Thanks to my guest contributor today – Aimee Heckel

About 45 minutes past Santa Fe, through a small New Mexican town and past a flashy casino hides a dirt road. Where is the New Mexico spa resort?

The road to paradise.

When you bump along this unmarked road, you will quickly think you took the wrong turn. There are no streetlights, no signs, no strategically planted trees. Just red dirt and desert unraveling for as far as you can see.

The road winds around one curve, up a hill, around another. You are sure you are lost. But then you see it in the distance. The low-lying, red adobe building nearly blends in with the nearby hills and plateaus, and you have to blink to make sure it’s not a desert mirage, about to dissolve into the thin, dry air.

Keep driving. This is all part of the mystique — the strategic and unique magic that pulses through the Hyatt Regency’s Tamaya Resort & Spa in Santa Ana Pueblo, a lovely New Mexico spa resort.

This is not like any luxury spa resort you’ve ever visited before, and its location on the Native American Pueblo — and partly owned by the native people here — is your first indication. The Tamaya seamlessly blends the beauty of two different worlds: the Tamaya people, with their rich culture, inspiring spirituality and ancient traditions, with the thoughtful, sophisticated hospitality that you would expect from a Hyatt.

This windy road is intentional — just like every detail at this Native American-inspired resort.

Like life, it winds and turns; sometimes you feel like you are lost. But keep on driving, and you will arrive at your destination.

And it’s worth the drive.


The resort

The Tamaya is built out of adobe, using natural resources found in the region. Along the roof on the chimneys, attentive visitors will notice pots, an homage to the ancient tradition of placing pots on a home’s roof to catch rain. Beautiful, handmade Native American pots and artwork adorn the inside of the resort, too, making it feel and look like an art museum.

More art greets you in the entry: sculptures of real Santa Ana people with their fingers outstretched, welcoming you. The fireplaces here are always lit (and not for lack of heat, although it can get chilly in the evenings). The flame is a symbol of hospitality. It means you are welcome here.

The Tamaya resort faces a massive sacred rock perched almost precariously atop a hill out by the stables, where dozens of horses roam. Many are rescued horses, and visitors can take guided horse-riding tours, take lessons, watch a weekly rodeo and help volunteer taking care of the rescued horses.


Like everything at the Tamaya, this ranch is authentic; it’s not for show, and it’s not glammed up. It’s the real deal, and you can feel the authenticity and heart when you pass the stables.

Out back, visitors will find multiple pools, including a walled, adult-only pool in the shape of a kiva. Bake bread in traditional stoves with Santa Ana people near the large outdoor seating area of one of the on-site restaurants. You can even find a hot-air balloon launching area.

Take a tour of the kiva-shaped history museum and learn more about the history of the Santa Ana.

Grab a free cruiser bike and explore the nearby nature trail, through the forest and to the Rio Grande river. Or hit some balls on the Santa Ana Golf Course, open year-round.

Then browse the multiple shops with Native American artwork, jewelry and even spices. Tip: Take home a bag of the chile-infused dark chocolate and a bag of blue cornmeal pancake mix.

If possible, take a day trip to exciting Santa Fe, where you can browse art galleries galore (and even more world-class spas).

Food at the Corn Maiden is exceptional, as is the service. Staff is knowledgeable about beverages and can provide expert wine and beer pairing recommendations.

For something wildly unique, try the Anderson Valley Blood Orange Ale with the Corn Maiden Salad, tossed tableside, accented by house-made creamy jalapeno vinaigrette, jicama and roasted corn.

Much of the menu is local, such as the New Mexico Filet Mignon, with beef from a nearby ranch, paired with reggiano frites and grilled heirloom tomatoes; or the Corn Maiden Classic, with New Mexico chorizo sausage and other meat, served with a variety of sauces including a mouthwatering chocolate mole demi sauce and cactus chutney.

Don’t miss dessert, made by the award-winning pastry chef. Honey ice cream is made from beehives right out back.

At night, head to one of the fire pits to roast marshmallows and have a S’mores made for you. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to hear traditional storytelling by a member of the Santa Ana tribe. Kids love it, but it’s a heartwarming way to end the day for people of all ages.


The spa

To dive deeper into the traditions — and the otherworldly feeling of relaxation that pervades this property — visit the Tamaya Mist Spa & Salon.

The treatments here are based on the centuries-old history of the Tamayame people, who traveled north, west, south and then east in search of the right home. They settled in the region where the resort rests today, between the old village — still preserved, but uninhabited, except for special occasions — and the new homes.

The spa calls its signature treatments “journeys.” The four journeys are named after each direction of the search, with treatments that utilize methods and ingredients from that region and experience. For example, the “west” journey offers a percussion massage, echoing ancient drumming. The “south” journey features lavender dry brush therapy, a plant that grows in the south.

This summer, the spa is launching its own signature skincare line using organic, local ingredients, and you can also find special seasonal treatments. For spring, the lemongrass dry brush therapy is invigorating and mixed with pink salt and its deep minerals.

Don’t miss the steam room, which can help relieve sinuses and improve breathing at this high altitude. The “standing well” in the outdoor hot tub is five feet deep and surrounded by jets. Talk about full immersion!

It’s no wonder this full-service Mist spa has earned a variety of national, highly esteemed awards.

Like the resort, everything feels intentional and conscious here, and that attention to detail helps visitors feel cared for — and like they are in another place and even time.

When it’s time to go home, you will be glad that winding road back to reality is so long. This time, you will welcome the unpredictable bends and take them slower, with understanding and gratitude. Those twists and turns help your brain transition out of one of the most magical, peaceful places on earth — although a part of you will never leave.

skulls in santa fe