Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, gives visitors the chance to calm down and enjoy life in the slow lane. The directions are pretty simple, really: Sit and soak.
Just a little over two hours outside of Salt Lake City, the thermally heated waters of the Lava Hot Springs Hot Pools (430 E. Main, 800-423-8597, LavaHotSprings.com) have no sulphur, chlorine or other chemicals. The waters are constantly fresh and can be enjoyed 363 days a year until 11 p.m. Admission to the pools for adults runs just $5.50 on weekdays and $9 on weekends. The facility has different pools that start at 102 degrees and go up to 112 degrees—sort of like a salsa bar where you can gradually try hotter and hotter tastes.
From Soaking to Soaring
While the central theme of Lava is relaxing in the hot pools, there are also options for the adventurous. Lava Zipline Adventure (155 E. Main, 208-589-1734, LavaZipline.com) will pick you up in town and take you to a spot by the mountains where you can try ziplines, a giant rope swing or a suspension bridge.
Popular summer activities include golf at Dempsey Ridge Golf Course (9898 E. Merrick Road, 208-776-5048, DempseyRidgeGolfCourse.com), or renting a tube and floating down the Portneuf River that runs through town. When you get out, you can head to the Olympic Pool and Water Park (Olympic Pool and Water Park, 195 N. Center St., 800-423-8597, LavaHotSprings.com), which includes giant water slides.
Dinner and a Soak
Lava Hot Springs is close enough to the Wasatch Front that people have been known to simply drive up for an evening for dinner and a soak. If the warm waters put you in a gourmet mood, try the Portneuf Grille & Lounge in the Riverside Hot Springs Inn (255 E. Portneuf St., 800-733-5504, RiversideInnHotSprings.com) where you’ll find recommended wine pairings to go with dishes such as a sesame-crusted ahi tuna complemented by an apricot-ginger compote.
In a converted gas station at the end of town you’ll find Riverwalk Thai Food (695 E. Main, 208-776-5872). The family-run business has become a destination for out-of-town visitors who drive long distances just for the authentic pad Thai. In the heart of Main Street, Royal Hotel & Pizzeria (11 Main, 208-776-5216, RoyalLava.com) serves its tasty pies with a slice of lemon in the East Coast tradition, while 78 Main (208-776-5106, Facebook.com/78MainStreetEatery) is both the address and name of a restaurant serving excellent salads to go along with classic diner dishes.
Greystone Manor (187 S. Second Ave. West, 208-776-5959, GreystoneLavaHotSprings.com) is a bed & breakfast, but you don’t have to stay there to enjoy the intimate dining room when you try the Dine & Unwind special: a couples massage followed by a four-course dinner.
For breakfast, it’s generally a good sign to follow the locals, and they can be found chatting away at Chuck Wagon (211 E. Main, 208-776-5141) enjoying coffee and loaded hash browns.
Soak Then Sleep
Those who regularly visit the thermal waters say a good soak helps you sleep better, so it’s not a bad idea to spend the night. Home Hotel (306 E. Main, 208-776-5050, HomeHotel.com), which has been around since 1918, is the closest hotel to the hot pools; you just have to walk about 50 yards across a bridge. Feel like staying in? Enjoy the privacy of having the waters piped right into your room as you relax in a jumbo two-person tub.
Two other hotels on Main Street also have access to the thermal waters. Lava Hot Springs Inn (94 E. Portneuf Ave., 800-527-5830, LavaHotSpringsInn.com) has several different pools right on the property. Check out the spa at the aforementioned Riverside Hot Springs Inn and you can also enjoy the indoor soaking rooms.
The Alpaca Inn (90 S. 1st East, 208-776-5200, LavaAlpacaInn.com) is so named because the owners have an alpaca farm. This cute little garden oasis just off Main Street has a store where you can buy natural wool and even learn the name of the alpaca it came from.
Step Into Relaxation
If you want to take relaxation to a whole new level, try getting out of the springs and walking into the Aura Soma Lava massage rooms (430 E. Main, 800-757-1233, LavaMassage.com). The specialty is Ashiatsu, a method that involves the therapist standing on top of you and using their feet to massage and relax your muscles.
Lava’s small town, laid-back atmosphere fits right in with the calming effects of the waters. The entire destination encourages you to kick back and relax.