Wellness: Healing Touches At Local Spas

By Kathy Chin Leong

Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve all suffered some form of touch deprivation. The medical community agrees meaningful touch is vital. Babies need it to thrive. Adults need it for well-being. In some countries, human-to-human contact is so important that massages are covered under health insurance.

More and more spas are increasing the number of services that stimulate wellness and alleviate chronic conditions. Facilities are incorporating ancient healing methods to jumpstart circulation, de-escalate blood pressure and strengthen the immune system. We highlight four favorites that reveal prized treatments.

Immersion Spa

3990 El Camino Real, Palo Alto |

The Vision: Two sisters, June Kwon and Sooyeon Kwon, launched Immersion Spa to bring the Korean spa culture to Palo Alto. “We aim for a therapeutic experience, rather than a pampering one,” says June. Take the cold plunge pool and hot whirlpool — both staples in Korean bathhouses. Icy water triggers the immune system, while the heat stimulates circulation. Customers from all cultures attest to the advantages of Immersion’s Korean scrub treatments, plunge pools, dry sauna, massages and jimjilbang hot rooms. The health spa’s simple, uncluttered aesthetic exudes cleanliness in a welcoming atmosphere.

The Treatment: Indulge in the 100-minute Goddess Gold Ginseng treatment ($220). Get exfoliated with a Korean scrub, followed by a detoxing body wrap of Korean ginseng along with a 24-karat gold mask for anti-aging and a coconut full-body massage. For the scrub, you lie face down in a wet room as the therapist scours you from head to toe with scrub mitts. Dead skin sloughs off in piles revealing fresh, new skin.

Cavallo Point Healing Arts Center and Spa

601 Murray Circle, Sausalito |

The Vision: Spa gurus guide guests on a path that helps “release physical, mental and energy blocks,” according to the team at Cavallo Point. Integrative medicine doctors, herbalists, yoga practitioners and specialists help curate the catalog of globally inspired services, each yielding health benefits, confirms spa director Heather Stewart. Meanwhile, this two-story pamper palace within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area is nothing less than palatial. The great room features a modern fireplace, intimate seating areas and an herbal tea bar. Coloring books and markers are available, just in case. If hungry, you can order a meal to be delivered to you on spa grounds. Outdoors? A meditation pool, Zen garden and patio.

The Treatment: The two-hour Body Journey ($375–$395) delivers on a deep massage, acupressure and sound healing using crystal bowls. Meanwhile, the Healing Gardens session ($175–$195) includes an hour with a master gardener who leads guests in customizing a small herb garden based on individual health needs.


1161 Gorgas Avenue, San Francisco |

The Vision: SenSpa extols a multidisciplinary approach to “unleash the wellness within,” says spa director Jenean LaRoche. This wellness center in the Presidio boasts an extensive treatment menu. It is the only Bay Area spa with a program to correct posture, and one of only a few spas worldwide carrying the Somadome, a high-tech meditation pod resembling a shuttle capsule. Meanwhile, Chinese proverbs and sculptures accent the design-forward premises amid shades of pumpkin and chestnut. Over 100 lush plants and trees grace four lounges, which include one private space for groups. An indoor tea garden invites guests to enjoy chocolate-covered almonds and fresh tea.

The Treatment: Surrender to the two-hour Zen Bundle ($325), which includes choice of massage paired with sauna treatment utilizing infrared light. Somadome time concludes the session as the guest dons headphones, listening to guided imagery meditation known as binaural sound therapy. Says LaRoche, “Some clients come specifically for that [service] to decrease stress and anxiety, and help the body to relax.”

Burke Williams

845 Market Street, Suite 510, San Francisco; 355 Santana Row, Suite 2010, San Jose |

The Vision: Guests should feel a true sense of transformation after every visit, according to Diane Hibbard, chief treatment officer. To accomplish that goal, each service is researched for a year or more before it’s added to the menu. In addition, the San Jose and San Francisco sites offer spacious and lavish escapes: The type of pampering spa that was only available at hotel resorts is now accessible in busy urban centers thanks to Burke Williams. The San Jose spa touts a Moroccan vibe, while the San Francisco venue visually whisks patrons to Paris. Spoiling touches: separate men’s and women’s lounges, steam rooms, locker rooms, showers and whirlpools.

The Treatment: The new 80-minute Vitality massage (from $225) offers an uplifting pick-me-up, with a slathering of B12 vitamin oil and a stiff, dry brush across the body. The benefit? B12 supports nerve cells and formation of red blood cells.

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