4 unique Nordic spas and saunas to visit around Vancouver

Apr 26 2022, 10:22 pm

Written by Monica Krake, founder of Head + Heart, your guide to living aligned.


When you live in perpetual dampness, like we do around Vancouver, the pinnacle of luxury has traditionally been a hot holiday to Mexico or the Bahamas.

However, travel can still be a little tricky, and the most accessible luxury, in my opinion,  is a trip to the sauna. And, better yet, a complete spa experience that leaves you remembering why you’re thrilled to be alive.

Do I sound dramatic? Then maybe you haven’t yet gotten into hot and cold therapy yet.  According to the most famous cold-dipper, Wim Hoff, plunging into cold water builds resilience, inner strength and boosts our immune system. Nordic sauna culture, which combines cold dips or ice showers with the therapeutic benefits of heat has been popular in Scandinavian countries forever. Thankfully, it’s catching on in BC now, too.

Self care is productive, and now more than ever, people are seeking out experiences and embodiment practices that help them feel more alive and connected to their natural spirituality.

The Magic of Cold Dips

It’s easy to get excited about hopping into a hot tub or sauna, but not so much a bath of ice cold water or a freezing shower.

Cold dips are a great biohack to build new neural pathways and boost resiliency in the system. This works because plunging into uncomfortably cold water goes against our natural instincts, which leads to the formation of new neural pathways, which offers many benefits. Experts say when practised regularly, cold water immersion can provide long-lasting changes to your body’s immune, lymphatic, circulatory and digestive systems. This research study in 2007 found that cold showers can help treat depression and may be more beneficial than prescription medications in improving moods. As well, cold water immersion has been scientifically proven to help counteract the side effects of inflammation.

You can explore hot and cold therapy OR simply enjoy the benefits of the sauna at the following spas around the GVRD – each offer a unique experience, and you really can’t go wrong with any of these gems!

Hastings Reflexology and Sauna

Hastings Reflexology and Sauna

Hastings Reflexology and Sauna

One of Vancouver’s best kept secrets, Hastings Reflexology and Sauna is an affordable refuge for wellness located in the heart of Strathcona. I went with my sister for a combo 50 minute foot massage (reflexology) followed by 60 minutes in our own private steam sauna pictured above. It was the best reflexology I’ve ever had (ask for Susan) and we literally had the entire spa to ourselves to receive our side-by-side treatments, before heading into our own private sauna. I took a couple of breaks to take a cold shower, and LOVED the entire experience. It’s not fancy (don’t expect Willowstream) but it is incredibly clean and the staff is super professional. At $75/each for two hours, it’s the type of place you can head to weekly.  Highly recommend.

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Scandinave Spa Whistler

Scandinave Spa Whistler

Scandinave Spa Whistler

Perhaps the most well-known Nordic spa in the region, Scandinave is always worth a day trip, and is located a little less than two hours from downtown Vancouver. For about $140CAD, you’ll get access to the saunas, steam rooms, hot tubs and cold baths, and can easily spend 4 hours cycling through all of these. Scandinave is a silent experience, which yes, means that talking is discouraged. This doesn’t work for all of the chatty Kathy’s out there, but personally I love the experience, and always leave feeling extremely rejuvenated. In fact, I like to bring a journal and treat it like a meditation day to receive insights and tune into creativity.  You can add a regular or Swedish massage or couples treatment for about $250/pp. Scandinave is a truly stunning location, set in the woods, in pristine nature.

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JJ Family Spa in Coquitlam

JJ Family Spa Coquitlam

JJ Family Spa Coquitlam

A gem that I head to almost weekly, the JJ Spa is a very casual, clothing optional (eek!) Korean family spa. Men and women each have their own side, where you’ll find a hot tub, sauna, cold bath and Himalayan Pink Salt room. When you’re done with those, you can put on the pajamas they provide (think Orange is the New Black) and head to the shared rooms, which include the Charcoal room and Red Clay Room, with the idea that the benefits of these elements will support relaxation and optimal health. This place is NOT fancy (it’s only $19/visit) but it’s clean and awesome. For $100, you can get their famed one-hour Korean body scrub and hair shampoo, which will leave you feeling cleaner than you’ve ever felt in your life. The scrubs are done completely in the buff — an adventure for sure.

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Art of Sauna in New West

Art of Suana in New West

Art of Sauna in New West

Art of Sauna is a beautiful space in New West that offers a selection of eight thermal rooms, which include saunas and steam rooms, including my favourite, the Eucalyptus Steam Room, and the dry Finnish Sauna. It’s totally up to you which and how many rooms you decide to use. You’ll also find cold showers (not cold baths, if you’re wanting those) and relaxation areas to enjoy.  Admission to the spa gives you two hours of spa use, and costs about $50, tax included. Like JJ Spa, when you book a treatment, admission is free. Treatment options include facials, deep tissue massage, lymphatic drainage, body scrubs, Lomi Lomi and more. A great way to spend a couple of hours.

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If you try any of the above places, be sure to let me know what you think – just send me a DM. If you’re motivated to boost your wellness or explore your inner landscape in new ways this year, this Intuition Test is a great place to start, and every week or so I share inspiration for living aligned via this weekly email guide, available to all.

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