Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa
Earns a flawed (rather than four) diamond rating
The Harrison Hot
Springs Resort is the leading and largest place to stay in
the town, and the only place with the hot spring water fed
pools. As such, choosing to stay there becomes almost
a foregone conclusion for many visitors.
three of a four part series on Harrison Hot Springs, BC;
part one is an Introduction
to Harrison Hot Springs, part two suggests
where else to stay and eat, and part
four offers suggestions on
what to see and do.
The Harrison Hot Springs Resort
is such an important mainstay of the town that we've chosen to
devote a full web page entirely to discussing the resort - the
hotel in general, its rooms, its restaurants, its spa and its
While it suffers from
imperfections, it is fair to say that it is a better than
average property and that most people who accept it for what it
truly is - rather than for what it claims to be - will be
pleased with their stay.
The Harrison Hot
Springs Resort & Spa
The 'best' place to stay, for most people when visiting the area, is the Harrison Hot
Springs Resort. Not only does this offer the best standard
of accommodation, it is also the only place (other than the very
unappealing Public Pool) where you can bathe in the hot spring
This exclusivity is reinforced by not allowing non-guests to
visit their lovely pools (the indoor circular pool is pictured
left). You can't buy a 'day pass' or a 'pool
pass', and it is difficult to, ahem, sneak in to the pools because access to the pools is controlled by requiring you
to swipe your room key-card to get through the door into the
Quite apart from its positive features, it also controls the
largest slice of rooms in Harrison Hot Springs. In all
respects, the Harrison Hot Springs Resort is the massive
dominant tourism force in the town. It has 337 rooms; the other
two hotels of note have a mere 130 in total between them.
The resort is the major accommodation choice for visitors, it is
the major employer, and it is one of the only two places where
you can enjoy the hot springs, so for most people, like it or
not, you'll choose to stay at the resort.
And many people do like it.
The hotel has built up a dedicated following over the years, and
now has a long tradition of families returning on a regular
basis. Children who came with their parents are now
bringing their own families.
As well as long time regular guests, the resort also enjoys a
very stable workforce, and has some staff who have worked there
for over 30 years. Some guests request to stay in rooms that will be
serviced by a particular housekeeper, and will ask for the same
waiter in The Copper Room or in The Lakeside Cafe.
Unfortunately, the combination of being the dominant market
force in town and the slightly 'inner circle' of long term
guests and long term employees may sometimes make a first time
guest feel a bit uncomfortable.
As a result, one starts off being slightly apprehensive about
what to expect at the resort. One can of course understand the commercial
good sense in their hard line approach of restricting pool
access to house guests only, but the unwelcoming attitude to non-guests can be seen
in other areas as well.
For example, perhaps you might
decide to go and dine in their 'Copper Room' upmarket restaurant
that they are so proud of, and follow that up with an after dinner drink in their bar.
And then, before leaving the hotel, you decide to visit the
restroom. Sorry - no can do. The restrooms opposite
the bar are restricted to hotel guests only - you have to swipe
your room's keycard to gain admission to the restroom!
Oh, and talking about the keycards, my keycard kept losing its
data. It was so bad that one time I got my card replaced, then
went directly up to the room, but during the short distance and
very few minutes, the card had already lost its information
again, requiring another one of (in total) six trips to reception for card
replacements (during the course of a two day stay).
to think I wasn't the only guest with that problem, because
rather than being surprised and puzzled with the phenomenon, the
staff at the front desk instead had a series of excuses why this
was my fault not their fault ready to offer each time I
One other thing that sticks in my memory. I went to buy a
cup of coffee at their coffee shop, and the person working there
refused to charge it to my room unless I showed her the slip of
paper I got when checking in to confirm I was a hotel guest.
I never keep those slips of paper, and no other hotel anywhere
in the world ever demands to see it. On rare occasion,
when it becomes an issue, the hotel staff member will simply
check my name and room number with the front desk or in their
point of sale computer terminal, but in this
case, the woman refused to do that and told me I had to go and
get a new guest slip from reception before she'd allow me to
charge a $1.75 coffee to my room (I had no cash in my pockets at
One of the other guests present offered to buy me a coffee to
save me the bother (lines at reception being often long), which
made me feel rather like a homeless person, being given a cup of coffee
by a well meaning stranger!
Talking about reception, the hotel is one of those that requires
you to show photo ID when checking in. A nasty little way
of saying 'we don't trust you'.
Once last negative impression. You have to pay to park
your car at the hotel. Okay - you might think this a
trivial complaint, but in a town where land values are clearly
far from sky high, being asked to pay C$5/night to park your car
several hundred yards behind the back of the hotel, in a
regular open parking lot rather than a covered garage of any sort
seems a bit excessive.
On the other hand, while you're charged for parking your car,
internet in the room is free. As silly as it may seem, I'd
actually feel better if the hotel offered free parking and
instead charged the same amount (or more!) a day for internet access.
However, having expressed these negatives, happily there is
actually a lot to like about the hotel.
The main public areas of the resort are set in the historic
central building that was built in 1925, but you have no hint of
the building's 80+ year age inside. The interior is warm,
welcoming and appealingly lush, without being garish or 'over
the top', with lots of warm wood.
There is a nice bar, and lots of lobby space, some half a level
up from the entrance lobby foyer. The photo shows part of
the foyer areas, including a giant bear dressed in a RCMP
Accommodation Choices at the Resort
As part of the 337 different rooms at the property, there is a massively confusing multitude of
different room types to choose from. Key issues to
consider (apart from the cost of the room) would be things like
how close the room is to the hot pools, and what type of view
you get, whether or not you have a balcony, and room size.
There are five major areas of the hotel that you can first
choose between, and then within each of these there are
individual variations such as view, room size and standard of
furnishings and fittings.
In possible order of quality/desirability, from least to most
desirable, these different room areas are :
The rooms in the old historic building are perhaps the least
appealing (but also sometimes the least expensive). The
rooms are the smallest of the various different areas, and are not air conditioned, but do have ceiling fans,
and possess a slightly more dated (but in a nice way) feel to
them than the more modern rooms in the other parts of the
property. However, they are also the best value rooms in
the property, so if you're seeking the best price, these would
likely be your choice, the same as they are for many other
Next up in quality would be the West Wing. The rooms are slightly
smaller than the West Tower rooms, and there are no balconies.
I stayed in the West Tower on the top (sixth) floor, and those
rooms are probably the best rooms in the hotel (pictured). They were
tastefully furnished to a high standard, were comfortable and
spacious, and had lovely views from the balcony out onto the
lake. The rooms on floors 1 - 5 are not as recently
refurbished or decorated to as high a standard as on floor 6
(and of course, the views aren't quite as good either). On
the other hand, some of the ground floor rooms allow you to walk
out of your room and directly to the pool, and that is a
brilliantly convenient option.
There is also an East Tower.
The rooms in this block are further from the
pool than the West Tower.
The East Tower is the newest accommodation block
(opened in 1988) and has the largest rooms, plus balconies
In addition to the regular rooms, there are also a few free standing cottages
that are potentially pleasant during the summer, but which would
not be nearly so nice in the colder/wetter months. These
cottages are also not air conditioned, and with not all windows
having screens, cooling the cottage while keeping the bugs out
could be a challenge. They are fairly bare inside, but as
a bonus, they are pet friendly, so if you're traveling with your
dog, these would be a great place to choose.
Some people suggest you should avoid the rooms that overlook the
pools due to noise concerns. I didn't actually notice much
noise from the pools while I was in them, but perhaps earlier in
the day, and at a busier time of year, the children's pool might
be conceivably full of noisy laughing shrieking children.
In any event, I'd rather look out over the lake than to the
pool, which feels slightly voyeuristic and also reduces one's
own privacy in return.
The hotel sometimes has internet specials, so check
website before booking. I asked Ian Maw, their
Director of Sales and Marketing, for tips on when to find the
best values. He replied :
are always busier during school breaks (eg weekends, long
weekends, school breaks, summer vacation and the Christmas -
New Years period) because we are primarily a family product.
The best value is always midweek (Sunday - Thursday),
especially in the low season months of November and
December. For seniors and those who do not work the
'traditional' work week, this is the time to come.
Dining at the Harrison Hot Springs Resort
There are four different dining choices at the resort, ranging
from the self-proclaimed very grand Copper Room to breakfast
buffets and bar snacks.
Not all four places are open for all meals, and some are open
restricted hours outside of the main tourist season. In
the off-season, there is only one place for dinner most nights - the Copper
Room. Better plan on eating some of your meals outside of
the hotel in such a case.
The Copper Room at Harrison Hot Springs Resort
This is an ostentatious restaurant and open for dinners only, seven nights a week.
It is located in a separate building at the back of the complex,
and there are no views of note from the windows.
The Copper Room is an enormous and somewhat unattractive room,
with tables arranged around and their seating facing in towards
a central dance floor, with a place for a band at the center top
of the room. The (Monday) night I was there saw the room
three quarters empty, and while it seemed that curtains could be
drawn to partition it into at least three smaller areas and
close off some of the empty space, for
some reason this wasn't done and so instead of filling a smaller
and more lively area, it was a large and mainly empty room.
The restaurant proudly imposes a dress code on dining patrons
that is reminiscent of the 1960s or earlier. These days
most places are content to rely on the good sense of their
diners, but this place imposes a dress code as part
of its attempt to create a semblance of a very high class dining
But, somehow, it fails in its strident attempt. Instead of
being impressed by an exclusive high class atmosphere and the
gentility of the experience, I was instead dismayed at its
artificiality, and somehow everything just felt wrong and out of
place. The ambience was wrong, the music was wrong, and
while the food was good, overall I felt awkward rather than
comfortable, and was pleased to hurry out of the room as soon as
the food was finished.
It reminded me of some wedding receptions I've attended - large
rooms with lots of tables and chairs all pushed closely
together, and a forced feeling of joviality and conviviality
that few of us really shared.
four course Table d'hote dinner one night at the Copper Room is often included in the hotel's packages - one
wonders just how much business the restaurant would receive if
people were not being 'given' included meals there.
I dined off the full menu - pictured is a nicely presented and
very well cooked piece of halibut with absolutely perfect
asparagus and a nice sauce.
The music was 1960s/1970s 'lounge lizard' type
music played by four musicians who happily treated themselves to
generous length breaks. On occasion some brave couples
would get up and shuffle briefly around the dance floor. I
felt embarrassed for them, even though they seemed blithely
The dance floor itself was not your traditional hardwood floor.
Instead, in something that threatened to evoke memories of the
disco era that are best forgotten by most of us, it was a series
of backlit translucent light panels - all we needed was for the
lights to start flashing around the squares semi-randomly in
changing pastel colors, and a reflective mirror ball to start
revolving and flashing in one's eyes above the dance floor, and
the ambience would be complete (or, perhaps, completely
Something I've never seen before is lampshades on the candles at
each table. That perhaps best signifies the Copper Room -
it tries too hard to be something that it isn't, and fails in
While the resort makes a big deal of its Copper Room
restaurant, I think the overall experience would be
greatly improved if they made less of a deal and allowed for a
more casual and relaxed atmosphere, which would be much more in
keeping with the ambience of the town and the vacation style
most of us seek to experience there. However,
imperfections notwithstanding, this is probably the town's best
eatery, and is also the most expensive one.
Main courses cost approximately C$30 - 40. The food was
good, but not outstanding, and was nicely plated onto
distinctively shaped crockery. A moderate wine list was
offered, but, surprisingly, no beer was available on tap.
The Lakeside Cafe
This is a large dining room which primarily serves buffet
breakfasts. Many times your hotel stay may include buffet
breakfast, and so you can expect to dine here in such a case.
It is located on the second floor of the east wing, and is
fronted by a row of windows that look out and over to the lake.
The breakfast buffet was ordinary rather than special, and the
hot items did not change from morning to morning. No items
were cooked to order.
An inefficient front desk at the cafe made for appreciable waits before one
was seated, and instead of simply having a printed out list of
guests/rooms with included breakfast, if you had an included
breakfast you had to give the wait staff a provided voucher.
The Lakeside Cafe is also open for a la carte lunches, and
for buffet dinners on Friday and Saturday nights (Italian theme
on Fridays, Prime Rib on Saturdays for only C$22) and
additionally during the week in peak periods. They offer a
la carte dinners as well as the buffet dinners.
Reminiscent of a typical Starbucks, but with slightly more food
choices, Miss Margaret's is located at one end of the hotel
lobby. I can't comment on the food because the server
refused to allow me to charge even a C$1.75 to my room without
showing her my hotel check-in receipt.
A nice bar running along the front of the hotel on the east end
of the main entrance foyer and on the upper ground level, this
bar allegedly stays open until at least midnight, but may close
sooner on the whim of the bar staff (11.30pm in my case), so if
you're relying on a late night refreshment, it pays to check
The bar is of an open design so you can be seated in the bar
area even when the bar itself is shuttered. Bar snacks as
well as drinks are available.
The Healing Springs Spa at Harrison Hot Springs Resort & Spa
The Healing Springs Spa was opened in 2001, and offers both the
traditional range of spa treatments plus also specific
additional things to make use of the mineral water. The
spa is in a separate building and is accessed at the end of a
distinctive walkway (pictured).
Their treatments range from the simplistic - soaking in a
private mineral pool for 20 minutes with nothing else included,
priced at C$55 for one person or C$65 for a couple, to the extensive -
a five hour 'Grand Indulgence' for C$405. One hour
massages are about C$115.
Some treatments are for an individual and some are designed for
a couple to share.
The interior of the spa features lovely woods and is warm and
inviting. People who visited the spa reported that the
attendants and masseuses were all competent and friendly and
seemed very pleased with their experiences.
The Healing Springs Spa is open seven days a week, and you
should book the package you want in advance.
The Five Mineral Pools
The most distinctive feature of the hotel is, of course, its five
mineral pools. Water is piped from where it comes out of
the ground (you can walk along the lakeside to visit the source,
which is no more than a quarter mile away) to the five pools,
and some water is 'donated' to the public pool in the center of
The water that comes from the ground is too hot and so is mixed
with regular water to adjust the temperature down to the
mid/high 90s (Fahrenheit, about 35 - 37°C).
Two of the pools are indoor pools - a circular pool
(pictured) and a lap
pool (at a cooler temperature of 85°F/30°C)
in anticipation of you exercising in it), and they are in
a lovely building with lots of beautiful wood beams that is shared with the Healing Springs Spa.
The other three pools are outdoors. There is a lap pool,
also at the cooler temperature, a family pool which is at about
90-94°F (32-34°C) and an adult pool
at 96-100°F (35-38°C).
The adult pool isn't quite as salacious as its name may imply!
Swimwear is required; the adult concept merely refers to water
depth and a preference for noisy children to be kept away.
The adult pool
(pictured) in particular is beautifully set in bushy
grounds, and is of a curving irregular shape, with covered
boardwalks on one side, and sitting areas around it too.
It has a delightful ambience, especially in the evening, with
mood lighting and misty steam rising from the water giving a
sense of privacy, even in what is a fairly large pool.
Keeping public hot pools safe and free of nasty bacteria is
always a problem. As discussed in the article on
Sol Duc, one
approach involves closing them for an hour at a time several
times a day while the water is rinsed out and replaced.
The problem with this approach is obvious - Murphy's Law
mandates that when you most want to go in the pool, it will be
closed for cleaning.
The resort has adopted a different approach, and is following
the applicable local health regulations. The good news is
the pools are open all day long from early until late. The bad news is that the sulphur content has been filtered out of the water before it
gets to the pools (presumably to eliminate the smell), and chlorine has been
added to keep the water free of bacteria.
The net result is a hot water pool, in a lovely setting, but
with less of the mineral content remaining, and with the sulphur
smell (admittedly an acquired sensation!) being replaced instead
with a chlorine smell.
To me, part of a natural mineral hot pool experience is the
smell. That is lacking here - the only smell is the
unappealing smell of chlorine, much as you get from any other
pool. This detracted greatly from my enjoyment of the
pools, but perhaps you'll not be as bothered by this as I was.
Read more in Parts 1, 2 and 4
Be sure to read the
information in the other parts of this series -
part one is an
Introduction to Harrison Hot
Springs, part two suggests
where else to stay and eat, and part
four offers suggestions on
what to see and do.
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5 Dec 2008, last update
28 May 2011
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.