News & Politics

Cheap but Good

Korean spas can be a great deal—but they aren’t for the modest

I pull into the parking lot of a Falls Church shopping plaza looking for Hanijoa, the spa where I’ve booked a massage. In the strip mall’s corner, aside Korean lettering, I spot the word “spa.” A sign on the door says women only. I walk in and take off my shoes, as instructed by a placard.

In the middle of the room, a fiftysomething woman is standing naked. When she sees me, she yells over her shoulder, and another woman, soaking wet in a swimsuit, comes over, hands me a robe, and motions for me to take off my clothes.

The Golden Door this isn’t.

Korean day spas, popular in Annandale’s Korean community, are gaining appeal with Westerners in search of an earthier spa experience. They’re more utilitarian than luxurious, and the massages tend to be deeper and the exfoliations more thorough—technicians scrub everywhere from between your toes to between your thighs—than at Western-style spas. Many treatments cost a fraction of what you’d pay elsewhere.

These spas aren’t for the modest—you may find yourself sitting with other women in the nude (massages are given by women in swimsuits), and most treatments take place in the open. Many technicians speak little English.

Still, I found attentive, pampering service. Here are three spas I liked.

Hanijoa, 6676 Arlington Blvd., Falls Church; 703-622-5292.

This for-women-only spa consists of a small dressing area, a tiled wet room with showers and vinyl massage beds, and a dry-sauna relaxation room. It’s open until 10 pm on Friday and Saturday.

What to ask for:
Hanijoa offers microdermabrasion, permanent makeup, and waxing, but most clients get the deluxe package ($80), which includes exfoliation, a wonderful massage, a shampoo and conditioning treatment, and the steam room.

Sun’s Day Spa, 7031 Little River Tpk., Annandale; 703-750-2470.

With its lounge area and separate dressing rooms, the unisex Sun’s—the areas for men and women are separate—is the biggest Korean spa I visited. It’s also more crowded.

What to ask for:
Special Package I ($110) includes a massage, exfoliation, and shampoo plus time in the sauna, steam room, and hot and cold pools. The exfoliation was the best I found, but the steam room was too hot and the massage so deep that at times it felt punishing.

Angel’s Hands, 7254 Matie Pl., Annandale; 703-725-6055.

Angela Kang and her associates give facials and dry massages (without oil) in the back of a hair salon in an office building. Don’t let the surroundings fool you—the service is first-rate.

What to ask for:
The 80-minute facial ($70) includes cleansing, moisturizing, and a thick seaweed mask. Even better is the face, neck, and scalp massage that stretched throughout the treatment.

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Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.