When it comes to indulgent spa escapes, nowhere else in Southeast Asia can match Thailand’s level of expertise.
Centuries-old healing practices, the local culture of hospitality, and a compelling range of top-notch spas and wellness resorts have made Thailand a go-to destination for those seeking more balance on their holidays. And treatments, too, are equally diverse. These run the gamut from traditional Thai massage—an invigorating combination of acupressure, gentle rocking, and deep stretching movements—to high-tech body shaping therapies. Read on to discover 12 of the best places around the country in which to refresh the mind, body, and spirit.
I.Sawan Residential Spa & Club
Spa bliss awaits at the heavenly I.Sawan Residential Spa & Club (sawan is Thai for “heaven”) on the Grand Hyatt Erawan’s fifth floor, a tranquil haven amid the clamor of the Ratchaprasong shopping area. For a quick recharge, there’s the Essence of I.Sawan massage. Its combined arsenal of Swedish, Thai, and aromatherapy massages is bolstered by a power blend of lemongrass, plai (a ginger species), and cypress oils, aimed at boosting the body’s natural recovery process. For those who want to linger, there are six “residential spa cottages”—one-bedroom suites clustered around an adjacent courtyard that come with their own massage rooms; extra perks include butler service plus a daily spa treatment.
Hailed as the very first hotel spa in Thailand when it opened 26 years ago, this wellness sanctuary at the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok occupies a century-old teak bungalow right across the Chao Phraya River from the main property. New on the spa menu is the two-hour Thai Thermal Salt Ritual, a traditional post-pregnancy treatment now adapted as an alternative to deep-tissue massage. The therapist first applies long, muscle-melting strokes with organic essential oils, and then a warm compress of pink Himalayan salt, which disperses heat gently and deeply into the body. Oriental Spa also boasts the country’s only Pedi:Mani:Cure Studio by famed French chiropodist Bastien Gonzalez.
CHI, The Spa
For a truly northern Thai experience, the spa at Chiang Mai’s Shangri-La Hotel offers a selection of local herbal and flower-based treatments derived from the region’s Lanna heritage. The Enchanted Journey to Chiang Mai package begins with a gentle lotus-root body scrub followed by a wrap using mineral-rich white clay, before culminating in the Signature Lanna massage, whose strokes are longer, more soothing, and more rhythmic than traditional Thai massage.
Part of 137 Pillars House, a hotel centered on a stately 19th-century teak residence once owned by the son of Anna Leonowens (the famous tutor to the Siamese royal family), Nitra Spa offers a rare treatment designed for pregnant women or anyone who has trouble lying on their stomach. The Aqua Therma massage utilizes a warm water-filled mattress on which the spa-goer lies face up while receiving a full-body massage with house-distilled aromatherapy oils, made using ingredients sourced from the hotel’s organic garden. It focuses on lower back aches mothers-to-be often experience and also helps to detoxify the body while reducing fluid retention.
Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle
Those wishing for a jungle spa experience should look to this rustic-chic sanctuary in Thailand’s northern border region. Perched on a lush hillside, the wooden spa pavilion opens up to the surrounding rain forest, making it an ideal spot to enjoy Southeast Asian–inspired treatments accompanied by the sounds of nature and the smell of fresh jungle air. Try the Ruak Bamboo full-body massage: preceded by a kaffir lime–infused foot bath, it soothes with herbal oils of lemongrass and ginger while smooth bamboo sticks are used to target deep-seated muscle tension. Facials and body treatments incorporate ingredients sourced locally as well as from neighboring Myanmar and Laos.
For those seeking a more comprehensive wellness vacation, the newly renovated Chiva-Som in the seaside resort town of Hua Hin ticks all the boxes, thanks to its healthy, delectable cuisine and an astonishing array of therapies to choose from. Guests start with a personalized consultation before launching into one of 13 set programs—ranging from weight loss and detox to migraine relief and golf enhancement—in which they can pick and choose from no less than 64 treatments. The latter include offerings such as Ear-Abdominal Reflexology and the enticing Accelerated Body Shaping Therapy, which uses infrared radiation to stimulate the movement of localized fat around the abdomen and thighs.
Designed by acclaimed Thai architect Lek Bunnag, Hyatt Regency Hua Hin’s visually arresting spa takes its inspiration from ancient Khmer temples and the reservoirs known as baray. Shafts of light and symmetrical forms guide visitors into the inner sanctum of this temple to wellness, complete with eight residential spa suites where guests enjoy butler service and nightly aromatherapy steam and milk baths. Select your choice of fresh herbs and flowers to be used in a warm poultice in the Customized Thai Herbal Compress treatment, an ideal remedy for aches. There are four options, ranging from relaxing (sweet basil, kaffir lime) to a stimulating blend of clove, black pepper, and steamed herbal roots.
Spa and spirituality work in unison at Kamalaya, a holistic spa resort and wellness sanctuary built around a sacred cave used for centuries as a place of meditation by Buddhist monks. Facilities here are both curative and sybaritic: there are herbal steam caverns, plunge pools of varying temperatures, far-infrared saunas with ambient music and private outdoor showers, as well as a hilltop yoga pavilion. Kamalaya’s signature Three Treasures treatment looks to Taoist theory to achieve balance and harmony between the body and mind, with therapists employing techniques as diverse as tui na massage, reiki, aromatherapy, and crystal healing.
Koh Yao Noi
Six Senses Yao Noi
Founded on sustainability, the spa at this Six Senses property in southern Thailand’s Phang Nga Bay uses only naturally and ethically produced products. Its latest addition is the Alchemy Bar, where guests can select their choice of body scrub (coconut, coffee, green tea, or a personalized blend) and join a range of hands-on workshops to make coconut oil and herbal compresses. The signature treatment is Abhyanga, a fatigue-busting Ayurvedic oil massage in which two therapists work in synchronized motion. Another must-try? The Wild Kashmir Purifying Facial, which harnesses a host of natural detoxifiers—wild turmeric, Kashmir lavender, and saffron among them—to soothe and restore the skin.
Amatara Wellness Resort
Tucked in a secluded bay at Cape Panwa on Phuket’s southeast coast, Amatara is renowned for its Thai Hammam Journey, which melds traditional Turkish and Moroccan bathing practices with Thai spa therapies. The intense, 16-step process is notable for the range of methods used to stimulate detoxification. Expect an application of crushed ice, Thai-inspired floral steam sessions in a sauna, mud therapy on a hot stone bed, and time spent in a “salt cave” where a fine mist of pure salt is piped in to cleanse the respiratory system. Before the nearly two-hour treatment, all guests receive a free consultation from a licensed physiotherapist.
Banyan Tree Spa Sanctuary
Part of the sprawling Banyan Tree Phuket resort, the residential Spa Sanctuary boasts 12 luxurious pool villas. Each features sleep-enhancing lighting, meditative binaural music, and a minibar equipped with super-foods, healthy snacks, and almond milk. You’ll get to pick and choose from a lineup of 50 wellness activities, while a menu of pillows and bed linens makes it even easier to have a good night’s rest. Also part of the package? Nightly herbal steam treatments or bath scrubs, and a light massage for the head, neck, or hands come morning. The room rate includes a daily in-villa facial or massage, focusing on muscle recovery, detox, or deep relaxation.
Nestled in a verdant garden at The Slate, a hotel by Bangkok-based star designer Bill Bensley, Coqoon Spa has turned heads with its Tree Nest spa suite, suspended 10 meters above the ground in the branches of a banyan tree. Rarely does a spa attract much attention at night, but Coqoon looks even more enchanting when illuminated in a dazzling blue color. Just as captivating is its full-service menu. The bespoke Coqoon Rebirth massage is sublime, as are the exquisite facials with Anne Semonin products. Don’t miss the Purple Frangipani body scrub, which will help you look a few years younger.
This article originally appeared in the second print issue of DestinAsian China magazine (“Calm and Collected”).