a must-do for those living in denver. leave your preconceptions of day spas outside the front door. go to the havana health spa for great treatment, a relaxing afternoon, a really good deal, and an experience. jp and i went here one sunday when ramona was on an extended stay with her grandparents. we soaked, we relaxed, we got scrubbed down, and received expert massages. it was heavenly and we were both in la la land for the greater part of the day (we followed up our pampering with a late sushi lunch). this is a korean bath house, open to everyone, hidden just outside denver, and a worthy gem for those brave enough to veer off the trodden path.
i surprised jp w a treatment here. we both got a body scrub followed by a massage. there’s a male side and a female side, which means we didn’t see each other except for in the lobby when we arrived and right before we left.
you have to be naked. swimsuits are NOT allowed in the spa. i saw a hispanic mother and daughter (around the age of my mother and i) spa-ing together, helping each other scrub their month’s slough off. i saw a young korean mother with three young daughter bathing each other and then having fun with swim toys jumping in and out of the three pools (hot, warm, cold). and then there were three white women, having a ladies’ day, of all shapes and sizes, catching up on each others’ lives and their community’s gossip. i was alone and soaked this all in, figuratively and literally. it was so beautiful to see all these women taking some quiet time out of their busy lives to relax and commune. i hopped in and out of the hot and warm pools–only dipping my toe in the cold pool–and alternating between the dry and steam saunas. it was luxurious without being over the top.
half hour after entering the spa, i was called to my scrub table by way of my locker number (i placed the key around on my ankle), by a short korean woman who spoke very little english. i lay naked on the table while she doused me with hot water, took out a loofah, and proceeded to scrub me down (every single inch of me, seriously) with soap and lotions. black bits of dirty old skin were flaking off. it was weird and awkward and exhilarating. my skin has never been so smooth.
after she was done with the scrub, kim, my scrubber, instructed me to shower and then return for my massage. the lady pulled and bent and pinned pressure points and scrubbed some more my entire body. this was no dark room with new age music and aromatherapy. this massage was serious business and this lady’s intent was to work out of me any kinks and quirks and tense spots i might have had including those i didn’t know i had. it was glorious. i loved it. she ended the treatment with a facial and head massage.
i met jonathan in the lobby two hours after we started (and we both agreed we could have had more time in there). he didn’t know what i was getting him into and i applaud how much he took it in stride, was open to the experience, and ended up loving it!
i have plans with some close girlfriends of mine to go back for a girls’ day, complete with our clarisonic face brushes, good playlists for meditation in the crystal room, and lavish soaps and lotion for making sure our pampering gets the full effect.
a few tips if you go (and you really should!)
- you are given one key to two lockers. the first one is for your shoes. the second one, further into the locker room, is for your clothes and belongings.
- there are shorts and shirts at the lockers. you only need these if you are going into the crystal and mud rooms. you’ll also want a towel (it’s hot laying down there) and headphones connected to a great playlist for quiet time.
- shower before you enter the pools. they provide soap and shampoo and conditioner, though their offerings aren’t the most discerning.
- take your time in each place: the pools, saunas, and special rooms. don’t be shy. bring a friend if you aren’t bashful about being naked in front of friends. hell, even if you are, get naked and discover a side of yourself you didn’t know existed, you bad ass. use it as a time to catch up on girl talk.
- make a reso for a body scrub and splurge on the following massage. the person giving you the scrub and massage may not speak a lot of english and may come across as curt. they’re not. there’s just a language barrier. relax. they’re there for you.
- they will get close to your private parts. i’m not lying here. they are not pulling a fast one on you. they are thorough. if this is something you will not stand for, make this clear BEFORE you hop on their table.
- smile and laugh. your first time is certainly a unique experience. and you’re naked. so it’s understandable.
- bring a chamois. it’s nice to wipe off in between pools and saunas without drenching your towel.
- bring extra towels. they provide you with one but you may want another for your time in the crystal and mud rooms and also for after your final shower and one for your hair.
- if you’re wary about locker room floors, bring your own flip flops.
- pack your own toiletries (soaps and hair products and lotions) if you’re picky (i wish i had).
- when you’re done, take your time getting ready: slather on rich lotion, do your hair (they have hair dryers), put on make-up.
- bring cash to tip whomever gives you said scrub and massage. like restaurants, an expected tip for a good experience at a spa is 20%. (they do offer cash-back services if you forget cash but have your debit card. as someone who makes a living in the service industry, i highly encourage you to not be stingy w your gratuity, especially if you have a great time).
- then go out for dim sum (you’re in the perfect neighborhood for amazing korean cuisine) or, if you’d like something lighter, visit your favorite sushi joint.
- soak it all in. everyone deserves to take a day off and pamper themselves.
havana health spa is located at 2020 s havana in aurora, just outside of denver. it is open 365 days a year from 7:00 AM until 10:00 PM. it costs $18 for a day pass, which includes pools, saunas, crystal, and mud rooms. body scrubs and massages are extra and reservations are required for these services.
all photos from the website at havana health spa.