Top 4 Spa Vacation Destinations

There are fabulous spas and spa resorts all over the world. It’s safe to say that in nearly every country you can find some sort of spa treatment to add to your adventure. But if you’re looking for a destination that puts the “aah” in spa – a destination that really shines in terms of spa treatments and a focus on wellness? These are our top four destinations: 

Budapest, Hungary – For an abundance of choice

Known as the Spa Capital of the World, Budapest boasts hundreds of thermal springs across the city. Created by the ancient Romans, these spas manage to combine modern spa culture with a traditional feel. You can find everything from Zen spa retreats to public thermal baths. From traditional Turkish hammams to high-end luxury experiences. The city sits along a geologic fault line that sends tons of warm-to-scalding mineral water into its springs each day. So, spa culture is very much intertwined with the local lifestyle. Plus, the city itself is one of the most beautiful in central Europe, with incredible architecture and a unique history. The variety of spa experiences makes this one of the best spa travel destinations in Europe. 

The Riviera Maya- For Beachy Vibes & Ancient Wisdom

two massage beds in a thatch-roofed hut on the beach in Mexico

A 100-mile stretch of beachfront along the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan peninsula, the Riviera Maya was specifically developed with tourism in mind. Packed with stunning beaches and luxury resorts, this is a perfect (and not too far away) destination to enjoy even a quick spa getaway. And you can find something a little different from the classic Swedish or deep-tissue massage. Check out specialized treatments rooted in ancient Mayan practices — like relaxing hot lava rocks, herbal steams, meditations, and Temazcal. Indulging in a spa vacation on the Riviera Maya is the perfect way to enjoy a beach vacation with an extra dose of relaxation.

[Photo Credit Ann via Shared Adventures Travel]

Switzerland – For Luxury & Medical Know-How

Surrounded by the majestic Alps, deep blue lakes, and cool, refreshing mountain air. Switzerland offers the best in medical and holistic wellness programs. Here you’ll find centuries-old thermal pools and unique massage treatments. Alongside them are regimens developed by doctors, osteopaths, acupuncturists, and nutritionists. Switzerland combines jaw-dropping, imposing landscapes and bucket-list ski resorts, with a focus on luxury spa experiences and beauty and wellness products. These spas hold themselves to a high standard, and often incorporate medical-grade treatments meant to boost your health and extend your life.

Costa Rica – For combining adventure with relaxation

Eco-minded, beautifully lush, and pristine, Costa Rica boasts dozens of spas and wellness retreats. Nestled in the rainforest and along the coastline you’ll find a tantalizing blend of eastern and western therapies. The focus in Costa Rica is all natural. Disconnect and recharge from the stresses of daily life by immersing yourself in the beauty of nature. You can expect thermal waters, mud treatments, yoga classes, forest bathing, and mindful nature walks. And throw in a little bit of kayaking or hiking for balance.

[Photo Credit: Ellen via Shared Adventures – read about her Costa Rica honeymoon here!]

a pair of slippered feed on a wooden balcony looking at lush greenery in Costa Rica

Are you deciding on the perfect destination for your next relaxing spa vacation? Or just looking to add a bit of pampering and spa treatment to your next adventure? Let us know!

Iceland: Blue Lagoon vs. Sky Lagoon

Mention to anyone that you are headed to Iceland, and the first place they’ll ask about is the Blue Lagoon. They’ve been there, or they want to go there. It’s on their bucket list, or they want to know if it’s on yours. It makes sense. The Blue Lagoon has been around for decades, and it’s one of the top tourist attractions in Iceland. 

But there’s a new lagoon in town – the Sky Lagoon, which opened in 2021 and is still a bit “under the radar” for many people. We have started to get questions about this one from our clients (which one is better, is it worth visiting both, etc) so I decided to experience both lagoons, back-to-back, on consecutive days, on my recent trip to Iceland. It’s all in the name of research, right?

I’ve been to the Blue Lagoon several times before, so I was a little bit concerned that it would be unfairly disadvantaged in comparison to someplace fresh and new. But I had my daughter with me on this trip, and she’s a first-timer to Iceland, so I made sure to get her feedback too!


The Blue Lagoon is located near Keflavik airport, and most people visit it on their arrival or departure days, since it’s a little bit far from Reykjavik (about a 45-minute drive). It’s surrounded by dramatic volcanic landscapes, and the drive there really sets the scene. The lagoon was created by run-off from a geothermal power plant, and you can see the steam from that plant rising from the lava fields as you approach. There’s an (expensive) hotel onsite, so you can spend a night there if you like. We spent a bit less and stayed at the Northern Light Inn next door so that we could experience the lagoon first thing in the morning (more on that later).

The Sky Lagoon is located in an industrial/waterfront area on the outskirts of Reykjavik. It’s just ten minutes from the center of downtown, but the drive is not at all scenic. We felt like we were driving to a deserted wharf until we pulled into the parking lot and saw the pretty façade. 

Conclusion: Tie

If you’re staying in Reykjavik and want to soak in a lagoon without taking an entire day to do it, the Sky Lagoon wins for convenience.  But if you’re doing a quick stopover and don’t want to come all the way into Reykjavik, the Blue Lagoon wins for convenience to the airport.  We’ll call this a tie.


The Blue Lagoon is bigger, and attracts a lot more people, but there’s always enough space to spread out. The milky blue water feels otherworldly, and it’s set off nicely by the dramatic black lava rocks that surround it. But around the perimeter of the lagoon you can see trash cans, empty glasses that people didn’t return to the receptacles, and lifeguards/security guards on patrol.  Those all give it a little bit of a public swimming pool vibe. As do the excited children in swim goggles and flotation devices. The minimum age for the Blue Lagoon is just two years old, so there will be families with kids.

In contrast, the Sky Lagoon, with its 12+ age limit, feels much more adult-oriented. We did not see anyone even close to that age, and the crowd was mostly couples.  This lagoon has an infinity edge overlooking the sea, and the water is clear, like the ocean beyond. It’s nicely landscaped with lava rocks and waterfalls, and we appreciated the benches that are built into the lagoon among the rocks. The swim up bar is tucked into a little grotto, and the only other thing you see around the perimeter of the lagoon is a small moss-covered cottage, which is where the spa rituals take place. Behind that cottage façade is a modern and beautiful spa facility.

Conclusion: Sky Lagoon

No kids, spa vibe, and ocean views means that the Sky Lagoon wins this one.


Blue Lagoon prices start at $67 per person for their comfort package, and $86 per person for the upgraded premium package, which is the one we did.  The prices vary by day/time (based on demand), and there is also a much more expensive “Retreat Spa” package you can purchase (more like $600 pp).  Our premium package included entrance to the lagoon, a towel, a bathrobe, three facial masks, and a drink at the swim up bar. The masks are DIY – they plop some mud or algae in your hand and tell you how long to leave it on before you wash it off in the lagoon and come back for the next one, and there is a big mirror along the side of the pool (and a fresh water spigot) to help with that. No one wants to lounge around with some misplaced or forgotten mud on their face!

Sky Lagoon prices start at about $50 per person for their basic “Pure Lite” package, and $73 per person for the “Pure” package that we did. They also offer a more expensive ($96 per person) package that includes a private changing room. Like the Blue Lagoon, the prices vary by day/time, based on demand.  Our Pure package included admission to the lagoon, a towel, and their seven-step spa ritual. This takes place in the little cottage adjacent to the lagoon. It includes a cold plunge pool, a sauna, an energizing mist, a (self-applied) body scrub, a steam room, and a refreshing shower. The spa ritual is done at your leisure, and we soaked in the lagoon, then did the spa, and then soaked in the lagoon again afterward with a mimosa from the swim-up bar. 

Conclusion: Sky Lagoon

Dollar for dollar, the Sky Lagoon is a better value. The prices are lower, and you get a lot more when you compare their Pure package to the Blue Lagoon Premium package. 

Overall takeaway, and our tips/advice

It’s probably clear by now that we preferred the Sky Lagoon, but the Blue Lagoon is iconic, and if you want to experience the milky, mineral-rich waters, you should absolutely do that.  Or do both, like we did. But if you do both I would suggest you do the Blue Lagoon first for the visual “wow”. And the Sky Lagoon second, for the relaxing “aaaaah”.  

Here are some other tips:

  • For either lagoon, go first thing in the morning. Prices will be lower for the first entry times of the day, and crowds will be lighter. It makes a huge difference in the experience.
  • Don’t get your hair wet at the Blue Lagoon. The minerals are really tough on hair, and it will feel dried out and rough for days.
  • If you’re visiting during the winter months, when it can be cold and snowy outside, remember that the Blue Lagoon has an indoor entrance to the water. It’s to your left as you exit the building. You can walk right into the water inside, and then swim out into the cold. (much better than the dash through the outdoors in your bathing suit)
  • Shower (naked) before you enter either lagoon. In Iceland, this is mandatory, and they take it seriously. There are showers in the locker rooms, and you are expected to use them before and after you swim. 
  • Watch out for the underwater benches at the Sky Lagoon. They’re not visible from above the water. I banged my shins on one before I figured out to check between the lava rocks for benches. 

I hope this helps you plan an amazing trip to Iceland. And if you want an expert to put it all together for you, just let us know


Spa afficionados know that vacations and spa treatments go together like peanut butter and jelly.  Nothing enhances the “get away from it all” effect of a vacation like a massage, body wrap or a facial. Or, better yet, all three!  So it’s no surprise that travel authority Conde Nast Magazine has, for some years now, been publishing their ratings of the best hotel-based, resort-based, and cruise ship spas worldwide.

The 2010 results are in, and the rankings for spas in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean can be found in the April issue (or online)  There are some perennial winners of course, in the usual locales you’d expect (California, Las Vegas, Hawaii, Bermuda, etc.) but it’s interesting to note some of the more unexpected accolades.

For instance, in the cruise ship spa category, the top ranking goes to a very mass-market ship — Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas — and not to one of the premium lines like Crystal or Regent. In fact, more than half of the ships in the top 20 are from mainstream lines like Royal Caribbean, Princess, Holland America and Disney Cruise Line.

When it comes to hotel spas, it’s nice to see that, in among the Ritz-Carltons and the Four Seasons of the world, there are some local New England inns like the Mayflower Inn in Connecticut and the White Barn Inn in Maine. And when it comes to Caribbean resort spas, it’s not just the boutiquey adults-only properties that are achieving high marks —  there are also two Marriotts in the top 20 (in Aruba and St. Kitts).

What this all means to me is that spas are becoming more and more mainstream and accessible, and that travelers are expecting (and demanding) some pampering and relaxation on ANY vacation. Not just when they’re on a special romantic “escape” with their significant other.

If you want some help planning a vacation that includes a little spa time, let me know. I’m more than happy to test out the treatments wherever I go. It’s all in the name of  research, of course 🙂

Girls just want to have fun!

My mom and my two sisters are some of my favorite travel companions!


We’ve certainly enjoyed vacations with the whole family (husbands, kids, etc.), and we’ve done some great one-on-one trips (mom and I went to Mexico last year, my sister Megan and I cruised to Bermuda, and mom and Kate went to Ireland together) but the most memorable trips have been our annual Girls’ Weekends.

We’ve been doing this since 1998, when my kids were babies and my younger sisters were still in college and law school, and it’s an annual tradition that none of us would ever give up. With the notable exception of our eight-day “weekend” in Italy in 2007, the trips have all been two- or three-day road trips in and around the northeast.

We’ve shopped the outlets in New Hampshire and Maine, hiked in the Catskills, antiqued in New Hope (Pennsylvania), lounged at the spa in Newport, hit the casino at Mohegan Sun, and taken in a Broadway show in NYC. Really, though, it’s not the destination that makes the trip — it’s the fact that we take time away from jobs/husbands/kids and reconnect with one another for some girl time.


So what’s next for us? I don’t know. We’ve talked about going to Montauk this spring/summer, since we haven’t done the Hamptons yet. And I’d love to do a weekend cruise out of NY (since my mom has never tried cruising). The other new wrinkle is that my soon-to-be 14-year-old daughter has been asking when she gets to start coming along.

So what do you think?  Where should we go next….should we let my daughter tag along….and where would you love to go with your girlfriends?

You provided excellent guidance for us. I appreciated that you really had us think about what was most important to us when we were selecting the right cruise – and not to totally focus on what other people had to say. THANK YOU for helping to make this a memorable trip for our family! It really was a trip of a lifetime!

Clare and Mark (family cruise to Alaska)

The level of service we experienced was out of this world (and we did NOT make it easy on Ann). We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to go, when we would be able to go, or what “vibe” we were going for. After asking us some key questions (what we liked, didn’t like, why, etc.) Ann helped us narrow down our trip details and planned the honeymoon of our dreams. She helped book some of our excursions, answered some emergency questions while abroad and was always available/willing to help. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be using anyone else for future travel planning – Ann is a rockstar!

Carli (Italy and Spain)