(credit: Strawberry Park Hot Springs)
One of the best ways you can unwind is to relax in one of America’s many geothermal hot springs destinations. A method of leisure favored by countless numbers of people, the healing powers of hot springs have been enjoyed well before the birth of the nation. For something new this year, why not plan a trip to a destination showcasing one of nature’s most therapeutic and restorative characteristics? Here is a brief look at five of the best hot springs in the U.S.
Located in the north end of the Napa Valley, Calistoga is home to the Old Faithful Geyser of California. But the far bigger attractions in this thriving community are world-class wineries, fine dining and hot springs spas. Considered a sacred area by the indigenous people, Calistoga has been a hot springs destination since the 1860s. A handful of hot springs resorts offering a variety of spa treatments including the world famous mud baths and massages can be found in downtown Calistoga, all within walking distance of each other – Calistoga Hot Springs, Golden Haven Hot Springs, Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs Resort and Indian Springs Resort. In addition to world class resort hotels with fine dining and spa services like Calistoga Ranch and Solage Calistoga, Calistoga is home to many world famous wineries, such as Castello di Amorosa and Chateau Montelena, the historic winery that helped make the Napa Valley one of the world’s top wine-producing regions.
Hot Springs, Arkansas
About an hour drive from Little Rock, the Arkansas state capital, is one of the country’s oldest and most famous hot springs destinations. Blessed with 47 thermal springs, the city of Hot Springs lies just south to Hot Springs National Park, the smallest and oldest national park. Part of the national park includes a section of the city known as Bathhouse Row, a National Historic Landmark District where eight stately bathhouse buildings were built between 1892 and 1923, with Buckstaff being the only bathhouse still in use and Fordyce now used as a visitor center. However, Hot Springs is also home to some acclaimed hotels and day spas utilizing the region’s geothermal waters, including the historic Arlington Resort and Spa, Quapaw Baths and Spa and The Springs Hotel and Spa.
With two active volcanoes nearby including the world’s largest, Hilo has several hot ponds and hot springs within driving distance. The most popular spot is in Ahalanui Park, 34 miles south of Hilo in the Puna District. The seaside county park features a man-made lagoon about the size of two Olympic pools, with waters from natural thermal springs that are cooled to about 90 degrees when waves wash over. A few minutes south of Ahalanui Park is another popular hotspot with public access – Pohoiki Warm Spring located in Isaac Hale Beach Park. After relaxing in the hot springs, visitors might want to drive further south to Hawaii’s only accessible lava viewing area, at the intersection of Pāhoa Village Road and Highway 130.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe has been named among the best cities in the country, if not the world, for culture, food and wine, and shopping, with nods from the likes of Travel+Leisure, Condé Nast and Trip Advisor. The state capital of New Mexico, Santa Fe features more than 20 world-class spas, including the historic Ojo Caliente, the first natural health spa in the country. Considered a sacred spot by its indigenous people, Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs is believed to have been used for thousands of years and was considered sacred by the indigenous Native Americans who lived in Northern New Mexico. Other notable spas in Santa Fe are Ten Thousand Waves and Hotel Santa Fe. The state known as the Land of Enchantment has several other notable hot springs regions, particularly in the southern region, such as Faywood Hot Springs in Faywood and Riverbend Hot Springs and Blackstone Hotsprings in the resort town of Truth or Consequences.
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Colorado has a wealth of world class hot springs destinations, most notably the former ghost town of Dunston and in Aspen. But the hot springs in Steamboat Springs are just as impressive. The Colorado Tourism Office rates Strawberry Park Hot Springs, a few miles outside of Steamboat Springs, as the state’s top destination for hot springs. Visitors can pay a low-cost fee to use the mineral springs or stay overnight in the tent sites or at one of the very affordable cabins. Old Town Hot Springs, with eight hot spring mineral pools and two water slides, also ranked high on the tourism office’s list and is conveniently located in downtown Steamboat Springs.
Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com Examiner.com.