local guide: 5 favorite sf bay area spas
i snapped this photo last year during our valentine's day visit to indian springs in calistoga
If there’s one thing we love to do together for special occasions, it’s definitely a good spa day. We’ve been to just about every spa in Northern California (this is not an exaggeration), so in the spirit of Valentine’s day I rounded up my top spa experiences below. Not only are these getaway perfect for a retreat with your special someone, they also make GREAT girls’ weekend getaways. All of the below offer a spa service menu; we typically get massages wherever we go and I can vouch for all of these.
all photos below are taken from the respective spa's website
1. San Francisco: kabuki springs
I love this one in winter because it’s entirely indoors, and adjacent to the super fun indoor Japan center mall. Aside from lovely Japanese-inspired treatment rooms, there’s a large communal bath area. Depending on the day of the week, the bath area is either men-only, women-only, or co-ed, so be sure to check in advance of booking to make sure you and whoever you’re going with can both enjoy this area (when we went on a weekend, it was men-only day so I missed out and went shopping while he soaked... ). It’s open until 10pm, which makes it a nice spot to visit after a particularly stressful work day
2. Sausalito (North Bay): Cavallo Point
For me, the proximity to the city while still being a destination is what makes this a top pick. It's a resort set next to the golden gate bridge, and was an army post over 100 years ago. The spa itself is modern and luxe, with the perk of a co-ed outdoor heated (to 100 degrees) wading pool and lounge area in a beautiful garden. Great for a small group of friends to hang out all day and enjoy the amenities, and healthy lunch and juice while lounging.
3. Palo Alto (Peninsula): Watercourse Way
This was our go-to when we lived on the peninsula. You start with an hour in a private hot tub room, followed by your treatments. This place is extremely calming and romantic. My favorite rooms are Nine Bats (a dark luxe room with a lovely sunken mosaic hot tub, large steam room cold plunge, and added night sky effects- I promise it’s not as cheesy as it sounds) and Six Dragonflies (a bright room with a skylight, large steam room, cold plunge, and wooden hot tub).
4. Calistoga: Indian Springs
We spent Valentine’s day here last year, and after that trip we promised ourselves that we would go back once a year. This resort is low-key but sprawling and beautiful, reminiscent of Palm Springs. The highlight without a doubt is the olympic-sized mineral pool (built in 1913!), kept at a hot temperature (between 82-102F, depending on the season) fed from the on-site geysers. Even though there’s plenty of chairs to lay out and get a tan, we loved visiting in the cooler part of the year, and floated in the enormous mineral pool pretty much all day. There’s no reason to leave- they serve food and drinks, and there are plenty of areas on the property to explore and relax.
5. Carmel (South Bay/Central Coast): Refuge
This is the Disneyland of spas and we've found is great for a group to enjoy together at the end of a Carmel weekend. It's truly a unique experience and is based on a cycle that has a lot of health benefits such as increasing metabolism and immune system, flushes toxins, and releases endorphins. You start by heating up in a steam room or sauna, immediately and briefly plunge into a pacific or arctic-temperature pool, relax outside or in a zero-gravity chair, then hang out in the most lovely setting with several large hot pools with waterfalls, and start the cycle over. It’s entirely outdoors other than the relaxation/hot rooms.