Thailand has thousands of spas offering every kind of treatment possible, and its sultry temperatures, idyllic landscapes, and sense of tranquility make it an ideal destination for a spa break. Traditional Thai architecture, serene Zen-minimalist decor, and enchanting gardens blend with the Thai people’s gentle and giving nature to make a truly memorable spa experience. Massage has been practiced in Thailand for some 2,500 years, and while it’s possible to have a cheap shoulder rub in simple backstreet shop fronts, nothing beats some serious pampering at a luxury resort or an indulgent afternoon at a day spa.
Hotel & Resort Spas
Travelers tend to visit a hotel or resort spa as part of a wider holiday, with the main focus being a beach or cultural experience. However, Thailand’s luxury five-star hotels and resorts are home to some of the world’s very best spas, offering a wide range of professional, unique, and blissful treatments.
The greatest concentration of spas is on the islands of Phuket and Ko Samui, in the beach resort towns of Hua Hin and Cha-am, and in the northern Chiang Mai area. The country’s foremost spa resorts include the Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui, the Banyan Tree Spa Phuket, Six Senses Yao Noi, and the Anantara Resort & Spa in Hua Hin and Ko Samui. Spa treatments are generally an added extra, but many resorts are now increasingly offering all-inclusive packages.
The Anantara resorts offer three-day and seven-day programs that include between four and ten treatments.
Thailand has a number of luxury resorts situated in truly breathtaking settings. Visitors looking for an intimate getaway on a deserted white-sand beach skirted by palm trees should head to the Six Senses Hideaway Hua Hin, south of Hua Hin, or the Aleenta Resort & Spa Phang Nga. Those who like the sound of a plush villa with a private infinity pool set among tropical jungle overlooking lush rice fields – or, more dramatically, the Mekong River across to Burma – should book at the Four Seasons Chiang Mai or the Four Seasons Tented Camp at the Golden Triangle. The aim of staying here is to experience the local culture and lush environment as much as it is to have a spa experience. The fact that these resorts are often set in remote locations and may be accessible only by speedboat (such as the Rayavadee Spa near Krabi) or traditional long-tail boat (the Four Seasons Tented Camp at the Golden Triangle) adds to the allure. The spas at these resorts offer longer programs of daily treatments for those who really want to unwind.
Spas Revitalizing the mind, body, and spirit is the central purpose of destination spas, with guests rarely leaving the resort after checking in. Thailand’s first and best, the Chiva-Som International Health Resort, offers more than 150 treatments focused on relaxation and rejuvenation, stress relief, detoxification, and weight loss. Guests undergo an extensive health consultation upon arrival, and a program is created to match their goals. There is a three-night minimum stay, though most guests stay a week or more, and nutritious spa cuisine, activities, and treatments are included in the rate. Another famous destination spa is the Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary & Holistic Spa in Ko Samui.
Because spa resorts tend to provide an array of non spa activities – from golf to white-water rafting and mountain climbing – signature treatments at destination spas cater for travelers who may be suffering some after-effects. The signature treatment at the Four Seasons Tented Camp, for instance, is where poultices filled with camphor, lime, and lemongrass are used to massage the body and inner thighs – the perfect antidote for aching muscles.
All over Thailand, travelers can find day spas – stand-alone operations not attached to resorts or hotels – and many hotels also offer treatments to non-guests on a per-session basis. Most day spas are in Bangkok and include the stylish Oasis Spa and Thann Sanctuary, the Harnn Heritage Spa, and Health Land. Chiang Mai also has excellent day spas.
Despite Thailand’s long history of therapeutic massage and natural healing – including Thai massage, medicinal herbs, and natural springs – the country is at the cutting edge of spa offerings. Expect to see anything and everything on a spa menu, from Tropical Sprinkles and Tranquility Mists at the Banyan Tree Spa Phuket, to their famous four-hand Harmony Banyan treatment, where two therapists work on you at once. Other spas, such as the Six Senses Spa and Anantara Spas, also offer versions of this indulgent treatment. While some treatments are indigenous to Thailand – traditional Thai massage, for example – others, such as hydrotherapy, thalassotherapy, aromatherapy, and Ayurvedic treatments, can be found all over the world. Many spas have also developed their own signature treatments. The Four Seasons Spas have an array of sensual offerings connected to the cycles of the moon, with treatments that should be experienced only during certain lunar phases.