Pagodas blend into the mountainside setting near Santa Fe at Ten Thousand Waves, a Japanese-style bath sanctuary and spa where you can sample treatments seldom found outside of Japan and relax into the Zen of warm water.

The massage pagodas at Ten Thousand Waves in Santa Fe. © Deborah Fleig

There’s almost nowhere more relaxing—and this beautiful, outdoorsy spa is perfect for slowing down and re-energizing.

Although Ten Thousand Waves is just 10 minutes from downtown Santa Fe, it feels worlds away from city life. I’ve visited three times, and on each, I’ve relished soaking in a hot tub while breathing in the scent of pine trees and listening to the cry of hawks and crows circling over the Sangre de Cristo mountains.

Who can help but relax at a place where nobody hurries and where warm water washes your worries away?


Baths on a Budget

This lovely retreat has created warm baths and cold plunges for all budgets. Soak in a communal Japanese bath for just $28 per person—there’s no time limit. There’s one co-ed communal bath and another for women only. In the past, the communal tubs allowed bathers to go au natural, but now bathing-suit bottoms are required. If you want to bathe in the buff, you may do so in the women’s-only tub or in a privately rented tub. (Don’t worry about nudity in public places: Everyone wanders through the Shangri-La-like spa in provided kimonos.)

The private Ichiban tub © Deborah Fleig

You can also reserve a private bath (like the Ichiban pictured above) starting at $60 per person for 90 minutes. I’ve tried both public and private options—and they’re equally delightful and stress-banishing.

One other favorite of mine is the foot bath, a communal bench where you can sit and read a book or converse (quietly, of course) with a friend while your eyes drink in the beauty of the Zen Garden. The foot bath is open and free to all visitors—you might just have to wait a few minutes until another happy foot soaker leaves a space on the bench.

Hot Stone Massage from Heaven

For deep immersion, Ten Thousand Waves offers spa treatments. The therapists here specialize in classic treatments done expertly: Swedish or deep-tissue massage, Thai massage and wonderful facials that take beauty more than skin deep.

One of the spa’s most popular treatments is the Nose-to-Toes, an 80-minute sampler that lets you experience Japanese foot massage; gentle Thai stretches; Hawaiian lomi-lomi massage strokes; skin exfoliation; and Yasuragi (Japanese) head, neck, and shoulder massage. Yum!

My hot stone massage at Ten Thousand Waves truly rocked. Therapist Aurora used the warm stones on acupoints on my body. Surprisingly, she also used cool stones from time to the time. I was on Cloud Nine.

In fact, I was so blissed out that I completely lost track of everything. During the treatment, Aurora placed small river stones between the toes of my right foot, but I thought she’d forgotten my left. Just as I was about to remind her, I wiggled my toes and realized the stones were between my left toes too. I had just drifted off for a few minutes.

The beautiful outdoor koi pond. © Deborah Fleig

On my most recent trip to Ten Thousand Waves, I sampled the Japanese Organic Facial Massage—a divine experience that erased all my worry lines. Danyelle alternated stroking, kneading, and a percussive technique that felt like rain falling on my face. She told me this helped increase circulation, muscle tone, and lymphatic drainage for the neck and face. All I have to say is it made me radiant.

The Green Side

New Mexico has a dry landscape, and the folks at Ten Thousand Waves are very water conscious. All water from the tubs is recycled and used to keep the landscaping lush and green. The entire spa is chlorine free: Bathwater is purified with ultraviolet light, hydrogen peroxide, copper/silver ions, and ozone.

Natural building materials keep the location feeling natural and ecofriendly: cork and tile floors, stone, and plenty of sustainable bamboo are used throughout.

Last but not least, Ten Thousand Waves’ signature spa products are all natural and contain no mineral oil, alcohol, artificial colors or animal products. And they’ve been tested on bathing beauties, not animals.

 —Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

Originally posted in April 2012

Updated August 2019



Showing 10 comments
  • Claire Walter

    Your eloquent, evocative description makes me want to saddle up the Subaru and head down that way. NOW! I’ve been aware of Ten Thousand waves for a long time (and have, in fact, included it in Things to Do in Santa Fe listings in articles I’ve written), but I’ve not yet been there myself. That will change as soon as possible. Claire @

    • Laurel

      Ten Thousand Waves is most fun to visit in winter. Sit in the warm tub and let it snow!

  • Bonnie Schwab

    Laurel, your new blog theme is sensational. I envy the seeming ease of your writing and capacity for full-spectrum enjoyment!

    • Laurel

      Quite a compliment coming from you!

  • Verna Wilder

    Ah, love the new look, Laurel, and love Ten Thousand Waves! I was there about 15 years ago and this post brought me right back to the quiet pleasures I enjoyed. So good to be reading you again.

  • Lexy Adams

    What an incredible place 10,000 Waves must be, Laurel, and you do describe it so evocatively. As I look out my window at the clouds, fog and snow that have gathered in this little valley of ours, I wish I could transport myself to those warm waters, soaking and daydreaming and watching the hawks and crows circling in the desert sky. So glad you had the pleasure of it!

  • Gail Storey

    Laurel, it’s transporting to simply read your exquisite post! Must put Ten Thousand Waves on my list, it sounds heavenly, and your photos are lovely.

  • Tanja Pajevic

    This is exactly what I need–right now! Thanks for writing about this gorgeous place–I hope to visit one day in the not-so-far-future. In the meantime, maybe I’ll see you at one of the BMW events…I believe we met way back, maybe 5 or 6 years ago. What a gorgeous blog and site you have!

    • Laurel

      It’s a super place to reboot the romance!

  • Cyndi

    Update since this was published…it’s now $25 pp for the day for public tubs, and swimsuit bottoms are required for communal tub. Women’s tub is clothing optional. How do I know? Love this place! I go frequently.

Leave a Comment