Jeju Sauna sets the bar for day spas among Atlanta-area spa enthusiasts.
The traditional Korean public bathhouse is operated 24 hours a day and designed for patrons to experience various services throughout their stay. Hot tubs, kiln saunas, a swimming pool and private sleeping quarters with mats and pillows are among the things you can enjoy with your $25 admission fee.
Admission, good for 24 hours, also includes the use of nine rooms with different temperatures decorated with various crystals, minerals, metals, stones and wood.
I recently visited for the first time.
After paying the entrance fee, you get a locker, a change of clothes and a quick tour of the facility.
Separate from the spa but in the same building upstairs is a nail salon offering everything from basic polish changes to waxings to elaborate pedicures with hot stone massages and paraffin wax. I opted for the classic manicure, and it was basic but good: a standard polish change, cuticle work and a short massage for $14.
But you don’t go to Jeju for the manicures.
After drying my nails, I went back downstairs and was told it’s best to wash your face before experiencing all the rooms. It’s a good idea to bring your own face wash and a moisturizer so you’re not using the hand soap in the locker rooms.
The nine rooms are why many people drive 30 minutes outside the Perimeter for a spa. Some rooms look like igloos, and each offers different properties and healing powers.
The gold sauna is lined with gold and silver. It’s said to help with stability and neurosis.
The jade igloo is covered in semiprecious stones imported from Korea and is designed to increase metabolism, improve circulation and relieve from arthritis.
Other options include the charcoal sauna, the baked-clay sauna, the jewel sauna, the ice room and the salt sauna. I spent 30 minutes in each, but I was most impressed by the ice room and the salt sauna because of the immediate, refreshed feeling, likely produced by the temperature difference. The salt room is extremely warm, and the quick move to the ice room is invigorating as well as soothing to the skin.
Men and women lie on mats with pillows in each room — some looking at books or phones, but most with their eyes closed in deep relaxation.
After several hours in the saunas and igloos, I visited the spa’s restaurant. With traditional Asian dishes like ramen and Americanized favorites like fried rice and stir fry, the food is satisfying after the saunas.
After lunch, I was ready to do what I came for: Jeju’s signature massage and body scrub.
The massages take place in gender-segregated areas because visitors are instructed to disrobe before entering. Hot tubs, a pool and even a tanning bed sit next to rooms with massage tables.
I was asked to visit the hot tub before the massage. I then was on the massage table for a few minutes, and just as I opened my mouth to ask when the massage would begin, a masseuse poured a large bucket of water over the table. That was the first of several. She rubbed me using a loofah for 30 minutes. My skin has never been softer.
The massage also was 30 minutes, and it was less memorable. Nevertheless, the $80 price seems worth the baby skin I felt for weeks after.
After maybe six hours at Jeju, I considered calling it a night and sleeping there. I can see why some people might do that; driving 30 minutes home seemed silly when I could sleep in a gold igloo.
After seeing it for myself, I have to agree that Jeju is something any spa lover should experience at least once. It’s an Atlanta institution, and I’ll be back.
3555 Gwinnett Place Drive, Duluth