5 Urban Alternatives to Hot Springs in BC

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On a chilly winter’s day, sinking shoulder-deep into a pool of hot water is the definition of bliss. British Columbia has plenty of natural hot springs where you can do this while watching the steam rise into the wilderness. But what if you want to warm up with family and friends within commuting distance of the city?

Sure, there are many luxurious urban spas to choose from. But unlike in countries such as Japan, Korea, Finland, and Hungary, spending the day at a community bathhouse or sauna isn’t part of BC culture. Here are five options that come close, offering a taste of BC hot springs in the city—whether it’s the communal atmosphere, thermal waters, or the opportunity to spend hours enveloped in steam.

Scandinave Spa Whistler in winter | Justa Jeskova

Scandinave Spa, Whistler

Best for: Fresh air and serenity

Located a five-minute drive from Whistler Village, Scandinave Spa is popular with locals and visitors alike. While massages are available, many people come simply for the hydrotherapy bathing ritual. You can easily spend a few hours cycling through the outdoor property’s saunas and steam baths, including the open-air baths, bracing Nordic waterfall, and cold plunge pools.

In between, you can warm your toes next to a crackling outdoor fire, gaze at the mountains, and inhale the scent of the surrounding spruce and cedar forest. Silence is encouraged, so you can look forward to a serene, contemplative experience.

KurSpa's herbal sauna warms body and soul | Sparkling Hill Resort

KurSpa at Sparkling Hill Resort, near Vernon

Best for: Serious relaxation (clothing optional)

Just a 20-minute drive from Vernon, KurSpa isn’t a day spa—it’s a destination for whole-body wellness. You must be a guest at Sparkling Hill Resort to enjoy the facilities, so check in and dedicate yourself to unwinding. In addition to treatments, all guests have complimentary access to seven themed steam rooms and saunas, four nature-themed “experience” showers, a serenity relaxation room, and more, providing options to follow and repeat a rejuvenating hot-cold-relax circuit.

Other unique features include underwater music in the indoor saltwater pool and a Kneipp Hydrotherapy circuit that you walk through to relax the nervous system. For something completely different, book a session at the Cryo Cold Chamber, KurSpa’s signature treatment that involves spending up to three minutes in a room set at -110°C. With a European approach to wellness, all the steam rooms and saunas are mixed gender, with clothing optional during the final hour of operation each evening.

JJ Family Spa, Coquitlam

Best for: Social sweating

Down to earth with a convivial community atmosphere, JJ Family Spa is a Korean-style bathhouse and sauna located in the Vancouver suburb of Coquitlam. In addition to a sauna and steam room, it features rooms containing salt, charcoal, and yellow earth, each at different temperatures and with a specific therapeutic property. There’s also an “ice room” for more of that hot-cold therapy, and Asian-influenced spa treatments such as meridian massage and hot cupping.

This is a social spot, with a lively communal area and party packages available. Regular adult admission is just $18, with services such as a vigorous body scrub available for an additional fee.

The Himalayan salt room at Art of Sauna in Burnaby | Art of Sauna

Art of Sauna, Burnaby

Best for: Variety

Just outside of Vancouver where the suburbs of Burnaby and New Westminster meet, Art of Sauna is the place for a good steam and sweat. A $55 entrance fee gives you unlimited time to explore saunas spanning the globe, from a Finnish dry sauna to a high-temperature Russian banya to the glass-tiled Egyptian rasul featuring heated loungers. The Turkish hamman is a highlight with its dome ceiling and central marble slab, where you can get scrubbed down for an additional fee.

Miraj Hammam in Vancouver | Miraj Hammam

Miraj Hammam Spa, Vancouver

Best for: Private-group pampering

Located in the South Granville area of Vancouver, Miraj Hammam Spa is a Middle Eastern urban oasis. An intimate space, the spa maintains separate hours for men and women; couples also have designated hours for appointments. Gommage treatments (body exfoliation with black Moroccan soap) are performed in private in the hammam on the Jerusalem gold marble slab. If you’re looking for a communal experience, you can book the whole spa for your private group (three to eight of your nearest and dearest), and relax afterwards in the Sultana Lounge with tea and sweets.

POSTED BY: Carolyn Ali

From: Vancouver
Raised in Vancouver, Carolyn Ali seeks out the offbeat. She is always up for a new experience, from climbing an ice tower near Kelowna to tracking down the latest on BC’s craft beer scene. Previously the travel and food editor at Vancouver’s Georgia Straight, Carolyn is a Destination BC staffer and an award-winning freelance writer.