The draw of the sauna
The appeal of lounging in a hot tub or sauna with a view is obvious, but many are drawn to the physical benefits too – building up a sweat in a sauna can relax the muscles, increase blood circulation and release endorphins, particularly when combined with a quick dip in cold water.
Wherever you’re heading, be sure to book in advance – all the options below book up quickly, particularly at weekends.
Lakeside lazing and riverside relaxation
Much of the Ice House Hotel’s Chill Spa is set outside on the banks of the River Moy in Ballina, so close you can almost hear the salmon leaping as you’re soaking in the hot tub. There’s even a view from the sauna, with giant windows overlooking the river and the trees of the neighbouring Belleek Woods. Alongside the two Jacuzzis sunken into the deck, there are outdoor bathtubs which can be filled with Himalayan salts, seaweed or warmed mud. When you need to cool down, you can get a bracing dose of cold water from the bucket shower (if you’re feeling brave).
Can’t decide between a hot tub or a sauna? At the Hot Box, you don’t have to. Located at the end of the River Boyne, the Hot Box has both a traditional Finnish sauna and wood-fired hot tub right on the riverside. There’s even a natural plunge pool in the river, so you can cool off in-between. You can book private or group sessions and there’s also a women’s-only shared sauna slot on Tuesday evenings. In addition to their location in Bective Mill House in Navan, they have a similar set-up right by the popular swim spot Deadman’s Point in Rosses Point, Sligo.
Fresh out of a grand refurbishment, the Cedarwood Spa at Wineport Lodge in Athlone has a load of new outdoor bathing options. In the spa itself, there’s an infinity plunge pool that’s more of a hot tub, set right on the edge of Lough Ree – sink into the water and you can barely tell where the pool ends and the lake begins. You can get closer still in the actual hot tubs, set on a floating pontoon that gently sways on the surface of the lake. The experience is best at the day’s end, with the hot tubs in a prime position to make the most of the sunset.
Taking the word "immersive" to a new level, The Hot Tub Boat doesn't just sit on the edge of beautiful views, but rather takes you out into them. Glide through Lough Ree and down the River Shannon while soaking in a hot tub for a relaxing 90-minute cruise aboard The Afterglow. Head out with a group during the day, or bring a special someone for a romantic sunset cruise.
Build up a sweat in a seaside sauna
With a sheltered curve of soft sand, cliffs thick with trees and a view of Croagh Patrick in the distance, Old Head Beach is one of the best in the west. The protected bay and long pier make it a favourite among sea swimmers, especially now they can warm up in the Wild Atlantic Sauna. Opened in 2022, this six-person sauna is heated by a tiny wood-burning stove and there are great views of the sea through the window. A sand timer on the wall lets you know when 15-minutes have passed, which is your cue to run outside and jump into the waves before heading back into the heat.
Set beside Tower Bay Beach in Portrane, The Sea Sauna is another good spot if you’re a fan of ocean dips. You can book shared sessions of either 30 or 45-minutes, and the sauna fits up to eight at a time. But there won’t be any fights over who gets the best seat – the end of the barrel sauna is made entirely of glass, so everyone gets a full view of the Irish Sea. If the day is clear, you’ll be able to see Lambay Island, though you may need binoculars to spot the resident wallabies.
The wheels on its base are a bit of a giveaway, but the barrel shaped sauna known as The Hot Pod moves between four different seaside locations in Waterford. You’ll find it at Clonea Lower Beach in Dungarvan, Kilmurrin Cove, Dunmore East and Newtown Cove, with the locations announced on their website, along with booking slots that are released three or four weeks in advance. You book for 30-minutes at a time, though any session is best when it’s broken up with a quick dip in the sea.
Built in the traditional Finnish style, the Fad Saoil saunas have a unique, standalone wood burner stacked with rocks that keep pumping out the heat. They have two saunas in Greystones, set up at Rise At The Cove, a social enterprise café that supports the Tiglin charity. It’s just a short dash from the sea, but if you can’t bear the walk you can cool off quickly in one of their cold waterfall showers.
Have a soak, then spend the night
The spa at Center Parcs is rather impressive – spacious, peaceful and surrounded by trees. It’s also open to non-guests who book in for a spa day. The sauna is huge, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Scots pine and Douglas fir trees of the forest, which adds a real Nordic vibe to proceedings. There are 21 different spa experiences between the various saunas and steam rooms of the thermal suite, culminating in the outdoor pool and hot tubs.
Built into what was once the estate’s walled garden, the Wellbeing Sanctuary at Drumhierny Woodland Hideaway is surrounded by crumbling stone and ancient trees. Two partly sunken hot tubs sit on a wooden deck underneath the old oak trees, which provide shelter on a drizzly day. Inside, the sauna overlooks the garden, with a huge picture window providing a pretty view while you sweat. There are also four outdoor seaweed bathtubs protected by leafy bamboo plants.
No matter where you are in the Cliff House Hotel, you’re all but guaranteed a view of the sea. And that’s also true in the spa, where you can gaze out at Ardmore Bay from the private outdoor baths, the infinity pool and the hot tub itself. Positioned out on the deck but sheltered from the rain, the Jacuzzi is in a prime spot for making the most of those sea views.
From the vantage point of the hot outdoor vitality pool in Sámas Spa, your view depends on the time of year. In the summer, when the surrounding trees are thick with leaves, you’ll feel like you’re forest bathing. But when the leaves fall, you’re left with a glorious view of Kenmare Bay as the steam rises from the water. Kerry is a bit of a hotspot when it comes to outdoor hot tubs – the one at the Dingle Skellig Hotel overlooks the bay, and at The Europe you’re met with a great view of Lough Léin and the mountains of Killarney National Park.
First timer tips
Whether you’re building up a sweat in the sauna or soaking in a hot tub, the most important thing to remember is to keep hydrated. Not every location provides drinking water, so, make sure you bring your own (big!) bottle and keep sipping. If you’re new to using saunas, the best plan is to do short stints at a time, going outside every five or ten minutes, to avoid overheating. And if you ever feel faint or unwell, step outside and tell a member of staff.