It’s kind of a “First World problem” to say you can get bored with spas. Not so much with the treatments — I don’t think I’ll ever say no to a good massage, and I’m sure other feel the same way about facials, wraps, manicures, and pedicures. But most spas offer the same general range of services, and when it comes to facilities, variety can often be limited to whether the water in the relaxation lounge is flavored with oranges or limes. For every Vichy shower you’ll find a hundred generic treatment rooms.
Newport’s Bodhi Spa is a refreshing exception. Hidden behind an unassuming storefront on Lower Thames Street is not just massage tables but a spacious hydrotherapy area — a six-stop Water Journey that includes hot and cold plunge pools, a hydrotherapy steam room, and two saunas — wet and dry.
It’s communal bathing that’s akin to the Scandinavian spa tradition: more stimulating (challenging, even) than pampering. And it’s a great adjunct to a massage or “taking the waters” as a standalone experience.
The Water Journey has prescribed steps: you start by easing into the 98-degree) Dead Sea Salt pool, then move to the aromatic steam room. So far, so good, but the next step is a chiller — a one-minute cold plunge into 55-degree water. If you weren’t fully awake by this point, you definitely will be now!
The cold plunge gives you a new appreciation for the sweep of the second hand on the clock: this might be one of the longest minutes of your life. But it makes the following moments in the sauna (you can choose the dry infrared or traditional wet version) all the more rewarding.
The next sequence is an exercise in extremes: cold plunge to the 104-degree Epsom Salt pool, then cold plunge again. At this point, we definitely found ourselves lingering in the hot pool for at least the 10 minutes recommended and making as quick an exit as possible from the cold plunges — the back-and-forth is definitely a mental challenge as well as a physical one.
The whole cycle takes 30-40 minutes to complete, and will leave you feeling refreshed and invigorated. That’s because the heat dilates your blood vessels, oxygenating your skin and releasing toxins, while the cold constricts your capillaries, sending blood to your core to do its detoxifying thing on your internal organs.
Brave enough to take the journey again? You can start over in the sea-salt pool, or get a treatment or take a break in the spa’s private outdoor courtyard and Zen garden, first. The $55 fee for the Water Journey gives you access for the entire day, and it’s half-price if you book any Bodhi Spa treatment.
The Water Journey is coed, so you’ll need a bathing suit; it’s also meant to be a peaceful experience, so if you’re taking the course with friends, try to keep conversation quiet and to a minimum (you will be forgiven for involuntary shrieks when you hit the cold water in the plunge pool).