If you have ever heard me or Dan talk about Montreal, chances are that you have heard us talk about Bota Bota! It is our favorite place in all of Montreal, and probably Canada!
Bota Bota, formally Bota Bota, spa sur l’eau, is a spa in a renovated tug boat on the St. Lawrence River in Old Montreal, at the intersection of McGill and the St. Lawrence River. Bota Bota offers all of the standard spa treatments, from nails to massages to facials, but the best thing about this spa is the Scandinavian water circuit! This is what we always do, and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting.
To start your Bota Bota experience, you walk straight into the tugboat and check-in with the desk. They will take your information and, whether you do a treatment or just the Water Circuit, loan you a robe, towel and water-proof bracelet, which allows access to a locker and tracks any purchases, for the duration of your stay. You then head to the locker room to change and lock up your belongings. The locker rooms are pretty standard – a number of lockers, showers and mirrors. The spa provides hair dryers, shampoo and shower gel and bags for your wet bathing suit, FYI. Note – you should bring a bathing suit and flip flops to wear around the spa.
After you have changed, you proceed to the spa! The second floor holds the restaurant, the check-in desk for treatments (and a list of treatments that you can book the day-of, if any!) and the magical port hole lounge (see below!).
To start the water circuit, proceed to level three and begin with a stint in the steam room. The steam room, as with the entire circuit, is mixed sex, and holds a good number of people. You stay in for as long as you can. No pictures, too much water for my camera!
Next, the sauna! Bota Bota has two saunas – one on the level three and one on level four. Each have views over old Montreal and each boasts a separate, relaxing essential oil scent! I recommend trying them both! Left is the larger one on level four overlooking Old Montreal. Right is the smaller sauna overlooking the St. Lawrence River. Pour water from the little bowls over the rocks to make the sauna warmer.
After the sauna, it is standard to take a plunge in the cold pool, which is extremely cold (temperatures usually posted on the pool)! There is one inside next to the level three sauna and one outside on level four. These pools are cold, but it is really refreshing (at least in the summer….). There it is, only room for one or two people (or three in our case…).
After the cold pool, Bota Bota has two outdoor hot tubs for relaxing, one on level three overlooking old Montreal and one on level four overlooking the St. Lawrence River. Both are comfortable and extremely relaxing. Top pictures are the level three hot tub and view over Montreal. Bottom is the level four hot tub. In my experience, the level three hot tub is always more social, while the level four hot tub is more relaxing and not as crowded.
You can use the water circuit as much as you want and you do not have to follow this order! The entire process is very low key and relaxed, and I guarantee that you can kill a day here. Trust me. If you do get tired of the water circuit, there are a number of other places to relax in the spa…lounge chairs outside, beanbags inside, hammock chairs (SO FUN) and the below porthole lounge! Yes, you can relax inside the portholes of the tugboat, and it is so comfortable! The Port Hole Lounge is located on level two and you must stop here before leaving. It is so relaxing! Below is me in the porthole, and a look down on some of the indoor and outdoor lounge space.
If you spend the whole day, plan to have lunch at Bota Bota’s on-site restaurant. The restaurant serves a seasonal menu and beverages, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. This visit I had a lovely quebec cheese starter and then a steak sandwich. So, so good!! In the past I have enjoyed such deliciousness as an open faced pork confit sandwich and hot chocolate with frangelico-infused whipped cream. We always plan to eat here when visiting the spa for an entire day.
The most recent addition to Bota Bota is their Garden, which just opened this year. The Garden is an extension of the original tug boat, on the land abutting the St. Lawrence River where the tug boat is docked. The Garden also has a water circuit in the form of three large pools and a steam room off to the side. We visited the Garden, but went back to the boat shortly thereafter. The Garden is much more social, much more of a pool club, and not nearly as relaxing, in my opinion! Here is a picture of the Garden from the tugboat. It is quite pretty.
Steal Our Trip
Bota Bota: Old Port of Montreal, corner of McGill and de la Commune West. T: 514-284-0333 or (toll free) 1-855-284-0333
Bring a bathing suit, flip flops, water bottle and something to read if you plan to lay you.
COST: The cost of the Water Circuit is $60 for unlimited access in a day and $35 for 3 hours access during the week if you enter before 11:00 a.m. (slightly more on the weekend). Discounts are also given for entry after 6:00 p.m. You can do the water circuit without a treatment, and reservations for solely the water circuit are not required, or even accepted. We have been on a variety of days and times of year and have always been able to walk in. Treatments are market price and the prices are listed on the website. Reservations are highly recommended, but Bota Bota does keep a list of available last-minute treatments at the treatment check-in desk on level two.
On A Budget
Go before 11:00 a.m. during the week and take advantage of the 3-hour $35 pass. You can always choose to stay after and pay the full cost if you love it (which you will!). Be sure to reference this special when you pay.