Friends sometimes mock me for how enthusiastic I am about owning an inflatable hot tub!
But it’s actually a very affordable way to have access to an everyday luxury. Most of us only have (and sometimes pay extra for) a hot tub when we go on holiday. For the price of a couple of nights in a good hotel, you can have one in your own garden.
Over the past several years I’ve owned two Bestway Lay Z Spas (now sold as SaluSpa in the US). In this Lay Z Spa Miami review, I discuss the model I currently own. I also give you some tips for owning one of your own.
Maintaining an inflatable hot tub has more of a learning curve than you might expect.
Why Listen To Me?
I actually OWN the Lay Z Spa Miami. I’ve had it for over three years, and paid for it with my own money. Prior to that, I owned a Lay Z Spa Palm Springs.
Many online reviews of inflatable hot tubs are NOT written by people who actually use them. Because these items have a relatively high ticket price, many people write about them in the hope of earning affiliate commission.
These “reviews” are often nothing more than cynical rewrite of a brochure page, or a summing up of Lay Z Spa review from Amazon.
We OWN the Lay-Z spa Miami. We use it, clean it, sort out the chemicals, and know how to deal with its problems and quirks. This website is about the things I do (and the things I invest in) to enhance my wellbeing. As you’ll see from the pictures, our inflatable hot tub is an enjoyable part of family life.
With that out the way, let’s begin.
Size and Specifications
The Bestway Lay Z Spa Miami is a four person inflatable hot tub. In the UK, it is called a Lay Z Spa, but in the US it’s called a SaluSpa Miami instead. To the best of my knowledge it’s an identical product.
The hot tub measures 1.8 x 1.8 metres, and is 66cm high. It has a water capacity of 880 litres. It has 120 water jets (AirJets), and heats to a maximum temperature of 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).
Although the Miami is widely marketed as being suitable for four people, the US marketing materials that say “2-4 people” are certainly more realistic. It’s a very tight squeeze for four adults, and is likely to feel rather “intimate” with that many (although if you’re into that kind of thing, I’m not here to judge!)
What You Get
The Miami hot tub comes in two large and heavy boxes. Once you unpack, you have:
- The tub itself (which inflates using the supplied pump/filter).
- An inflatable cover.
- The filter / heater unit.
- All the necessary pipes, plugs and connectors.
- A “ChemConnect” chemical dispenser.
- A filter cartridge (you will need to buy more).
Notably, the Lay Z Spa Miami doesn’t come with any of the chemicals you will need in order to maintain the tub and to keep the water clean and safe.
I would recommend that you buy the following things as a minimum, if you’re investing in this hot tub:
- A tub of chlorine tablets.
- Some pH Plus to balance the water.
- Some pH Minus to balance the water.
- Some spare filters.
- A pot of chemical test strips.
There are few things in life that you’ll be in as much of a hurry to set up as an inflatable spa!
Thankfully, it’s pretty simple, although the instructions can seem a little overwhelming to begin with. Each year, we tend to hunt down the YouTube setup video, and use that instead of working through the manual.
Broadly, the steps are as follows:
- Identify a flat site for the tub (very important!) It is best (and most comfortable) to locate the tub on a cushioned mat or tiles. There is an official mat available, but we did as good a job for less money by finding some interlocking tiles.
- Connect the pump unit to the tub, and inflate the tub using the pump.
- Do the same for the cover.
- Once inflated, site the tub in its permanent location, and connect the pump / heater. You will need a mains plug nearby. We had an outdoor outlet fitted, as this is much tidier and safer than running extension cables.
- Install the filter cartridge.
- Fill the tub with water.
- Add some chemicals (we use chlorine in tablet form for simplicity), and wait until the water pH and chlorine level is balanced before using.
Lay Z Spa Miami Review: The Setup Process
Setting up a Lay Z Spa (SaluSpa) is an easy process – but a word of warning: don’t expect to jump in and relax in the bubbles on the same day you buy it!
Blowing up the tub and cover is fast, and with the Miami being a relatively small tub, it doesn’t take that long to fill either. However, once you get to heating it, it takes time.
If we prepare ours in the summer, the water is typically 16-17 Celsius when we fill the tub from the hose. Once the cover is on and we switch the heat on, the temperature rises by 1-3 degrees each hour. As such, getting it to “hot tub temperature” is an overnight endeavour.
And that’s not the end of it.
While you can put the chemicals in as soon as the tub is full, you generally need to do a bit of tweaking before the pH and chlorine levels are right.
Sometimes you get lucky, and find the chemical levels are spot on the first time you check. You tend to get a little better at this over time. But in reality, it’s worth assuming you might need to wait another 24 hours until you’ve got them right.
Bathing in water that’s the wrong pH or is over or under chlorinated is no good for you at all. I’ve taken a gamble on it in the past and ended up with very inflamed skin to show for it. It may be painful to wait – but it’s more painful if you don’t.
Let’s talk a little more about the chemicals.
Getting the Water Right (And Keeping It That Way)
The main thing you have to do when you set up a Lay Z Spa is add some chlorine (or bromine) to the water. You can use a powder solution for this, but I personally like to use “all-in-one” chlorine tablets, which also include extra chemicals to enhance the clarity of the water.
With tablets, you can use the supplied “ChemConnect” dispenser, which attaches to the inlet pipe that flows filtered water into the tub.
The dispenser is more quirky than you may initially realise. Depending on how you close it (essentially where you twist it to), it allows a different amount of water to flow through the dispenser. If the valve is wide open, it’s easy to release too much chlorine into the water.
Reducing the chlorine level can be an annoying problem, because there are few practical options for this. You either need to dilute the water somehow, or wait very patiently (days) for the level to naturally reduce. Taking the cover off and having bright sunshine on the water (allegedly) speeds this up, but it’s still time consuming.
Once I have the chlorine level right, I tend to only allow a small amount through the dispenser. In fact, sometimes I detach it and simply allow it to float in the water, which seems to release the chemicals (and dissolve the tablet) more slowly than when it’s having water pushed through it.
You also have to balance the pH. This is why I recommend that you buy the pH Plus and pH Minus chemicals. When you initially fill the tub, you may find the pH is spot on, but over time you will inevitably need these to make the water more alkaline or more acidic. I’ve needed both on different occasions. You usually just need to dilute them in water, add them to the tub, and then wait (typically four hours) before checking the levels again.
Actually checking the water is easy using the kind of test strips pictured above. You simply dip one in the water, and then compare the colours to the guide on the tub.
I realise that this section has ended up rather long, and that’s appropriate. Whenever I talk to a friend about getting an inflatable hot tub, I warn them that keeping on top of the chemicals is an ongoing job that you can’t ignore.
Perhaps the worst part is that if you neglect the job for a few days, you can end up in a situation where you come to use the tub but can’t. You can then need to spend another day or two balancing everything before it’s ready again, or even need to empty and refill if things have gone too far.
You really need to be checking the chemicals every day (or at least every other day) to have a Lay Z Spa that you can count on using regularly.
The final part of the maintenance equation is regularly changing (or cleaning) the filter cartridge.
You don’t need to use a brand new one every time. You can prolong their life by regularly hosing them down and removing the debris. Once again, this is something that will reward regular, consistent attention.
If you don’t clean / change the filter regularly, the chemicals have more work to do and it’s harder to keep the levels right. And if you leave it too long before you check the filter, it’s more likely you’ll feel the need to bin it and use a new one, rather than clear it under the tap.
Using the Lay Z Spa Miami
With all the practical stuff out of the way, let’s move onto the fun part that makes it all worthwhile.
The thing that really impresses me about Lay Z Spas in general is that using one really does feel as good as using a “real” hot tub.
A few people I’ve spoken to have assumed that it can’t be as good without the carved out seats. I disagree, and have found that those people are converted when they give it a try. Hot tub seats look great when you’re not in the tub, but you do tend to float your way out of them once the jets are on.
So long as your spa is on a nice cushioned surface, it’s very comfortable, even though you’re “sitting on the floor.” If, like me, you have children (more on that below) it means you have a pool they can “play” in rather than just sit in (although that’s a mixed blessing when you’re trying to relax!)
The controls for the Lay Z Spa Miami are minimal. There’s a button to switch the filter on, another for the spa bubbles, and another for the heat. While early Lay Z spas couldn’t heat while the bubbles were on, the newer ones can.
It’s worth noting that the bubbles are a simple “on or off” kind of deal. There are no settings for different power levels.
There are also controls to set the temperature, and you have a timer to set the heat / pump to come on after a specific delay. Once ours is out for the season, we just leave it on, but those keen to think through the economics in more detail could probably make some savings by using this feature.
I do note from an online search that the SaluSpa / Lay Z Spa Miami now has a more modern looking pump unit to the one we have, but the functionality appears identical.
One thing to be aware of is that there’s an automatic power down if you don’t touch anything on the panel for several days. This has caught me out more than once when I’ve gone to use the tub, only to realise it switched off the day before and the temperature has dropped by ten degrees.
The inflatable cover fits well, and is secured with clips. To open these, you need to squeeze the sides, AND push them in to unlock them. This makes them safer when you have inquisitive toddlers around.
Confession time: We don’t look after our Lay Z Spa Miami nearly as well as we should.
But the good news is that its stood up admirably to our abuse. This has included not emptying it for winter, nor taking the pump indoors in freezing temperatures. Our previous Palm Springs model survived our lackadaisical attitude too – but your mileage may vary. I’m NOT suggesting that you don’t follow the instructions to the letter.
Of course, if you don’t put the hot tub away when you’re not using it – following the very precise instructions provided – you give yourself a serious clean-up mission when you decide to recommission it. And – of course – you only have yourself to blame if the heater or pump fails when you try it the next season.
Bestway offers a one year warranty in the US and two years in the UK – but clearly this is dependent on you following the care instructions to the letter.
Thankfully, we rather enjoy giving it all a good clean each season, even though it’s a two day job. We do it on the first warm days of the year and our children – especially – throughly enjoy it.
Each time, we fill it once, using a hot tub flush solution to ensure we clean any nasties from the filter system, before emptying and filling again before heating it and using it.
Although there are Lay Z Spa / SaluSpa reviews that complain of durability issues, heater faults and punctures, we’ve had no such problems – and that’s based on having two of these hot tubs over the course of six years. Perhaps we’ve been lucky, but I can only share my own experience.
The only thing I have noticed is that the Lay Z Spa Miami now seems to inflate in a slightly “wonky” way at three years old (you may be able to see what I mean from the first photo in the article). It doesn’t affect its use, but I suspect that it may be time to invest in a new one next year, or – if we’re lucky – that it has only one more season in it.
Lay Z Spa Tips: Realities of Living With a Lay Z Spa
As you can probably tell, this Lay Z Spa Miami review is a largely positive one. I have little to criticise about the spa itself. However, there are some things to keep in mind about reality of owning one:
Cleaning and Maintenance is a Significant Commitment
I’ve already touched on this, but before buying an inflatable hot tub, it really is worth asking yourself whether you’ll be able to keep on top of the chemicals and maintenance.
If you don’t – which could just be because you’re busy with other things – you may frequently find that the spa isn’t “ready” when you decide you want to use it. Quite often I decide I fancy a dip, and the only dip I actually get is the one where I dunk the test strip and discover the chemical levels are wrong.
It only takes five minutes each day to take care of the hot tub, but if you don’t do it, it can quickly feel more like a burden than a fun thing to have in your garden.
Family Politics Can Be Complicated
Official advice is that children under five shouldn’t use hot tubs.
We have a three year old and a seven year old. It’s not easy to tell the youngest one that he’s not allowed in, but his brother is.
This has lead to us using the hot tub less this year than we have in the past. Depending on your own family makeup, it could be worth some consideration.
Also, as a parent, you should probably accept that a young child who IS allowed in isn’t going to want to sit and chill. They want to “swim,” dive under the water, play games. This is just lovely, but it can mean that to actually use your tub for relaxation, you have to do it “on the sly” when they’re at school or in bed!
There ARE Dangers
There is responsibility that comes with owning a hot tub – even an inexpensive inflatable one! This is especially important if you have young children.
You must, of course, ensure they’re not left unattended near it. And if they’re at the age that they’re allowed in, getting those chemicals right is crucially important, because dirty or over chlorinated water can make them ill.
And the same applies if you’re having guests over to use the tub. They won’t thank you if their hour of relaxation results in a skin condition.
With warm bubbly water comes great responsibility.
Our Lay Z Spa Miami has been a fabulous purchase, and so was the Palm Springs model we had before.
At the time of writing, you can pick up a Miami for as little as £330 (PRO TIP: Buy them off season when the prices are ALWAYS lower). Even if this one only last three years, that’s just over £100 a year to have OUR OWN hot tub!
Of course, you also have to think about the cost of running it. You do have to budget for filters and chemicals, which can add up to around £100 / $130 over the course of a season. I have to say that I’ve not noticed any big increase in our electricity bills, but we are a large family with two full time home workers, so our electricity bills are huge anyway!
I’m going to end my Lay Z Spa Miami review by giving it a hearty recommendation. However, I would strongly urge you to consider the practicalities I’ve raised throughout this review.
Owning an inflatable hot tub can genuinely be 99% as good as having a much more expensive “real one,” and an affordable luxury for your home. But it can also be something that gathers dust, never gets cleaned, and causes arguments between your children!
Have a think about those things before you click any “buy now” button.