Elaj Aveda Day Spa
801 Pleasant Dr., Suite 110, Rockville; 301-977-1514.
Elaj Aveda looks like a storefront salon but is deceiving. The spa behind the front desk is surprisingly spacious and quiet. You're ushered into a cozy waiting area and, while you fill out a health questionnaire, treated to a warm foot bath.
Our tester met the massage therapist, Andrew Spadafora, and selected an aromatic oil to be used in her hourlong Elemental Nature Therapeutic Massage ($95). Using Swedish massage technique, Spadafora also applied hot towels to relax tense muscles further.
Of note: A beautiful steam shower stocked with Aveda products is available to wash away massage oils.
Online booking? Yes.
7215 Arlington Rd., Suite 201; 301-907-9001.
Blink and you might miss this snug oasis on the second floor of a nondescript building, just steps from all the action on Bethesda Row. Done up with pale woods, splashes of red, and art objects, the spa is small but lovely. The relaxation room is just that—a refuge of cushioned lounge chairs with a soft rug to dig your toes into and ginger tea for the asking.
Our tester's massage therapist, Denise Harte, used a combination of smooth Swedish strokes and more intense deep-tissue techniques to dissolve knots, but there was never any pain during the hourlong massage. On the contrary, our tester felt remarkably loose and could have taken a nap then and there.
Of note: Check the spa's website for frequent specials. Our tester took advantage of a $100 deal including a 60-minute massage plus a half-hour ion foot detox, ordinarily $175.
Online booking? For manicures and pedicures, not for massage.
Spa on the Hill
1013 E St., SE; 202-525-7684.
In a rowhouse near Eastern Market, this quirky spot can be easy to miss. Inside, calming purple walls and low music make it feel more like a spa, although the wooden floorboards and narrow staircase give the space character.
Visitors like Donna Richards for waxing—a recent leg wax ($40) was quick, comfortable, and relatively pain-free. Arnetta Luke is recommended for waxing and facials ($75 and up). After massages ($90 and up), the spa offers snacks and a place to relax when the treatment is over—a nice touch given the limited space.
Of note: The spa offers a range of prenatal and postnatal massages.
Online booking? Yes.
Toka Salon & Day Spa
4907 Brenman Park Dr., Alexandria; 703-370-5133.
Toka's Cameron Station location proves that a good hair salon can also excel at spa services—in this case, a facial.
After waiting briefly in a light-filled reception area with an espresso, our reviewer was escorted to a quiet treatment room well removed from the salon floor. The aesthetician was friendly but not chatty, moving seamlessly from cleansing to a shoulder massage good enough to help her forget the pain of extractions. It's not a place to while away the day, but as an add-on to a salon service or a place to prep for a special occasion, it's one of the best salon spas we've seen in the area.
Of note: The salon is small enough that it could be reserved in its entirety for a bridal party or girls' night out.
Online booking? No.