Added on Wed Jan 18 2012
If you've never been to Ten-Thousand Waves, you can look forward to a unique and memorable experience. If you have, chances are you remember the first time you ever visited, driving up the scenic ski basin road, ascending higher as you moved toward a day of sublime relaxation and communing with nature.
By happenstance, I was in New Mexico the year the Waves opened its doors in 1981. Once a week, my friends and I headed up for the day. It was purely about hot tubs then; Clear, hot water in a beautiful outdoor setting. The elements worked their magic, supporting the desire to surrender one's self wholly to the sweet art of doing nothing.
Duke Klauck is the free spirit who envisioned a Japanese Spa on the slopes of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. No Kokopellis or Anasazi spirals here, Klauck followed his bliss and stayed true to his enduring love of Japanese Onsen and built his homage to the joys of hot-tubbing in Santa Fe. The Spa has grown considerably in the last 31 years, adding first a single massage room, and now boasting over 100 therapists providing a variety of massage and spa treatments along with hot tubs that have additional amenities like private showers, commode, sauna and a cooling berth for resting.
As a result, this popularity has swelled the ranks of pleasure seekers. Consider booking time at the Waves during their off-season. Summer is bustling as well as the winter holidays. If you can manage a trip in the fall or spring, it's a quieter, calmer setting.
I've also noticed that some people make a huge assumption when they hear the words Japanese Spa.
They insert the word "zen" into the equation, which seems to conjure a meditation retreat kind of atmosphere. Ten-Thousand Waves is not a zen spa. In fact, it is modeled after the Japanese onsen family spa tradition. Klauck maintains that Ten-Thousand Waves is inclusive, and this is a very important distinction;
Children are allowed in the public hot tubs where most folks bathe nude. Additionally, this is a dog-friendly spa and those renting private tubs may bring their dogs into the tub area. I've seen complaints on travel sites about the non-zen nature of Ten-Thousand Waves, yet have never seen that claim made by the spa, and you know what they say about assumptions...
The waves is open every day of the year, including all the snowy days of winter. If you book in winter, you should have the wheels to make it to the spa. Also, bring slip on boots to wear and an extra layer for under your robe. Year round, the spa provides a muslin robe and plastic slip on sandals. You will need to bolster these amenities to keep warm and safe. It gets icy and slippery walking the grounds.
Alcohol is not served at the spa, but guests can bring their own alcoholic beverages. If you bring wine, you will have to provide your own opener. However, drinking and hot-tubbing are a risky mix and guests have fainted in the tubs from this combination, especially when you consider the altitude is about 8000 feet and the water is between 104 and 106 degrees. A guest from sea-level drinking wine can end up a queasy mess.
Some food and drinks are available in the gift shop, but selection can be ample or paltry, depending on that days traffic. It's nice to bring a snack and be sure to drink plenty of water. Eating is allowed in the lobby or outside on the benches, but no food is allowed in the hot tub areas.
A restaurant is currently under construction, so check the website for opening dates.
The Spa offers an array of packages that deftly combine complementary treatments. My favorite a la carte blend is a Premium Hot Tub [with private sauna and cold plunge], an 80 minute Master's Massage
and an 80 minute Japanese Organic Facial.
In January and February substantial discounts are offered to celebrate the Spa's Anniversary. Also, the recently added Ashi Anma Japanese foot massage
is a spectacular 25 minute treatment.
If you'd like to stay at Ten-Thousand Waves, 12 lodging suites are available to choose from.
It's a special place. I've been a fan for decades, in fact, I'm heading up this week for my favorite combination of treatments... I wear my Hedonism well.
Ten-Thousand Waves Spa homepage
photography © Suzanne Jordan