Spa Diary: Esqapes Immersive Relaxation
With busy work schedules and limited budgets, it can often pose a challenge to find the time and money to plan a vacation—even though we may desperately need it. While nothing can replace the experience of traveling to a faraway paradise, Esqapes comes pretty darned close. The world’s first virtual reality (VR) massage center in Los Angeles, Esqapes offers the combined experience of an automated massage while transporting users to an environment that has been designed to help them relax and get away from it all.
With VR growing in popularity, and with more of these immersive experiences being offered (such as Dreamscape), it’s no surprise that the technology has finally entered the wellness arena—and it’s about time. At home, I always play screensaver videos from YouTube on our living room television to serve as a relaxing background while I work, so when I learned that Esqapes was essentially a three-dimensional version of that, I could not have been more excited. Recently, my colleague Lizzy Sherman and I received invites to experience Esqapes firsthand—and we were both blown away.
Here’s what you’ll love about Esqapes:
It pairs beautiful virtual environments with a soothing massage to transport your mind and body to another place.
Users can select between a gentle or intense massage.
It taps into the key senses (sight, sound, smell, and touch) and heightens the experience with cool breezes, heat treatment, and aromatherapy.
A session is 30 minutes long, making it the perfect lunchtime break or quick after-work session before heading home.
With 10 different environments to choose from (and more in development), users can enjoy a different experience each time they visit.
The founder and creator, Micah Jackson, has a long history of interactive design and innovation, previously working for NASA.
With multiple sessions available every half hour, Esqapes is an activity that you can enjoy alone or with friends/family/coworkers.
A session costs $45 so that you don’t have to break the bank to experience relaxation.
Group and special event bookings are also available.
When I arrived at the SAG Aftra building (where Esqapes is located), I parked in the attached structure and made my way to the lobby. I passed the first set of elevators, and continued walking until I reached the green carpeted area of the building. I kept going until I reached the next set of elevators, which took me to the Mezzanine level, where Esqapes is located.
Upon my arrival, I checked-in on the iPad at the front desk and was provided with a pair of clean socks, which I was instructed to wear during my session. Taking in my surroundings, I noticed several pretty faux trees and a shrub wall that added a whimsical touch to the space.
I was provided with a key and escorted to the locker room by another attendant. I removed my shoes and stashed them in my assigned locker along with the rest of my belongings, then grabbed a bottle of complimentary water from the refreshments station, which also has coffee and LaCroix sparkling water.
Next, I made my way to the indoor garden lounge, which has an astroturf floor and features three separate areas to offer each guest some privacy and quiet time. In addition to various books on the shelves, each space has its own screen that plays a continuously moving and changing nature landscape. Since Lizzy arrived slightly later than I did, I had the entire lounge to myself, so I took the opportunity to go back and forth between all of the different screens so that I could enjoy the various nature themes, including desert rocks and oceans.
An attendant came by to inform me that it was time for my session. I followed him to a separate room where I was introduced to Micah Jackson, the founder and creator of Esqapes. As I settled into my massage chair, he told me that the different locations were actually inspired by real-life destinations, and back when he began working on VR projects years ago, one of the things he enjoyed doing was creating beautiful worlds and just sitting in them. This led to a side project that focused on a beach setting, which ultimately led to the creation of Esqapes!
I place my arms into padded areas located under the arm rest and was told to keep them there until the session had ended. Then, Jackson helped me put on my VR headset and headphones, and instructed me to look straight ahead for a few minutes while the headset and sensors tracked my head orientation and location in order to calculate what to display to my eyes.
Within moments I was transported to a Moroccan paradise, where I found myself basking under the sun next to a large swimming pool. Birds circled in the sky above and a I felt a cool breeze flutter against my skin, while the fragrant aroma of Jasmine blossoms surrounded me. I caught a glimpse of the ocean and mountains in the distance, palm trees swayed in all directions, and the relaxing glow of poolside lanterns illuminated throughout.
As someone who has tried VR before, this experience definitely took things to a new level. The addition of aromatherapy, warm and cool sensations, and sound, paired with a relaxing massage made everything feel and look so real. It was as if one of those screen-savers that I watch on TV at home had come to life! I started to feel my eyelids getting heavy (a sign that relaxation had set in), but I fought the urge to fall asleep because I wanted to bask in the moment and enjoy my surroundings.
After half an hour of total bliss, my surroundings gently faded until I found myself back in reality. It was similar to the feeling you get when you’ve just woken up from an amazing dream. While slightly disappointed that it wasn’t real, it leaves enough of an impression that you’ll remember it for a long time, and you hope that you’ll have the dream again.
This was exactly how Esqapes left me feeling—it was an amazing experience, and while I was sad that my poolside paradise wasn’t real, I couldn’t wait to come back. In fact, I went ahead and booked a follow-up visit with my husband for his upcoming birthday! I chose the Snowbank Cabin setting for my next experience, which Jackson said is one of his favorites, but he also recommends trying The Sauna, which includes a glass roof so that you can observe a passing thunderstorm above. To see all 10 Esqapes options, click here.
I began to fantasize about all the other environments I wanted to experience, and if Esqapes ever does offer an at-home version, I’ll be the first in line to sign up. Whether you’re a VR fan, don’t have time to relax, or you simply want to try something new, I highly recommend giving Esqapes a try—it’ll leave you wanting to come back for more.
Lizzy also shared her experience in the Alani Garden:
The Esqapes Thai-inspired garden massage was such a unique experience. It was fun to see all the details of the relaxing atmosphere of the virtual world while enjoying the massage. The immersive world of the Alani Garden was beautifully created with koi ponds, butterflies, birds, and clouds. You could feel a light breeze and hear the calm flurry through the cherry tree leaves, while scents including orange blossom transported me far away from Los Angeles.
Arrive 15-20 minutes prior to your session in order to check in and enjoy the relaxation lounge, which is a significant part of the overall experience because it offers a place to wind down and clear your mind before your session.
Wear comfortable clothing. You may bring your own socks, or a fresh pair will be provided at the front desk.
If you wear glasses, contact lenses are preferable. Eyeglasses can be accommodated, but it may take some time to get them properly fitted in the VR headset.
A photo ID is required for check-in.
Guests must be 18 or over to participate.
Cost: $45 for a 30-minute session. Heat enhancement costs $5 for the add-on.
11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. (Mon. - Fri.)
10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Saturday)
Closed on Sunday
Address: 5757 Wilshire Blvd (SAG Aftra Building), Suite M111, Los Angeles CA 90036
[Images by Kamala Kirk]
Kamala Kirk is a University of Southern California graduate and has been an editor/writer for more than a decade. She has written for E! Online, Total Beauty, TravelAge West, Malibu Times Magazine, and many more. She resides in Los Angeles and is a proud pug mom. Follow her on Instagram: @kamalakirk