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









16 thoughts on “La Gruta”

  1. I’m so glad you have a hot springs near SMA, Bonnie! I know how much you love them, and this one looks absolutely lovely. Next year, we can go together—a little earlier than your birthday, but you need more than once a year at La Gruta!

    1. So true, Barb! I think once a month would be ideal… Can’t wait for us to go together to La Gruta next year when you come for a visit. It’s a must-see destination for every tourist who comes to SMA. — xx

  2. Oh my, … what a change. When I used to go there I recall just a bile of rubble. No grass. No restaurant. Definitely no lush grounds. I’d hoped that one day they would give the ponds the environment they deserve. Looks like they did.

    1. Yes, it’s REALLY spiffy now! The last time I was there — maybe two or three years ago — it wasn’t half as nice as it is now. I was happily amazed to see the difference.

  3. How inviting and well written all your stories of SMA. Bonnie, I met you some years back in TAOS at Lyn Avery’s event for her Lamu Island, Africa photo exhibit. You shared your poignant adventures in Mali. I don’t know if you recall, but thereafter we saw one another around TAOS and have some mutual friends. I am thinking of a trip to SMA and am wondering if you could be so kind and guide me towards a good district from which to select housing on Air B’n B? One where I can walk to the parts of town of interest. Thanking you in advance… email would be convenient if you feel so inclined.
    I am glad for you that you have made such a happy home for yourself down there. Elida Hanson-Finelli

    1. Yes, of course, I remember you, Elida! And I’m happy to learn that you’re thinking of visiting SMA! I’d suggest you do your own research on Google to find the right place for you — since there are all sorts of beautiful accommodations on every street here. If you focus in on el centro, you’ll have lots to choose from. — Best, BB

  4. Happy Birthday, dear Bonnie, 74 years young! And what a glorious way to celebrate it! I am jealous! X

  5. Oh, Bonnie, such a fun read! I love the hot springs, have enjoyed several places here in Utah! That sounds like a great tradition. I will enjoy that someday, soon! AND Happy Birthday to YOU!

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