Here are some of our favorite spots for a massage. Visit our Spa Finder for more.
Blu Water Day Spa
A surprisingly luxurious day spa tucked into a strip mall, Blu Water seems to subscribe to the belief that a good massage should hurt a little. The 30-minute stress-relief massage ($65) is a real deep-tissue treatment and delves into knots and tense spots as well as acupressure points. It can be a bit uncomfortable at times, but you’ll leave feeling much looser and calmer.
The Spa at Four Seasons
It’s hard not to unwind in the Four Seasons Hotel’s spa. Make time to enjoy the lavish facilities, which include a sauna, a steam room, and lots of complimentary beauty products. The aromatherapy massage ($145) is 50 minutes of luxurious relaxation, with all the accoutrements—essential oils, heated massage table, unobtrusive music.
This men’s salon/barbershop/spa evokes a gentleman’s club with dark-wood paneling and the smells of shaving cream and leather. You can relax with a complimentary beer, Scotch, or bourbon before your massage. At the DC location, ask for Shuba Sankaran, who has skilled hands and will adjust the pressure to your comfort level. The one-hour Swedish massage ($100) is very soothing. Other options include deep-tissue, sports, hot-stone, and golf massages.
Potomac Day Spa & Hair Salon
Located in an old three-story house, Potomac Day Spa is a girlie setting with fresh flowers, lots of beauty products, and cozy treatment rooms. The 30-minute “half massages” for $60 are good for those who are both tense and time-constrained. Your neck, shoulders, and back will thank you.
The Spa at Mandarin Oriental
This is one of the poshest spas in town, and a massage isn’t cheap—the least expensive is $140 for 50 minutes. But consider it a mini-getaway. Clients are encouraged to arrive about an hour early to enjoy the invigorating “heat experience”—a series of hot and cold treatments, from a fantastical steam room to an “experience shower.”
Be You Bi Yu
Hyun Martin’s massages incorporate a spiritual “whole body” element. Before she begins, she tests your aura through a biofeedback machine hooked to a laptop. Your massage might include a combination of guided visualizations for relaxation, stretching of muscles and limbs, deep-tissue manipulation through electrical stimulation, gentle kneading of pressure points, and as a final touch, the playing of a quartz-crystal “singing bowl” that’s believed to heal through sound vibrations. Martin also offers specialized massages to address clenched teeth (what she calls “Washington jaw”), BlackBerry thumbs, and keyboard wrists. Most massages cost $110 to $160.
Blue Heron Wellness
This spa offers therapeutic massage in a New Age atmosphere where yoga, acupuncture, and herbal medicine are also available. The decor is spare, but the space is sunny and spotless. The massages include standards such as Swedish and hot stone along with aromatherapy, shiatsu, Thai, and others. We like the 60-minute Tension Buster ($70) for unknotting muscles in the neck and shoulders.
Touch of Asia
Spend your days in front of a computer? A Thai massage at this plain studio behind a strip mall might be just what you need to loosen up. The clothed massage, which involves lots of stretching, yoga-like poses, and activation of pressure points, is both relaxing and utilitarian. We spent part of the 90-minute massage ($142) in a blissed-out half sleep as the massage therapist, Sungwan Kaewwilai Beaulieu—known as Wan—focused on our feet, legs, back, and even face. Then she went to town on our neck and upper back. It hurt, but in a good way, and the therapeutic effects lasted for days.
JUST THE BASICS
Fusion Day Spa
From the outside, Fusion Day Spa looks like a typical midrange beauty salon, but inside is a surprisingly good massage. The facilities are nothing fancy, but the therapists are experienced and helpful, and if you work downtown, the location is ideal for a lunchtime pick-me-up. A 30-minute massage ($45) with Sandra Whittingham felt like an hour and left us more relaxed than after vacation.
Rejuvenations Massage Therapy
If what you want is a day spa, this is not the place—there are no facials or manicures, no locker rooms. But if a stress-reducing massage to you is one where you feel you’re in good hands, you’ll relax here. There are eight therapists, all well trained—you can read their bios online. All they do is massage, and in our experience they do it well. A one-hour therapeutic massage costs $96.
This article first appeared in the December 2010 issue of The Washingtonian.