Blog Header Logo

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

What are the different types of hot water therapy? There's certainly some confusion out there, and many tend to use the various terms interchangeably. When people refer to a spa or hot tub, are they talking about the same thing? What is a hot tub Jacuzzi®, or is it a Jacuzzi® hot tub? What is the difference between Jacuzzi® vs. a hot tub, a bathtub vs. a jetted tub, or a therapy tub vs. a whirlpool bath? There sure are a lot of different terms used for these hot water immersion vessels! We’re here to help sort out the various types of hot tubs.

portable spa


The word "spa" can mean a lot of different things. In some uses, spa is a term reserved exclusively for water treatment, also known as balneotherapy. Spa resorts (including natural hot springs and other mineral-rich springs) typically offer various forms of hydrotherapy. The belief in the curative powers of mineral waters goes back to prehistoric times. These are popular worldwide. However, they are especially loved in Europe and Japan.

In other uses, a spa could be another type of commercial enterprise offering health and beauty treatments, including saunas, skin treatments, and professional massages. Day spas are quite popular in the United States.

The word "spa" is also the American term for a hot tub equipped with strong jets that mix air into the water for a more pronounced massage effect. These come in a few different configurations, but most have an acrylic shell, molded seating, and a large number of jets. Above ground models (like the portable spa shown here) are common. But others have a more seamless installation, lowered into an indoor floor or outdoor deck. Some share equipment and water with an inground swimming pool, otherwise known as a pool and spa combo.

wooden hot tub

Hot Tub

A hot tub is a large tub or small pool full of heated, sometimes aerated water. Just like a spa, hot tubs can be used for hydrotherapy purposes or general enjoyment. Some may have a few jets or bubblers for massage purposes, but others may not. Hot tubs are sometimes referred to as spas, or vice-versa

A perfect example of the traditional definition of a hot tub is the round wooden style with simple bench seating. These wooden tanks typically only have about 4-8 jets around the side, and don't usually have blowers and high-speed pumps. To many, a hot tub simply equals a hot soak, but without the extra frills and motor noise of a standard spa.


Jacuzzi logo

The Jacuzzi name of one of the first and foremost portable spa manufacturers. Hotels are famous for advertising an in-room Jacuzzi® bathtub, when it's actually a jetted bathtub made by some other manufacturer. Much like the familiar branded term “Kleenex” is often used to describe facial tissue, some call hot tubs and spas  Jacuzzis. We prefer to reserve this name for the bonafide brand of products — for example, a  Jacuzzi® hot tub or Jacuzzi® bathtub. Otherwise, it’s just another spa, jetted bathtub, or hot tub.

Jetted Tub

jetted bathtub

A jetted tub is a type of bathtub that has several hydrotherapy jets positioned around the tub. They are connected to small flexible pipes around the tub, and are 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 the relaxation begin! The main difference between a jetted tub and a spa or hot tub is that it is drained after each use. For this reason, they usually have no filter and no need for a cover. You'll likely find a jetted tub indoors, too, installed in a master bathroom or luxurious resort suite.

Whirlpool Bath

A whirlpool bath describes the bathing experience from a type of jetted bathtub. Simply put, it is a therapeutic bath in which all or part of the body is exposed to forceful whirling currents of hot water.

Therapy Tub

therapy tub in an athletic center

Therapy tubs are the stainless steel tubs that you see in the training and locker rooms of athletic facilities. They're often used with hot water for loosening up the muscles of tired athletes. However, they can also be used with cold water or ice to help prevent inflammation from injuries. Therapy tubs sometimes have a circulation pump, and may have an electric heater. Their larger cousin, therapy pools, are used for neck-deep, standing physical therapy and low-impact exercise.

We hope this helps clarify some of the confusion surrounding the different terms for hot water therapy vessels. No matter what you might call it, just know you can call upon us when you need help with hot tub and spa care and maintenance. Whether it’s a Jacuzzi, Hayward, or Balboa branded product, we are here to help!

Top Products

Intex Inflatable Spa

Inflatable Spas

Duck Thermometer

Spa Accessories

Leslie's Spa pH Up

Spa Chemicals

Facebook  Twitter X  YouTube  Instagram
Leslie’s makes every effort to provide accurate recommendations based upon current ANSI/APSP/ICC-5 2011 (R2022) standards, but codes and regulations change, and Leslie’s assumes no liability for any omissions or errors in this article or the outcome of any project. You must always exercise reasonable caution, carefully read the label on all products, follow all product directions, follow any current codes and regulations that may apply, and consult with a licensed professional if in doubt about any procedures. Leslie’s assumes no legal responsibility for your reliance or interpretation of the data contained herein, and makes no representations or warranties of any kind concerning the quality, safety, or suitability of the information, whether express or implied, including, without limitation, any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.