90-Min Spa: Willow Stream Spa, Fairmont Pacific Rim
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Although not always the case, you often find some of the best spas located in the most impressive hotel properties in the world. In this case, we're referring to the Willow Stream Spa located in the modern and luxurious Fairmont Pacific Rim in downtown Vancouver. Perfectly situated along the northern edge of Vancouver's Coal Harbour neighbourhood across from the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre and Olympic flame, the Willow Stream Spa has Vancouver harbour at its doorstep and stunning views of Stanley Park and the North Shore mountains.

The Willow Stream Spa is situated on the fifth floor of the hotel and is considered an urban spa despite its proximity to the water. As soon as I approached reception, I was greeted by a very friendly team. The reception area, aesthetically aligned to the hotel's décor, felt more like you were checking into a boutique hotel (within a hotel) versus a spa. Masculine in its décor, the lighting is fairly muted and there is a small boutique offering Willow Stream spa products next to reception.

The spa features a private outdoor terrace to take in stunning panoramic views of the city and harbour, plus meditation pods, jacuzzis, infrared sauna and a 24-hour fitness centre. There are tranquil lounges for men, women and couples; nine comfortable treatment rooms including two couple's suites with deep Japanese zen tubs, a nail spa, and a state-of-the-art fitness and yoga studio. Special refreshments are provided in the various lounges and fruit-infused water is placed strategically throughout the property.

The changing rooms are modest in size but offer everything a girl needs, including hair gel, sprays, flat irons, curlers and hair dryers. There are feminine products as well as deodorant, body lotion, shaving gel and razors. You are provided with a plush robe and slippers upon arrival. I appreciated the high touch of my host asking to doublecheck my shoe size. I'm a size 9, and there was indeed a set of size 9 slippers in my locker.

Before your treatment, you are welcome to wait either in the Ladies' Lounge or in the Couples' Lounge - if you're there with your special someone. The Ladies' Lounge evokes a modern, relaxing living room, complete with electric fireplace and comfortable seating. The floor to ceiling windows lead to the spectacular outdoor terrace where you can hang out for hours after your treatment in one of the meditation pods or camp out in your robe in front of a fire pit, take a dip in one of the jacuzzi tubs or relax in their infrared sauna. You can even order food from their award-winning menu. There's simply nothing like lounging in your robe and noshing on some of the freshest sashimi in the city (no joke here - their sushi, that comes from the Lobby Lounge downstairs - is really stellar). The entire space (indoors and outdoors) feels like you're in one of the Fairmont's luxury residences. It doesn't feel like a typical spa - and that's perhaps what sets it apart.

The Treatment

The spa menu is fairly extensive, ranging from a variety of deluxe facial treatments, body experiences including various massages to signature treatments that you can do as a couple and can last an entire day. I tried the Van Active Ritual Treatment (90 minutes, CAD$299), a stimulating experience focused on muscles and joints, for building vitality. My therapist greeted me in the Womens' Lounge and escorted me through to a private suite near the back of the spa - a calming room surrounded by wood panelling that housed a treatment bed, a large private experience shower with multiple shower heads and a private steam room. My treatment began with an invigorating Turkish salt scrub infused with eucalyptus. The scrub worked my tired arms and legs (from a boxing class I took the previous day) while the eucalyptus provided a calming aura. I'm generally not a fan of body scrubs because I tend to feel cold during the procedure but my therapist made sure areas of my body that weren't being worked on were fully covered and warm. The scrub was followed by a brief hot shower to rinse off the particles, after which I trotted to my personal steam room to sit, breathe deeply and fully decompress. There was a bottle of water and face towels on ice in the steam room for my use. When it's this hot, you really appreciate the little touches. The steam is meant to help detox your body and prepare it for the final part of the treatment - a luxurious massage. My therapist used organic juniper, fennel and lavender oil in long, deep strokes. Although her hands remained fairly cold throughout the entire treatment, her expert movements and signfiicant but bearable pressure made up for it. She spent a significant amount of time on my upper right back but had enough time to also ensure the rest of my back, legs, arms, chest, neck and head had enough attention. While this is a fairly expensive treatment, I felt it was worth it given how extremely decompressed I felt after only 90 minutes. The ability to hang out in the rest of the spa afterwards is a huge bonus to make the entire trip worthwhile.

Good Stuff

The modern, chic vibe of the spa's aesthetic, the first-class service, the superior spa food menu and the small touches that cater to your every need. The spa is not pretentious in any way, and that's a huge appeal for me. It's just modern, sophisticated and grown up.

Could Be Better

The only thing I would love to see is a seating area in reception. If you're going with your partner, you'll more likely be waiting for them out there and it would be nice to have somewhere to sit.


4.6 out of 5

90-Min Spa Rating: 5H Spa (AHHHHH - Amazing) Learn more about the spa ratings.