You get off I-25 and you drive down a country road. You reach tall wooden gates, announce yourself through an intercom, the gates peal back, and there you are – in a private, 70-acre oasis of spring fed pond and water pavilion, home to a spa, yoga, meditation, and experiential programs as unusual as they are glorious.
It’s all just 20 minutes from the art and shopping of downtown Santa Fe, but it is its own oasis, a spa for 25 years before the owners of Ojo Caliente Spa an hour away purchased and repurposed it a year ago.
Renew your body, sure thing – but you’ll also be renewing your soul.
There’s a blissful, peaceful, wild aspect to the property itself, which strives, according to marketing director Wendi Gelfound, to bring the outdoors in. Rooms and casitas are simply gorgeous, austere yet welcoming, a neutral palette the perfect backdrop to a private patio with rock garden, burbling fountains, spring fed ponds, and wild flowers. What a pleasure to stroll the grounds, cross a serene wooden bridge, sit in an Adirondak chair overlooking water, watch butterflies, catch the scent of pinion smoke from the fire burning in the center of the Native American Medicine Wheel that forms the heart and soul of the place.
Or, take a soak in the new Ojitos Pavilion with private outdoor pools, take part in yoga, meditation, art classes, and therapeutic massages.
The 20 casitas and 32 guest rooms are pristine and peaceful, with a serene almost Scandinavian style that fuses with the Southwestern surrounding with a surprising intimacy. Our casita included a gas fireplace, a writing nook – would love to have a writing residency here, and wet bar; a beautiful private courtyard made a great spot for stargazing.
Thoughtful touches such as a book of meditation exercises and organic teas were left for us. You could easily stay in this self-contained space and be content to never leave. But that would be a loss with so many wonderful experiences to enjoy.
We began our stay with the Earth Keepers’ Hot Stone Massage, a blissful and very therapeutic 80 minute experience. Stones are warm, oiled, and meticulously applied to soothe muscles and relieve tension, placed on chakra points. Not your thing? Other massage options abound as do alternatives such as Reiki, skin care facials, nutrition and sleep consultation, and Ayurvedic therapies.
At the resort’s Blue Heron restaurant, the meals are well worth attending. None of the anemic spa fare that frequently plagues “renewing” destinations. Rather, here you’ll find elegant lunches and dinner served in a restored, historic building beside a natural spring-fed pond. The food is every bit as good as that served in top drawer LA restaurants, and there is a surprisingly varied menu that invites lingering.
Dinner includes choices of starters, entrees, and desserts, featuring courses such as Pan-Seared Diver Scallops, a red kale Caesar salad, a Poblano relleno made with quinoa, sauteed autumn vegetables, and mild red chile sauce, and grilled salmon with vegetable gallet and lemon butter. For lunch there were choices such as the incredibly fresh Ojo Farm Mixed Green Salad with dried apricots, candied walnuts and blue cheese vinaigrette, the Roasted Vegetable Tamale, or the Vegetable Fajitas. Desserts such as the rich Flour-less Chocolate Decadence with crème anglaise are worth every calorie. The menu changes seasonally.
After dining, join the exuberant puppies in the All About Assistance Dogs program. These sweet pups are assistance dogs in training, selected for temperment to be of service. The nationally renowned Assistance Dogs of the West runs the program, working with dogs trained to care for individuals with a particular disability such as Diabetes or PTSD. Supervised playful visits help train the dogs, and are rewarding fun.
My favorite animal interaction was with the resort’s Silkie chickens. Inside a large chicken coup, guests hold these soft chickens which actually purr when contented, feed them, learn their habits, and collect eggs. A calming reminder of the serenity in other living beings, and a great way to rest one’s own over-active “monkey brain.”
Another way to calm and renew is with a dance-oriented yoga class, or a restful meditation; both were morning classes and were followed by breakfast served in the sunny Sages building.
The program that serves as the heart of everything the resort offers, however, is “Finding Your Place on the Medicine Wheel” both a discussion group and a spiritual therapy. The wheel is divided into east, west, north, and south quadrants which represent different times, spiritual interests, and stages in each guest’s life. The rings of the wheel correspond to the activities guests would like to invite into their lives, the traits, and the understanding guests wish to invite in. Repeatable daily, the beautifully curated experience lasts about 90 minutes.
Resort marketing manager Wendi Gelfound says the property was a former retreat center for 25 years. The owners of Ojo Caliente Minteral Resort took over Sunrise Springs in 2013, and spent years carefully crafting it into a space which is “visually appealing, with a conscious effort to bring the outdoors indoors, and create a beautiful, holistic space.” According to Gelfound, the beds and lamps in the rooms are designed and created by a Taos-based artist, shampoos, soaps and oils in the rooms and spa use locally harvested herbs and plants. A new spa apothecary line just launched, featuring massage oils and other products for guests to take home.
“The idea here is to hit the pause button. A Japanese study recently noted that five minutes in nature can calm you down,” Gelfound relates. “We are passionate about expanding on that, and on showing people things here that they can incorporate into their lives at home.” She adds that the resort has moved successfully from a “clinical health approach to one of inclusive spiritual health. Our experience leaders are licensed counselors, and have helped us design our program and our physical area.”
Along with overnight, weekend, and longer stays, the resort offers a day program that includes spa services as well. But why would you want to limit yourself?
Here, the wide open New Mexico sky is the perfect accompaniment to the wide range of classes, experiences, and pure pleasure this resort and spa offers. We defy you to not return – we certainly plan to do so!