But most important is what YOU think, so please have your say and comment like mad!
Here’s what we think makes a good spa.
Good spas make you feel DELICIOUS – special, gorgeous and glowing with wellness. And it doesn’t take lavish surroundings or thousands of exotic treatments – we think spas just need to get six things right.
1. Good spas make you feel relaxed!
It’s very easy to feel silly or exposed in a spa. The minute you swap your everyday clothes for a fluffy robe and slippers, insecurities can start flooding in… Will therapists sneer at my hobbit feet? What if I relax SO much I snore or (whisper it) fart? Will it be embarrassing if I tip the therapist?
We love spas that give clear instructions – where to put your belongings and collect towels, when to get undressed, where to go – it’s no fun hovering semi-naked, unsure which door to go through. And a good spa doesn’t embarrass you by hard-selling products – it’s not that easy to be assertive when you’re half dressed. We like spas that subtly mention the products used in consultation or while you’re paying or checking out, but without putting you under any pressure to buy.
We’re not huge fans of that all-time passion killer – horrible, crinkly paper pants. We’re princesses for a day – we don’t want to feel silly. In an ideal world, we’d ask all spas to banish them! But if you are having a treatment that uses mud or oils, and you are sporting a new set of swanky new Calvin Kleins we’ll happily admit that maybe paper pants are a good last resort.
Good spas make you feel happy, confident and relaxed in the knowledge you’re in safe hands.
2. At good spas its all about you!
A spa is the ultimate indulgence – pure, unadulterated ‘me time’. So you need to believe for every sumptuous second that you’re the centre of the universe. This means everybody in ‘team spa’ should make you feel like a VIP – not just the therapists, but receptionists and pool attendants too. You want to feel that everyone in that spa is devoted to your wellbeing. We're not asking for caviar on tap, emotion-laden bear hugs or relentless high fives – but we do expect a friendly ‘nothing is too much effort’ vibe.
Naturally your therapist must be the most professional of all. They need to be friendly, calm, soothing, polite and respectful to you. They should be attentive - listening carefully and explaining their chosen approach. Then it’s lovely if they go quiet and let you really relax if that's what you prefer. You may not want your therapist firing too many questions at you, or breaking the ‘spa spell’ by bemoaning the lack of parking at Coles.
Remember, a spa is the one place where it’s all about you - your comfort, goals and enjoyment. Good spas make you feel special.
3. Good spas don't break the spa spell!
Whether you’re in a spa for two weeks or 20 minutes, you want to be instantly transported into a cuddly, warm bubble of spa heaven. As traffic jams, overdrafts and work deadlines fade from memory, you want to exist in a gentle, chilled-out universe where all you have to worry about is whether to sip on your ginger and lime green tea or have a lie down. We love a tranquil ambience with gorgeous things to soothe and comfort you, like soft lighting, beautiful images of smooth grey pebbles, a gentle bubbling of cascading water and white towels so fluffy you could jump on them and bounce. So your spa must be authentic. We have found horrors like plastic wood effect panelling, a scratched and skipping pan pipe CD or a collapsing treatment bed tend to shatter the spa spell pretty fast.
Good spas don’t burst your bubble – they get the details right so you float out all warm and fuzzy.
4. Good spas have quality treatments.
It’s exciting when spas tempt you with interesting new treatments and it’s good to know your spa is keeping abreast of the latest innovations. But endless menus of exotic treatments can be bewildering and we can all spot gimmicks. One particularly gruesome example was a ‘Cleopatra bath in horses milk’ where a bored looking therapist just tipped a few pints of milk into what looked like an avocado bathroom suite sunk into the floor and left our Spa Detective to stare gloomily at a dodgy ceiling painting of the ‘Queen of the Nile’.
We don’t mean to be purists though. At one of our favourite spas ever, in Bali, beautiful young women gently rubbed yogurt and turmeric onto our male spa detective’s bare bottom as he gleefully planned which mates he would tell first. Whether it actually did his skin much tangible good is debatable, but it certainly made him feel exquisitely pampered. Good spas are authentic.
5. Good spas look after the earth.
We spa seekers can spoil ourselves silly without spoiling the planet. We think it's important that spas are eco friendly and give something back to the community - whether it's giving a percentage of their profits back to local communities, providing products that are organic or fair trade, or by using natural products rather than some glowing vat of chemicals. Good spas save water and energy wherever possible, or even invest in the environment - this is the kind of cherry we like on top of our cake. Our Spa Detectives like to lie back and close their eyes safe in the knowledge that the earth will be just as healthy when they come back up for air. Good spas hug trees.
6. Good spas offer value for money.
Good spas make you feel gloriously pampered – they don’t make you feel like a dollar sign on a production line. Key to this is timing. The last thing you want is a clock-watching therapist whose chief objective is to finish your treatment in a horribly short period of time so she can shoot to the next customer. At one of our favourite spas, the therapists were so keen to preserve the silent, tranquil environment they took several seconds to silently ease a door close. We love little touches like that.
Likewise we don’t like being left alone for ages ‘to take some time out’ – you’re in a spa to be pampered, not ignored. A brief break is fine, but leave it too long and guests can soon feel ripped off.
It’s excruciating if you think therapists are hovering for a tip, especially as your purse is probably in your locker. Tipping is unusual in Australian spas but a clear policy on where to tip is helpful for guests who do want to show their gratitude in this way.
Finally, it’s important you get what you booked – it’s pretty frustrating to turn up at reception and be refused the one treatment you’ve been longing because it’s double booked.
Good spas make you feel spoiled.
What makes a good spa in your opinion?
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