The Pioneer Spas

They're tucked into remote desert canyons, carved into cliffs over oceans, or set against backdrops of majestic, snowy peaks. Wherever they are, all of these beloved establishments have something in common: They paved the way for the spa industry when spa was still a new, innovative path to better health and inner peace. We salute these 25 trailblazing businesses for shaping spa as we know it today. And we thank them for helping us become what we are.

Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa

Baden Baden, Germany

We love how this grand, historic hotel in the German spa resort of Baden-Baden not only boasts some of Europe's best med spa and nutritional offerings, but is also the home of a restaurant with two Michelin stars. While it beautifully adapts to its clientele's needs, its supreme elegance and hospitality will never go out of fashion. Read the full story »


Vista, California

Another spa with which we're proud to celebrate 25 years, San Diego's 500-acre Cal-a-Vie has pampered and educated its visitors in its French-inspired, luxurious environment since 1986. With its carefully honed fitness, diet, and spa program, the spa resort keeps visitors immersed in wellness from morning to night, striking a perfect balance between body awareness and ethereal bliss. Read the full story »

Canyon Ranch

Multiple US Locations

We celebrate Canyon Ranch for being true to the mission on which it was founded more than 30 years ago and for taking its message of healthy living and the personal power beyond its physical locations. It is truly one of the first wellness retreats to develop itself as a brand, taking the idea of spa into a whole new realm. Read the full story »


Multiple UK Locations

Accessibility. As spas shift from being perceived as a luxurious indulgence to a component to good health, they must offer affordable options. We hail Champneys, an established U.K. brand, founded in 1925 by trailblazing naturopath Sir Stanley Lief, which has found a way to offer dynamic, inspired treatments and programs for a growing population attuned to spa. Read the full story »

Clinque La Prairie

Clarens-Montreux, Switzerland

It's in the name, of course. Med spa is a term we hear a lot these days, but Montreaux Switzerland's most famous clinic was truly one of the first, founded on a pioneering cellular therapy. Still offering its medical services, we think its beautiful location is also the perfect spot to luxuriate and unwind. Read the full story »

Spa at Doral

Miami, Florida

We're so impressed by the Doral's evolution from being one of the first destination spas in America—devoted to pampering its clientele in its European-inspired Miami location—to a spa that offers luxurious treatments and an educational journey on how to live healthier and longer. Beautifully done. Read the full story »

Spa Eastman Health & Wellness Retreat

Montreal, Canada

The internationally beloved Spa Eastman asserts, "We are not a hotel with a spa. We offer a global and authentic health spa retreat." It's an important distinction that makes Quebec's Eastman one of our favorite spots in the Great White North to unwind and revive as we savor their healthy, delicious food, wonderful treatments and fitness/wellness programs. Read the full story »

Esalen Institute

Big Sur, California

With its hot thermal baths perched on a Big Sur cliff over the crashing waves of the Pacific, Esalen is as much a state of mind as an actual place. It's always been one of the most experimental institutions in the U.S., and we thank them for being the place we know is always there when we need to creatively explore the mind, body, spirit connection. Read the full story »

Spa Evian Source at the Hotel Royal

Evian, France

A haven in one of the famous spa town's finest hotels, the Spa Evian Source was founded in the early '80s, when its visitors became interested in spa options beyond taking the waters. Still, we really admire how the Source has drawn its inspiration from the healing power of its nearby springs and has perfectly maintained its sense of majestic place. Read the full story »

The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa

Sonoma, California

The area's Native American knew it well hundreds of years ago: Bathing in the thermal waters located on the site of Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn is powerful and healing. With the waters as the Mission Inn's guiding inspiration, we salute this luxury hotel and spa's ability to fashion beautifully conceived, rejuvenating treatments. Read the full story »

Golden Door

Escondido, California

With its impeccable service and inspired program, we know why the legendary Golden Door, tucked away in a coastal pocket of northern San Diego, continuously ranks among the top spas in North America. It's a Spafinder favorite, winning our own Readers' Choice Awards, and it's also beloved by Condé Nast Traveler's subscribers, topping their Readers' poll as well. Read the full story »

Green Mountain at Fox Run

Ludlow, Vermont

While it doesn't define itself as a spa, Green Mountain's 40 years as a treasured destination for women seeking healthy solutions to weight loss make it an essential pioneer for our list. Their caring program of mindful meditation, nutrition, and fitness has helped thousands of women break the cycle of yo-yo dieting in a healthy, life-affirming way. Read the full story »

Green Valley Spa

St. George, Utah

Recently voted among the "Top 10 Spas for Hiking, Weight Loss, and Favorite Spa Treatment" in our 2011 Readers' Choice Awards, Green Valley calls itself "the original hiking spa" and we love it for that and so much more, including its stress reduction and weight-loss programs, award-winning sports programs, mind-melting treatments, beautiful Red Rocks location and warm spirit. Read the full story »

Gurney's Inn Resort, Spa & Conference Center

Montauk, New York

Just a jitney away from New York City, the spa at Gurney's Inn has always been a Spafinder favorite for its true passion for the ocean and its creative use of the sea in its treatments. As the only Thalasso spa in the continental U.S., we salute them for their continuous innovation. Read the full story »

The Heartland Spa

Gilman, Illinois

On the site of a former dairy farm, Heartland's simple, rustic environment lends itself to the stress-free, natural experience it has strived to provide for almost 30 years. It's all-inclusive spa and wellness packages are wonderfully conceived and all-inclusive. It's no surprise to us that 70 percent of this caring spa's clientele are repeat customers. Read the full story »

Hilton Head Health

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

We love this destination's bold, unpretentious admission: "More than a fat farm!" Indeed, this South Carolina seashore retreat has changed thousands of lives with their smartly conceived program of calorie reduction and personal attention to mind/body fitness. We salute them for their inspiration and education. Read the full story »

La Costa Resort & Spa

Carlsbad, California

In operation since 1964, Carlsbad California's La Costa is considered one of the first full-service destination spas in the U.S. and has always been on the forefront of taking American spa beyond the notion of beauty treatments. With the Chopra center onsite focusing on all aspects of wellness, we know it will continue to offer its clients the best in mind/body/spirit growth and healing. Read the full story »

Mohonk Mountain House

New Paltz, New York

Owned and operated by the same family since 1869, the Mohonk Mountain House is the American resort in our celebration that has been open the longest. Since its inception, it's been committed to recreation and renewal in its beautiful natural setting, and Mohonk's spa, opened in 2005, has wonderfully brought that concept into the 21st century. Read the full story »

New Age Health Spa

Neversink, New York

We love how New Age is located in the buoyantly named Neversink, New York. A true wellness pioneer of American spa, the Catskill mountain retreat draws loyal visitors for its ability to adapt to its clients' needs for relaxation, restoration, and reflection. New Age also celebrates their 25th year this year. Congratulations!

New Life Hiking Spa

Killington, Vermont

For the last 25 years, Jimmy LeSage has put his heart and soul into making his spa in Vermont's Green Mountains a destination to hike and get fit, eat well, and relax—all for an extremely affordable price. We greatly admire him for doing this passionately while keeping his guest count low so he can offer personal attention. Read the full story »

The Oaks at Ojai

Ojai, California

For years we've been completely charmed by this down-to-earth, Southern California gem, located in the healthy-minded valley town of Ojai. The Oaks has been welcoming guests for over three decades with its top-notch nutritional and fitness programs and spa treatments. We also love how new habits are forged here—affordably. Read the full story »

Pritikin Longevity
Center & Spa

Miami, Florida

The medical studies have proven it: the Pritikin health regiment works, lowering blood pressure, reducing weight, and decreasing the risk of heart disease. If that isn't great enough, this luxury resort in Miami, Florida, is the place where you can get with the program and unwind luxuriously. Read the full story »

Rancho La Puerta

Tecate, Mexico

In a world of passionate spa founders and directors, it would be a challenge to find more committed spa owners than the American Szekely family. For years we've been in awe of how they've been true to their original 1940 vision of creating a space for the spirit to flourish in the simplicity and life-giving force of nature. Read the full story »

The Red Door Spas

Multiple US Locations

"To be beautiful and natural is the birthright of every woman," said Elizabeth Arden, who in 1910 opened the very first day spa in New York City. Now serving clients across the country in 31 locations, we adore Red Door Spas for being true to its foremother's mission. Read the full story »

Safety Harbor
Resort and Spa

Safety Harbor, Florida

Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto thought he'd found the Fountain of Youth at this site's natural mineral springs in the 1500s. The water of is one of the many features that brings us back to this Tampa Bay spa resort, which boasts a sprawling 50,000 feet dedicated to spa and fitness. Read the full story »

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