The Pacific Northwest is awash in luxury spas. Here's a look at three in Western Washington: Salish Lodge & Spa in Snoqualmie, Alderbrook Resort & Spa overlooking Hood Canal, and Willows Lodge in Woodinville.
Handing the list of ingredients — honey, sugar, a touch of lavender and basil — over to the mixologist, I proceeded to get undressed.
It wasn’t the makings of a crazy barroom scene; it was a recipe for relaxation and rejuvenation, a “spa-cation,” some might say, at one of the Pacific Northwest’s luxury resorts.
On this particular Friday, a rainstorm raged outside, but it was warm and snug within the fourth-floor spa at Salish Lodge & Spa, where candles twinkled, soft instrumental background music tinkled and discreet signs reminded everyone to speak in tones “just above an intimate whisper.”
I’d joined the growing numbers of men and women visiting resorts and hotels for the benefits their tranquil spas offer the mind, body and spirit. With more than a dozen luxury destinations in Western Washington alone — from Semiahmoo Resort in Blaine, near the Canadian border, to the Quinault Beach Resort on the coast at Ocean Shores — a “spa-cation” is easy to take as a day trip or a longer getaway.
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Spas — in some form or another, and probably not as luxurious as today’s versions — have existed since the time of early Roman baths. One theory about the word spa is that it is an acronym for the Latin salus per aquam or sanitas per aquam, both of which translate as “health through water.”
Resort and hotel spas now offer seemingly endless combinations of health, beauty and relaxation treatments, in settings designed to emphasize the calming effects of nature. Green- and brown-tone walls and wood and stone accents make up the softly lit, serenely slow-paced spaces where guests wrapped in luxurious robes and slippers sip herbal teas and fruit-infused waters before and after treatments.
Although treatment techniques and ingredients vary from spa to spa, most use products created from organically grown plants, herbs and seeds, rich lotions, organic oils, salts and sugars.
Soaking at Salish
Salish Lodge & Spa, with its cliff-top location at Snoqualmie Falls a few miles from Interstate 90 and about 40 minutes from Seattle, has one honey of a spa. Quite literally: Now in their second year, the bees that live in the resort’s apiary are producing enough honey to use in the hotel’s culinary, beverage and spa menus. The spa’s signature treatments are scrubs from its Herb and Honey Scrub Bar. I chose the 50-minute, $125 Custom Body Scrub.
The honey-based mix I’d selected was applied onto my back, arms, hands, feet and legs in a slow, rhythmic, massagelike motion. After I’d showered it off, a similar process was used to apply the finishing treatment, a frankincense-, jasmine- and citrus-infused olive oil.
Like many resorts, Salish includes use of its dry sauna, steam room and two soaking pools in the price of the spa treatment, thus allowing guests to expand what might be an hourlong treatment into a relaxing retreat that could last the full day.
While a male guest used a pool, two women, from Seattle and Denver, shared the sauna with me. They were also having a one-day spa getaway. Both travel for business and say spa visits are “a must” on such trips.
The resort recently converted its fourth floor to a “Spa Club Level.” Its 20 guest rooms there are stocked with Bulgari products and upgraded robes and slippers. Complimentary morning coffee and pastries and afternoon tea are available to overnight guests on the club level. They also have private access to the sauna, steam room and pools for an hour each evening after those amenities are closed to the public.
Luxuriating at Alderbrook
It was a spa-enthusiast friend who raved about the facial she’d had there — along with a last-minute room deal — that prompted my overnight getaway with my husband to Alderbrook Resort and Spa on Hood Canal, some 90 miles and two hours’ drive from Seattle.
At the luxurious spa, I tried the 45-minute Hand and Foot Pampering, an exfoliation scrub of brown sugar and grape-seed oil, followed by a massage and paraffin wrap. The $80 treatment is one of the spa’s most popular, especially among outdoor enthusiasts.
Tucked between heated sheets, my extremities were rhythmically rubbed and scrubbed; then my hands and feet were wrapped in mitten- and boot-shaped plastic bags filled with hot liquid paraffin. Those mittens had me mumbling about never leaving the treatment table. The massage practitioner laughed and said, “You add this to a reflexology treatment and I’ve had guests so relaxed they asked to be rolled out in a wheelchair. They just don’t want to walk.”
I didn’t use the steam room, therapy or indoor-soaking pools (which were included in the treatment price), because we wanted to explore the sprawling grounds of this pet-friendly resort on Hood Canal, the natural fjord that separates the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas.
The resort stretches from its expansive dock and beach to a gently sloped forested hill. Well-groomed, easy hillside trails gave panoramic views of Hood Canal and the Olympic Mountains. Our overnight getaway cost $358, which included the spa treatment and tip, dinner and a stay in a luxurious guest room stocked with Molton Brown body-care amenities, in-room coffee maker and Wi-Fi. The room’s day bed and small exterior deck provided peek-a-boo water views. Breakfast was included in the room rate, and what we saved by booking the Web-special room rate nearly paid for our tapas dinner and bottle of wine, which we savored at a window table overlooking the water.
Relaxing in Woodinville wine country
Lunch at the Barking Frog restaurant either before or after a spa treatment at Willows Lodge is how I’d start or end a one-day getaway in Washington’s newest wine-tasting destination.
The small but popular spa occupies a ground-floor corner of the Woodinville resort. A renovation last year provided the spa with a face-lift of its own, adding a new relaxation room and a steam room.
The relaxation treatment feels as though it’s already begun as you walk from the lobby along a short garden path to the spa. Spa guests are welcome to spend time before or after treatments relaxing in or exploring the resort’s 5 acres of gardens, a tapestry of greenery, blooms, herbs, raised beds, water plants, water sculpture and ponds.
The emphasis on nature is so strong here that spa nail treatments are performed in garden cabana areas when weather permits. The spa’s outdoor Jacuzzi, in a lush, landscaped area just off the relaxation room, is used year-round.
While Willows Lodge offers many of the same treatments as other resort spas, it’s one of the few in the country to offer Carita Facials. These treatments feature Le Rénovateur, a French product that blends fermented sunflower seeds and essential oils.
Willows Lodge, about 30 minutes east of Seattle, is adjacent to the Sammamish River and the Burke-Gilman Trail. With two award-winning restaurants — The Herbfarm and the Barking Frog — footsteps from the resort entrance, and several of the area’s 90 wineries and tasting rooms within walking distance, I’m already planning a return visit.
A spa day just isn’t long enough.
Jackie Smith is a Kirkland-based freelance writer who also writes a travel blog, www.TravelnWrite.com.