by Jonathan Vatner | February 01, 2006

Frequent spa-goers know the line is fine between a blissful massage and uninspired kneading. To keep savvy consumers apprised of the differences in spa quality, various entities have attempted to spell out which facilities will provide a consistent, pleasant experience.

Mobil Spa Montage in Laguna Beach

The Mobile five-star Spa Montage in Laguna Beach, Calif.

    How valuable these ratings are, however, is up for debate. “There’s no way any rating system is going to be able to give you that personalized feeling for what the experience will be like,” says Jeremy McCarthy, spa director at La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, Calif. For those who still want to check out the rating systems, here are a few options.
    Mobil, the well-respected judge of hotels and restaurants, has rated spas by secret inspection on 450 criteria for two years running. Spas are listed only if they merit three to five stars.
    Leading Spas of the World is a new certification system for the spas within the Leading Hotels of the World portfolio. Not all of Leading Hotels’ spas are included in the 77 that are certified, which lends some credence to the rating system.
    SpaQuality LLC recently started a program that certifies spas and advises them on improving. Unlike the other programs, the SpaExcellence certification can be applied to any spa that forks over the fees; as of press time, only three spas had received the thumbs-up.