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What to expect at Bota Bota Montreal floating spa

An honest review of Montreal’s unique floating spa on a boat!

The appeal of this Montreal spa is right in its French name: “Bota Bota spa-sur-l’eau.” That doesn’t mean spa near the water or by the water. It means spa on the water. As in: Bota Bota Montreal is a boat. A boat that is also a spa.

I first visited on a solo trip to Montreal in the summer because I wanted to try one of Canada’s most unique wellness attractions. I discovered one of the best views in Montreal, and a much bigger spot than I expected. Here’s what you should know before you go!

Just looking for the facts? Jump right to the prices, location, etc.

This review of Bota Bota Montreal is part of the series 100 Baths, my search for the world’s best spas and public bathing rituals.

Disclosure: My blog contains links from Affiliate programmes. At no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase from these links, I earn a small commissionThank you for supporting my work and the site!

What is a floating spa?

Floating on the St. Lawrence River in the port of Old Montreal, Bota Bota is basically an urban water park for adults.

The boat itself was a ferry in the 1950s and ’60s and underwent major renovations to transform into the spa boat, which opened in 2010.

Bota Bota Montreal offers a hydrotherapy circuit of hot tubs, cold plunge pools, steam rooms and dry saunas, gardens with lots of hammocks and loungers, as well as massage, face and body treatments and a nice restaurant. All of this with perfect views of Canada’s sexiest city.

Bota Bota spa as seen from the Montreal waterfront
Is it a boat? Is it a spa? it’s both!

My plan was simple: use every one of the spa’s many hot tubs

Bota Bota is conveniently located a short walk from hotels in Old Montreal, or easily accessed by bike or public transit from the city centre. Which means that unlike Quebec’s more remote mountain resort spas this place is a popular hangout for Montrealers, including couples and bachelorette parties. You just need to look it up on Instagram to know you’re not going to a meditation retreat.  

As a woman travelling alone and looking to relax, not party, I chose the latest appointment of the day which I hoped would be quieter. And hoping for clear skies so that I could watch the sun set over Montreal while soaking in a hot tub with panoramic views of the city.

Recommended: A Sauna Hat

Want to upgrade your sauna experience? The Finns will tell you to wear a sauna hat. These simple felt hats help regulate the temperature of your head so you can sweat harder, longer. This style has the traditional grey felt and is stylish for all genders.

Everything at Bota Bota is different than at a landlocked spa.

The architects made excellent use of the small spaces, creating cozy nooks, sweeping glass window views, and turning claustrophobic portholes into sophisticated design elements. But change rooms in the basement feel like crew quarters—basic and cramped. And there are a lot of stairs to climb in search of all the water circuit spots, which aren’t necessarily arranged in a typical layout, or particularly well signed.

I head straight for the top deck to what I’d already sussed out as the prime location, a fairly large kidney-shaped hot tub with waterfall fountain. I found absolute joy in floating in a body of water built on top another body of water. When other guests came, I found a second hot tub all to myself in the back of the boat. Dunked in the cold plunge. Relaxed in a hammock, and waited for sunset.

Old Montreal as seen from the Bota Bota spa gardens at night
Nighttime views from the gardens

But then I turn around and see that Bota Bota is not just a converted boat. There’s a whole other section in the adjoining gardens, with more hot pools, more saunas, and more places to lounge. I found this surprise very exciting! Like, who doesn’t want more than they expected? I felt like I was getting two spa visits for the price of one.

English 300*250

Officially, there’s a policy of silence on the boat, and quiet conversation in the gardens.

They also have a no cell phones / photos policy – much like any spa promoting relaxation and respecting the privacy of all guests. But there’s just no way to have enough staff to monitor this all the time.

On my visit, most of the other guests were straight couples. And almost every one of the women had her partner take multiple photos, in multiple locations, all the while “looking out” for staff, trying not to get caught. I get it. The place is gorgeous. The people are gorgeous. But it’s really distracting.

As for silence…since most people are there with partners, there’s going to be conversation. Not the kind of group socializing you get in Scandinavian spas either. Private conversations you feel awkward overhearing.

I always managed to find a quiet cozy spot to peace out, and had the garden sauna all to myself at one point. But honestly I think management should just embrace the party atmosphere. It’s a boat. People in swimsuits on boats want to be seen in their swimsuits on a boat. Maybe they should have dedicated quiet days and photo shoot days. Give everybody what they want?

Update: Thursdays is now “Reconnexion” day at Bota Bota Montreal, where talking and even photos are welcome. So go have fun!

Garden pools at night Bota Bota Montreal spa
The garden pools at night; photo by Bota Bota

As sunset approached, I reluctantly peeled myself off a very comfortable beanbag chair overlooking the river and made my way back to the prime viewing hot tub. Score. So the sky was a bit overcast, that’s the unpredictability of nature for you. I got to watch the Montreal skyline slowly darken while relaxing in one of the best hot tubs I’ve ever had the pleasure to soak in.

I can’t show you a picture of my perfect hot tub view. Because I feel like a jerk taking photos at a no-cameras spa, so I don’t.

I do have one photo, taken after the fact. My skin is soft. The smile is real. A few hours at Bota Bota Montreal left me floating back to my hotel with just one thought in mind: when can I get my girl gang to Montreal for a spa party on this boat?

Bota Bota spa review

My last visit was June 2021. Info updated January 2024. Always check the spa’s official website for the latest.

Know Before You Go

Where: Old-Port of Montreal, near the corner of De la Commune and McGill. Walking distance from Square Victoria-OACI metro station. Follow signs across a footbridge, under an underpass until you see the gardens.

When: Monday to Thursday 10am to 10pm. Friday to Sunday 8:40am to 10pm. Reservations recommended especially on Saturdays. But they do take walk-ins.

What to bring: Swimsuits are mandatory. So are flip-flops/sandals – but they don’t rent/sell there so you must bring. You must use their robes – the cost is included— and robes sizes go to 4XL. Optional but handy: a water bottle you can fill up and plastic bag for your wet suit (they do not provide). Locker, towels and basic shampoo/conditioner, etc is included. Hair dryers or straighteners not available.

How Much: Bota Bota Montreal has a time limit for their thermal waters access. Three hours costs from $70 (low season, during the week) to $90 (high season, weekend.) The price for 2 hours starting at dusk is $60 to $70. Packages with food or spa treatments are available. They sometimes offer discounts for locals, 55+, education or health workers, or others so check the website for special offers.

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