Ojo Caliente: Experience Warm Luxury in New Mexico’s High Desert

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We arrived at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa in early afternoon, for a visit to its hot, mineral-rich waters. Operating in high desert, northwest of Santa Fe, New Mexico, Ojo’s first bathhouse was built nearly 150 years ago. While indigenous tribes discovered healing properties in these waters centuries earlier, visitors now access the pools through this laid-back resort.

Near the entrance one copper circle inside another decorates a gushing stone-faced fountain. Mirroring a petroglyph, in ruins behind the Springs, the logo glows nightly in spot-lighting. This represents Ojo’s hot eye, and the Springs’s namesake.

Ojo Caliente features weathered rock walls and cliffs in muted shades of brown and rust. Pale lavender and buttery yellow flowers, and olive green multi-branched cacti, also dot the landscape.

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Flowers brighten the entrance to Ojo Caliente. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Spa Finder has named reasonably-priced Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa among the Top 10 Best Hot Springs Spas in the World. We looked forward to discovering the healing pools and ambience for ourselves.

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Healing Pools at Ojo Caliente

Ojo Caliente is a place where overnight and day guests often walk around in plush robes, or wrapped with towels. There are no cell phone sounds and whispering is encouraged. Inside the bathing area, the massive cliffs shield the mineral pools.

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There’s information posted about the mineral content, near each pool. Photo by Lisa Waterman Gray

We found the women’s locker room and then showered with Ojo hair and body care products before visiting the Iron Pool. Its pebbled floor massaged our feet as 109-degree water supposedly benefited our blood. Enclosed by rough-hewn rock walls and a low ceiling, the Soda Pool was nearby. Visitors floated almost effortlessly in water, which is said to improve digestion. Infused with a mineral that is considered a digestive aid and depression reliever, the 104-degree Lithia Pool was the newest option.

Steamy arsenic and iron waters co-mingled in dual pools whose natural properties are said to heal some skin conditions, and decrease arthritis.

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Bathers enjoy twin pools with iron and arsenic-infused water. Photo by Lisa Waterman Gray

Water from a spout between these stair-stepped pools ran warm and soothing against my head and neck.

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Soaking at Ojo Caliente. Photo courtesy Ojo Caliente

We then stopped at the mud bath and slathered gooey, liquid red-brown earth on our bodies. Dry air and sunshine hardened the mud, creating the illusion of highly wrinkled skin. Some guests who dried for a long time looked like carved stone statues. A dip in a small pool, and an outdoor shower, removed the baked-on earth, leaving my skin smoother and softer.

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Enjoying a mud bath at Ojo Caliente. Photo courtesy Ojo Caliente

Spa Services at Ojo Caliente

Although Ojo Caliente’s healing waters are the major draw for many guests, the resort offers spa services as well. Restorative facial treatments and body wraps use the resort’s signature Round Barn Apothecary organic skin care. Specialty massages include a pregnancy focus as well as deep tissue or hot stone modalities.

If you’re looking for the ultimate pampering, book a Spa Package with a complimentary robe, locker and use of Ojo body and hair products. Whether your package incorporates reflexology, massage, or a Native American Blue Corn & Prickly Pear Salt Scrub, the goal is relaxation and rejuvenation.

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There’s a lovely fireplace in the lobby at Artesian Restaurant. Photo by Lisa Waterman Gray

Dine and Sleep at Ojo Caliente

When hunger beckons, seasonal breakfast, lunch and dinner options abound at Ojo’s award-winning Artesian Restaurant. The dining room was packed during our weeknight visit so we sat at a high top table in the Wine Bar. Tasty sangria complemented my Garden Flatbread. It was topped with fresh arugula leaves, Parmesan, cherry and roasted tomatoes, and sliced olives. My friend enjoyed a crisp salad and large portion of Pasta Pomodoro.

Breakfast options included Dulce De Leche French Toast or Chile Relleno, with Ceviche and Green Chile Cheese Burgers available at lunch. Mussels and trout, enchiladas and Filet Mignon were on the elegant dinner menu.

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Salmon served in Artesian Restaurant. Photo courtesy Ojo Caliente

Inside the dining room, a chalk board listed current ingredients harvested from Ojo’s own farm. They included baby beets, green and purple basil and edible flowers, to name a few.

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The historic hotel at Ojo Caliente also houses Artesian Restaurant. Photo by Lisa Waterman Gray

At night, we rested on comfy beds inside a quaint North Cottage, where the door of our cute kitchenette opened onto a little deck.

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We enjoyed our stay in Ojo’s North Cottages. Photo by Lisa Waterman Gray

You can also rent a small house or luxuriate in a Cliffside Suite with its own outdoor soaking tub.

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Cliffside suite with a private soaking tub on the patio. Photo courtesy Ojo Caliente

Rooms are also available in the 1917 hotel or you can rent an RV campsite.

Ojo Caliente’s Environmental Stewardship

In these gorgeous natural surroundings, environmentally responsible practices infuse every aspect of operations. The owners consider themselves stewards of this land—a mindset that benefits employees, visitors and the bottom line.

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Ojo Caliente owners pride themselves in being stewards of the lands. Photo courtesy Ojo Caliente

Energy from Ojo’s geothermal mineral springs heats and cools most buildings, resulting in enormous savings.  The resort has long used solar power as an adjunct heat source and rainwater for irrigation, while pecan-shell mulch nourishes plants. Ojo employs super-insulated concrete wall systems for all new buildings. There’s also non-CFC gas in its heat pump compressors.

Microbes digest raw sewage in the resort’s state-of-the art sludge wastewater treatment plant. This decreases nitrogen levels to acceptable environmental limits. The discharged ground water can then refill the local aquifer that serves Ojo and the entire community. Environmental stewardship is part of what makes this resort so special.

Night Magic at Ojo Caliente

Ojo feels otherworldly after dark. We finished dinner, put on swimsuits and robes and headed to the small private pool we had rented, for an evening soak. We eased into the warm water beneath brilliant stars sprinkled across the deep black sky.

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Nights are magical in private pools at Ojo. Photo courtesy Ojo Caliente

A blazing piñon-wood fire burned in the small kiva fireplace, as smoke curled and floated upwards. Spotlights shimmered across the water and cast deep shadows along the undulating cliff wall.

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A pinon fire blazed near the private pool after dark. Photo by Lisa Waterman Gray

All too soon, an attendant beyond the rustic gate announced the end of our session. Wrapped in our robes, we departed for the cottage. A gorgeous full moon illuminated piñon smoke from a fire pit along the brief route, where a sole guest relaxed. Less than half an hour after we returned, we had snuggled into our beds and fallen asleep.

Ojo is truly a place to get away from it all. Stay for a day or a week—and there’s no doubt you’ll return. Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa operates at 50 Los Banos Drive in Ojo Caliente, NM. Call 505.583.2233 or visit online.

Click here to read more about wandering New Mexico or here for more great spa experiences.

Note: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with discounted accommodations and other compensation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.

Written by Lisa Waterman Gray

A Kansas City-area resident, Lisa Waterman Gray has savored Quebec’s finest cuisine, ridden in a pickup before a Kansas buffalo herd, and toured natural Arizona landmarks with Native American guides. In June 2011, 18 months of driving, research, and writing ended with national publication of Lisa’s book, An Explorer’s Guide: Kansas. During October 2014, she was a U.S. delegate for Terre Madre and Salone del Gusto in Turin, Italy – a conference for Slow Food International. Lisa has written for Dreamscapes Travel & Lifestyle (a Canadian magazine), USA Today.com, Midwest Living, four AAA magazines, and other clients. Visit her online at http://www.lisawatermangray.com/.

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