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Inn at Ojo(Ojo Caliente)
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Reviewed September 21, 2009

Drove out from Taos to rid ourselves of two weeks worth of traveling, and purchased day passes and individual massages. Ojo Caliente is in the middle of Nowhere, NM, it is in a desert environment, it is "earthy" (to borrow another reviewer's term), and it is not Baden Baden. Potential visitors need to remember that.

The guests run the complete spectrum; if you're looking for the grandeur of a European-type spa, go somewhere else. If you're hoping to wash away some travel dust with their pools and a satisfactory massage, think about this place.

  • Stayed: September 2009, traveled as a couple
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Thank westlakeroad
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 25, 2009

We had such a great time at Ojo Caliente. We got one of the rooms with a Kiva fire place inside... so wonderful during the winter time. We also did a private pool in the evening after our massages and it was quite pleasant.

Our massages were very so so... so that's that. And I do wish the temperature of the water in the pools (especially for the winter time) was a bit hotter... it felt as though the temperature was around 90 ish degrees, and during the winter it just feels luke warm.

Overall a great experience.

  • Stayed: February 2009, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank atxtravelinman
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 9, 2009

Enjoyed our day visit to the springs! Read lots of reviews pro and con but we had a very enjoyable experience overall. Visited late on a Friday afternoon for about 2 1/2 hours. Upon arrival the desk was rather busy but the lady who greeted us was friendly and explained everything we needed to know. We brought our own locks, used them and had no problems with our belongings. The dressing room facilities were nice and pretty clean for late in the day. Just some water on the floor but that's to be expected. There is some construction going on in the central area by the pools but it wasn't a problem.

The springs were absolutely wonderful! Very refreshing and relaxing. The pools were never crowded and sometimes you would be in them alone depending on how the other guests moved between the pools, chairs, hammocks, etc. We did hear the very soft flute music playing during our visit which was enjoyable.

For most of the time during our visit everyone spoke softly when talking . But there was a group of visitors at first who spoke quite loudly and used the main pool for playing games and having swimming races. Fortunately they left about 30 minutes after we arrived and the rest of the time was very peaceful. The visitors were a diverse group to be sure but that made it all the more interesting.

Stopped in the gift shop on the way out and had a nice visit with the lady running the store. Very friendly and a pleasure to talk with her. We did not stay at the hotel or dine in the restaurant. Even though the price seems rather high at $24 (on a Friday) for the amount of time we were there we'd come back again for the mineral springs when visiting this area.

  • Stayed: July 2009, traveled with friends
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2  Thank pbUSA
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 1, 2009

Bought a day pass since I was concerned that the hotel was overpriced. We stayed in Santa Fe and that was about an hours' drive. The healing mineral baths are amazing, and we loved the mud baths. The new bathrooms are nice with several large showers available. You may want to take a lock to safeguard your valuables in one of the lockers. Rental locks are $5. The large cooling pool is nice after soaking in all the hot mineral pools. The location is beautiful and the energy is incredible.

  • Stayed: July 2009, traveled with friends
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1  Thank LeipersForker
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 25, 2009

Summary: best part of this place are the pools themselves. And the awe-inspiring gorgeous natural landscapes and places to hike and explore. And the fresh delicious interesting menu selections and completely civilized but unpretentious dinning area. And the hammocks, where you can swing in the breeze and look at the sky, read a book, and dip in and out of the hot (and one cool) pool all day long. Downside: accommodations themselves, petty theft, gross unhygienic showers, some of the folks from the trailer park/campground and day visitors, and lifestyle/class/culture tensions.

This is an interesting place. First and foremost the springs/pools are fabulous. No two ways about it.

However, like the dramatic, varying New Mexico terrain itself, Ojo Caliente is a place of extremes. On one hand peaceful and lovely. On the other hand: icky and sketched-out. I will give you both sides, and you'll have to decide what's right for you.

Starting with the positives, which are very compelling. There's some nice new construction and very respectable existing structures, some thoughtful elegant touches, like lighted cliffs at night, a very decent chef (particularly for lunch - yum! and at dinner look for his heavenly salads) and a very comfortable rustic-elegant nice dining room.

The grounds are well taken care of and pretty, the surroundings dramatic. And I met about half a dozen quite lovely people who were traveling and with whom I enjoyed pleasant conversations.

The spa treatments were superb. The day I got there (stayed 4 nights) I had altitude sickness and my masseuse was also an EMT so made sure I was hydrated, took my BP, and had me rest until my heart rate went down, and she was just the soul of kindness, competency, and professionalism. Another day I got a hot rocks spa treatment and was allowed to take a rock in a towel with me to my hammock to apply to a sore foot (which, of course I returned). So, kudos for the spa and the top-flight spa staff!

In the pool area, for a couple of days, the sounds of the most beautiful flute music wafted through the crystalline air – creating a magical idyllic atmosphere. The first day I heard it presumed it was recorded music, but then spotted a man with an assortment of wooden flutes playing music, making up songs as they occurred to him. Amazing! Lying in pool after pool, gently floating, looking up at the blue blue sky and puffy white clouds, totally peaceful, respectful, unobtrusive people also using the pools -- does it get any better?

Probably not. And unfortunately the above does not represent the sum total of the Ojo Caliente experience.

Ojo Caliente is *definitively* primitive. As other reviewers have noted, the "old hotel" rooms are a bit like cells. Very small and spare but thankfully not tacky. Towels in the rooms and spa are small and scratchy, and expect that yours may be stained -- as some of mine were.

In the "hotel," the bathrooms are toilets-only (no showers/tubs in the rooms). To take a shower you leave your room, walk through public hallways and hotel lobby, by the open restaurant, and down a long path to the public spa building. Once there, the shower is communal, which is not always pleasant.

In fact, the showers are pretty grotesque low-flow showers, used by everyone. Good luck getting the shampoo out of your hair. Do wear flip flops, unless you don't mind standing on mounds of hair and squooshy goo!

Only cottages come with robes (and buying a standard robe at the spa will set you back $80). A robe would come in handy to allow you to walk to the public communal showers without having to get dressed first.

If you're a private person you might not be super comfortable at Ojo Caliente. There are whiffs of sort of leftover super-casual-aging-hippie-1970s-let-it-all-hang-out vibe. Thankfully people weren't sans clothes. Altho you get the sense from some people at Ojo Caliente that not long ago such things were the norm, and they wish it had stayed that way.

That "vibe" is not the overarching one, but it is a tangible undercurrent running beneath this place, which seems to be struggling with its identity. Trying to become a little more, perhaps, low-key upscale? but also not offend the local and trailerpark community, and to be inclusive across all boundaries of personal lifestyle and social/economic class. Which I think is admirable, and even a do-able task, but difficult. And in my opinion, Ojo Caliente is only succeeding to some degree in striking this balance.

But back to the "hotel" rooms. Don't expect closets, hangers, hairdryers, TV, phones, or cell connection. The lack of closet/hangers was perplexing. I had to strew my clothes (wrinkled from traveling) all over the room and furniture b/c no place or way to hang up clothes. Perhaps it harkens back to the days when guests didn't wear clothes or didn't change outfits or mind wrinkles (or undried hair).

The old hotel is only 1 story high. So all rooms are at ground level. The windows and screens aren't secure. My neighbors' and mine were sort of taped shut. The hotel is, let's just be real here: noisy. The hallway (off which the rooms are located) is the major thorofare for the whole resort - leading from the parking lot to the restaurant, as well as to the main desk, the lobby, the path to the spa, etc.

The acoustics are that of a 100-year-old cheaply made wood frame building - so everything (everything) echoes throughout the hallways. It's so loud and the walls so very thin it's almost like people are standing in your room. Some of the old hotel rooms back up to a parking lot where trucks come roaring in, in the morning. Others face a courtyard. I stayed in the latter. A veranda is right outside those windows and, again, it's so loud it's as if people on the veranda are sitting inside your room talking.

There's a fire pit in the courtyard which, while a great idea, provides additional echoey noise late into the night, as people tend to pass around the wine bottle laughing and talking loudly before they eventually return to their trailers, campsites, or rooms.

There's no way to contact the hotel staff if there is a problem. Not even serious problems at night. No emergency number. But I suppose an emergency number wouldn't make sense anyway since no one is working -- and there are no phones in the room -- and your cell will not work.

So for silly issues, like people yukking it up at midnight at the firepit, better pull a pillow over your head or be prepared to get dressed and walk outside yourself to ask the folks to tone it down a bit (which you can imagine they're ecstatic to hear).

Which brings us to the culture issue. I've traveled throughout the US and world, and am not particularly fussy or spoiled, and am fine with simple rustic unpretentious places, but there's a difference between that and a place that feels, well, a little "seedy" -- a little creepy, a little too fringe, even ever-so-slightly unsafe-feeling.

It's not cheap to stay at Ojo Caliente. Not even the econo-style "hotel" rooms (which start at $109/nt and some cottages go to $300/nt). And many of the overnight guests seem to be the sort of people you'd expect to meet in a spa, anywhere in the world. They're gentile, interesting, polite, and tend to be quiet (not mouselike but not hootin' 'n' hollerin').

But it is a mixed bag. What I didn't realize until I arrived is Ojo Caliente has a campground where batches of people with rvs stay -- as well as an adjoining actual trailer park -- all part of its "resort," and Ojo Caliente allows these folks to visit the resort, day and night (until 10pm). I personally saw people who did not leave the grounds after that time, who wandered around the grounds and parking lot, as well as a sort of hobo-ish dude sleeping in his car each night. And these folks wander in and out of the hotel (where I was staying), talking loudly to each other, using a rest room located in the middle of the hall, right next to guest rooms.

Since everything is located in one general area, the mix of people floating around more or less at random---superimposed on top of a very small and intimate spa experience---detracts from what otherwise would be the special private experience of staying at a spa resort.

Some (certainly not all!) of the camping, trailer, and short-term day visitor folks seemed a bit on the iffy side. At the very least, they were definitely not a part of the "spa community" staying at Ojo Caliente for a special getaway vacation. But even a duo of scrappy backpacking Belgian 20-year-old somethings commented on the low-brow feel of the pools on "Too-fer-Tuesday."

As others have noted here, some of the people who show up for 2-Fer-Tuesday are downright...icky. There were groups of big rather hostile women who seemed to be traveling in packs who made downright rude "sotto voce" (not) comments to the "spa-type people."

For example, a group of 3 women who brought their panting dog into the pool area. They lolled about talking loudly. The dog was thirsty but the owner said she didn't feel like getting up to get him water, which was painful to watch. The dog was ostensibly a working dog for the handicapped but when I asked what the dog was trained for, one of these women sneered: "To attack people like you - rip your throat out!" as the two others guffawed.

Tuesday attracted a disquieting number of people with hygiene issues, bad boundaries, loud-talking, very fringe and not in a good way. On Too-fer-Tuesday a guy from Santa Fe suggested we "do some interesting things" with his "partner" in a rented private tub -- while his snaggletoothed partner sat nearby giggling and nodding excitedly. I left the pool and avoided them.

Also on To-fer-Tuesday a man asked where I was from -- and when I answered, stuck his hand in his Speed-o and began to pleasure himself. When I told the staff about this man, he said "Wow, that's gross," but didn't do anything about it.

All this in utter stark contrast to the many lovely, interesting, friendly people who you would strike up normal conversation with or be asked to join for dinner, and which is who you'd expect to find at a place like this.

Petty theft: a pair of sunglasses and a cute top stolen were stolen from a locker in the bath house, and the resort does not provide pad locks for the lockers. They kept saying they'd given out all the locks and were temporarily out -- and my last day I said "You don't carry locks, do you?" and the staff person said, "Nah." So bring a lock or carry all your belongings around with you.

According to both staff and other guests, theft apparently is an ongoing problem. Other guests I talked to at dinner had bathing suits stolen while they were in the shower, as well as sunglasses, sarongs, sandals, etc.

Generally a lot of "non-spa" type people (here and also at Ojo Caliente itself) seem to complain about how the resort is changing. I hope it is true. As much as I can understand people waxing poetic about the old days when people flitted around naked and got it on in the arsenic pool, that's not what I come to a spa for anyway, and if they choose to stay away in the future because it's getting "too snotty," so be it.

In the meantime, given the at-odds cultural divide, the resort is overpriced. If the pools were not there, I would never, ever, ever, stay at a place like this. At its worst it's downright seedy. Like a one-story Barton Fink hotel, but without the peeling wallpaper.

In sum: It was disconcerting to go from being so relaxed from the spa and pools and landscape -- and then totally on edge, dodging dodgy people, being woken up throughout the night and early morning, people stomping down the halls, people sitting right outside my window talking, and yukkin it up at the ole fire pit til after midnight (with no TV or radio to drown it out).

Note: my experience may be flavored by being a woman traveling alone, altho this was the first and only time in my life I've encountered people at a place I'm staying be as sketchy and say such creepy things. To be fair, the groups and couples I met who stayed in the cottages and hotel rooms seemed not to be approached by these odd people.

I would recommend Ojo Caliente to others but only with many, many caveats.

  • Stayed: October 2008, traveled solo
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49  Thank cest_vrai_quoi
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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