La Gruta

They say that since ancient times humans have known the health benefits of soaking in natural pools fed by hot springs. Legend even has it that such mineral-rich waters have the power to slow the aging process. So what better way to spend your birthday – the day when we’re forced to contemplate our own aging process – than immersed in the natural hot-springs pools nearest you?

When I lived in Taos, New Mexico, for many years, my women friends and I made a tradition of spending our birthdays at just such a place outside of Santa Fe, called Ojo Caliente – not only because birthday girls (and boys too) of all ages got in free, but also because most of us were born in spring or summer, so we could not only swim in Ojo Caliente’s healing pools but also sunbathe under New Mexico’s azure skies in the warmer weather.

Here and now, in the mountains of central Mexico, I’m intent on starting a new birthday tradition: spending the day at La Gruta (“the grotto”), a hot-springs “spa” outside of San Miguel de Allende. With its immaculately kept grounds, lush greenery and towering palm trees, five pristine pools refilled daily from the warm mineral springs, excellent restaurant food, and happy-Mexican-family atmosphere, a day at La Gruta is a pure, rejuvenating delight.

I know this first-hand because on Saturday my Spanish maestra (teacher) and friend, Edith, and I spent the day, May 18th – my 74th birthday – there together. We went from spot to spot on the vast stretch of real estate, plopping our belongings down and settling in for a time, then moving on to somewhere else (“We’re nomads [nómadas]!” we giggled), testing each of the pools, like Goldilocks with those bowls of porridge, for hotness.

The hottest was inside the steamy grotto itself:

You approach this domed, water-filled cave through a long, narrow, stone-lined tunnel, in waist-high water. Then you stay in that womblike cave-space as long as you can stand it (for me, who tends toward claustrophobic, it wasn’t long) before finding another spot near one of the open-air pools.

Here are some photos of our day. If you’re planning a trip to San Miguel (or if you’re already here), do try to make it out to La Gruta, even if it’s not your birthday. It’s so worth the $10 (U.S.) admission fee.

Stairs from the entryway of La Gruta onto the lush grounds
One of the five pristine pools at La Gruta
Happy Mexican families lunching on the lawn
The La Gruta menu — and my favorite cold beer
Another of the pools at La Gruta
A little lilly pond with its frog guards
After a birthday spent swimming at La Gruta, your life takes wings