Beautiful BC

There’s a reason why they call it that. It seems like everywhere you look it’s like a post card. The more you explore – the more you want to explore!

Harrison Hot Springs was to be the final spa in my cross-western Canada adventure. But when opportunity knocks I always open the door. A trip up to Courtenay/Comox was necessary, and I knew immediately that I had to check out a spa that there was a lot of talk about: Pacific Mist Spa and Hydropath at the Kingfisher Ocean Resort and Spa. I called the day before a Saturday and they were able to squeeze in an afternoon appointment for the hydropath.

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The feeling of this spa was just a little different. I mean you don’t have to do that much when you already have an oceanfront property. Having a booking at the spa allows you access to the warm outdoor pool, the outdoor whirlpool, the dry sauna, and the steam cave. Though the sauna was small it just had new cedar benches put in that made it smell great. It was also surprisingly hot. I hadn’t sweat on this spa tour since the banya in Calgary, so they must be doing something right.

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I don’t know if this was intentional but I loved that fact that half of their large pool was in the shade and half in the sun. The difference in water temperature between the two was noticeable and an added bonus. Other than my adventures in Ecuador this was my first experience in a steam cave. I kind of had mixed feeling about the cement-like material that the entire steam room was made of, but I did like the earthy odor that it provided (along with a hint of eucalyptus.)

But it is the hydropath that makes this spa a unique bathing experience. This grotto-themed water playground takes you through 9 different stages of hydrotherapy treatments.

The hydropath is sea-grotto themed and each station gives a specific type of water therapy – shower, waterfalls, message pools, a steam cave, and a sea-salt scrub all play into it. They also attempt to do some a kind of Kneipp-esque water walk but honestly I would have rather had more steaming. I didn’t think that they really pulled it off the Kneipp. But the pools and the whole experience are certainly unique. Some may find it a bit kitsch but my first impression was that it was something more like a Disneyland-type theme park. Still, the pools were great and they had all the right elements there. I loved that there is a scrub at the end.

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I had the privilege of residing in Port Alberni for the summer. Despite what some Vancouver Islanders may say, I think it’s one of the nicest places in BC. Surrounded by huge forests, mountains and water, it’s a perfect middle point for exploring the western part of the island. As for me, my ‘must see destination’ in the Tofino/Uclulet area was not The Spa at Blackrock or any other resort for that matter, but taking the day trip from Tofino to Hot Spring Cove.

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I definitely recommend rather than just doing a whale-watching tour to take a boat from Tofino to the hot springs. We went with Jamie’s and they were really good at finding wildlife for us to see. There are always marine creatures around. On our trip out we saw otters, sea lions, puffins, and WHALES. I never imagined that seeing a whale in its natural habitat could be so amazing.

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Disembarking at Maquinna Provincial Park begins the beautiful half hour walk to the natural warm pools. The journey is an experience itself. As you approach the springs you begin to hear trickles of water and see steamy goodness wafting up from the stream.

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The path opens up to ocean views and the rocky way down to the sliver-pool that the hot springs feed into. The hot springs that feed the narrow pool begin with a few small waterfalls of very hot water, giving you an intense start to this bathing experience.

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Walking in further, the pools get deep enough to lie down in and the tide occasionally brings in seawater to cool things down. Below are more tidal pools that you can explore. I recommend bringing some kind of water shoes (not flip flops), a lunch, and, for the real hot spring lovers, I recommend spending the night in the park so you can enjoy more soaking time in a more private way.

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Also if you are luck you might be able to see some whales from the hot springs, so it’s nice to be able to take a little more time than what tour boats allow. Remember if you do camp (I believe) that it’s carry in – carry out only.

I always love natural hot springs. There is something just so amazing about the goodies that the earth produces for us!

Moving from the remoteness of Hot Spring Cove to the middle of downtown Vancouver, I was excited to see what BC’s capital could offer. Given the various options available (including a couple of hammams), I’m not really sure why I decided to go with Hastings Steam and Sauna. I suppose I’m attracted to places that have kept the bathing culture alive, and I like seeing what smaller businesses can accomplish. Hastings Steam and Sauna did good job at trying to convince me that it wasn’t a bathhouse. And I think that I wanted to believe it. But deep down I knew that it would be a place more for private encounters. So I don’t particularly have any photos from the place. But the sauna did get very hot and I don’t mean that in a sexual way. At any rate if you are looking for either a hot sauna or hot sex I’m sure that Hastings Steam and Sauna is your place. Though I have nothing to compare it with, I’m quite sure that the place could use a major overhaul. I (obviously) did not explore the men’s only downstairs, but the online reviews don’t sound great. At the end of the day, I am not experienced to talk about it’s virtue as a bathhouse, but I can say that as a spa-going, heat-seeker, I won’t be going back. It was just too run down and I felt a bit like a poser. Not to mention I was a bit worried about leaving my car out front.

So knowing that I had really bombed on that ‘spa’ visit, I had to make it up to myself by going the safe route. Le Scandinave – Whistler, is (if I’m not mistaken) the first Quebec-style bathing spa to make it out west. So I did not have any doubts about the quality. It only remained to be seen how good of a job they actually did.

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It was not disappointing. Set up like many other Quebec-style Nordic spas Scandinave-Whistler is nestled in the woods and well landscaped to give it that natural feel.

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It has all the elements that you would want – outdoor whirl pools, cold dunks, steam room, a great sauna, and plenty of rest areas. It is nestled on a mountainside and there are beautiful views to entertain the eye. The only real complaint would be that I went there hungry and towards the end of the day so I had my choice of granola bars or decadent desserts. I would have loved to have more food options. It always astounds me that bathing spas don’t capitalize more off the ferocious hunger that sweating causes.

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I didn’t really find anything of special note in particular, except that it really is one of the only spas in western Canada doing the bathing spa right. And it seemed fairly well attended so the concept must be catching on quite well for our western friends.

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All in all very enjoyable. And would definitely be somewhere worth sweating if you are in the area, or if you are a sweat-lover in Vancouver.

Perhaps something in me is changing regarding bathing spas…. I think that the more spas that I sweat in the more I look for diversity, the more I look for something different. When I write about spas there needs to be something amazing to write about. Where is it? What’s out there? I’ll continue to look for that something unique to write about. That special experience.

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