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. The big bonus is that both can also help increase metabolism, improve circulatory health, boost cardiovascular function, promote deeper sleep, help with stress management, and generally bolster immune function. All that being said, it’s also super 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 a historic institution, Vancouver and the surrounding area offer a range of detoxifying venues. Here’s our list of over a dozen local options to help get you sweating in 2024…
PRIVATE | The expanded Circle Wellness Granville Island location only just opened in late summer of 2023. First crack at bookings happens on the first day of each month, and securing a time slot still requires a bit of organization – but it’s totally worth it in order to score a private spa day (yes, you read that right). Prices range from $219-279 per six-stage ‘circuit’, depending on the time of day (time slots begin at 6am and the spa is open until midnight, daily) and length of your desired session (90 or 120 minutes). Before 5pm on a weekday is the most affordable – so all you early birds and folks with flexible schedules out there, take note! If your schedule doesn’t gel with their availability, though, you can always add your name to the waitlist. DETAILS.
FANCY | The Fairmont Pacific Rim’s The Nordic Spa is an outdoors self-guided thermal experience unlike anything else within Vancouver city limits. Located six stories up, it features a hot tub, cold plunge, and cedar plank sauna for you to cycle through at your own pace. Rest areas are outfitted with sofa lounges, fire pits, and patio heaters. This outdoor oasis is available to hotel guests from 8am until 8pm for the added cost of $35 for two hours. Monday through Thursday it opens doors to the public, as well, for $149 – a considerably steeper price, but it comes with perks like access to Willow Stream Spa facilities (up until now, their stunner of a steam room has been our longstanding favourite local hotel option), as well as the fitness centre and movement studio. Reservations are required. Email [email protected] or call 604-695-5550 to lock in your Spa day now. DETAILS.
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, eight people max) 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 at Container Brewing (1216 Franklin Street) in Strathcona. (Alternate days are open to private bookings only, by request.) Bookings for January 2024 are now open and can be made here. To arrange a private situation, and for more details, email [email protected] for availability. DETAILS
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. Approximately $58-68 per month (plus a joiner fee) gets you access to all facilities, as well as group fitness programs for the year and other perks, depending on which association you sign up with. Towel service ($12 per month) is a also nice touch. DETAILS.
OLD SCHOOL | If you`re looking for modern frills, then Hastings Reflexology & Sauna (which has been operating since 1926) probably isn’t for you… On the other hand, if you keep your expectations about the nearly-century-old public bath house in check, then you can count on a satisfying experience. Yes, the price point here is more expensive than a community centre fee, but it is also less crowded. A standard 90-minute booking for a private sauna room will run you about $35 dollars. Steam, High Heat, and Hybrid Saunas are all available. Reflexology and Body Massage services are also add on options. DETAILS.
ECLECTIC | Not sure which type of sauna does it for you, Finnish, Turkish Hammam, or Roman? Maybe a Himalayan Salt Room or Dry Aroma or Eucalyptus Sauna is more your thing? Take a trip out to Burnaby to put in some ‘research’ and relaxation time by trying out all of the specialized rooms that Art of Sauna has to offer. $50 will hook you up with two hours to do a thorough tour of the various styles, or pick-and-choose and divide your time as you please. DETAILS
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 $7.50 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 – even cheaper for students, youth and faculty members. DETAILS.
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, plus salt, charcoal, earth and ice rooms, and a small $25 admission fee that gives you three-hour access to it 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. Also of note: JJ Spa operates on a ‘walk-in’ basis, which is nice if you have a sudden urge to decompress / didn’t have the foresight to book an appointment in advance. Additional services at this Korean-style bath house include massages, acupuncture, facials and body scrubs – also at reasonable rates. DETAILS.
NO FIXED ADDRESS | The Finnish Sauna offers two experiences: an off-grid sauna by the river at Cheekye Ranch in Squamish (reserve Sauna socials on Thursdays and Sundays, or book a private sessions with your group of friends); or you can opt to have the sauna come directly to you. That’s right, this team will literally roll up their mobile sauna situation to a farm, campground, beach, backyard or parking lot, ready to go. Saunas accommodate groups of 6-14 people. DETAILS.
NORTH SHORE OASES | Tality Spa has two North Vancouver locations. The first – a backyard “industrial oasis” – is decked out with a wood-burning sauna, two ice baths, and two ‘ambient plunges’; whereas the second location (also loaded with cold plunges and ambient baths) has a larger 25-person electric-powered sauna. Both options include a heated outdoor space, robes, flip-flops, and unlimited (Tality) kombucha. Pricing fluctuates from $45-350 depending on the date, time and length of your stay, and the number of people (groups rates, as well as private or guided sessions, are all available). Make a full day of it by tacking on a hike in the mountains beforehand and a post-steam meal at Douce Diner after! DETAILS.
CALM | Although you can’t access the open-air Japanese bathhouse at Bowen Island’s secluded and private Kitoki Inn without being a guest – and scoring a reservation at this popular getaway can be a challenge, since bookings only open twice per year and sell out fast – it’s worth the planning and effort to slip into their onsen style bath. Built onto a bluff overlooking the raw beauty of a West Coast forest, this experience comes complete with birds, deer, butterflies and hummingbirds. Thoughtful touches – including robes, hydrotherapy shower, wood-burning fireplace, cold water and hot tea – make the experience even better. Bonus that it’s also situated on the edge of a forest with numerous trails for exploring! DETAILS.
FOREST BATHING | The AIKA Spa offers visitors a chance to hit their ‘pause button’ and spend some time in hot and cold therapy amid the restorative forests of the Sea-to-Sky Corridor via a wood-fired sauna, cold plunge, massages, and yoga. We’ve yet to visit AIKA, but the literal ‘Forest Bathing’ in wood-burning hot tubs (shout out to Goodland for such a beautifully made/rad product!) is a strong motivator to head up the highway for a visit. Private spa experiences for up to 10 people are available in 90 minute-, three hour-, or six hour-long sessions (pricing varies by group size). They also have wellness-focused “AIKA socials”, to which you can purchase individual passes. DETAILS.
SAUNA IN THE SNOW | 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 some hardcore relaxation. DETAILS.
Did we miss your favourite sauna or steam room? Let us know in the comments below or email michelle @ scoutmagazine.ca