Is it a Spa, Hot Tub, or Jacuzzi? Terms Explained

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The terms spa, hot tub, and Jacuzzi are often used interchangeably to talk about the same type of product.

In fact, we’ve done that here on the site because we know that not everyone understands the distinction.

Each term is meant for a specific kind of product. Since we can’t be sure what you know as a consumer or reader, we’re going to clear up all the different names for products that involve immersing yourself in water for relaxation or therapeutic purposes.

While we’ll continue to use the terms interchangeably, you’ll have a better idea of what kind of soak you want with the definitions cleared up for you.

Definition of a Spa

A spa involves water in the treatment of a variety of ailments. When you see the term spa resort as part of your vacation or mineral spa, you’ll be enjoying a form of hydrotherapy.

Mineral springs have been historically used to treat all kinds of problems from skin ailments to deeper issues in the body. They’re meant to mimic the natural hot springs that occur in nature. They can boost circulation and increase skin health naturally.

Many natural springs have mineral salts and mud that contribute to the person’s overall well-being. The spas you’ll see in people’s homes won’t likely have minerals in them, but they’ll have jets that are meant to massage and treat sore muscles and restore your sanity if you’ve been stressed.

You might be able to purchase a spa when you are having your inground pool installed. There are certainly spas that can be placed in the outdoor deck, too.

These are spas that require installation and planning before you construct the pool or the deck. There are also portable spas that don’t require construction, but they might need a dedicated electrical outlet or separate plumbing.

What is a Hot Tub?

A hot tub might seem like a spa, it’ll have jets and bubbles. Those jets and bubbles are heated to a warmth that is relaxing and restorative. With a hot tub, you’re not getting individual jets on each molded seat.

Instead, it’ll have a bench seat where you’re meant to enjoy the hot water as in a soak. There might be jets that give the water its bubbles, but they are not directed at any one individual place in the tub.

Most of the time, a heated hot tub is meant for friends to enjoy since it can fit so many into the water without worrying that not everyone has a jet or two of their own.

Jacuzzi, Anyone?

So, what is a Jacuzzi? It’s actually a spa, but it’s a brand-name product. Did you know that Q-Tips are cotton swabs, but they’re a specific brand name?

That’s the case with Band-aids, too. In hotels, you might read the name Jacuzzi spa as an amenity, but you’ll get there, and the spa is actually another model. You can say Jacuzzi if you want. We can’t stop you, but you’ll be asking for a specific model of spa – not just a heated tub of water with jets.

The company itself has been trying to get people to stop using the brand name as a generic name for a spa. They haven’t had much luck with that at all.

Is it a Jetted Whirlpool Tub?

This is a tub that is installed in a bathroom of a home. If you’re looking for a tub with jets and hot water, you’re looking for a jetted tub. A Whirlpool tub is another brand name situation where you’re asking for a specific model.

If you want to purchase a jetted tub for the bathroom, you’ll want to ask for that specifically – not a Whirlpool unless you want that model. You might wonder what else makes the tub different.

One will be installed without a shell surround. The bathroom jetted tub doesn’t need to be insulated. It doesn’t need chemicals or a filter, either. You’ll be draining the tub after each use.

What About Therapy Tubs?

These are normally the huge tubs you see in locker rooms and facilities that train athletes. The tubs can be made of stainless steel and are filled with hot or cold water. It’ll depend on the kind of therapy the person needs.

Ice soaks can prevent muscles from becoming inflamed after a hard workout, or after a serious injury. There are also therapy pools in facilities for physical therapy or exercise after an injury. The tubs aren’t exclusive to athletes. They can be used for patients, too.


The terms can be incredibly confusing, and nobody would fault you for not getting the terms correct. We hope that this will clear up the confusion a little when you’re searching for a hot tub, spa, or Jacuzzi, or Whirlpool tub. You’ll know that the terms mean different things in terms of jets, water, and filters.

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