Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to go all the way to Japan to stay at a traditional Japanese ryokan and experience the restorative spa experience of an onsen, or hot springs bath resort. Just 15 minutes from the cultural heart of downtown Santa Fe, Ten Thousand Waves’ 20 sprawling acres are home to one of the United States’ most distinctive and luxurious spa retreats. The nine hot baths are truly restorative, and the spa’s many treatments—ranging from traditional Japanese and East Asian to Native American and those drawing on the surrounding land—are as pampering and healing as at any top spa. Ten Thousand Waves keeps with the Japanese tradition of baths as a place for fun and socializing, making it especially popular with groups of friends. The festive atmosphere extends to the inn’s izakaya, which serves traditional Japanese cuisine from local ingredients (in other words, no sushi). Each of the 13 cottages draws on nature in its serene aesthetic—both the nature of the Southwest and that of Japan—with clean lines, natural wood, and traditional artwork, in addition to all the requisite modern luxuries.
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Ten Thousand Waves may feel like it’s nestled away in the middle of nowhere in the hills of northern New Mexico, but it’s actually just a 10-minute drive north from the heart of Santa Fe’s historic downtown. The immediate area is quiet, offering an immersion in the serenity of the high desert, and most guests spend their time at the spa or hiking on the grounds. While the high-end restaurants, museums, galleries, and boutiques of downtown are easily accessible, many of the city’s less urban attractions are also just a quick drive away. These include Museum Hill (home to the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian), the enclave of Tesuque (with its iconic flea market and the Santa Fe Opera), and the hiking trails and wildlife sanctuary at the Randall Davey Audubon Center.
Need to Know
Rooms: 13 rooms, three with kitchens. From $209. Check-in: 4 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: Arguably the best Japanese restaurant in the Southwest, the izakaya-style Izanami serves Japanese small plates made from fresh, local ingredients alongside an impressive sake list to discerning locals and out-of-towners. A simple breakfast is also included in all stays. Spa and gym details: Styled on a Japanese onsen, Ten Thousand Waves is, first and foremost, a spa. Its nine outdoor hot baths offer both communal and private spaces for relaxing, and its extensive menu of treatments includes both traditional Japanese and more modern options, ranging from skincare to massages to body wraps and other wellness treatments. Private spa suites include saunas. Note that the spa is open to hotel guests only in the mornings, and one of the communal tubs is open to women only. The hotel does not have a gym, but the surrounding area offers scenic hiking.
Who it's best for: Spa-going friends and couples looking for something out of the ordinary. Our favorite rooms: With a full kitchen, working fireplace, washer and dryer, and private terrace, the Emperor’s Class cottages are the most luxurious and comfortable for groups or longer stays. Go natural: Fit in with the locals (and Japanese tradition) by foregoing a swimsuit in any of the baths—except the Grand Bath, where a bathing suit bottom is required.