By Lola Méndez
A rose-hued salt cave may seem like an odd place to receive a spa treatment, but resorts across the United States are using them to preach the health benefits of halotherapy, the practice of inhaling micro-particles of salt.
Some salt caves are equipped with zero-gravity chairs, while others utilise floor mats. Temperatures vary from sauna-like to air-conditioned. Many have smooth brick walls made of salt, and some are texturised as if a salt grinder exploded on the walls.
The pink Himalayan salt used for the holistic treatment comes from Pakistan, and the practice has roots in Poland. According to the Salt Therapy Association, Feliks Boczkowski began treating asthmatic people at Wieliczka Salt Mine in 1839.
Treatment facilities work to cultivate a relaxing ambience, but scientific proof of health benefits is scarce. A reference and resource guide from the industry's association starts with a disclaimer that dry salt therapy is not FDA-approved for medicinal purposes and "is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease."
If you're searching to remedy congested lungs or skin conditions, salt cave operators can't make any promises. But if you want to try a novel (and aesthetic) spa treatment to decompress, here are five places you can travel to experience halotherapy.
1. Himalayan Retreat at Spa Toscana in Reno, Nevada
The 170-square-foot Himalayan Retreat at Spa Toscana has a wall of back-lit, marbled salt blocks that give off a warm, calming ambiance.
Rates start at $140 (about R2 100) for a 50-minute massage and include complimentary use of the halotherapy room before and after treatments. Guests enter in spa robes and relax on white sofas that line the walls. After breathing in the salted air, take a dip in the spa's circuit of warm and cool pools.
2. Azure Palm Hot Springs in Palm Springs, California
The only Himalayan salt room in Greater Palm Springs is located within this luxurious day spa. The entire room is pure Himalayan salt from floor to ceiling.
Following a Korean tradition, guests lay or sit on bamboo mats placed on the floor over small salt chunks in the 110-degree room.
The back wall is completely covered with glowing, thermally heated Himalayan-salt bricks. The salt room is available by reservation for overnight guests (rooms start at $229 per night).
3. Hocking Hills Serenity Salt Cave in Logan, Ohio
The Hocking Hills Serenity Salt Cave is a man-made cave lined with Himalayan salt, red lights and a thick layer of sand-like salt crystals covering the floor. Sessions cost $35 and last 45 minutes.
The cave can accommodate up to six patrons in zero-gravity recliners. A gift shop sells Himalayan salt trinkets, including a heart-shaped salt block for baths and grey Himalayan salt lamps.
4. Montauk Salt Cave West in Huntington, New York
There are two salt caves at Montauk Salt Cave West. The larger cave is for standard sessions, which cost $40 for 45 minutes in a zero-gravity chair, and is composed entirely of Himalayan salt, from the salt-brick walls to the salt floors.
It is utilised for guided meditations, sound baths, reiki energy healing, and kundalini yoga classes. The smaller cavern is reserved for intimate sessions, such as family halotherapy and private massages.
5. Glacier Salt Cave in Juneau, Alaska
Relax for an hour ($39) among the exquisite pink salt crystals at Glacier Salt Cave. The chamber features salt from the floor to the ceiling, with backlit salt panels on the walls and chunks of salt covering the floor.
The serene cave is complete with relaxing lounge chairs and gigantic salt lamps. You can even book a hot stone massage in the salt haven.