Korean spa hopping is one of the absolute cheapest ways to travel. Korean spas in Los Angeles are particularly reasonable in price. I wanted to see LA and visit a few potential graduate schools while I was there. Everyone should know by now that I am obsessed with spa culture. Somehow spa culture has become incredibly warped in the US and is seen as an expensive luxury – that’s not how I do things!
I really missed the spas from my time in Seoul, and as I was suffering immensely at the end of a 22-credits-3-jobs+sports semester, I needed a break. You can check the end of the post for my budget but first I’m going to give some details, and review the three different spas I stayed in.
But What Are Korean Spas?
On average, a night in a Korean spa costs about $20 in LA. Often, this means you can stay in the spa from 8PM-10AM, take a great bath, and have a mat to sleep on. Korean spas involve a large, gender segregated bathing area which normally features showers, a hot pool, a hot sauna, and a cold pool. Once you have showered you can enter the pools and sauna, and if you plan to enter the pools after the sauna you should shower again so you are clean. After, you can head into the lounge and sleeping areas. Usually there’s a television, food options, outlets, etc.
Now for the nitty gritty. You have to take your clothes off. Don’t worry, everything in the shower, pool, and sauna areas is gender segregated. No one cares and no one is staring. Honestly, it’s one of the most empowering experiences in body positivity for me. Everyone co-exists in their own bodies and respects your ability to do the same.
After the pool areas you put on a pair of provided shorts and a loose t-shirt. Some also have robes. The lounge area typically has some kind of cushy chairs you can recline on. The sleeping area has sleeping mats, typically heated floors, and sometimes separate rooms and blankets. The food is typically a tad overpriced but very good.
This was the first spa on my list, as it is the most highly ranked and the biggest. It cost about $35 to stay overnight, so also the highest cost of the three I went to. I think that I went there just as this spa began going downhill, as the reviews are now consistently lower than when I first looked in December.
Everything I’m seeing on Yelp and TripAdvisor seems accurate. This spa is just way too busy, and the amount of small children allowed inside is ridiculous. As children are not supposed to go in water at high temperatures or in saunas there’s no point to them being there. If Wi Spa wants to allow children, they need to make a separate “for children” area. They certainly have the space to do so.
There is a lack of separate, darkened sleeping rooms. I only saw one the entire time. Again, this place is huge. They have the room to do so.
The good things about this spa? I do think they had the best bathing facilities. If I wasn’t spending the night, I might be tempted to go here, although I still think it is overpriced. I got a scrub and massage here, I think the scrub was fairly worth it and whatever she put in my hair made it feel great, but the massage was kind of pointless feeling. The food was also pretty good, although also overpriced, and there wasn’t really enough room for all the diners in my opinion.
My night was pretty awful, I might have gotten an hour of sleep, and I came prepared with earplugs and an eyemask. It was that loud. I did not return to Wi Spa and for sleeping I can’t say I really recommend it.
I actually liked Spa Palace quite well! I actually wish I had gone to this spa more than once as it seemed pretty nice. It cost me about $30 to stay overnight, which is pretty reasonable but not the cheapest. I think the main reason I didn’t is that it wasn’t really in the area I was spending most of my time and I didn’t enjoy their pool facilities as much as the final choice. As I was in LA primarily to relax in hot water, the lukewarm temperatures didn’t thrill me. However, the options of rooms like the ice room and stuff like that were many and highly comparable to Wi Spa, which the last option did not have as many of.
I also found their pools pretty slippery and I nearly killed myself twice. Their sauna also wasn’t very consistent in terms of temperature. However, I did find the people who frequented this spa to be the most chatty and I met some great people.
Their food options close up at 11PM and I liked the food quite a lot, but I wish it had been open later. Looking online it appears they have bingsu- which I wish I had tried now 😛
The sleeping areas were pretty disorganized and I did not see any separate darkened areas. I wound up in the children’s area with a few other girls. There were next to zero outlets in the entire huge area, so I became very popular for having brought a portable battery. Other than that, my sleep was pretty fine.
This was my favorite spa and the one I spent the most time in. When I was there it cost $20 a night but now it costs $30, according to Yelp. After reading about this I’m not sure I would choose this option over Spa Palace. Grand Spa does have the best sleeping accommodations and slightly better pools but Spa Palace had more options overall for the same price. Either way, I’ll give my review for as it stood at the time 🙂
There is no common area where men and women mix in this one, so changing into the shorts and t-shirts is optional although you do get a robe that you should wear. I find the pool and sauna options to be standard, 2 hot pools, one cold, 2 sauna options. There’s only one special type of room, I think, which was nice but it would be better to have at least 2-3 more options. Although, this spa is working more limited spa than the other two, and I don’t think they could add any more here. Their showers were a tad difficult to figure out, but for the price I wasn’t too worried.
This is definitely the quietest spa. This spa features several darkened rooms sleeping about 6-8 people each, and another larger room for sleeping that had heated floors. The darkened rooms each had one outlet which was better than Spa Palace and Wi Spa, although still not nearly enough. This spa also offered blankets which was a really nice supplement. The sitting area was pretty nice, with lots of cushy recliners and the ever present Korean drama playing on a flatscreen.
The food was Ok, but not stunning. I found the food from Spa Palace and Wi Spa to be better for the standard over-pricing.
Overall this spa was definitely worth $20 a night but I think I’d got to Spa Palace over Grand Spa if they cost the same.
What to Bring
I recommend purchasing a portable battery like the one I have. I’d also suggest a portable power strip. These are going to be the quickest ways to make friends and I wished I had purchased my power strip for this trip. Don’t bother bringing most toiletries like shampoo and body lotion as those are provided. Others, like razors, you can buy there if you want.
- A Backpack – the lockers are fairly spacious but will not accomadate more than a backpack.
- 2 Dresses
- 1 Pair Shorts
- 1 Shirt
- 6 Socks – for almost every trip I buy new socks. I have an addiction to my feet feeling extra cushy when I travel.
- 6 Underwear – I didn’t want to have to handwash anything while on this particular trip.
- 1 Scarf – my number one travel recommendation, scarves are the most useful travel object. For spas without blankets I was able to use this <3
- Sleepmask – a necessity for most of these places, where there is continual dim lighting.
- Earplugs – this should go without saying.
Sleeping: $145 for 6 nights
Food: $150, I brought some snacks with me. There will be another post about what else I did in LA that includes where I ate.
Transport: $150, my attempt to use the public transport was fairly disastrous so my budget had to expand to account for Uber usage everywhere.
Massage: $100, I regret spending this much, just get a $30 scrub if you want a little luxury, every spa offers them and they’re nice.
Purchases: $30, I bought some stationary for the upcoming school year and a razor
This could easily be cheaper if you don’t use Uber all the time like I did. And, obviously, don’t overspend on a massage.