Spa Hopping: Four Enchanting Retreats in New Mexico

new-mexico-spa-retreats[Image: Courtesy of Spa at Loretto Santa Fe]There’s magic in the air in Santa Fe, New Mexico. With its charming adobe-style architecture, rich heritage, diverse art community and majestic beauty, the country’s oldest state capital passionately embodies the spirit of the Southwest, and has always been a healing place. For centuries, the medicine people of the region’s indigenous tribes have used herbs, minerals, animal totems, prayers and blessings to promote wellness. Those traditional practices now merge with more contemporary ones in the area’s day spas and resorts— some of which claim to be “energy vortexes” where the spirit is amplified. From ancient Ayurveda to shamanism, herbalism to acupuncture, a multitude of healing modalities play into advanced forms of bodywork and wellness services, making Santa Fe the perfect destination for spa-goers who want to become more health-minded, open-minded and connected to the earth.

Spa Sage at La Posada de Santa Fe

Located on six acres in downtown Santa Fe, the La Posada property was established in 1882 in a three-story brick mansion. In the 1930s, adobe-style casitas were constructed around the mansion to create an arts colony. Part of an extensive renovation in the late 1990s, the 4,500-square-foot spa features eight treatment rooms, a hydrotherapy soak tub, herbal steam rooms, a salon and a fitness center.

Some say the place also houses a grandmotherly ghost, but the only spirit I encountered was the haunting warmth of the spa staff, who greeted me with a white sage ritual—an ancient custom in which a locally grown sage bundle is made and later tossed into a fire. “Sage is sacred to Native Americans because it’s so purifying for the mind, body and spirit,” says spa director Michelle Hutchens. “We ask guests to think about an intention or concern that they want to release and help them create positive energy.”

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The ritual set the stage for The Spirit of Santa Fe (80 min./ $195) from the spa’s signature menu. To begin, my therapist, Deverell, applied an exfoliating blend of sage essential oil mixed with blue corn meal. “The corn granules are so healthy for the skin, and don’t over-exfoliate,” says Hutchens. “It’s extremely quenching, unlike salt, which can pull out moisture.” After rinsing off the concoction, Deverell wrapped me in a heated towel while I enjoyed a neck and scalp massage. A full-body massage followed, featuring warm sage oil to further hydrate my newly softened skin.

Spa at Loretto Santa Fe

Located just blocks from the historic city center, the Inn and Spa at Loretto Santa Fe is a striking example of revival adobe architecture. Unlike the imposing main structure, the spa inside is surprisingly small and accessed by an express elevator, which leads to a private hallway hand-painted with traditional Mimbres symbols. A tiny check-in area and shop are the only common spaces, and the large treatment suites were formerly guestrooms. Each has its own full private bath and lounge, with a deluxe massage table taking center stage.

The latest offering is the Spirit of Heritage (110 min./$285), a 30-minute ritual followed by the 80-minute Sacred Stone Massage. The massage is the spa’s nod to Native American purification rituals, in which fire-heated rocks are used to regulate the heat inside sweat lodges. “We’re very interested in the ancient healing traditions of the indigenous populations,” says the spa’s longtime director Suzanne Chavez. “We use locally sourced oils to nurture the artisans who have been producing healing ointments for generations.”

The Spirit of Heritage ritual began with a foot soak in aromatic warm water, prepared with softening salts and rose petals. As I was gently led into the experience, aided by comforting sips of herbal tea and a heated neck wrap, my mind flashed back to a similarly pleasing treatment I’d once received in Mexico. The surprising sensory recall was a reassuring sign that the process was working wonders to relieve my tension and transport me to a better state. I sunk into the 15-minute foot massage that followed, particularly enjoying the practitioner’s studied focus on reflex point work to address my ongoing ankle and arch pain. “The ritual is a powerful tool to access the internal pathways of energy, creating a perfect state for healing,” says Chavez.

New Mexico Spas

  • La-Posada-fountain
    Spa Sage at La Posada de Santa Fe
Ten Thousand Waves

An anomaly in the Southwest, Ten Thousand Waves is an authentic onsen spa: Inspired by the great Japanese hot spring resorts, it boasts manicured gardens, koi ponds, piñon pines and pagodas.

“I call it Japanese Adobe,” says owner Duke Klauck, who opened the spa 37 years ago with one massage room and two hot tubs. The property now has 19 treatment rooms, along with a meditation room, a tops-optional coed pool, women-only and private soaking tubs, a dozen hotel guestrooms and a Japanese restaurant.

Shiatsu massage is the specialty here, provided by therapists who rigorously train for more than 200 hours and study with a master sensei every year. For my Japanese Shiatsu Massage (50 min./$129; 80 min./$189), I was instructed to change into loose-fitting clothes to allow for better manipulation of muscle attachments. I lay on a low table while the spa’s lead shiatsu therapist, Luke, worked a 30-line kata on the muscle meridians down my back, neck, shoulder and legs. I flipped over, and he concentrated on 15 more. “Shiatsu addresses pain and blockages to improve energy, blood flow and organ function,” says spa director Courtney Morris. “When guests request deep tissue, we always recommend shiatsu. It’s extremely therapeutic and addresses the whole nervous system.”

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I was a Shiatsu virgin, but instantly became a convert. I occasionally experience insecurities with more intimate massages, so the modesty of the clothed treatment allowed me to more quickly release muscle tension and truly relax.

Sunrise Springs

The view at the sprawling Sunrise Springs destination spa is spectacular, with towering cottonwood trees encircling a spring- fed pond, a footbridge to a Native American Medicine Wheel labyrinth and 20 acres of gardens. The only sounds are the quiet clucks of chickens and the breeze rustling through the leaves.

The newer sister oasis of Santa Fe’s legendary Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort and Spa, Sunrise Springs takes a multi- layered approach to wellness that includes bodywork, skin care, energy healing, integrative medicine and life consultations. Movement, meditation and fitness classes help guests reach personal goals, while innovative “thrive guide” sessions inspire with culinary, horticulture, DIY, art and archery experiences. My favorites? Cuddle opportunities with soft Silkie chickens and sweet Labrador puppies in training to become assistance dogs.

The Ojitos Private Outdoor Soaking Experience (25 min. for 1 guest/$30; 50 min. for 1-2 guests/$45-$55) is a facility highlight, offering pools or mineral-infused soaking tubs complete with wood-burning kiva fireplaces, plus privacy screens that open and close with the press of a button. “Our triple-filtered water comes from our spring-fed pond,” says Maggie Wagner, director of spa and retail. “The calming magnesium-based soak is a natural, detoxifying bath that relieves stress and body aches.”

Although there were two other guests in the tub next door, I only saw or heard them when I exited the sauna before my soak. Otherwise, I felt completely alone, luxuriating under the stars in my own tranquil water oasis, soothed by the sounds of the bubbling pool jets, the crackling fire, and the soft hoots of an owl perched in a nearby tree. It was pure bliss.

–by Vicki Arkoff


[Images: Courtesy of each spa]

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