THE PATH TO SERENITY begins in the mountains. A climb up winding stairs through tall pine trees leads to a soothing soak in a hot tub beneath piñon and juniper trees. After a traditional Japanese shiatsu massage and grilled miso bass paired with sake, a peaceful night’s sleep awaits at Houses of the Moon, inspired by a Japanese ryokan, or inn. It’s easy to imagine you’re at a spa resort in the majestic mountains of Japan—but you’re actually tucked into the foothills of Santa Fe.
With its Japanese-adobe architecture and a design aesthetic that blends wood, rock, and water, Ten Thousand Waves is steeped in the customs of Japan’s onsens, hot-springs resorts that have been around for centuries. Owner Duke Klauck opened the spa in 1981 as a modest, Japanese-influenced bathhouse after stumbling on the joys of natural hot springs. He’d been traveling the country and living in his Dodge van when he discovered that hot springs could be a great substitute for elusive showers and an easy way to meet people.
“I could engage in a sense of community and heal body and soul,” he says. “I decided I wanted to open my own hot springs.”
Klauck found a home in Santa Fe for what he then called his “hippie bathhouse.” “I wanted something quiet, serene, and beautiful,” he says. “I just happened to be riding my bicycle up Hyde Park Road one day and saw this For Sale sign.” Close to the Santa Fe National Forest and the city limits, the property suited his vision, which was influenced by his avid interest in Japanese culture, philosophy, and architecture.
“The Japanese developed a more sophisticated bathing culture than anywhere else in the world,” he says. At first, the place felt rustic. “We were really funky for a number of years. People caught on because they would come away feeling better than when they arrived.
You get in water hot enough, and there’s no way that your mind can hang on to all the troubles that you have.”
Over the years, Ten Thousand Waves has evolved into a world-renowned spa resort. “What we’ve always done is listen to our guests,” Klauck says. “At first it was, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have massage?’ so we added that. Then they said, ‘We’d like to stay overnight,’ so we started developing the lodging. Then people started saying, ‘This is not a resort; you don’t have food.’ So we opened Izanami. That’s the way we developed, trying to keep the intention all along.”
The spa’s seven private hot tubs include saunas and unique settings. A serene Japanese garden, for instance, surrounds the Ichiban Tub. The decor of the treatment, waiting, and changing rooms harmoniously blends wood and stone with forest views. Water flows through the property, tumbling over rock formations and into pools, koi ponds, and fountains.
The pandemic demanded more changes. Because guests and strangers were not allowed to occupy the same space, communal tubs and changing rooms were converted to private spaces. HEPA filters and germicidal ultraviolet sanitation were added to kill pathogens.
While the beloved walk-in (and clothing-optional) communal soaks are things of the past, individuals can now make online reservations to soak in the large Shin Kobuta community tub.
Guests thrive and so do employees, says guest-services pro “Buddha” Bob Sheffield, who’s worked there for 37 years. “It grounds me. It makes me feel like I’m in a place that inspires me.”
Klauck also finds inspiration here. He often relaxes at night by sitting in the foot bath near a waterfall that cascades into a pond. “The quiet, the sound of rushing water, the fish swimming lazily in the pond, and the footbridge over the pond illuminated by low light all put me in a state of mind where I can appreciate the special nature of this place,” he says.