An Honest Review of Harrison Hot Springs: Splendor or Scam?

Last year, my mom and I planned to spend Thanksgiving weekend at Harrison Hot Springs. Unfortunately, she had a freak fall and needed emergency surgery only days before our arrival.

Travel has been hyper-local lately, which gave us a chance to re-book our stay. I was itching to get out of Vancouver and relax for a few days—something as close to a “vacation” as possible.

My mom currently needs a walker, so we called to inquire about the hotel’s accessibility options. They ensured us she’d be fine. We hoped the natural hot water would be healing. We paid $10 extra per night for a lakeview.

Then I started reading the reviews.

Complaints of dirty rooms, bugs, no physical distancing and zero mask regulations littered the comments on TripAdvisor. Guests posted photos of hair left in their bathrooms and nebulous stains on the carpet. I was nervous of catching COVID-19, but also disheartened—I wanted this to be a relaxing resort, not a gross hostel. I nearly cancelled our stay.

I’m glad we didn’t—but I’m mostly glad I arrived with low expectations.

Upon arriving in Harrison, I was blown away by the beauty of the sparkling, glacier-fed lake. Stretching for 60 kilometres, it’s the largest lake in southwestern British Columbia.

We checked into our room. The process was surprisingly easy. I saw notices posted about COVID-19 and lines on the floor to encourage distancing, but masks weren’t required. During check-in, we learned we had a first-floor room and requested a higher floor as we’d paid extra for that view. Unable to accommodate us, the front desk staff gave us complimentary parking—which made our room even cheaper than the pool-facing rooms (which I would not recommend—more on that later).

Luckily, we still had a great view! The relatively big room featured two queen-sized beds, a TV with cable (no Netflix) and a spacious bathroom. It clearly hasn’t been updated for awhile and yes, there were some stains on the drapes and rust in the bathroom—but I had tempered my expectations due to the negative reviews, so I was pleasantly surprised. I also think staying in the first-floor, accessibility room might have actually made a positive difference (perhaps it’s used less or cleaned more).

Besides—we weren’t there for the room. We walked outside into the beautiful early autumn day and traced a gravel path alongside the lake to the hot springs source. The water boiled; a sour sulfur smell wafted from a blocked-off, steaming pool. Nearby, circular rock formations created small hot pools. A few hikers warmed their feet, but it was so hot, they needed to constantly stir up ground water to cool it down. Now that the public pool is closed, this is the only other way to soak in the hot springs. Harrison Hot Springs Resort used to sell day passes, but these are currently unavailable due to Coronavirus.

After enjoying a glass of wine on our patio overlooking the lake, my mom and I experienced our first dip in the healing waters. We gravitated towards the adult pool in the evening, which had about 10-20 people in it. But when it got busy, it stayed noisy late into the evening. Adults were obviously drinking, not bothering to hide the cans and bottles. Kids splashed and played well-past the 10 p.m. curfew and I retreated to my relatively quiet lakeview room, feeling bad for the guests in rooms overlooking the pools. I assume the atmosphere would be even rowdier on weekends.

The next day, we spent five full hours lounging by the lap pool. For a few hours, we were the only ones enjoying the massive body of warm water and reading in the sun-tanning lounge chairs. Mid-week travel during the school season coupled with the hotel being at half-capacity allowed us the luxury of enjoying it all to ourselves. We even got a little sunburnt! For an autumn retreat, I wasn’t complaining.

Besides the hot springs, the area is also famous for Sasquatch sightings. The town is a sleepy tourist haunt, with tacky souvenir shops, statues of the mysterious and aloof Sasquatch and a few restaurants:  an odd but delicious German steak restaurant (try the schnitzel), a beaten-down but incredible fish-and-chips (and teriyaki) shack and an ice cream shop with popsicles freshly dipped in chocolate, then rolled in nuts or sprinkles. Yum!

All in all, it was a very pleasant “trip” away. My main issue with Harrison Hot Springs Resort was the lack of communication on our checkout day. To our surprise, a studio was setting up to film all around the hotel. We weren’t allowed to use the front doors, which was an accessibility issue for someone like my mom, who uses a walker. The front desk staff weren’t very helpful and (in my perspective) didn’t make us feel like valued guests—the movie set seemed more important. With all the noise, construction and commotion, I was very glad we were checking out—and a little peeved we weren’t warned about the film first. Eventually, we found a manager who helped us find the exit.

If you’re considering staying at Harrison Hot Springs Resort, be forewarned: this isn’t a “resort” by luxury travel standards. Amenities aren’t upgraded and the rooms are not modern. Right now, due to the pandemic, we had to strip the linens off our beds ourselves (so weird) and while the pools were practically empty on an autumn afternoon, I heard the summer weekends felt far too crowded to be safe. If you’re looking for a more upscale alternative, stay at the Marriot in Whistler and spend a day soaking in the pools, saunas and steam rooms at Scandinave Spa. That’s what I’ll be doing next.

Have you stayed at Harrison Hot Springs? What did you think?

Comment below!

4 comments

  1. TripAdvisot reviews can’t be trusted because anybody can leave a review, for places they have not even been to.
    Hotels and guesthouses are always complaining about it.
    Sometimes it is hotels leaving bad reviews about their competitors.

    • I typically take reviews with a grain of salt, especially when they mention attitudes of staff/other people. However, seeing multiple reviews saying the same thing and having photos for proof… well, it ended up being true, so I’m glad I was prepared.

  2. leaving a review for my horrid experience – My family flew from the east coast and Harrison was a long time favorite for me. I booked the hotel room on Expedia months ago. For Christmas (dec 26th/27th) we had the room booked and had two extra friends who were coming to enjoy the hot pools with us. I had called months ago and a gentleman I was on the phone with told me it would be $20 extra per bracelet for our friends to come with us (They were not staying at the hotel). Upon arrival, we were told by the front desk attendant that there would be no extra bracelet given, that they only gave one extra per room, because of room capacity. I repeated that there were two extra people coming and that neither of them were staying with us (They had booked another nearby hotel, as there were no rooms left when they decided to join us for the evening). It wasn’t just that they refused to give us the extra bracelet, after paying $20 for one of the two individuals to join us, but the downright despicable customer service. I asked the front desk supervisor what my other family member was supposed to do while we were in the pool, and they said it was not their problem. “Guests at other hotels are not our problem and not our priority”. I explained they had tried to book a room with Harrison but they were full. She did not care at all. She knew my family had flown for Christmas. I told her that this was one of my favorite places to enjoy. Now, after all of this, she tells me “I made the decision that we will not be giving you another bracelet”. She took pleasure in denying my family an enjoyable holiday. In addition, the family pool was closed. My family and I discussed possible trading the child’s bracelet for an adult bracelet, a he would not be able to attend the adult pool. I then went back to the front desk to ask to switch them out, as we would have an unused bracelet, and the supervisor again said that she wasn’t going to that and that the child could go swimming alone. ALONE. No care for the child’s safety in a pool by himself, she did not care that we were trying to make SOMETHING work. I told her I wanted an adult bracelet so that at least the adults could go to the adult pool while the child stays with the dog. As someone who has worked in customer mgmt for 15 years, I found her behavior appalling. I asked for her GM’s card. She said “He doesn’t give out his business cards”. She gave me an email address. I told her I would be reviewing her service and that it was atrocious. She told me we could “stay at another hotel”. This alone is infuriated me, not to mention the high winds and white outs we had driven through to get there, only to have an employee tell us she would be happy to send us back out in it. She said she would check us out and I said if you do that, I want a refund for my room. She then stated I would have to discuss that with the website I booked the room on. What kind of service is this? You expect a child to swim by himself? You wont change a bracelet so a family can TRY to salvage the evening? My two friends ended up booking an open room (apparently cancellations happen. This was told to me as if I was an idiot by the front desk supervisor. Mind you we had called the day prior to confirm no rooms were available). So now, my friends who had already checked into their other hotel room nearby, had to pay over $400 for a subpar room in a rundown “resort” all to get ONE extra $20 bracelet. When my friends tried to explain the situation to them, to see if they could give them a discount as it was already passed 6PM, they refused to do anything.Now we get to the good part. We go to the adult pool to find 5 children under the age of 10 in the adult only pool. No supervising happening at all. NONE. No employees there at all. If we had known it was like this, we would not have even fought over an extra $20 bracelet. I saw numerous people in that pool with no bracelet! Harrison, you’re service and your hotel are run down. Time to get better mgmt.

    • The absolute ENTITLEMENT in this comment is astounding. They were NOT staying at the hotel, they do not get access to the hotels amenities. It does not matter how far you traveled, it does not matter if you tried to book and they were full. NONE of this is the responsibility of the hotel, and you do not get special treatment because you decided LAST MINUTE to have friends join you. Jesus. Check your attitude and privilege before you try and turn this on the hotel.

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