Don’t worry, be pampered: Treat yourself to a spa day

With the frenzy of the elections in November, the state’s tragic wildfires, and the undeniable chaos that can hit during the holiday season, many of us are yearning for a break. But, if you can’t head for that tropical island or remote cabin, there is a way to escape without traveling. You can spend a day or even just an hour or two pampering yourself at a nearby day spa. Massages of every kind, facials, manicures, and pedicures for men and women and more are at your fingertips (pun intended), along with skincare and wellness treatments. Even lounging in a spa’s steamy sauna or whirlpool or sipping tea in blessed solitude might just melt your stress away. Below is just a sampling of local spas.


The Nob Hill Spa in the Huntington Hotel has a view of the city’s skyline, 10 treatment rooms, a whirlpool and sauna, an indoor infinity pool, and a fireplace lounge. Its boutique offers skincare, clothing, and gift products; also available is a spa cuisine menu from the hotel’s Big Four restaurant that includes breakfast, lunch, wine, and dessert menus. A special feature is the spa’s bamboo massage therapy. In Asian culture, stalks of bamboo symbolize energy, youth, prosperity, fertility, and strength. During a bamboo massage, therapists use bamboo tools combined with therapeutic massage to increase relaxation and to target trigger points in the muscles much in the way that deep-tissue work or acupuncture does. The massage is $160 for 50 minutes and $210 for 80 minutes.

After your treatment, you can relax in the Nob Hill Spa’s Zen Room with luxurious lounge chairs, pillows, and blankets. 1075 California Street, 415-345-2888,


If you’re downtown shopping, and you need a breather, Burke Williams Day Spa is located right within the Westfield Center. This chain, with 10 locations across California, offers memberships that let guests enjoy massage, facials, and spa treatments on a monthly basis, but nonmembers can make appointments as well. An essential membership at Burke Williams in San Francisco is $95 a month and offers guests one 50-minute pure relaxation massage or spa facial each month; a deluxe membership is $135 a month and offers one 80-minute massage or facial a month. All memberships include special members-only pricing for additional treatments. Burke Williams also offers its own H2V skincare line that’s used during facials at the spa.

Throughout the holidays, Burke Williams is offering special, customized spa packages that include a variety of services such as massages, facials, mani-pedis, and special treatments like hot stones and aromatherapy. A “Mind-Plus Body Holiday” for $250 (usually priced at $350) offers a massage and spa facial plus enhancement, and “Ultimate Comfort & Joy” includes an 80-minute massage, radiance facial plus enhancement, and use of the spa’s new aromatherapy wet room with specially designed showerheads is priced at $400 (usually $555). Burke Williams holiday packages and gift certificates make perfect presents to those who are perpetually under pressure. 845 Market Street, Ste. 510, 888-239-6635,


For a true escape, make the short trip across the Golden Gate Bridge to Cavallo Point, a luxury inn and spa located at Fort Baker, a former U.S. Army post. The Healing Arts Center & Spa at Cavallo Point offers the usual array of relaxing massages and facials but also has a distinct focus on body treatments and wellness, including aromatherapy, holistic medicine, and water therapy. The spa also features a heated outdoor meditation pool beneath the pines.

Cavallo Point’s spa offers a multitude of massages from deep tissue to Himalayan salt stone to Thai. A signature Cavallo Point massage is $185 for 50 minutes; the spa charges $10 more for treatment on weekends. Massages can be augmented with salt scrubs, clay wraps, and other types of bodywork, including chakra energy balancing. Post treatment, guests can relax at the spa’s tea bar or meditation garden.

More targeted integrative health programs at Cavallo Point include acupuncture, nutritional consulting, fitness and body awareness programs, including
yoga and martial arts practices, and mind-body relaxation techniques. 601 Murray Point, Sausalito, 415-389-4700,

The bathhouse at Onsen San Francisco.

The bathhouse at Onsen San Francisco.


For relaxation and a taste of Japanese culture, try Onsen in San Francisco’s Tenderloin. Inspired by Japanese bath rituals, this urban bathhouse offers the chance to soak in hot water in a communal setting. Coed and men’s and women’s soaks are available every day except Tuesdays. Swimsuits are required for coed bathing; they are optional for men and women’s soaks. Onsen offers a 104-degree communal tub, a redwood sauna, steam room, an overhead cold plunge, and Western-style showers. Complimentary bath products and hot tea are included as are lockers, towels, and robes. The spa also offers a range of massages, facials, and acupuncture.  Soaks range from $35 for a communal bath and $25 for single-sex soaks, and all last 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Onsen boasts a rustic full-service Japanese restaurant that serves small plates for dinner that can be enjoyed with or without a reservation to the bathhouse. Savory dishes include house-made pickles and preserves ($7); charred Brussels sprouts ($11); and trout sashimi with cucumber, cherry tomatoes and wasabi ($14). There are skewers ($12–$15) such as citrus prawns, togarashi spices and horseradish; chicken meatball; hanger steak with miso, black pepper and chili; and more. Dessert is chocolate cake with peanut, caramel, and black sesame ($11). Onsen offers a variety of tisanes and teas as well as a selection of sake and sake on tap from local brewer Sequoia Sake. 466 Eddy Street, 415-442-4987,

Whether it’s just a massage or a whole day of indulgence, a spa visit will soothe your stress away.

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