Visiting hot springs can be refreshing and calm, or fun and wild. Either way, follow these etiquette tips to get the most out of your geothermal soaking experience.
The beauty of hot springs is that every facility is different; soakers are able to enjoy a variety of experiences, from mild-mannered relaxation to boisterous family-oriented fun. Though the tone and expectations of commercial geothermal sites are diverse, hot springs share a common core of etiquette practices that are intended to enhance your own soaking experience, and ensure that other guests have a positive visit as well.
What do I need to bring with me?
Before heading to the hot springs, be sure to pack the essentials:
- Your swimsuit. Unless a facility is clothing optional, a bathing suit is essential. In some cases, the minerals in the water can tint the color of your bathing suit, so keep that in mind when choosing what to wear. You can also check beforehand to see if the facility rents suits.
- A towel. Always pack a towel for each person in your party. However, many hot springs rent towels for a small fee, which can be handy if you’re traveling from out of town.
- Drinking water. Since hot springs are dehydrating, pack a water bottle for ample hydration throughout your soak.
- Sandals. Though not a requirement, having flip-flops or sandals can make or break an experience when surfaces are either hot or icy.
- Sunscreen. If you do opt to bring sunscreen, choose products with all-natural materials that will not damage the integrity of the pools.
Before entering the pool, is showering really necessary?
Yes, showering before entering the geothermal water is a must. However refreshing a hot springs soak may be, the pools are not bathtubs. In addition to preserving the quality of the water by removing any lotions, fragrances and grime found on the human body—and therefore allowing yourself to better absorb the minerals of the water, showering is also important for health reasons. According to the Centers for Disease Control, bathing with soap before jumping into the pool is key to preventing recreational water illnesses.
How long should I be soaking in the pools?
The amount of time spent soaking usually depends on the temperature of the water. For example, pools over 104°F are similar to hot tubs, and soaking time should be split into smaller increments—around 15-20 minutes per session. For cooler temperatures, feel free to swim and enjoy for as long as you feel comfortable.
Is it okay to talk, laugh, and be loud?
Here’s where the diversity of hot springs comes into play: it all depends on the expectations and tone of the facility. Some places have rules in place for quiet zones or have a strong spa-oriented vibe that requires a hushed atmosphere. Others, however, have kid’s pools, obstacle courses and even adventure water rides where volume is no issue.
The best thing to do is to be aware of the setting and audience of the hot springs before you go, by doing a search on hotspringsofamerica.com, and making sure that the facility meets your soaking goals. Or, deciding upon arrival what is appropriate, and being aware that your volume can potentially affect other guests. When in doubt, start out by speaking softly.
What about romance?
Hot springs, generally speaking, are romantic. There’s something special about soaking with a loved one. However, it’s always wise to keep your PDA in check. Be mindful of other guests and their comfort, and make sure that your public displays of affection stay within the realm of decency.
What if I have to go to the bathroom?
Like in any pool situation, the correct way to handle an I-have-to-go moment is to get out of the water and head to the facility’s restrooms. This is an essential rule for keeping the pools clean and healthy. If you have kids, be aware that many hot springs require young children to wear swim diapers.
Is it a good idea to drink alcohol?
First and foremost, be sure to look at the hot spring facility’s rules on alcohol use—some properties allow it, others sell it on site and many don’t permit it at all. Typically, it’s wise to limit alcohol use when soaking in geothermal water. Because of the high temperatures, the human body gets dehydrated quickly, which enhances the effects of drinking. If you do choose to consume alcohol, do so responsibly and be sure to also drink plenty of water.
Overall, the most important tip is that hot springs are places to enjoy. So, go forth, soak and relish the geothermal waters.
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