Best Day Ever

I Found My Korean Spa Bliss. In Suburban New Jersey. (Of All Places.)

by Darlene Fiske
Volcanic Volcanic Sand Bath at SoJo Spa in Edgewood, New Jersey. Photo courtesy of SoJo Spa.

Where should New Yorkers go for the ultimate spa experience? Across the Hudson, where they will find their Korean bliss.

EDGEWATER, New Jersey — I have a lot of hair. So when someone offers to rub my scalp in sudsy goodness, I can’t resist. I also am an aficionado of spas, for personal and professional reasons. (Hey, if you can do what you love…) But I was not prepared to have a mind-blowing shampoo in suburban New Jersey.

I first discovered SoJo Spa Club, a Korean spa in Edgewater, New Jersey, on Instagram and was curious to investigate how it compared to the other rough-around-the-edges-but-blissful-on-the-body experience at a NYC Korean spa that I wrote about for Gentedimontagna. The photos of the infinity pool and its dreamy Manhattan views had me yearning to spend a day throwing my cares over the pool’s edge. The website revealed endless options for getting my wellness groove on: a foot-massage pool, saunas, hydrotherapy tubs, mineral pools, a restaurant, and a full-service ESPA spa. This eight level, 140,000-square-foot mecca could keep me wrapped in its womb for hours. Possibly days. I wasn’t the first with this idea, which may be why the spa has 32 hotel rooms. (It’s usually the other way around — hotels have a spa. Is this the cutting edge of wellness?)

Insta-famous infinity pool. Photo courtesy of SoJo Spa Club.
Himalayan Salt Sauna.
Himalayan Salt Sauna. Photo courtesy of SoJo Spa Club.
ESPA Couples suite treatment room.
ESPA couples suite. Photo courtesy of SoJo Spa Club.

It was a cold, snowy day when my two girlfriends and I ventured out across the Hudson. Snowing so hard, in fact, people warned us not to make the trek from Manhattan to Jersey for fear we couldn’t get back.

Please. If only we could be trapped at SoJo. We weren’t worried.

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We checked in and said goodbye to our shoes – floor-to-ceiling lockers kept our germ-laden footwear out of the confines of heaven — and changed into bathing suits and robes. We were free to explore, eat, sign up for treatments (facials, massage), or book a Korean scrub. (I only got a peek of the incredible couple’s treatment room, and one day I must go back for it.) We made reservations for scrubs and went straight to the reflexology pool where we waded, calf-deep in our robes on smooth rocks meant to stimulate reflexology points on the bottom of our soles. It was painful, but allowed us to slow down – something we all need to do more.

After that, we went to the massive hydrotherapy pool. Imagine a large heated hot tub with designated areas for jets to blast upper back, lower back, legs, and shoulders. Moving from station to station, the pressure of the jets works out all the stress knots of life.

Snowy day at Sojo Spa Club.
Snowy oasis. Photo by Darlene Fiske.
SoJo Spa Club silk baths.
Silk bath. Photo courtesy of SoJo Spa Club.
Hinoki bath at night.
Hinoki bath at night. Photo courtesy of SoJo Spa Club.

Next came the outdoor pools, located on the same level, with different benefits and waters. The staff does an outstanding job of explaining the pools and their benefits. We were drawn to the Japanese silk bath, told it would nourish body tissue and improve skin elasticity. The ionized fizzy water really did feel like silk on my skin. We sat there, mouths open, letting snowflakes fall onto our tongues like we were twelve years old.

Back inside, we took a short siesta on heated slabs of rock in the Ganbanyoku Room (it means “bedrock bathing”). I could imagine myself in a Seoul bathhouse surrounded by locals, taking in the heat, the silence, the warmth of that enveloping space. Only I wasn’t in Korea. I was in New Jersey.

We finally made our way to the moment I’d been waiting for – the Insta-famous infinity pool. I had wanted to put myself in that photo for so long. In the snow, it was even more magical than I imagined, and it was like nothing else mattered in the world at that moment, except my friends in our winter hats, smiling, swimming, admiring the views (and eating more snowflakes), and being grateful for that moment together.

Ganbanyoku Bedrock Sauna
Ganbanyoku bedrock sauna. Photo courtesy of SoJo Spa Club.
Lunch at Sojo Spa Club.
Lunch at Sojo Spa Club. Photos courtesy of SoJo Spa Club.
Sojo Spa Club Hotel Room.
Guest room with a Hudson river view. Photo courtesy of SoJo Spa Club.

Many saunas followed, as did a crazy delicious lunch of noodles and pork buns. I set off to get my scrub and added a shampoo to complete my service. I was nervous that this place — in all its shiny glory and fabulousness – could deliver on the raw, authentic, gnarly scrub that I longed for. I was led to a small cubicle, asked to undress, and was scrubbed to the brink of pain. To my great relief and happiness. Naked and unafraid, I made my way to the communal shower. When I blow-dried my hair, it had, to my astonishment, more body and brilliance than ever before – with no deep conditioning, products, or stylist. It could have been the shampoo. It could have been the magical healing waters we experienced at SoJo. Who am I to question it?

How to Get There

Sojo Spa Club is open daily from 9 am to 10:30 pm. The spa runs a complimentary shuttle to and from Manhattan.