buchanan, who spent 40 summers here. Today, you can enjoy the same soothing soaks at this National Historic Landmark resort and spa in south-central Pennsylvania—90 minutes from Harrisburg or Pittsburg. Both the outdoor pool and the heated indoor pool (one of the nation’s first) are spring fed.
Mineral water and botanical products are key in the spa therapies, particularly bath and body treatments ($50–$185) like the Indigenous Honeysuckle and Ginger Dew, which features the signature Black Walnut and Ginger scrub and Honeysuckle body butter. Hydro, aromatherapy, Swedish, stone, and sports massages ($65–$195) are also on the menu, as are facials ($120–$210), mani/pedis ($65–$125), and beauty and salon services. Work out or take yoga classes (extra fee) in the fitness center, hike on 25 miles of area trails, or golf on the historic course. Staffers can also arrange sightseeing or outdoor activity excursions.
Accommodations: Rooms in the original wing were fully refurbished in 2007 and have high ceilings, classic furnishings, and contemporary color schemes; some rooms have porches with rocking chairs. Certain rooms and suites in the newer spa wing also have porches and spa tubs.
Good to Know: Spa treatments are cheaper Tuesday through Thursday, so plan accordingly to save money (important given the $25 per day resort fee that’s added to room rates in addition to taxes). Only some treatments are available for teens ages 14–17. Room packages offer good value for money.
#2: The Homestead Resort, Hot Springs, VA
At this historic resort, the temperature of the mountain spring water remains warm year-round, and the mineral content is high enough for you to readily float. The octagonal Gentleman’s Pool House, built in 1761, is the country’s oldest spa structure. It’s part of the Jefferson Pools, named for our third president, who spent three weeks here in 1818 to alleviate his arthritis and who praised the springs highly.
Today you can combine a soak with a visit to the on-site Canyon Ranch Spa Club, where some treatments—like the Mud Springs Wrap or the Spa Garden Journey—also feature local waters and minerals. Most massages ($155–$165), facials ($155–$165), and body treatments ($160–$170) last 50 minutes; 80-minute options are also available. Hand and foot treatments ($40–$50) run 30 to 50 minutes.
Accommodations: The large historical brick inn and its 483 rooms and suites embody the elegance of colonial Virginia. Though they vary in size and color scheme, all guest quarters offer such modern amenities as flat-screen TVs and Wi-Fi. Some also have sun porches or working fireplaces. There are also six on-site restaurants—including two cafés and a tavern—and an elegant lobby bar.
Good to Know: This is a very family friendly place. A Kids Spa has treatments for ages 5–13, and a Kids Club has activities for ages 3–12. There’s also a minerals springs water park with a lazy river pool and slides; an indoor pool; a spa pool; two golf courses; and a robust (and interesting) roster of outdoor and fitness activities. Packages truly offer value and let customize your stay. You can also just spend a day here: at the spa, on the course, or in the Jefferson Pools ($17).
#3: Kohler Waters Spa, Kohler, WI
Given its history, it seems natural that Kohler would open a resort with a spa known for its water treatments and exquisitely landscaped grounds (and greens!). Founded in 1873, the company first became known for its iron farm tools, including a popular enameled horse trough, which, “. . . . when furnished with legs, will serve as a bathtub.” You could say the rest is history, but, there’s more. In 1912, when Kohler decided to move its operations outside Sheboygan, they hired landscape designer Frederick Law Olmstead (of Central Park Fame) to create a company town—a greenery-filled village that remains protected by zoning and preservation regulations.
Here, body treatments ($145–$210), massages ($150–$324), and facials ($163–$250) are often incorporated into hydrotherapies ($130–$225). Among the water-themed options are acoustic baths with calming sounds and vibrations, jetted tubs with soothing colored lights, Vichy showers, and Turkish hammam bathhouse rituals. There are also treatments just for men and teens as well as fitness facilities and salon services.
Accommodations: You can stay at the American Club, a historic property next to the spa, or the nearby Inn on Woodlake. There’s also the private, elegantly rustic Sandhill Cabin, which can sleep up to six. All rooms are luxuriously appointed with the company’s lines of fixtures, tiles, and furniture.
Good to Know: Saturday spa rates spike, so opt for weekday appointments. Planning to play on one of the resort’s two championship courses? Look into the massages geared to golfers. Hoping for a romantic getaway? Ask for a Carriage House accommodation at the American, where guests must be 16 years or older. Traveling with Fido? Request a pet-friendly room at the Woodlake. Package deals, including those for day visits, abound. Shuttles take you around the grounds and into the village.
#4: Chico Hot Springs Resort & Day Spa, Pray, MT
Imagine a morning spent white-water rafting, horseback riding, or dog-sledding followed by an afternoon soak in a 96-degree pool of mineral water with snow-covered peaks in the distance. You’ve pretty much imagined a day at this rustic lodge. Although there’s a record of the springs as early as 1865, the first “pools” (really, a couple of wooden tubs) didn’t arrive till the 1890s. In 1900, more formal pools were created and the Main Lodge was built. People came from everywhere to “treat” everything.
There’s a down-home feel to this place, which caters as much to day visitors as to overnight guests. Pop in for a dip ($7.50) and/or a massage ($50–$170) or body wrap or scrub ($65–$95), or spend a couple days combining your soaks and spa visits with organized resort excursions or your own outings at nearby Yosemite National Park. A gift shop sells items made in Montana as well as sundries and espresso. There’s also a saloon, a poolside grill, and a dining room, where dishes feature produce from the resort’s own garden.
Accommodations: Options include antiques-furnished rooms in the 1900 Main Lodge, the adjacent 1999 Warren Wing, or the nearby 1996 Lower Lodge. You can also stay at the Fisherman’s Lodge, in one of several cabins (some with amenities like whirlpool tubs or decks), or even a refurbished caboose.
Good to Know: Not all accommodations have private baths, double beds, TVs, or connectivity; specify your needs when booking. For each child over 6 staying with you, there’s a $10 supplement. Some rooms are pet friendly ($20 fee). Spa packages are really good deals, with from two treatments ($125) to five ($350).
#5: Travaasa Hana, Maui, HI
Here water is everywhere: in the enormous ocean-view pool, in the neighboring Kaihalulu Bay, and in the cascades of the surrounding rainforest. You can also arrange trips to places like Haleakala National Park where, in Oheo Gulch, a series of pools cascades down to the ocean, and where a trail through a bamboo forest leads to the 400-foot Waimoku Falls. Swimming, snorkeling, stand-up paddling, and net fishing are among the water-oriented activities. But you can also learn lei-making or hula dancing, go horseback riding, or practice yoga.
Spa therapies like the sea-salt scrub or the mineral and algae wrap draw from the ocean. Others, such as the Hawaiian lomi lomi massage, are inspired by the island and its people. Most treatments last either 60 or 90 minutes and cost from $130 to $250. All this, plus the chance for a once-in-a-lifetime road trip: reaching this paradise on Maui’s east coast means driving along the cliffside Hana Highway with its amazing views.
Accommodations: Rooms and suites feature natural woods, organic linens, and locally made bath products. Sea Ranch Cottages (for guests over the age of 16) also have private ocean-view lanais, some with hot tubs. The restaurant’s healthful, seasonal menu features contemporary cuisine with lots of local flavor.
Good to Know: This place is about having island experiences. You won’t find any phones, radios, or TVs in your room, but after an activity-filled day and a spa treatment, you’ll soon be deeply asleep anyway. You can book a la carte or all-inclusive; the latter includes all meals, snacks, and non-alcoholic beverages.
Editor’s Note: For other soothing (or rejuvenating) getaway ideas, check out our article, 5 Soothing American Spas.