By Emily Grant published
Looking for the best hot tubs? You've come to the right place. From luxurious spas with all the bells and whistles to the best inflatable hot tubs and even the cheapest hot tubs (that will still soak away your cares), we’ve pulled together our pick of the best spas for your backyard.
After all, having a hot tub in your yard is the ultimate luxury, providing instant relaxation for you, your family, and your friends. Stress-relieving hydrotherapy helps you decompress after a long day. And it’s good for you too. Studies have connected a hot soak to better sleep, a stronger immune system, pain relief and cardiovascular health.
Opulent though they are, backyard spas are no longer just for the wealthy. Many affordable options are now available that can be placed just about anywhere in your yard without lengthy and costly installation; with most of our top picks you can simply fill up, plug in and relax.
Looking to create the perfect backyard haven? Check out our guide to the best outdoor furniture to complete your patio set up, otherwise read on to find the best hot tub for you.
Best hot tubs 2021
Best overall hot tub: an easy to set up inflatable with massaging jets that rival a hard-shell
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The Bestway SaluSpa Hawaii inflatable hot tub takes the top spot on our best hot tubs round-up for a variety of reasons, ultimately because it's the perfect balance of performance and price.
Equipped with a massage and hydrojet system, the hot tub offers two different relaxation experiences. Firstly, the 'massage' system button pushes air through a series of holes that run along the edge of the inside of the hot tub, creating plenty of bubbles. In our opinion, this doesn't provide a massage as such, but does create the classic jacuzzi experience.
But then there's the hydrojet function. Once you hit this button, it starts the two jets that are placed in each corner of the hot tub. These offer a proper massage on your back, and are a large part of the reason this hot tub takes first place on our list; rivaling hard-shell jet performance at a fraction of the price. Although - unlike many hard-shell options - there isn't an option to adjust these jets. All users we invited into our test hot tub found the pressure just right though.
Performance aside, the appearance is a little kiddie paddling pool like, but the thick inflatable sides felt structurally sturdy when we were inside - the only downside is the lack of built-in seating you'd get with a hard-shell model.
We also liked the fact that this hot tub could be left outside in slightly cooler temperatures than most of its inflatable cousins. Bestway suggests that users shouldn’t use the spa if the outside temperature dips to 14˚F, although in the manual it does advise that you should consider packing it away if temperatures fall below 42.8˚F.
Best large inflatable hot tub: a super spacious hot tub with thin outer walls and faux-wood panelling
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
If you want a little more space than the Bestway SaluSpa Hawaii offers, then the Helsinki is one of the largest inflatable hot tubs we've come across.
It has been cleverly designed with thin, rigid - yet still inflatable - outer walls so that you have more space inside without taking up your whole yard; in fact, there's room for the whole family, although we do think the manufacturer's claim of 7 adults is a bit of a squeeze. And, although not as robust as a hard-shell option, the rigid outer walls do feel durable and sturdy.
This option also offers a point of difference to your usual inflatable hot tub, with the thin outer walls and faux wood-paneling print making it look less kiddie pool and more luxury spa than other blow-up options on the market. Although that does mean it's also one of the most expensive inflatable hot tubs on the market
As it is inflatable, it's also super easy to set up, especially as this model has a built-in digital inflation pump. There's also a power-saving button that lets you set a timer for when you want the spa to heat up, reducing energy wastage when the hot tub isn't in use.
One big drawback is the fact it can’t be used in temperatures below 39 degrees Fahrenheit, so doesn't perform quite as well as the Bestway Hawaii model in this regard. It should survive in mild winters, but in the northern states or Canada it would need to be stowed away. Fortunately, that's very easy to do - just deflate and pack away.
The other downside is that although there are a high number of massaging jets - 83, in fact - the Helsinki doesn’t have the hydrojets that the Hawaii model offers, which we found to be the most useful jets for delivering a good achey-muscle massage, although theymassage jets do create lots of bubbles!
Get the full lowdown in our Bestway SaluSpa Helsinki AirJet Inflatable Hot Tub Spa review.
3. Canadian Spa Company Saskatoon 12 Jet Plug and Play Hot Tub
Best hard-shell hot tub: a quintessential hot tub that provides year-round stress relief for you and your family
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
If our number one best hot tub is a little too inflatable for your liking, then the Canadian Spa Company Saskatoon spa is a good medium-sized hard-shell option that is almost as easy to set up.
It has 12 hydrotherapy jets with adjustable pressure and additional directional and rotational controls to suit your massage mood, and it's built with high-density closed-cell spray foam insulation and a heat reclamation system to make it energy-efficient. This means you can save energy, and money on your electricity bill, and also ensures your tub stays warm year-round, even in harsh Canadian winters.
This heating system is pretty impressive considering it runs on a standard 110v plug, so you don’t need to hire a professional to wire it in. Many plug-and-play options are not winter-friendly as they can’t draw as much power as 220v spas.
It also has an ozone water care system that keeps water clean using fewer chemicals than traditional systems, and it's an aesthetically pleasing hot tub to look at, with wooden paneling on the outer walls and LED lighting in several colors allowing you to customize your spas look.
It is more expensive than the best inflatable hot tubs, but is still good value for a hard-shell hot tub. Plus, this model allows you to wind down and warm up all winter long.
4. Backcountry Recreation Deluxe Wood Fired Hot Tub With Liner
Best wood burning hot tub: a traditional hot tub that makes a statement in your backyard
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
If you’re looking to wow your neighbors, then this wood-burning hot tub makes a super elegant statement in your yard.
For the ultimate in flexibility, you can place this hot tub just about anywhere as it doesn’t require any electric hook-up at all. The stove in this wood-burning tub creates a vacuum causing the water to circulate and heat up naturally. The stove is also energy efficient and has been designed to reduce wood consumption by 50% compared to traditional wood-burning hot tubs.
It has a relatively easy out-of-box setup as it comes assembled and ready to go. However, it’s much heavier than its inflatable siblings and it’s not easy to move around.
The built-in seats are comfy and spacious. It also gets to optimal soaking temperature (104F) in under 2 hours so you can kick back and relax in next to no time. Although you do have a wood-burning stove to contend with, which requires more maintenance than a simple plug-and-play model. If you're the outdoorsy type this could be a bonus though.
Backcountry makes wood-burning hot tubs in other shapes and sizes too so they should have just the right fit for your space and budget.
5. Aquarest Spas 300 2-Person 20-Jet Plug And Play Hot Tub with LED Waterfall
Best hot tub for small yards: think you don’t have space for a hot tub? Think again
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Don’t worry if you only have a small outdoor space, as with this AquaRest Spa your backyard spa dreams can still come true.
This hard-shell oval design creates the perfect intimate hot tub experience for you and your partner or a friend. It may be small, but it has all the same bells and whistles as its bigger brothers, including LED lights and cup holders. It even has a cascading waterfall that changes between nine different colors.
The two-chair design gives both people ample room to relax comfortably whilst receiving a generous ten jet water massage, and the pressure is adjustable to suit each person with dual-side air controls.
The foam insulation and cover are designed to retain heat so you use less energy which saves money on your electricity bill. It also means it can be used year-round, which is impressive on a standard 110v plug. And, it's relatively easy to set up.
The only drawback is that you can’t invite all your friends to enjoy it with you. Although if you have a bigger space and like this style, AquaRest do have larger sizes available too.
6. Thermospas 5-Person 57-Jet Hot Tub with Ozonator
Best luxury hot tub: splurge on this exceptionally comfortable, fabulous water massage machine
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
This 240v hard-shell hot tub is a good option if you are looking for a little more power, and a little more space. Although that does mean a lot more of an investment.
It's designed to seat 5, although we think it's a much more comfortable fit for 4, and an even more decadent experience for 2, with the lounge seats and sculpted armrests offering ergonomic seating.
The extra power results in 57 jets ready to deliver a full body massage, and the controls are easily accessible so you can effortlessly adjust your massage to the perfect level. There are also LED lights and added cup holders - to ensure you have no need to get out once you've gotten in - and it can be used all year round. Although we're a bit disappointed there isn't waterfall feature considering the price.
The thermal walls, heat recycling system and insulated locking cover make it energy-efficient so your electricity bill won’t be too high, and it also has an ozone water care system that keeps water clean using fewer chemicals.
It runs on 240v rather than a standard 110v plug, which makes for a more expensive initial outlay than our other picks as it requires professional installation, and also has higher ongoing energy costs due to the increase in power. The hard-shell tub also weighs 751lb so you're unlikely to be moving this model once it's in position.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST HOT TUB FOR YOUR BACKYARD
There are now many affordable hot tub options available, with the best inflatable hot tubs offering superb value for money. If you have a larger budget then hard-shell options start from around $3,000 up to luxury options with all sorts of added features for around $10,000. The cheapest hot tubs can still offer great value though, proving that having a spa in your backyard is no longer just for the super-rich, there are options to suit any pocket and whatever style of backyard ideas you might have in mind.
Most of our options above are inflatable hot tubs or plug-and-play spas that use a standard 110-volt outlet. These don’t require any professional installation so they are nice and easy to set up. They also draw less power which can save energy and reduce your electricity bills. However, this also means they take longer to heat up and they can have difficulty staying warm in cold temperatures.
While 220-volt hot tubs require professional installation, they tend to heat up quicker, stay warm year-round and can handle more features like LED lights, jets or speakers. So if you're looking to commit to a permanent, backyard feature then it's worth considering getting a professional in to install a bona fide 220-volt model.
Alternatively, a wood-burning hot tub can go just about anywhere you have space, so you're not limited to staying within reach of electricity. Of course, you do need to purchase wood but a real wood-burning hot tub will stay warm all winter long.
As well as the initial outlay involved in purchasing one of the best hot tubs on our list, there are also ongoing energy costs to consider.
All of our top picks above come with a cover included and have intentionally designed insulation to help keep your tub warm using minimal energy. Some of the models listed also have power-saving modes that allow you to set a timer to schedule your hot tub to heat up ready for use - rather than leaving it on all day and night. This saves you money on your electricity bill and it also means your hot tub can be ready to go as soon as you get back from a long day’s work or play.
Winter is the prime time to use a hot tub. It allows you to enjoy a warm, relaxing soak in the outdoors even when evenings grow dark and cold. If this sounds enticing, make sure you check that your hot tub is suitable for year-round use. Inflatable options usually cannot be used in temperatures below 39F and some plug-and-play options don’t draw enough power to stay warm in winter.
The type of hot tub you chose will of course depend on the outdoor space you have available. If you have a small backyard then you might not be able to fit an option that seats 7 people. Although if your backyard is super-sized then the hot tub world is your oyster. You might even want to check out our guide to the best above ground pools as a non-heated but spacious alternative.
If you prefer the soothing warmth of a hot tub to an envigorating dunking in cold water though, then you'll also need to consider access to power when locating your hot tub, especially if you’re looking at professionally installed 220v options.
The ground you place any model of the hot tub on also needs to be flat, hard and stable so your water doesn't spill out and so it can take the tubs full weight once it's filled to capacity. If your yard is lacking an even surface, you might consider some of our decking ideas to build a platform for your hot tub to sit on.
Even straight-forward inflatable hot tubs will require some maintenance. Make sure you read up and know what you’re in for before you make a purchase. Things like clearing debris or testing and adjusting your hot tubs’ chemistry and PH levels will need to be done weekly and you should completely drain and clean your hot tub about every 3-4 months. We recommend purchasing a hot tub maintenance kit that comes with a guide to help you keep track of maintenance tasks. Our guide on how to clean a hot tub has lots of useful tips too.
When is the best time to buy a hot tub?
Generally speaking, the cheapest time to buy anything is out of season. For hot tubs – especially less insulated inflatable and plug-and-play models – that tends to be early winter. So any time from October through to December. Although it can sometimes be harder to find products in stock during this time.
To keep track of all the biggest discounts and out-of-season sales, make sure to check out our guide to the best hot tub deals.
Emily Grant is a British ex-pat living in Squamish, Canada. She has written articles and blogs about all sorts from play equipment to travel and tourism. She has a passion for adventure, the outdoors and horticulture. She loves water, whether it’s swimming in a lake or pool, or soaking in a hot tub. She has worked in leisure and events in Canada for many years and is currently working for public health. In addition to Gardeningetc, her work has featured on Real Homes and Homes & Gardens.
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