There are lots of ways to experience hot springs and mineral springs, including remote locations in the wilderness, rustic historic bathhouses, communal outdoor pools and private rooms in lavish hotels. No matter what experience you're looking for, there's a hot springs for you.
Esalen in California
Surrounded by pine trees, Esalen Institute sits high on a bluff overlooking the Pacific ocean in Big Sur, California.IIt was created in the early 70's as a place of peace, love and self-awareness, and offers workshops in everything from dance to philosophical inquiry.
Perched on a cliff overlooking the Pacific, the hot springs here sprawls over three levels with spectacular views from every vantage point. This tends to be a clothing-optional hot springs, but you are invited to wear your swimsuit.
You can use the hot springs by signing up for a workshop, which includes tuition, lodging and food. Or you can book a massage at the spa, where you'll get massaged in a room with two other strangers. There's also night bathing from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m., which is in high demand.
Ojo Caliente (which means "hot eye" in Spanish) is the only hot springs in the world that offers four types of healing mineral waters, including soda, iron and arsenic (believed to relieve arthritis.) Its ten pools are filled with different types and combinations of waters, with temperatures ranging from 80-109 degrees. (Bring your own robe and flip-flops.) And the resort’s full-service spa offers an over-the-top serene experience.
Locals go for the day, but travelers will want to spend at least one night. The most affordable option is the Historic Hotel built in 1916. Its 15 charming rooms have half baths (no showers), as all bathing was historically done in the bathhouses. If you want to up the luxury quotient, there are new 500-square-foot suites with kiva fireplaces and private, outdoor, two-person soaking tubs.
Since 1778, people have traveled to The Greenbrier to "take the waters" and bathe in the white sulphur spring water. Sulphur emits a smell of rotten eggs, but it's believed to have a salutary therapeutic effects on the skin and the ability to ease aches and pains.
Today, The Greenbrier still specializes in hydrotherapy, including The Sulphur Soak (a 25-minute soak in a private room), Waterworks (a soak followed by an invigorating Swiss Shower and a Scotch Spray) and The Greenbrier Treatment, which includes all that and a massage.
Formerly Known as The Homestead, The Omni Homestead Resort is one of America's great historic spas. It was founded here because of its hot springs, which have drawn travelers since 1766. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and 20 other U.S. presidents have been amongst the guests here.
The vast Georgian-style resort is set in the Allegheny Mountains, with 483 guest rooms and suites. Hot springs feeds into the resort's magnificent indoor pool, built in 1902, and the adults-only Spa Garden, which has an outdoor pool and interesting water features. Spa updates have put it squarely into the 21st century.
The rustic Jefferson pools (yes, Jefferson was there, for his rheumatism) consists of two pool houses, one built in 1761 and another in 1836. The mineral content of the waters is so high that you float easily, and an hour-long soak is just $17.)
Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort in Costa Rica
Tabacon resort offers a combination of luxurious thermal springs and a fascinating neighbor known as the Arenal volcano, and is one of Costa Rica's great natural attractions. There are seven major bathing pools, plus scores of other spots to sit and soak amongst tropical gardens. If you ever feel overheated, there are cold water pools in several locations. Near the clubhouse, you will find a swim-up bar and a water slide.
Tabacon sits on over 872 acres of lush rainforest and all its thermal springs comes from the majestic Arenal Volcano, forming cascades and natural pools through the property. The Spa is located in the middle of tropical gardens where the treatments are given in open air bungalows.