For a spa day sans L.A. sticker shock, try Glen Ivy
Considering its mix of money, movies, pressure and trendiness, it's only natural that Los Angeles is home to some of the finest luxury spas in the world. They offer sophisticated, cutting-edge treatments designed to remove every wrinkle and unknot every muscle, and over-the-top amenities that will dazzle you along the way.
At Ciel Spa at SLS Beverly Hills, custom massage beds are fitted with music therapy technology in a Philippe Starck-designed space intended to evoke a celestial dreamscape. In lieu of lockers, nearby Tomoko Spa offers its guests private suites outfitted with silk kimonos and hinoki wood soaking tubs. And at the downtown Ritz-Carlton spa, a champagne and shimmer body treatment includes an organic scrub and application of a 24-karat-gold powder for "lasting luminance."
But the high costs (that gold-dusted body treatment runs $260 for 80 minutes) and elite vibe exuded by many spas can be intimidating for visitors who are just looking for a relaxing day out with friends. Even simple services such as a tub soak or pedicure can cost $100 or more, and hidden service fees and strict cancellation policies can ruin your Zen.
Framed by chaparral-covered hillsides at the base of the Cleveland National Forest, Glen Ivy offers an alternative centered on a natural sulfur hot spring once used by Native American tribes. An inn opened on the property in 1860, and its healing waters have been drawing getaway-seeking visitors ever since. Today, palm trees and bougainvillea surround its 19 pools and baths, giving it the relaxed feel of a tropical resort. All the typical spa services are available, from facials and massages to pedicures, as well as seasonal packages that bundle treatments with extras like breakfast and robe rentals.
The "Taking the Waters" entrance pass (starting at $52 on weekdays; $72 on weekends and holidays) lets you spend the entire day popping in and out of the mineral baths, lounge and lap pools, and steam rooms. It also gets you into "Club Mud," where you can slather yourself in California red clay and bake in the sun. Other features include yoga and water aerobics classes, a farm-to-table cafe, and an outdoor cocktail bar.
When Glen Ivy gets busy — usually weekends and holidays — seek out the secret garden, a tree-shaded hideaway with rocking chairs and waterfalls; or Ivy Terrace, where you can reserve a lounge chair or private cabana for an extra fee. In summer, reserve in advance. And don't expect the hushed serenity or perfect bodies that typify many L.A. spas. Glen Ivy doesn't pretend to be anything but what it has been for more than a century: a pretty place to relax with friends without breaking the bank.
Location: Glen Ivy Hot Springs, 25000 Glen Ivy Rd., Temescal Valley, California, is about an hour's drive from Los Angeles.