Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort and Spa: Then and now

Native Americans have been soaking in the natural springs that are now Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa for over a thousand years. It’s possible that people have been luxuriating in hot springs from the moment they were discovered countless thousands of years ago. In a time when you had to heat hot water over a fire, finding it coming out of the ground must have been astounding and perhaps a little frightening.

Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs sign photo/courtesy Ojo Caliente

Vintage Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs sign, photo/courtesy Ojo Caliente

When the Spaniards arrived in the area looking for gold, they were sadly disappointed. There was none (or none that the Pueblo people knew of). One explorer noted, “The greatest treasure that I found these strange people to possess, are hot springs which burst out at the foot of a mountain.” He named them Ojo Caliente, which translates as hot eye.

Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Historic Hotel circa 1930 photo/Ojo Caliente

The Historic Hotel at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Hotel in the 1930s photo/courtesy Ojo Caliente

In 1869, Taos native, Antonio Joseph, arrived in the town of Ojo Caliente and opened Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs. It was the first natural health spa in the country. He also built a sanitarium, which gained a national reputation as a place for healing. Three of the resort’s restored buildings are on the National Registry of Historic Places: the Co-ed Bathhouse built in the 1860s, the mission-style Historic Hotel, built in 1916 and the Adobe Round Barn erected in 1924.

Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Historic Hotel today

The historic Hotel at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs 2012, photo/Steve Collins

The term spa is said to be the acronym for the Latin phrase, sanitas per aquam, (health through water).  Today, the word “spa” is used more loosely, but Ojo is a true spa. There are four different mineral waters coming out of the ground; lithia, iron, soda and arsenic. Water from the iron and arsenic springs is blended in various pools throughout the property. The green, state-of-the-art filtration system purifies all the water used here. Soaking pools are emptied and cleaned three times a week.

Round barn at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs

Round barn built 1924 in a bygone day, photo/courtesy Ojo Caliente

The Lithia Spring is located at the heart of the springs. The historic pump has dispensed this unique water since the nineteenth century.Currently, due to age, it’s not working. The resort is currently evaluating whether to fix or put a soaking pool in it’s place. Lithia is believed to relieve depression and aid digestion.

the round barn at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs

the round barn at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs noe photo/courtesy Ojo Caliente

The Iron Spring is considered to be beneficial to the blood and immune system.   The ancient people who lived here believed that the giant rock in the pool guarded the sacred place that provided food and water in times of famine.

Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs pool photo/Ojo Caliente

Swimming in the mineral springs pool in the 1950s, courtesy Ojo Caliente

The Soda Spring (the only pool that is enclosed) is said to relieve digestive problems.

Iron pool at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs

A contemporary photo of the Iron Pool at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs, photo/courtesy Ojo Caliente

The Arsenic Spring is believed to be beneficial for relief from arthritis, stomach ulcers and healing for a variety of skin conditions.

Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs store

Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs store in earlier days, photo/courtesy Ojo Caliente

Today, Ojo has been restored and renovated. There are 48 guest accommodations, including the suites added between 2007 and 2009. These suites are sited around a central plaza similar to those found in the traditional Pueblos in the area. The Plaza Suites, on the west side of the square, were built on the footprint of the South Cottages (dating to 1930). The Pueblo and Cliffside Suites, all with fireplaces, enclose the south and west sides of the plaza. The Cliffside accommodations also offer private soaking tubs on their back patios. The Kiva Pool is in the center of the landscaped Plaza. The round pool, built as the Pueblo people built their ceremonial chambers, called kivas, is for suite guests only.

The store at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs

Ojo Caliente's current store in the new reception building where guests check in, photo/Steve Collins

The Spa offers a range of treatments in therapy rooms added in 2009. The Main Bathhouse offers individual soaking tubs for guests who want a more private experience or prefer to bathe au natural. Indulge yourself with a Private Ritual Herbal Soak followed by the spa’s signature Milagro Wrap. The private soaking pools with kiva fireplaces are sublime for anyone and a perfect for a romantic getaway.

Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs reception area

Ojo Caliente's new reception area, photo Steve Collins

After a spa treatment or soak head for the Historic Hotel and enjoy a relaxing drink in the Wine Bar & Lounge, also a great place for light fare. The Artesian Restaurant serves three meals a day.

The waters at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa have been relaxing and rejuvenating people for millennia. Discover their magic.

Author’s notes:

Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa: Then and now is second post in our series on Santa Fe Treasures.  Read the first one on architect John Gaw Meem.

While we were at Ojo, we went on a llama trek. Take a Llama to Lunch is a must-do experience and enjoyed the Artesian Restaurant.

We had a hosted stay at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort and Spa. Their generous hospitality did not influence this post in any way,

9 Responses to “Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort and Spa: Then and now”

  1. Jim O'Donnell
    January 26, 2019 at 6:58 am #

    The hot springs is a great place and the owners run a quality operation. It is a shame how much the prices have gone up over the past few years - despite some significant breaks for locals the place is still getting to be out of the range for most of us to afford.

    • Scott Knauer
      January 26, 2019 at 8:41 am #

      I disagree, Jim. While some of the hotel rooms may be steep, the use of the pools themselves are quite affordable. Also, the spa treatments are comparable to other spas we’ve visited (and much cheaper than the ones on a recent cruise we just took). Ojo Caliente has ambiance that can’t be beat elsewhere. See for yourself by hiking on top of the mesa around the spa, then retreat back for a soak in the iron pool (my personal favorite).

      • Billie Frank
        January 26, 2019 at 9:53 am #

        Thanks for your comment, Scott. The spa treatments are certainly less expensive than equivalent spas in Santa Fe and Taos and the therapists we experienced were great. The walk to Posi on the mesa is incredible and the pools went a long way to soaking the aches out of my legs at the end of the walk.

    • Billie Frank
      January 26, 2019 at 9:51 am #

      We went to Ojo in the late 90s and it was tired. I didn’t want to soak there. Over the years, we have watched it evolve into the inviting place it is today. I used to be very Luke warm about coming here to soak and I’m a big hot spring fan. Now, I look forward to it.

      The steward, as the owners think of themselves, have done an incredible job restoring and adding to what was a tired old lady. I remember the old women’s locker room where I didn’t want to get into the shower. I love the new reception building with the great boutique, new woman’s locker room and that the old women’s locker room was redone and the private tubs added. The old casita accommodations were a bit too retro and not in a good sense. I’m thrilled that the resort’s been refurbished. They have made the dumpy hot springs into a sparkling resort, a place I want to go to. The reality is all this cost a lot of money and they have to recoup their investment.

  2. Charles Higgins
    January 26, 2019 at 10:26 pm #

    Thanks for the historical contrast of this landmark site..


    • Steve Collins
      January 30, 2019 at 9:36 pm #

      Thanks, Charles. I really love the mix of history, culture and geology that this area has. The Valles Caldera Preserve has all of those things in large measure.

    • Billie Frank
      January 30, 2019 at 9:55 pm #

      Were you even there when you lived in NM?

  3. Wendi Gelfound
    January 30, 2019 at 3:26 pm #

    Thank you everyone for the wonderful dialogue! We very much appreciate the feedback. As a point of reference the Springs are open from 8am - 10pm every day of the year. We do offer a Sunset Rate, after 6pm. Monday - Thursday regular entry is $18pp; Sunset Rate is $14pp. Friday, Sat, Sun & Holidays regular rate is $28pp; Sunset Rate is $24pp. In addition, we have special discount cards available for purchase. Our Club Ojo Card provides 9 visits for $149 (maximum of 2 people soaking per visit). And, our fellow New Mexicans can purchase the Club New Mexico Card, which features 9 visits for $119, valid Mon-Thurs., excl. holiday periods, maximum of 2 people soaking per visit). Both discount cards offer a substantial savings over individual daily rates. All Springs’ entry fees include access to all the mineral pools, steam, sauna, and mud pool (open seasonally). In addition, we do offer special packages and seasonal specials which are posted on our website at http://www.ojospa.com.

    Please be assured that we do our best to provide all our guests with the best possible value. By way of information, our lodging and spa guests receive added value of between $72 - $112 in springs access, based on double occupancy, during their visit, including day of arrival and day of departure. In addition, those guests lodging in our suites have access to our beautiful new Kiva Pool, which is a more private environment featuring extended soaking hours.
    Thank you and kind regards, Wendi Gelfound

    • Billie Frank
      January 30, 2019 at 4:53 pm #

      Thanks, Wendy for your clarifying Ojo’s rate structure and mentioning the discount soaking passes.

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