For sheer escapism and decadence, nothing beats a trip to the spa, where you can spend the day luxuriating in warm pools, saunas, and cozy relaxation areas stocked with herbal teas, great magazines, and lovely-smelling products for your hair and skin.
If you’ve ever wanted to enjoy those rejuvenating superpowers, but don’t want to take on the expense of an actual treatment, here’s a secret: some resorts allow all guests, whether they’ve booked a massage or not, to indulge in the steamy wonders of their in-house spas. Here are four such hotels, each with an amenity-packed spa that will make you glad you packed your bathing suit. And if you decide to splurge on a treatment while you’re there? Consider it dessert.
Grand Hotel Kronenhof, Pontresina, Switzerland
As if the setting isn’t enough -- floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the snow-covered Swiss Alps and an awe-inspiring glacier -- the Kronenhof Spa delivers dozens of ways to relax, unwind, and detoxify. There are three pools, one massive and for swimming; another, set with therapeutic waterfalls -- precisely directed water jets that are so powerful you’ll be glad for the hand-holds -- and a whirlpool for rejuvenating muscles post-alpine activity. The third pool, for floating on gentle waves, is located within a peaceful grotto and includes light therapy and underwater music. Heat treatments are equally varied: choose steam infused with salt, essential oils, or mineral, or take in a traditional Finnish sauna. If the weather’s nice, walk through the cool grass to relax in one of the outdoor lounges set up in the garden. Alternatively, you can head to the resort’s sister hotel, The Kulm Hotel St. Moritz, where a sun-splashed whirlpool overlooking Lake St. Moritz is set with underwater chaises. Inside the spa, you’ll find a selection of water treatments, saunas, and steam as well as infrared cabins for deep-heat therapy. Children are welcome in the pool areas of both spas.
Tabacon Resort, Arenal, Costa Rica
Outsiders have to purchase a day pass to take advantage of Tabacon’s plethora of mineral-rich outdoor pools, waterfalls, and streams; resort guests, however, can spend as much time as they’d like soaking up the benefits of the thermal waters. You’ll need it: five separate springs provide thermal water that varies in temperature from mildly warming to intensely soothing deep heat. There are also a number of ways to take them in, including five thermal spring pools (one with a slide); strategically placed cold-water pools offer the added benefit of hot and cold plunge, which revs up circulation and muscle recovery. There are also cascading waterfalls, winding rivers, and various small natural springs set within the resort’s acres of blooming gardens and rainforest.
Farnham Estate, Cavan, Ireland
As you make your way up the long-winding road that leads to Farnham’s 400-year-old estate house, it’s hard to believe that this historic setting is also home to a spa that’s posh, progressive, and filled with an array of therapies. Shocking a warmed body with a cold-water plunge is said to enhance circulation and banish puffiness; Farnham’s snail shower, a nautilus-shaped series of small aromatherapy rooms equipped with shower heads that vary in intensity and temperature, is one of the most unique ways to gain the benefits. Traditionalists might prefer time in one of the spa’s thermal suites, which include amethyst/salt steam inhalation, aromatherapy, and a dry sauna followed by an ice massage or an hour in the laconium -- a super-heated room where you can douse yourself with chilled water every 20 minutes or so. Either way, finish your time in the jet-filled infinity pool, which looks out over a pasture filled with lowing cows.
The Peninsula Hotel, New York, New York
High above Fifth Avenue, the Peninsula Spa is an oasis of calm in bustling Manhattan. All year long, take it in from the glass-enclosed swimming pool, which overlooks the scene from its peaceful perch and, each morning, is the site of free aerobics classes. During the summer months, a sun deck offers one of the few places in the city to sunbathe in private. No matter the season, hotel guests are free to linger in the spa’s soothing relaxation area, where you can sip tea from the ultra-plush, cocoon-like day beds, indulge in swirls of eucalyptus-scented steam or a sauna (followed by a cooling ice rubdown), or have the shower of your dreams in a watery sanctuary with shower heads you can set to drench you like a waterfall or rain down like a spring shower.