One of my favorite experiences on my last trip to San Francisco was also the most relaxing. Fresh on the heels from our trip to Japan, I heard of this amazing Japanese Onsen (which loosely translates into a resort with a hotspring). This hip Onsen (which is also what it is named), which also has a restaurant, is tucked away in the Tenderloin area of SF.
Upon walking in, you are greeted by a beautiful bar and people enjoying yuba noodles and gyoza (Editor’s note: we didn’t eat here the night we went, but absolutely plan to on our next trip to SF). If you walk to the right past all of the happy diners, you will find a lovely hostess ready to escort you to their spa.
I have to say, I was blown away by the execution of this restaurant-cum-Japanese bathhouse. It totally works. Once you get to the hostess to check in for your spa time, you are brought into a serene area to change into your bathing suit, robe and slippers. Then, all the fun starts. It should be noted, we went on a Sunday evening and made a date night out of this. There are certain times that are co-ed, which makes for a great date. Other time slots are single sex and bathing suit optional.
Next, we walked into the spa area, where you immediately see a heated pool that looks so inviting. Each side of the pool is flanked by a steam room and then a redwood cedar sauna. We spent our time traversing between the three. The communal tub when you walked in is set to 104 degrees. There
I loved the layout and décor of Onsen. The walls are a mix of exposed brick and beautiful blonde wood. They have Adirondack chairs to relax in next to the pool should you choose. There are hanging plants climbing down the walls. We loved the cold tea and spa water set out to cool off a bit, as well as the giant overhead cold shower to aid circulation between each room.
We found the price of Onsen to be incredibly reasonable, especially compared to other bathhouses we’ve gone to like Aire Ancient Baths in Manhattan, which charges $95. By comparison, an hour and 45 minute session at Onsen costs just $35. For those interested, they also have massage treatments that you can book.
Overall, it was absolutely the perfect way to unwind together on a Sunday night (especially after a cross-country flight just the day before). We plan on making Onsen a tradition on our future trips to the Bay Area.