Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs: An Ah! Experience
Read more about New Mexico
Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs is one of the oldest mineral spas in the country, dating back to1868 when Antonio Joseph, New Mexico's 1st Territorial Representative to Congress, built the first bathhouse and Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs became one of the first natural health resorts in the country.
Of course, the springs had been in use much longer. The area was part of the land of the Tewa tribes who built their large pueblos and terraced gardens on the mesa overlooking the springs. The Posi or Poseouinge, "village at the place of the green bubbling hot springs" was the largest and was home to thousands of people. It's ruins are still sitting atop the mesa as a hiking destination.
Ojo Caliente looks a lot different today, but some of the original buildings remain and are listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The Historic Bathhouse, built in 1868, is still in use as a bath house (although totally renovated and updated inside). The Historic Hotel, built in 1916, has also been updated and today offers comfy rooms, the Artesian Restaurant, and the Wine Bar. The Adobe Round Barn, built in 1924, is now a special events venue.
Taking the WatersAs people have done for centuries, visitors come to Ojo for the waters. Ojo Caliente is the only hot springs in the world with four different types of mineral water. Lithia, iron, soda and arsenic all bubble up from the underground springs.
Lithia is believed to relieve depression and aid digestion. Iron is considered to be beneficial to the blood and immune system. Water from the Soda Spring is said to have been used to relieve digestive problems. The arsenic water is believed to be beneficial for relief from arthritis, stomach ulcers and to heal a variety of skin conditions.
There's also a special mud pool, and a large family friendly and ADA compliant pool large enough for a swim.
The pools are filled with different types and combinations of waters with a temperature range of about 85 degrees for the large pool to about 109 degrees for the smaller specialized waters. The concentration of minerals and the temperature of each pool is listed on a sign by the pool.
What you won't find in these waters is chlorine or synthetic antibacterial. The sole exception is the large family-friendly pool. Because children are permitted, some chlorine is used to make sure the water stays clean. All other soaking pools are drained, cleaned and refilled at least three times a week. Ozone and ultraviolet light are used to sterilize the water. The Mud pool is drained and cleaned daily.
But for those craving some very private time, several mineral pools in the bathhouse are available by the hour.
Spa ServicesOjo Caliente incorporates Ayurvedic principles through their line of products and a holistic approach to wellness incorporating local wild herbs into their therapies. But what most guests will notice is that there's a complete menu of both traditional and innovative spa treatments including skin care therapies. Their signature treatment -- Ancient Echoes -- induces a state of pure bliss. It focuses on the upper back, shoulders, arms, neck, scalp, face and ears finishing off with a luxurious foot massage.
AccommodationsOjo Caliente Mineral Spa exudes an intimate relaxed feel and an unpretentious atmosphere that comes from the welcoming pueblo-style architecture, the small number of rooms, and the guests who stroll between rooms and pools in the supplied light brown robes.
Despite a variety of accommodations there are only 48 rooms at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs. But there is everything from cottages to suites. Updated rooms in the historic hotel to two private homes available for small groups and families.
Ojo Caliente also makes a great romantic getaway. The Plaza, Pueblo and Cliffside Suites come with access to their own Kiva Pool for a dip right outside your room. Some suites offer a kiva fireplace, and even have their own small totally private mineral tub.
HikingThere's several hiking trails ranging in length and difficulty. You can pick up a hiking guide at the front desk but there are signs along the way. The easiest is the 2 mile level Bosque River Loop that offers a beautiful walk through woods and along water. The hikes up into the mountains offer spectacular scenery but involve climbing up rocks to reach the mesa.
DiningOpen for breakfast, lunch, and dinner the Artesian Restaurant offers a wide range of tastes and flavors. Try a New Mexico inspired breakfast tacos, burritos, or blue corn and pinion nut pancakes, or enjoy organic omelet with deliciously seasoned breakfast potatoes. Vegans might enjoy the tofu scramble.
Lunch focuses on sandwiches and salads. I loved the grilled chicken on whole grain ciabatta with arugula, small crispy fried onions, and green chile marmalade. The prickly pear lemonade was an unusual treat -- refreshing with a hint of sweetness. It's hard to describe the taste of prickly pear -- it's been compared to watermelon, but with a distinct herbal undertone.
Dinner menu has a bit of everything from grilled trout with a toasted pinon glaze, udon noodles with edamame in a spicy chile lime broth. I loved my green chile crusted salmon with smashed potatoes in a poblano chile sauce. And definitely leave room for desert.
If you want more casual dining try a New Mexican pizza or soup and salad from the Wine Bar menu. Heartier fare like burgers and tacos are served 5 pm to close.
Enjoy a Hot Springs DayIf you're just passing through, you can take advantage of their day-pass which include the use of all mineral pools, steam and sauna, and the Mud Pool. Midweek (Monday through Thursday) is the least expensive.
With high desert climate of New Mexico any time of year is a great time to visit, and enjoy some peace and serenity.
Have a comment to share? Like us on Facebook - OffbeatTravelCom and post your comment.
Neala Schwartzberg McCarten
Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by the author