By Diana Ballon
A sauna plus cold plunge and steam before bed? Or some chill time in a salt therapy room before getting the day underway? All this may well be possible at a hotel near you.
For centuries, water has been used to treat various ailments, with Nordic spa-type hydrotherapy facilities emerging at destination spas for guests seeking health and some me time. But now, hotels are also getting on this trend, offering hydrotherapy circuits to their overnight guests.
And while the experience may feel like pure hedonism (well, maybe except for the icy cold plunge part), it also has a ton of health benefits, from firing up your lymphatic system to reducing inflammation and swelling to boosting your immune system.
The principle is fairly simple: move from heat (in a sauna, steam room or hot tub) to cool (in a plunge pool or chilly waterfall or shower) and then rest. Now repeat. Many of these hotels are also introducing halotherapy—or salt therapy—rooms, which are not just relaxing but also purported to have many health benefits, from improved skin to better sleep and overall wellness.
This means that guests can enjoy a true wellness experience—without having to leave the building. Here are four Canadian hotels, listed from east to west, that have got this wellness and hydrotherapy thing down.
Halifax’s first luxury hotel, part of the Autograph Collection, the Muir has everything a luxury stay should offer—along with a great waterfront location in the new Queen’s Marque district downtown.
Expect friendly, solicitous, but unpretentious service (it is, after all, in the Maritimes), with elevated regional cuisine at its Drift restaurant; its own regionally curated art gallery, True Colours; and even their own speakeasy, BKS.
The hotel also boasts its Windward Wellness sanctuary, which includes not only a 5,000-square foot fitness centre with state-of-the-art equipment but complimentary yoga and spin classes, free use of bikes and kayaks, and access to a luxurious yacht and motorboat, weather permitting.
The spa also has a heated pool, cold plunge, infrared sauna, eucalyptus steam room, and halotherapy salt room. Be sure to reserve private time with a partner in their two-person salt room with two heated loungers: lined with Himalayan salt blocks, Atlantic salt air is released into the room through a halogenerator.
Hotel William Gray
The historic and elegant Hotel William Gray in Old Montreal has not just one but two rooftop terraces, a green courtyard, their Maggie Oakes restaurant and 127 rooms and suites with stone walls or cathedral ceilings.
This hydrotherapy-loving hotel also has a 56,000 sq foot luxury spa with its own luxurious hot/cold thermal experience. Enjoying a thermal experience involves rotating between an 80 to 90-degree Celsius Finnish sauna, a not-quite-so-hot herbal sauna and a eucalyptus steam room for heat, and a cold room for the frigid part!
Experiential showers also work well as a first step in your thermal circuit session or for final cool-down: they use an interplay of hot and cold, with rotating coloured lights, rejuvenating aromas, and pressures that range from a light mist to pulsating shower.
You can also enjoy some leisure time in their relaxation space and a Himalayan salt room, which is lined with white Himalayan salt bricks, with atomized salt particles emitted into the air through a halogenerator. An outdoor pool is also open seasonally and can be booked through the spa.
124 on Queen
The newly renovated 124 on Queen—across the street from the Shaw Festival’s George Theatre in Niagara-on-the-Lake—is perfectly located for a weekend theatre getaway. But what not everyone realizes is that it’s also an ideal destination for wellness as well.
The hotel’s Spa at Q includes not just the standard spa treatments but unique offerings like a couple’s massage with a private infrared sauna experience and a full hydrotherapy wellness circuit, available to hotel and spa guests.
The circuit includes a dry sauna, a eucalyptus steam room, a hot and warm pool, a snow room, and sensory showers with aromatherapy scents, chromotherapy lighting, and four different pressure jets.
They also plan to open a Himalayan salt room for yoga sessions and sound bath experiences, as well as an outdoor wellness area in the rear of the property with spa treatment cabanas, reflective pools and gardens.
While you are at the hotel, be sure to make a reservation for their four-course pre-fixe farm-to-table dinner at Treadwell Cuisine, with the option of wine pairings beautifully selected by their sommeliers.
Painted Boat Resort
Located at Madeira Park on the Sunshine Coast, the Painted Boat Resort Spa & Marina is a beautiful waterside property that is located just two hours from Vancouver, but feels like an ocean away.
The resort has 31 upscale villas, high-end dining at their Lagoon Restaurant, and its outdoor Spa Serenity Garden. The place feels a bit like a secret garden: it is green and private, bordered by trees, and has a hot tub with a cascading waterfall, a cold rain shower, a sauna and a firepit that you can sit around on cooler days.
Bring a book and head out to the garden for a couple of hours of relaxation pre- or post-treatment, or make it an occasion unto itself. If you book one of their mineral-rich seaweed and salt-infused treatments, you get free access to their Serenity Garden.