Conscious City Guide: the Best Korean Spas outside of Korea

the Best Korean Spas

Korean spas (or jjimjilbang) are theme parks of self-care: Most have multiple soaking tubs, saunas, steam rooms, ice rooms, salt rooms, a restaurant, and various other healing rooms. You can spend hours at a K-spa or even stay the night (many are open 24 hours) enjoying all of the rooms, treatments, and Korean food.

For the uninitiated, Korean spas offer scrubs which will slough away nearly ALL of your dead skin (a treatment both gross and satisfying) revealing glowing skin underneath. These spas also require you to be naked around other naked people in the non co-ed areas (and your esthetician will be half-naked too), so it’s surprising Americans have embraced Korean spas like they have: LA has the most Korean spas outside of Korea.

I grew up in Vancouver and, when we were old enough to drive, friends and I would cross the U.S. border for Olympus Spa, a journey which would take 3 hours each way. It was always worth it. Now that I live in Los Angeles, a city abundant in K-spas, I go for a scrub every few weeks as essential self care. I’ve been to nearly all in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sydney, in and around NYC, and a few in other U.S. cities (but oddly, not yet in Korea!).

Here are my favorites:

Best Korean Spa in Texas

Houston’s Gangnam Spa is a co-ed spa with an abundance of healing rooms and small “caves” where you can go to relax, journal, or nap in relative privacy. It was renovated last year so will be as fresh and clean as your skin after a day spent here.

I will give a nod to Dallas’ King Spa & Waterpark, because it has a huge pool with a waterslide and inner tubes, but as a spa, it’s a little rough around the edges.

Best Co-Ed Korean spa Los Angeles

Crystal Spa, Los Angeles

Unlike every other best-of list for Korean spas, my top LA pick is not Wi Spa because there are televisions everywhere so, instead of meditating or relaxing, you’re bombarded with news or Korean soap operas. It could also use a refresh or renovation. Instead, my favorite of LA’s co-ed spas is Crystal Spa.

Crystal Spa is smaller than the mega-spas in K Town, but it is clean, has beautiful healing rooms (like the salt room, pictured above) and uses all Aveda products, so you know what’s going on and into your freshly scrubbed skin. It is also one of the few co-ed spas not open 24 hours, so nobody camps out there as a cheaper option to a hotel.

Best women-only Korean spa in Los Angeles

This was a challenging choice to make. There is Hugh Spa, a relatively unknown gem tucked upstairs in a mini mall. Hugh has all of the rooms you want plus the “Charcoal Mud Clay Room,” which has tubs of warm clay balls to sink into (think a spa version of the Ikea ball pit).

But my vote goes to Olympic Spa, which has been freshly renovated and feels a little more upscale than any other Korean spa in the city. It has less amenities but the scrubs are some of the best I’ve had. It’s food is far better than Hugh Spa too, though at the time of me writing this, both restaurants are still closed post-pandemic.

Best Natural Mineral Spring Korean Spa

The only Korean spa in America fed by natural mineral springs, Beverly Hot Springs is a co-ed spa in Larchmont, Los Angeles. It could use a refresh and it’s more pricey than other Los Angeles Korean spas, but the water is straight from the source.

Best Korean Spa in the PNW

Olympus’ salt room

As mentioned above, I used to drive 6 hours total to visit Lynnwood’s Olympus Spa, so you know it’s good. It is spacious, clean, and has excellent food. Sorry guys, this is a women-only spa.

Best Korean Spa in San Francisco

The best spa in the Bay is Pearl Spa, which is also women-only. Pearl uses high-end products and pays attention to the details, making the massages and treatments feel far more luxurious than other Korean spas. Highly recommend the lymphatic massage.

Best Korean Spa in Sydney

Sydney’s Korean Spas don’t hold a candle to America’s in terms of amenities, but Arisoo Spa has quality scrubs and tubs, making it the best Korean Spa in the Southern Hemisphere.

Best Korean Spa near NYC

Though Spa Castle in Queens gets all the love, I consider King Spa in New Jersey to be NYC’s best Korean Spa. Yes, it’s technically in another state, but it’s only a short (free) shuttle ride from Manhattan.

With beautiful crystals throughout the healing rooms, a huge menu (both in food and services offered), and excellent scrubs, I try to make it to this spa while in New York.

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