Make Your Vacation Count at the Ten Best San Francisco Spas

By Tom Molanphy, San Francisco Local Expert

What's worse than stress during a vacation? Not much, we'd argue. Whether you're visiting San Francisco from near or far, you probably put a lot of time (and money!) into planning a perfect trip. You've taken some of your precious vacation time off from your demanding job, and you've been counting down the days on your calendar for some much-deserved time off. And then, as it always does, life intercedes and brings back its everyday stress - right in the middle of your vacation.

Luckily, there's no better place than San Francisco to relieve stress. On top of the very Californian tendency to "chill out," the city has a diverse Asian population with an amazing knowledge and history of spa treatment. If you're interested in a Japanese-style spa, then Kabuki Springs and Spa in Japantown is an excellent choice. If you want a day where you feel as spoiled as the richest of the rich of San Francisco, head up to the glitzy Nob Hill Hotel and Spa and be prepared to be lavished.

When stress comes calling, choose one of the spas on our list to rub it out. A trip to San Francisco can offer a lifetime of memories - make sure stress isn't one of them.

10. In-Symmetry

When you want to relax, In-Symmetry has a menu of spa services can help. The experienced team offers a variety of therapeutic massage options that are designed to reduce stress, relieve physical pain and provide deep relaxation. Their signature treatment is a head-to-toe deep tissue/zen hot rock massage. Facials are also available, each customized with an in-depth assessment and natural skin products. Opt for the half-hour lunch time facial or the hydrating deep-pore cleanse facial. When your vacation feels out of whack, rely on In-Symmetry to get things back in balance. As CEO Candace Combs puts it: "We are a community of bodyworkers here to help all of us become a little more in balance."

9. Zen Day Spa
Photo courtesy of Zen Day Spa Facebook Page

If you find yourself wandering the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood and suddenly feel the need for a spa break, head to Zen Day Spa. Zen Day is a good alternative to the two basic kinds of spas you can find in San Francisco: the excellent but extremely pricey spas, as well as the cheap but not-so-good spas. Zen Day Spa is moderately priced but expertly staffed. The "Head/Neck/Shoulders" massage package is very popular, as it focuses the attention on these specific areas that tend to carry a lot of our tension. A focused head/neck/shoulders massage alleviates the problem right at the source, melting away headaches, neck cramps, stiffness, and much more.

8. earth & sky oasis
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

Refresh yourself with an expert massage or facial from this spa's extensive selection of services. Boasting a combined experience of well over 40 years, the staff at Earth & Sky Oasis is a small collective of independent practitioners specializing in everything from therapeutic massage to nail care: Jill Jodar (Skin Care), Adriana Agnoletto/ Jamie Jonas (Massage), Robert (Tre) Laughlin (Acupuncture) and Helen Tran (Nail Care). This expert division of labor into specialities insures that your treatment will be exact and professional. You can choose from reiki, shiatsu and deep tissue massages, among others, or opt for acupuncture, facial treatments and waxing.

7. M Spa LLC
Photo courtesy of M Spa

Not many cities can boast a spa exclusively for men, but then San francisco is not like many cities. M Spa LLC is designed specifically for men, offering treatments such as the "M-Spa Signature Facial" ($95 for one hour), which is a gentle hydrating treatment designed for specific needs of male skin. For those athletes out there, the "Sports Massage" ($125 for one hour) uses Deep Tissue and Swedish Massage techniques specifically adapted to deal with the effects of intense physical exertion on the body. The massage is incredibly thorough and eases stiffness and pain in both muscles and joints.

6. Spa Nordstrom - San Francisco Centre
Photo courtesy of Nordstrom

Spa Nordstrom is a very large spa facility, well-equipped and efficient. It's central location at the San Francisco Centre downtown makes it a convenient option after a full day of San Francisco shopping has you run down. If you need that facial and treatment to rejuvenate you before your big night out on the town, this is the place to go. The spa offers an extensive selection of treatments and massages, such as their "Oxygen Facial" that addresses sun exposure, pollution, poor diet, smoking and daily stress. Their classic "Spa Nordstrom Massage" combines classic Swedish massage techniques that helps circulation and encourages the body's natural healing ability.

5. Nob Hill Spa
Photo courtesy of wikimedia

Nob Hill Spa is one of the most acclaimed day spas in the city and with good reason. Located in The Scarlet Huntington Hotel, this distinguished spa offers massage services, facials, nail services, body treatments and wellness activities. Massage options include everything from traditional Swedish-style to table Thai, and the facility features a eucalyptus steam room, Jacuzzi and indoor infinity pool. The spa even caters to gentlemen with a special menu of men's services. This large facility features an Indoor relaxation pool, Whirlpool, Fireplace, Gymnasium, Locker rooms, Saunas and steam rooms, 10 treatment rooms, and a Private Premiere Spa Suite for groups.

4. Earthbody
Photo courtesy of Kabuki Springs & Spa

By far one of the most distinguished day spas the city has to offer, Earthbody prides itself on its organic products, holistic therapies and sustainable principles. Performed only by experienced therapists, all treatments include the spa's handcrafted line of organic products, as well as essential oils, infused hot foot towels, flower hydrosols and tea service. In addition to massages and facials, the spa also offers special packages like The Goddess Treatment. The "seasonal spa treatment" packages specific treatments for specific times of the year. For example, the "Winter Ritual" aims to cure the winter blues with a 90-minute holistic massage ritual featuring seasonal organic herbs.

3. International Orange
Photo courtesy of International Orange

Founded by three Northern California women, International Orange is a great choice for those who want a uniquely Northern Californian approach to spa treatment. Founders Melissa Ferst, Amy Darland and Kary Chendo designed this sensual and cozy spa with a clear mission statement: "No one thing is going to make the world well, but the energy for intelligent progress, one person at a time, is the answer we offer with one of the finest spas in San Francsico, International Orange. We believe it is the shape of things to come." If you practice yoga, or you'd like to learn yoga as part of your spa treatment, this is definitely the place to go.

2. Burke Williams
Photo courtesy of Burke Williams Facebook Page

If you're style is more down to earth and family-friendly than what most spas offer, check out Burke Williams spa, a Northern California original.The founders are Bill and Theresa Armour, who described themselves as an "over-worked businessman and over-wrought stay-at-home mom" in the late 1980's who desperately needed some relaxation. Their solution was to open a more affordable, moderate spa than what they could find. With nine other facilities, the spa's popularity is only increasing. All the classic treatments are offered, such as a "Deep Tissue/Firm Swedish Combination," which combines firm Swedish strokes with the deeper slow stroke techniques of a deep tissue massage.

1. Kabuki Springs & Spa
Photo courtesy of Kabuki Springs & Spa

Locals love this spa's communal bath and all-encompassing menu of relaxing services. The only Japanese-inspired communal bath in the city, Kabuki Springs' unique environment is the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate. The spa's facilities include a hot pool, cold plunge, dry sauna and steam room, and there are plenty of complimentary bath products, such as sea salts, chilled cucumber face cloths and teas. Other services include massages, facials, body treatments and even acupuncture. Kabuki is in the center of Japantown, so a spa day can either be preceded or followed by a wonderful Japanese meal, as well as some interesting shopping options.