The beginning of a new year is a good time to get rid of accumulated toxins. One way to detoxify is to sweat it out – time spent in a sauna and/or steam room can help with this. Big bonus that they can also help increase metabolism, improve circulatory health, boost cardiovascular function, promote deeper sleep, help with stress management, and generally bolster immune function. That being said, it’s also just nice to slip into a hot space for a bit of reprieve from the cold.
From luxurious hotel spas to community centres and gyms, plus a “feel good” pop-up situation and an historic institution – Vancouver and the surrounding area offer a range of detoxifying venues. Here’s our list of ten local options to help get you passively sweating in 2023…
POP-UP | The Good Sauna is a pop-up wood-fired Finnish Sauna and cold therapy experience that can be done two ways, depending on your level of comfort and budget: either as a community drop-in ($45 per person, max eight people) or you can book the whole thing for yourself and up to nine others for the grand sum of $450. Sessions are 1hr 45min long, happening every Sunday during the month of January, 2023 at the Ellis Building. Bookings for the next drop-in day (January 8th) are now open and can be made here. To arrange a private situation, and for more details, email [email protected] for availability.
PRIVATE | Getting a place at Circle Wellness requires a bit of organization – available dates to book are announced on the first of each month and the waitlist for January is already long – but if you can get yourself sorted then it’s totally worth it in order to score a private spa day. Also worth mentioning: an expanded Circle Wellness concept is opening on Granville Island soon.
FANCY | Most hotel spas also have steam and sauna facilities. As this is a more expensive path, we’re only going to mention our favourite: the steam room at the Willow Stream at The Fairmont Pacific Rim is a real stunner (and the fact that the Lobby Lounge RawBar serves a mean bowl of nourishing miso soup for a post-steam pick-me-up is a welcome perk of the location). Non-hotel guests can pay $79 to drop in and enjoy the space based on availability, but all day spa facility access is included with any spa service 60 minutes in length – you might as well go all the way, right? For reservations (required) call 604-695-5550. (We haven’t been, but we also hear that the The Wedgewood Hotel Eucalyptus & Steam Room is amazing.)
BASIC | Both the YWCA and YMCA have steam and hot tub facilities in their pool areas. Membership is required if you want to avoid the drop-in entrance fee of $20, but the annual fee is pretty reasonable. $53.98-68.00 per month (plus a joiner fee) gets you access to all facilities as well as group fitness programs for the year. Towel service ($12 per month) is a nice touch.
OLD SCHOOL | Operating since 1926, Hastings Reflexology & Sauna (formerly Hastings Steam & Sauna) is not quite the potted orchid and scented candle kind of spa that some of the stock photography on their website may lead you to believe…but as long as you are realistic about what a nearly one-hundred-year-old public bath house can deliver, you can count on a satisfying experience. Yes, the price point here is more expensive than a community centre fee – but it is also cleaner and less crowded. A standard 90-minute booking for a private sauna room will run you $30ish dollars. Steam, High Heat and Group Saunas are also available.
ECLECTIC | Not sure if you’re in to a Finnish, Roman or Turkish Hammam style of sauna? Or perhaps a Himalayan Salt or Dry Aroma experience would be more your speed? Regardless of how versed you are, take yourself out to Burnaby to visit the Art of Sauna and sample all eight of their specialized sauna and steam rooms (Eucalyptus and Aroma Steam Rooms and a Traditional Sauna round out the selection). $50 will hook you up with two hours to do the rounds, or as you otherwise please.
PUBLIC | Many City of Vancouver Community Centres with pools also offer access to a hot tub, sauna and/or steam room. Of course, recreation centres come with some drawbacks (crowds and the occasional floating bandage come to mind), but at approximately $7 for drop-in admission, plus early morning through to evening hours and multiple locations, this option gets points for price and convenience. We’ve noted a few of our favourite locations below, but be sure to check out a full list of COV facilities and what they offer here).
UBC AQUATIC | For those living off-campus, the UBC Aquatic Centre can be a bit of a trek, but this recently renovated and stunningly designed facility is a great place to sweat. Outfitted with a steam room and a sauna (as well as a 34-person family friendly hot tub and three swimming pools), the cost of an adult single day admission is just $6.75 (cheaper for students, youth and faculty members).
DEAL | Unless you live in Coquitlam, you’ll need to factor in a bit time to get to this option, but with both wet and dry saunas, salt, charcoal, earth and ice rooms, and a $25 admission fee that gives you three-hour access to all (plus your spa outfit, a couple of towels and a locker to use meanwhile), JJ Family Spa is a real winner on the value front. Additional services at this Korean-style bath house include massages, acupuncture, facials and body scrubs, also at reasonable rates.
DAY TRIP | Also worth considering: Scandinave Spa in Whistler requires some travel time, but with a eucalyptus steam room, wood burning and Finnish saunas, Nordic cold showers and cold plunge baths – as well as outdoor fireplaces, a solarium and a strict no speaking policy – we think Scandinave is well worth the drive! Walk-ins for the full Thermal Therapy experience (not including massages) are usually available, unless specified otherwise online. Since you pay a flat rate (around $100, depending on the day and season) and there is no time limit on your use of the facilities, we recommend showing up early and dedicating an entire day to relaxation.
Did we miss your favourite sauna or steam room? Let us know in the comments below.
Aika Spa in Squamish