Full disclosure: Burke Williams is our day spa of choice here at Spa Manners. We are Beyond Members, which means that we pay a monthly fee that gets us into the spa whenever we like to use the facilities and $89 worth of services per month.
There’s a reason we are BW members — we regularly enjoy the facilities (like the steam room and sauna), and we also get massages from our preferred massage therapists at least twice per month, more when we are injured, stressed or have come back from travelling.
Burke Williams is the best day spa in our area, probably the best in all the California areas it serves. While there are no outdoor amenities, Burke Williams has plenty to offer indoors: a coed lounge serving healthy snacks and beverages, a separate quiet room each for men and women, and separate spas for men and women which have a dry sauna, steam room, cool misting room, jacuzzi whirlpool and private showers. The vanity areas are equipped with beauty and hair products that help you get ready to go back out and face the world.
What I like about Burke Williams in particular is that they pay attention to the small details: they offer face soap, toner, and a face moisturizer with SPF in it, for instance. Many spas don’t even think to offer these things, but I think they’re really important should you need to wash your face after a massage or a long session in the steam room and then plan on going out afterwards.
Since Burke Williams is committed to providing their guests with comfort and tranquility, they really have figured out the best ways to accomplish this and anticipate their spa-goers’ needs. The quiet room is such a basic necessity in a spa that you would think every spa has one. Unfortunately this is not the case and so far in all the spas I’ve visited, Burke is the only day spa to have one. The quiet room at Burke is literally the only place in the spa where you can count on silence from spa-goers — the entrance has a sign reading “no talking, please” — and most spa-goers mind their manners and adhere to the rule.
Although there are other “quiet please” signs around the spa, quite a few spa-goers these days either don’t notice the signs or choose to ignore the rule. This is especially true in the whirlpool jacuzzi, where many a time I have noticed California girls acting as if this area was a party in their backyard. To get around this, I have to find my Zen when these party people aren’t around, and that usually means I’m scheduling treatments and sauna sessions during late evenings.
In terms of treatments, Burke Williams offers pretty much everything you could want from a spa. From fancy baths to facials to massages, they’ve got something for everyone.
Burke offers a wide range of massage styles, but I get a customized deep tissue every time. I have two preferred massage therapists, each with different styles. One therapist is great for a deep-tissue sports or injury-related massage. Very functional, gets the knots out, fixes the worst neck and shoulder problems in 80 minutes. The other is great for deep tissue and pure relaxation massages, but from a more nurturing, calming angle. If I want to have a more quiet healing session, I request this therapist. It took a bad case of massage-induced whiplash, several other therapists and spas before I found my two favorite massage gurus. We’ve written a little piece about how to find the right massage therapist based on our experiences so you can avoid getting hurt on a massage table.
I have tried almost all of the types of massage offered at Burke except for the pregnancy massage and the “specialized modalities” which include Reiki and Lymphatic Massage. I would say that all are great massages to try until you find which one(s) work best for you, but there are two that I found were a bit odd, simply because I didn’t know what to expect.
The first was the Shiatsu. I had only seen this on TV and didn’t really know if that was an accurate representation of Shiatsu. I went in thinking I was about to get pressure points massaged, but didn’t really know what that involved exactly. Well, Shiatsu turned out to be a lot of stretching with pressure applied to different “meridians” (acupoints) on the body. At one point, I was laying on my front, the therapist was sitting on the table behind me in between my legs, pulling me backwards and upwards by my arms, arching my back, digging his heel in my back. Yep, that was definitely unexpected. And it pretty much continued with further contortions and acupoint pressure. I didn’t leave that massage table relaxed.
The signature Burke Williams Massage is touted as a “unique experience” and it’s definitely a bit odd — it includes a scrub with Chinese herbs to polish your skin, so it feels as though you should be in the wet room but you aren’t. If you’re short on time and can’t get a wet room scrub that involves a massage, then this is a decent alternative, but I would suggest not skimping and making time for both a wet room scrub and a massage that’s customized for your needs.
Scrubs and Body Treatments
Burke Williams offers a few signature treatments that involve body scrubs. I have gotten both sugar and salt scrubs, and I’ve decided that I like the sugar scrub better. Sugar is less abrasive than the salt and is therefore a more relaxing treatment. Although you can ask your therapist to tone down the pressure of the scrubbing action, salt is still very rough. After getting salt treatments, my skin always felt raw. The Hunter’s Retreat, Savannah’s Surrender and the Parafango wet room signature body treatments leave you soft, polished, moisturized and relaxed. Emilee’s Intrigue is more massage therapy-based with a eucalyptus interlude that supposedly boosts your immune system. I’m not sure about the efficacy of that, but it sure does help you breathe better if you have a stuffy nose.
I liked the facials and the aestheticians at Burke when I got them a few years ago but my facial skin needs are now very specific so I go elsewhere for facials. I would go again if I needed some kind of post-travel deep cleaning or an oxygen facial for a pre-party glow and my regular aesthetician wasn’t available.
Sadly, at my preferred Burke location they no longer do nail treatments but when they had them, they were great.
Everyone at Burke Williams is trained to have the best spa manners possible. From the reservations desk to the spa attendants, all BW staff are excellent at anticipating your needs with a smile and gentle demeanor while you are in their care looking for Zen. If anything goes wrong (and sometimes, invariably it does) they do their best to make it right.
If you can afford it, being a member at Burke Williams is probably one of the best investments you can make for your health and sanity because you can enjoy the spa regularly and frequently. If you can only dish out for spa time once in a while, it’s worth it to spend as much time at Burke Williams as you have because of the number of amenities in the facility, the variety of treatments at the price-points offered, and the outstanding service from the entire staff. You really can have a mini spa getaway just around the corner if you are fortunate enough to have a Burke Williams in your area.
- Steam Room
- Indoor Whirlpool Jacuzzi
- Quiet Rooms
- Coed Lounge
- Vanity Areas with Hair and Beauty Products
- Private Showers
$$$$ – Pricey
Burke Williams has locations in:
- San Francisco
- San Jose
- Santa Monica
- West Hollywood
- Sherman Oaks
- Mission Viejo
Spa Hours of Operation:
7 Days a Week, 8am-10pm
Appointments from 9am-9pm
How to book an appointment:
Choose your treatment from the menu of services on burkewilliamsspa.com and then book an appointment online (you must register to use the system) or call 1-866-239-6635 to speak with a BW guest services rep.