How to create a backyard spa – 6 ways to transform your outdoor space into a relaxing retreat

The key to bringing that spa resort feeling to your backyard is simplicity – here are the best ways to create a totally tranquil space

three images of outdoor spaces with bath tub, shower and seating
(Image credit: Indigenous / Pfau Long Architecture / Laskasas)

Creating a spa environment in our backyards can add a totally new, indulgently relaxing element to our outside, encouraging us to take time to look after ourselves and unwind in nature. 

Whether you create multiple destinations within your garden with luxuries like a hot tub, shaded lounging area, and yoga area – or keep it simple with an outdoor bathtub and some fragrant plants, there are so many ideas to suit different budgets.

You may want to start by looking at ways to improve your garden privacy, so you'll feel more comfortable spending time out there, or invest in some new garden lighting ideas to make sure you can really get the most use out of the space after sunset. We have gathered some ultra-relaxing backyard ideas to help you create a meditative space for reading, unwinding, and generally slowing down.

outdoor bathtub in steel outside with blue tiles

(Image credit: Marlborough Tiles)

6 inspiring ways to create a backyard spa

'As more homeowners return to daily self-care practices, we're seeing them integrate spa-like amenities into their outdoor spaces in an effort to prioritize their personal health and wellbeing,' says Karen Larson, co-founder of Soake Pools. 

'Installing a luxurious freestanding tub, or a cold plunge pool in the backyard area, have grown in popularity over the past few years. Having easy access to a body of water helps homeowners stay in shape and soothe their skin all at the same time.'

Karen Larson
Karen Larson

Karen’s background is in textiles and design. She enjoyed working in the interior design field and even owned a chocolate shop at one time. She co-founded Soake Pools with her husband Brian and gets excited by the challenge and variety in each day.

1. Create a shady, secluded spot for relaxation

pool area with seats and umbrellas

(Image credit: Designed by Emily Henderson / Photo by Kaitlin Green)

Dedicate an area for meditation, quiet contemplation, and even space for yoga – this could be a pergola that you grow fragrant climbers over, such as honeysuckle, wisteria, or clematis, or simply an area of your patio. 

'I recommend using pergolas, trellises, or even tall plants like bamboo or native bushes to create these private spaces,' says Pam Hutter, an architect and designer based in Chicago.

If you're into yoga and meditation or are looking to build new habits, it's a great idea to create an intentional spot for unwinding and connecting with your breath. Add practical backyard storage ideas for yoga mats, bolsters, floor pillows and meditation equipment so you have everything you need to hand. You could also add a peaceful water feature or grow ornamental grasses, which can absorb and deflect sound.

Pam Hutter
Pam Hutter

Pam is the principal of Hutter Architects, where she oversees every aspect of work done by her firm. Pam works with clients from the very early stages of a project to determine feasibility, budget, scope and form. Pam has been featured on New Spaces, a show on House and Garden Television.

2. Invest in comfortable outdoor furniture

Front porch ideas

(Image credit: Little Greene)

Having the best outdoor furniture is key for creating a relaxing space that feels like a spa, with plenty of space to stretch out and relax or sit quietly. An outdoor rug underneath your seating will zone the area while bringing some lovely texture and pattern.

'Depending on what kind of feel you're going for, you could attach hammocks and hanging chairs to trees in your yard, or create a slightly more formal seating area with outdoor daybeds and plush outdoor couches with water-resistant materials,' says Homes & Gardens' head of gardens, Rachel Bull.

'This all helps to bring some home comforts outdoors to make a calming space in nature in which to unwind and be mindful, alone or with family members and pets.' 

Rachel Bull
Rachel Bull

Rachel is head of gardens at Homes & Gardens, with an editorial career that began 15 years ago on Country Living magazine. Rachel grows an abundance of vegetables and cut flowers on her rambling Yorkshire plot, while renovating her Edwardian home. She is particularly interested in sustainable gardening methods and growing flowers and herbs for wellbeing.

3. Install an outdoor tub and shower

outdoor shower with wooden shed and towel

(Image credit: Future)

An outdoor tub or outdoor shower can give your backyard a rustic charm as well as providing you with the various health benefits of hot-cold therapy, such as reducing muscle pain and stiffness. We often see outdoor bathtubs in vacation listings, and as long as you have adequate space and privacy, it's perfectly possible to install one in your backyard for that holiday feeling at home.

Designer Pam Hutter says an outdoor bucket shower or plunge bath is perfect for hot-cold therapies and can be integrated seamlessly with nature to create a serene, rejuvenating environment. 'We often use natural materials like stone or bamboo for a more authentic feel,' Pam shares.

Add a stand, rail or hook for keeping towels, robes, and sunhats dry and off the ground.

4. Add stylish, soft lighting

outdoor seating with lighting

(Image credit: Sweetpea & Willow)

Extend the useable hours of your garden and create a warm and inviting atmosphere with some stylish outdoor lighting

You may like to hang outdoor string lights around a decking area or pergola to create a welcoming destination within your backyard.

Alternatively, you could decorate pathways with a few lanterns, as you can't beat candlelight to set the mood. Stake lights in the ground can also be moved around easily and put away to create space if needed. If you enjoy spending time outdoors in the evening, you can also take inspiration from our guide to creating a moon garden, with night-scented plants with silvery foliage and light-colored planters.

5. Plant your favorite aromatic plants


(Image credit: Getty Images / ANGHI)

Add fragrant plants to your plot to create a more sensory garden full of relaxing scents. Consider growing lavender, either in pots or in the ground lining pathways, and enjoy the gentle scent as you brush past. For all the sleepy fragrances, you can plant both lavender and chamomile.

'For aromatic plants, lavender and chamomile are excellent choices due to their calming scents and low maintenance nature,' says Jerome Bertuglia from luxury home build company Prime Homes Inc. 'I often incorporate these along walkways or borders to ensure their fragrance is carried throughout the garden.'

You can also try growing herbs, such as rosemary, basil, and sage, which are fragrant and add flavor to your cooking, and mint, which you can use to make fresh mint tea to sip after some morning yoga. These have the added bonus of being mosquito-repellent plants, so will help to keep mosquitoes at bay.

6. Create shelter around a hot tub

patio with a hot tub under a wooden pergola

Project by Bacqyard

(Image credit: Bacqyard)

Investing in a hot tub is a great way to make the most of your backyard space, bringing a fun feature to your home when hosting year-round. You can make things feel more spa-like and private by creating shelter around it. 

For example, wooden slatted screens and planters can partially conceal your hot tub area, zoning it from the rest of your outdoor space. 

Or, you can build a pergola around the hot tub so you are not overlooked, creating a canopy and structure for plants to climb. There are endless inspiring backyard hot tub ideas to suit your tastes, whether you want something rustic or contemporary.


Does a hot tub have to be placed on concrete?

'A hot tub does not have to be on concrete. It needs a strong, sturdy foundation to rest on such as a gravel, concrete, wood decking, etc. It definitely cannot be placed on top of dirt or grass,' says Thomas Fraher, owner of hot tub and cold plunge company Aquavoss.

Spending more time outdoors is key for our wellbeing, helping us to connect with nature and reduce stress. You may also like to learn about garden feng shui and Japanese garden ideas which are full of serene garden features.

Think about the kind of color palette you'd like for your outdoor living space, too. Generally speaking, you'll want to opt for neutral, nature-inspired, tones like sand, stone, and some earthy greens and blues for a relaxing backyard spa vibe. You could also go monochromatic with shades like charcoal and navy for a restful look that isn't too busy to the eye.

Millie Hurst
Section Editor

Millie Hurst is a freelance lifestyle writer with over six years of experience in digital journalism. Having previously worked as Solved Section Editor at Homes & Gardens and Senior SEO Editor at News UK in London and New York, Millie has written for an array of homes brands including Livingetc and Real Homes and was formerly Senior Content Editor at Ideal Home. She has written and edited countless features on home organization, decluttering and interior design and always hopes to inspire readers with new ways to enjoy their homes. She lives in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, and loves to weave nature-inspired decor and nods to time spent in Italy into her own home.