By Amy Lockwood
Looking for the best hot tubs to transform your garden into an oasis of relaxation? You’ve come to the right place.
Along with sourcing the best garden furniture to create areas for laidback lounging, alfresco dining and outdoor entertaining, adding a resort-worthy hot tub to your patio or decking is the ultimate way to optimise enjoyment of the garden – even into the winter months.
Just sit back in the soothing hot jacuzzi bubbles whilst you gaze at the twinkling stars in the night sky and feel the stresses of the day melt away. Sounds good right?
The best news is you don't need a huge budget to be able to relax in the therapeutic waters of a heated hot tub spa. Whilst hard-shell hot tubs can cost from £3,000 to £10,000 – and mean sacrificing garden space to a permanent installation – the best inflatable hot tubs range from just £300 to £1,000, plus they can be deflated and stored away when not in use to free up space, or easily transported if you move house.
We've rounded up the best hot tubs on the Gardeningetc team's radar below, along with pulling together some buying advice to help you make the right purchase for your outside space.
The best hot tubs
1. Lay-Z-Spa Helsinki 7 Person AirJet Hot Tub
Best hot tub overall: a premium inflatable hot tub
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
One of the best hot tubs for balancing performance and price, the Lay-Z-Spa Helsinki hot tub may be inflatable, but it still packs a powerful punch as an outdoor spa.
Easy to inflate, this blow-up hot tub has much thinner walls than most other inflatables, which makes for more space inside the hot tub and allows up to 7 adults to enjoy a spa experience at one time (although we think 5 people ensures everyone has comfortable leg-room).
Despite the thin outer walls this hot tub still feels sturdy, and – inspired by traditional Scandinavian wooden hot tubs – the wood-effect print on the rigid exterior makes it look a lot less 'paddling pool' than most!
Equipped with Lay-Z-Spa's 'FreezeShield' technology to prevent the water from freezing, even in a British winter, this hot tub is designed for year-round use, so offers extended value compared to cheaper, summer-only models.
It can also heat, massage and filter all at the same time, with a powerful integrated 180 air jet system offering a welcome jacuzzi experience. Bliss!
2. Lay-Z-Spa Cancun 2-4 Person Hot Tub
Best cheap hot tub: the most affordable inflatable option
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
One of the most affordable hot tubs on the market, the Lay-Z-Spa Cancun offers good value for money – even if its looks are a little 'paddling pool' like!
Although this has the same outer diameter as the Lay-Z-Spa Helsinki, the thick inflatable walls dramatically reduce the space inside, meaning although four adults will fit, it's probably going to be most comfortable for two people to relax in comfortably.
On the flip side, the smaller internal measurements mean less water usage – it holds 669 litres compared to the Helsinki's 1,123 litre capacity – which also means less energy needs to be used in heating the water and maintaining the temperature.
And although it has 120 air jets compared to the Helsinki's 180 offering, there are still plenty of bubbles for a full body massage.
Overall, if you're looking for the cheapest hot tub for two – or a few more at a push – this affordable hot tub offers a great way to unwind in the garden.
3. Canadian Spa 4 Person Hot Tub
Best hard-shell hot tub: the ultimate outdoor spa experience
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
For a hot tub that has all the bells and whistles you could desire, this Canadian Spa four-seater hot tub delivers the ultimate outdoor spa experience.
This is a 'proper' hard-shell hot tub – no inflating required – and its high-quality frame is designed to last for years and years, with no worries about punctures or deflation.
However, that does mean it's going to take up a lot more space to store, or it will need a permanent spot in the garden. It's also pretty bulky when delivered compared to a compact inflatable hot tub – so make sure you check any access restrictions first.
It seats up to four at a time, with the shaped seats offering individual hydro-massage jets that can be individually adjusted to alter the water jet pressure, and it's feature-packed; enjoy LED mood lighting, a backlit cascading waterfall, a Bluetooth sound system, and a built-in aromatherapy canister to enhance the spa-like experience.
It also offers a self-cleaning water sanitation system with ozone purification filters and digital controls to adjust the temperature and economy settings.
It has the highest price tag on our list, but if you're after the ultimate hot tub we think this is one of the best hot tubs for a luxury spa experience.
4. Lay Z Spa Bali 2-4 Person LED Hot Tub
Best inflatable hot tub with LED lights: the party option
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
For only a little bit more of an investment than the Lay-Z-Spa Cancun – the most affordable hot tub on our list – the Lay-Z-Spa Bali offers all of the same features, including a 120 air jet spa experience, easy inflation, and enough room for four adults, plus remote-controlled LED lights to wow your guests with night-time illuminations.
Seven different LED colour options – all at the simple touch of a button – allow you to fine-tune the evening's ambience; from deep relaxation to high-energy party time.
If you're looking for wow-factor – that won't break the bank – then this could well be the best hot tub for you.
5. Lay-Z-Spa Milan Wi-Fi Controlled Hot Tub
Best smart hot tub: control your tub with Alexa or Google Assistant
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The second-largest capacity hot tub on our list (the Lay-Z-Spa Helsinki claims to fit seven adults), the six-person Lay-Z-Spa Milan offers spacious soaking plus a wealth of smart-tech features.
Make sure your hot tub is ready to use as soon as you get home by downloading the app to Android or Apple devices. Then you can turn on, turn off, set the temperature, activate the timer, and even control the bubbles; all done remotely from your mobile device.
And for hands-free enjoyment once you're in the water, you can control everything from the massage system to the temperature using voice-activated commands via Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. All that, plus 140 air jets to relax you into a blissful state of unwind.
If smart-tech and convenience matter to you, this could well be the best hot tub for you.
6. SKARGARDS PANEL 190 Wooden Hot Tub
Best wooden hot tub: a classic Scandinavian design
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
For a hot tub that definitely isn't an eyesore – although does come with an increased price tag – we love Skargard's classic Scandinavian wooden hot tub range.
The 4-5 person Panel 190 hot tub has a huge 1800 litre water capacity, and a stylish real wood-panelled exterior made of eco-certified 'Thermowood' (crafted via an environmentally friendly thermal process that results in a weather-resistant outer shell).
As with all traditional wooden hot tubs, the log-fired stove is submerged in the bathing water to heat it directly and effectively, with heat transfer optimised thanks to the cylindrical stove design.
Except for final steps, such as attaching the flue, the Panel hot tub arrives completely pre-assembled and ready-to-use, and because it doesn't rely on electricity you can truly place it anywhere – including a remote spot in the woods if you wish. And, unlike a permanent structure, you can still take it with you should you move (although admittedly with less convenience than deflating an inflatable option).
Best of all, the idea of the Scandinavian hot tub is for it to be used once like a bath, so rather than using harsh chemicals that most hot tubs rely on, Skarguard encourages its customers to reuse the water to irrigate their gardens.
The only downside? No bubbles or LED lights. But if you're considering this option, you're likely to be more interested in the simple yet well-crafted design than any flashy bells-and-whistles.
Where to buy hot tubs in-stock now
Just like everything garden-related, this year the best hot tubs are selling out fast!
If our top picks aren't in stock right now, and you don't want to wait, then you can use our handy in-stock shopping tool below to find an option that's ready to deliver. Just scroll to the right to view more options at a gradually increasing price point.
Black Friday hot tub deals
If you're shopping for a hot tub this month, it's worth us mentioning that Black Friday is now just around the corner. Always the last Friday of November, this year the price-slashing event is set to fall on Friday 26th November 2021, and it could mean some great deals on big-ticket items like hot tubs.
The term Black Friday originated in the US to denote the first day following Thanksgiving, when retailers would cut prices to draw holidaymakers to shop their store's sales. But, the event is now big news in the UK too, and has also spread to encompass more than one day, with many retailers starting their 'Black Friday' events earlier and earlier to try to get ahead of the competition.
This can be good news if you're looking for a bargain buy for the garden, as many outdoor retailers now get in on the action and offer some good sales. Although, as with any sale, it's important to keep a level head and not get too swayed by the reductions stickers. After all, when it comes to a high-priced item like a hot tub, function and practicality are just as important as the price. However, the event does remain a good opportunity to snap up a potential bargain on an item you've had your eye on for a while.
We'll be collating all the best Black Friday garden deals in our dedicated hub, as well as keeping you up to date with the best Black Friday hot tub deals as they land, and the best garden furniture deals, patio heater, and BBQ deals.
Where to position your hot tub
As long as you put your hot tub on a solid base and can run electrics to it (unless you've opted for a stove-fired option) you can put it anywhere! However, it is always advised to use a RCD-protected socket and not an extension lead.
The area required of course depends on the size of the hot tub you choose; around 2 metres circumference for the hot tub itself, plus 50cm additional access room, therefore 3 square metres overall, should be enough room.
Corner spots are good for providing a little shelter from the wind, however, having your hot tub right next to the wall of your home is probably too close. The steam that comes from the water may seep into windows and water splashed from the tub may cause a slippery walkway.
You'll also want to avoid placing it under a tree to prevent leaves and debris from raining down while you're soaking.
How to choose from the best hot tubs
Portable or static? An inflatable hot tub isn't just a cost-effective choice, it also means it doesn’t have to sit in one spot year on year, plus you can deflate it easily to store it away when it's not in use – or even pack it up and take it on holiday if you like! A hassle-free option, an inflatable hot tub comes packaged in a compact box, and just requires unfolding, inflating, and then filling with water – which you may need to allow 1-2 hours for depending on water pressure.
Built-in hot tubs are a more expensive, permanent option although they can be a beautiful feature in the garden, which can be blended in with a choice of surround. This style requires much more thinking about and specialist involvement as it may need to be craned in, depending on its size and the access to your garden.
Two, four, six-person or more? How large your outdoor space is and how many people you're expecting to use the hot tub at any one time will, of course, impact your hot tub choice. When choosing just bear in mind that hot tub marketing can often be a little optimistic... so what's described as 6-person hot tub often means that although 6 people can fit in it, it may not result in quite the relaxing experience you were hoping for. So if you want a bit more legroom and space to recline, upping your budget and buying a hot tub marketed as for 1-2 people more than will regularly use it can be well worth the investment.
How many air jets? The jets are what get the bubbles going in a hot tub, so it's important to have lots of them, although, of course, the more jets generally the higher the hot tub price.
As a rule, inflatable hot tubs should have ten times more jets than that of a hard shell hot tub, although with the latter you can look out for pressure controls so you can adjust the strength of the jets from rigorous massaging to gentle burble as you prefer.
Do you need a hot tub cover?
Some hot tubs come with a cover included, which can be very useful for insulating and maintaining the temperature when the tub isn't in use, as well of course for making the open water is protected and safe for children using the garden, and for preventing debris from blowing in.
Along with a cover you might also want to think about a covering for over the top of the hot tub whilst you're in it. This can be especially useful on sunny days when you want some protection from the rays beating down, or if you want some shelter from the drizzle!
If you don't have a permanent canopy that's suitable then check out our guide to the best gazebos for some budget buys.
How to clean your hot tub
Enjoy crystal clear waters with our guide to how to clean a hot tub, including once-a-week maintenance, and the monthly actions you should take to keep things running smoothly.
More great ideas for your garden
If you want to enjoy your hot tub even when the sun is beating down, make sure you check out our guide to the best garden parasols for some much-needed shade, or whet your appetite for the good times to come with more luxurious hot tub ideas.
Amy writes about interiors and decoration for Livingetc, Homes & Gardens and Real Homes, bringing her design expertise outdoors into the garden for Gardeningetc.
Initially honing her green thumb growing indoor plants in her first-floor apartment, Amy greatly appreciates the benefits we gain from coexisting with plants, including improved wellbeing, air purification, and reductions in the chemical VOCs that are slowly released into our homes from manmade materials.
Amy’s wider interest in gardening embraces the design principles of permaculture; considering how we can best balance our valuable outdoor spaces to restore health to our own patches of soil, boost diversity for plants and wildlife, grow healthy nutritionally-dense food, and embrace outdoor living with style-conscious design that helps us to relax, entertain and improve our overall wellbeing through relationship with nature.
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