Spa, Hot Tub or Jacuzzi - What's the Difference?

This content was previously featured on the Hot Tub Works website. Leslie's is proud to partner with Hot Tub Works to bring you this helpful content on

difference between hot tub and jacuzzi

OK, class ~ it's time to define the true meaning of the different types of hot water therapy. There's some confusion out there, and I have to admit, we tend to throw terms around somewhat interchangeably.

When people refer to a spa or hot tub or Jacuzzi - are they all talking about the same thing? Or are they something different? And what about jetted tubs and whirlpools? There sure are a lot of different monikers used for hot water immersion vessels!


According to Wikipedia; a spa is a term associated with water treatment, also known as balneotherapy. Spa resorts (including natural hot springs) typically offer various forms of hydrotherapy.

portable spa

The belief in the curative powers of mineral waters goes back to prehistoric times. These are popular worldwide, but are especially loved in Europe and Japan. Day spas are also quite popular in the United States.

But "spa" is also used as the American term for a hot tub equipped with strong jets that mix air into the water for a more pronounced massage effect. They can be above ground (like one of our portable spas shown here), they can be sunk into an indoor floor or outdoor deck, or they can even be part of an inground swimming pool (known as a pool and spa combo).


According to Wikipedia: a Hot Tub is a large tub or small pool full of heated water and used for hydrotherapy or pleasure. Some have jets for massage purposes. Hot tubs are sometimes also known as spas, or by the trade name Jacuzzi.

hot tub

A perfect example of the confusion that exists: a hot tub, to me, is not a spa, and it's certainly not a Jacuzzi. A hot tub is a wooden tub, first of all. If you are talking about a swirly, acrylic finish with molded seats and a million jets, that's a spa.

A hot tub is (usually) a round wooden tank with a simple bench seat and 4-8 jets around the side. Blowers and high speed pumps? Not in my hot tub, thank you. To me, a hot tub is a hot soak, without noisy equipment and turbulent bubbles bouncing me off the seat.


Jacuzzi is the name of one of the first and foremost portable spa manufacturers. Like Xerox, the brand name has been used to refer to the entire category of products. Hotels are famous for advertising an in-room Jacuzzi, when it's actually a spa made by some other manufacturer. The Jacuzzi family has been fighting such brand dilution for years, to keep from becoming generic. If it is a Jacuzzi Spa, fine - call it a Jacuzzi. Otherwise call it a spa. But please, don't call it a hot tub.


jetted tub

Bonus content! A jetted tub is a bathtub, usually installed in the master bath, which has several jets around the tub. These are connected to small flexible pipes around the tub fitted to a circulation pump and often an air blower. Luxury models are quite large and may even include a heater to keep the water that comes out of the tap hot. Just fill it up like a normal bathtub, set a few controls, and let relaxation set in. The main difference between a jetted tub and a spa or hot tub is that it is drained after each use, and for that reason they usually have no spa filter and no need for a spa cover.


Now here's where it gets a little confusing, so stay with me. Whirlpool Bath is a trade name owned by Jacuzzi for their brand of jetted tubs, as in a Jacuzzi Whirlpool Bath for the master bath. Operation is the same as the jetted tub above, and is drained after each use.


therapy tub

These are those stainless steel tubs that you see in the training rooms and locker rooms of athletic facilities, used for loosening up the muscles of tired athletes, or for an ice soak to help prevent inflammation of injuries. These are filled with hot water (or cold water) and sometimes have a circulation pump and electric heater. Larger therapy pools are also used for neck deep, standing physical therapy and low impact exercise.

I hope this helps clear up the confusion about the official definitions for hot water hydrotherapy. For me, I prefer the term "spa." You can call it whatever you want, as long as you call us when you need help with it!