Chillaxing in a hammock under the shade at Ojo Caliente
Chillaxing in a hammock under the shade at Ojo Caliente

Road stop 2: Ojo Caliente, New Mexico (continued from part one…)

When my spa-cation opportunity arose and I began to ask around, Ojo Caliente and Ten Thousand Waves (stop five, later this week) were two spas mentioned most by others. Friends insisted I visit both so expectations were set high.

Ojo Caliente is about a 45-minute drive from Taos. Native Americans sought healing in these sacred waters thousands of years ago, and it opened as a resort in 1868. There are 11 hot spring-fed pools to soak in with temperatures ranging from 80ºF to 103ºF, plus a mud pool. It’s the only resort in the world with four different types of mineral waters flowing, each one attributed to different health benefits ranging from ailments like arthritis and psoriasis to depression. My maladies consisted of a bum elbow and shoulder, news alert text fatigue (post-election aftermath), and general midlife angst.

For reptilian types who crave the heat, summer is a great time to visit Ojo Caliente. If crowds were any indication, there are a lot of folks in that camp. For women of a certain age however, prone to hot flashes like myself, a cooler weather visit would be more optimal when the hot springs might feel more inviting.

One of 11 natural hot-spring-fed pools at Ojo Caliente
One of 11 natural hot-spring-fed pools at Ojo Caliente

I found my nirvana swinging from one of the many hammocks in the shade reading a book— the first I’d had time to sit down and savor, cover to cover, in I can’t remember how long. I returned in the early evening when the weather cooled and most of the people had gone, to soak in the hot pools. Ojo Caliente welcomes day visitors (including children, though limited to the one cool pool) which drew large crowds, during my June visit. Almost every lounge chair and hammock was filled much of the day.

June is apparently peak wildfire season, and there was one raging about 30 miles away, making the air quality extremely smoky, especially in the early morning when temperatures were more conducive to hike. Even with windows and doors closed in my room, my first waking awareness was that of the smell of smoke. As a result, I never got to hike up to the incredible views I saw on the resort’s website. I did however partake in yoga (offered each morning) in the yurt, which was lovely.

Me, downward dogging it in the yoga yurt
Me, downward dogging it in the yoga yurt

The Artesian restaurant on the property serves casual southwestern fare using freshly-harvested, seasonal produce from the Ojo Farm. My most memorable dish was the “chocolate cigar” made of phyllo dough-wrapped chocolate, baked to ooey-gooey perfection. The tip of the “cigar” was dipped in dark chocolate to appear burned, and served in a crystal ashtray, with a plume of whipped cream. A+ for creativity and taste.

At dinner on the patio one night, I overheard an older woman lamenting to another guest about her visits to Ojo in the 60s when clothing was optional. Hearing the chanting from the Kundalini yoga group gathered around the open-pit campfire across the way, I could totally picture the place back then.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but not at Ojo Caliente’s Artesian restaurant menu
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but not at Ojo Caliente’s Artesian restaurant menu

On the spa-front, I partook in a private outdoor soak in the heat of the day. The view was sublime, at the foot of the soaring cliffs. Standing au natural in the scorching sun and practically scalding water, wasps hovered above like drones. I closed my eyes and tried to envision myself there in January, with the cliffs dusted in snow, crisp air and wasps in hibernation.

At the spa, I had the 80-minute Youthful Glow facial including the add-on hand and foot massage. My therapist, a my 6’5” Swedish-looking masseur, left me feeling both youthful and more glowing, using the spa’s signature, Round Barn Apothecary nutrient-rich, skincare.

The Plaza Suites at Ojo Caliente under the smoky sky due to a nearby forest fire
The Plaza Suites at Ojo Caliente under the smoky sky due to a nearby forest fire

I stayed in one of the Plaza Suites, which were southwestern motel-like at first glance—an adobe, single-story, long stretch of rooms, each with a kitchenette and back door with a walkway that led to a private kiva tub, exclusively for overnight guests in our corner of the resort. This pool was much more tranquil and secluded than the multi-pool commons area.

My room’s décor boasted iconic Native American-inspired Pendleton blanket and throw pillows on the bed, contemporary iridescent-stained cement flooring. Resort accommodations range from basic rooms in the historic hotel section to posh private homes. Fall 2017 will welcome a section of airstream trailers, outfitted in mid-century modern interiors in the resort’s RV park.

I can see why people rave about Ojo Caliente but I’d love to return in the off-season, when the weather is cooler, skies are less smoky, and it’s less crowded. It offered some interesting people watching spanning the new age spectrum. My last morning at Ojo Caliente, I must confess, I wondered if ten days was too long of a spa-cation. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED my time at the previous spas but thought, five days felt ample. Then I arrived at Sunrise Springs, a destination spa in every sense of the word.

Cost: Rooms start at $149/night. Check the website for spa specials and packages including 20% off skier’s in winter.

In part three: Sunrise Springs, New Mexico.



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