FOLLOW WILLY COSMO AS HE EXPLORES THE HEALING WATERS OF THE WORLD
This is a one two punch of awesomeness right here! Miracle Hot Springs is amazing and Banbury Hot Springs (just down the road and owned by the same good folks) is the family friendly place to soak your bones in a more recreational way.
JOE: Miracle Hot Springs, a very welcome destination just outside of Buhl, Idaho is a place I have grown very fond of. The layout of the pools and private soaking tubs, along with the several geodesic domes really gives this place a feel that I could get used to. Between Miracle and Banbury you have several options for staying overnight beyond just the groovy geodesic domes. There is tent camping, RV sites, and a lodge and cabins available as well. We elected to stay in the very reasonably priced Queen Bed Geodesic Dome which was $89/night and that includes soaking at both places from check in to check out.
RACH: Miracle has a series of pools that range in temperature, the large swimming pool being the coolest, but still a warm comfortable soak. I think the pool complex is beautiful. The design with the private pool rooms lining the perimeter is quite lovely, and there are many different seating levels in the the various pools. The hot-hot pool is partially enclosed, keeping it insulated, and feels like a cave. Very private and meditative. The private tub rooms are simple with sunken deep tubs. Perfect for privacy and for shedding those suits!
The dome was a pretty dreamy sleeping arrangement. Talk about glamping! It even has heating and air conditioning. There are a ton of great options for lodging between Miracle Hot Springs and Banbury and you can click this link to see specifically what they are. However, if you are just coming for the day, here's a breakdown of what that'll cost you...
JOE: This really is a charming and great place to visit. 4 generations of the Olsen family have helped run this place since it opened in 1960 and you can really feel the love and care they've put into this land and place. It's modest in design though it achieves a level of elegance in it's simplicity. We loved all the soaking areas and the way the geodesic domes are arranged in the field next to the soaking area really gave the whole place a sense that a lot of mindful attention was put into the creation of Miracle Hot Springs.
Miracle Hot Springs & Banbury Hot Springs
JOE: While it is true that the Snake River runs through this part of Idaho, the reality of this area is that it is dry and barren for what seems like hundreds of miles in all directions. That is not to say it is without a great deal of beauty though, on the contrary, the Snake river has cut a canyon through the desert that provides rich and vibrant formations and a spectrum of rusty reds that give the place an almost martian feel. Here's the thing, Miracle Hot Springs & Banbury Hot Springs are both a welcome oasis in the midst of a largely desert landscape. If you have never soaked in geothermal waters before you simply must. Right now. I mean it. Stop reading this and go find the nearest hot springs and I don't care if it is a thousand miles away! For real though, what happens when you soak in hot mineral water is likely going to be a wholly new experience you'll fall in love with. Soaking in a hot tub or jacuzzi is relaxing and feels great to be sure, but there is something truly special about soaking in hot springs water that you simply have to experience yourself to really understand what I'm trying to describe. And as it goes, Miracle's water is up there on the list of top notch hot springs waters to soak it up in. It has a very high ph (9.6!) which is fantastic for your mind, body, and soul, and it was one of those places I felt like I could have stayed in the water forever. That's not the case in all places. Some places have such intensely high mineral contents and are meant to only be soaked in for a few minutes at a time (Stewart Mineral Springs near Mt Shasta comes to mind). Here though, you could live full time in this water.
Recently the owners of Miracle Hot Springs bought Banbury Hot Springs and in taking over they have created one larger operation known as Miracle & Banbury Hot Springs.
JOE: While kids are allowed at Miracle Hot Springs, if you bring them 1.5 miles down the road to Banbury they are likely going to have WAY more fun. Here they have a diving board, all sorts of floaty things, flippers, a basketball hoop, a spinning log, and you know, things kids (young and old) like. Banbury sits right off of the Snake River and has its own feel that is much more laid back and accommodating to all walks of life. There are campsites and lodging that surround the pool and you can also rent kayaks and stand up paddle boards to go have fun with on the river. Speaking of the Snake River, the boat ramp we walked down to provided some pretty lovely views!
RACH: Don't forget your suits! Both Miracle and Branbury require bathing suits.
JOE: Banbury really feels more like a city municipality pool rather than a hot springs destination but I don't consider that a bad thing. It is welcoming to everyone and ultimately, from this humble perspective of mine, the more people who can soak up the healing waters of these hot springs the better! And not for nothing, It's a really fun place, too. We talked about how fun it would be to invite a bunch of families and friends to come for a week and camp out and have it be our big summer vacation destination. I bet a lot of people have that same idea. We met some really sweet folks in the pool and one of the families even gave us an inflatable tube for Willy Cosmo and he absolutely loved it as you can see below...
As you've likely gathered by this point, Willy Cosmo and the fam love Miracle Hot Springs (and Banubry, too). We'll for sure be back and we HIGHLY recommend you get your bones in these waters and soak 'em good, too.
Miracle Hot Springs
19073B US-30, Buhl, ID 83316
(Banbury is just across the 30 a hop, skip, and a jump down the way!)
Well, after 7 days, roughly 50 hours and a 50 minutes and 2,906 miles of driving (and 10 hot springs later), Willy Cosmo and fam are back home in Portland to report on our Great American Road Trip through Idaho, Colorado and Wyoming!
From Portland to Miracle Hot Springs, to Banbury Hot Springs, to Strawberry Hot Springs, to Hot Sulphur Springs, to Denver, Colorado, to Fountain of Youth Hot Springs, to Hot Springs State Park Bath House, to Granite Hot Springs, to Challis Hot Springs*, to Sunbeam Hot Springs, to Haven Hot Springs, and back to Portland again. What a doozy of a trip!
Willy Cosmo's August Adventures! w/ music by: Jacob Miller and The Bridge City Crooners
JOE: Yup, we did it. We loaded up our car with a tent, clothes, pillows, a cooler, a stroller, some food, and a whole lot of gumption and made our way to Denver, Colorado for an absolutely lovely wedding. We of course made the most of this trip and squeezed in a visit to 10 different hot springs between the way there and back again. We'll be reporting individually on each of these places but before we break it down we thought we'd better just give you a glimpse of this mighty ambitious trip we just did. So, below you're going to get to see the list o' hot springs Willy Cosmo checked out in just one week of this young lads life!
RACH: This was, by far, the biggest road trip WC has ever been on. he was a little champ. We wanted to hit at least 4 hot springs on the ways there and back, but, thanks largely to his dreamy temperament and thirst for the next soak, we were able to go to 10!! So, we now have a better idea about the hot springs culture in Idaho, Colorado, and Wyoming. A decidedly different flavor than California and Oregon. Some really spectacular water to be sure, but don't forget your swimming costumes! Full reports to follow shortly, but here is an overview of the ground we covered, and the waters we replenished ourselves in:
Miracle Hot Springs ~ Buhl, Idaho:
Miracle Hot Springs is on the outskirts of Buhl, Idaho - spoiler alert: they have an alligator!! Also, some really well designed pools and great camping domes. We loved this place.
Banbury Hot Springs ~ Buhl Idaho:
Banbury Hot Springs is just about one and a half miles from Miracle Hot Springs and last year, Miracle bought Banbury. So, these two lovely soaking destinations are in cahoots! Banbury is the place for family fun.
Strawberry Park Hot Springs ~ Steamboat Springs, Colorado:
Strawberry Park Hot Springs is just outside Steamboat Springs, Colorado, way up in the forest, a very unique destination.
Hot Sulphur Springs Resort & Spa ~ Hot Sulphur Springs, CO
Hot Sulphur Springs is located in the town by the same name. They have 24 pools, varying in temperatures, different mineral contents, and some really stunning views.
Hot Springs break, pool side at the Westin ~ Denver, Colorado
Willy Cosmo was quite impressed with the wedding accommodations in Denver! While it's not a hot spring, nothing beats a fancy rooftop swimming pool on a hot city day!
Fountain of Youth Hot Springs RV Park ~ Thermopolis, WY
The Fountain of Youth Hot Springs RV Park is located in what we've come to call the Mecca of Hot Springs, Thermopolis, Wyoming! Located in Hot Springs County and just a yodel away from the largest hot mineral springs in the world, this is a destination that all hot springs lovers around the world need to pilgrimage to...
Hot Springs State Park Bath House ~ Thermopolis, Wyoming
Hot Springs State Park Bath House is wonderful. Go get yourself a free soak at this well built and well run soaking spot located in Hot Springs State Park. Also located in Thermopolis (what a great name for a place btw), Wyoming
Granite Hot Springs ~ Jackson, Wyoming
Granite Hot Springs Pool is pretty darn amazing. I mean, look at that view! Located in the Bridger-Teton National forest, this is one spot you'll be happy you stopped at after taking in the amazing natural surroundings of this incredible area.
*Challis Hot Springs ~ Challis, Idaho
What can we say about Challis Hot Springs? Not much good as of yet because THEY DIDN'T LET WILLY COSMO SOAK THERE! A story for another time (and believe us, that story will get told).
Sunbeam Hot Springs ~ Sunbeam, Idaho
Sunbeam Hot Springs is a soaking spot right off of HWY 75 on the Salmon River and you know what? It is fantastic.
Haven Hot Springs Resort ~ Lowman, Idaho
Haven Hot Springs is quite a spot. Located in the Sawtooth Mountains in Lowman, Idaho... Straight up, this is is one of the great pools in the history of pools.
So, stay tuned for many, many more photos, and in-depth reviews of each of these places. In the meantime, we are thrilled to be soaking up the comforts of home after a very big week!
Carson Hot Springs: A place with so much potential and yet...
JOE: Carson Hot Springs is nestled in this beautiful little piece of nature just off the Columbia Gorge in the quaint little town of Carson, Washington. This hot springs has been in operation since 1897 as a business and the waters were appreciated for hundreds of years previous to this by the local Native American population. In the past decade several additions have been made to the grounds including the pool above and the three story hotel below.
JOE: Until the addition of the pool in 2016, the only way in which you came to enjoy these glorious waters was by going for a soak and wrap, if you are anywhere near the area. It's really quite an experience to give this a try, there is a 25 minutes soak session and then a 25 minute wrap session where an attendant comes and gets you all snug in some sheets and a blanket and then you proceed to sweat out the demons, it is such an incredibly potent experience. It almost knocks you out, I think the combination of the soaking with all its glorious minerals and then immediately getting wrapped up really sweats out the toxins and in general drains the energy out of you. In a good way though. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water. Hydration, hydration, hydration! After you are done and recovered from that initial drained/knocked out feeling, you feel absolutely wonderful.
RACH: The soak and wrap in the old bathhouse is a no-frills, real deal wellness treatment. It's only about a 45 minute drive from Portland, and I would go as far as to say that it would be a worthy thing to make into a regular weekly or bi-weekly practice. For $25 you get the benefits of some very strong and detoxifying waters, and the sweat you get from the wrap is no joke. And it's nice to soak in the privacy of your own curtain-shrouded clawfoot tub.
JOE: We had never stayed the night at Carson before so for the sake of giving the best review we could, we booked one of the rooms there. They're a bit pricey for what you are getting but we really wanted to have Willy Cosmo get into these waters and this is the only way at Carson for that to be a possibility. For anyone under the age of 18, the only way to get your soak on is to come and stay at one of the rooms with a jacuzzi tub in it. Willy really loved the waters too, that is completely understandable because let's be honest, these waters are no joke legit.
JOE: The history of this place and its waters in interesting and I like seeing pictures of what it was like way back when. That is cool. It does kinda have a ghost town/haunted feeling to it, too but I am alright with that. I even think that is something I'd put in the plus category (but I acknowledge that may sound weird). Carson Hot Springs has great water. That's the truth. If for nothing else I'd say come check it out for yourself if you live in the Portland area or are visiting Mt Hood and the Hood River area. Some of the old pictures make the place look like it would have been really awesome to have visited back then...
There's another spot in Carson we recommend you check out. It's this delicious restaurant and brewery just down the road and we definitely suggest you go there. Backwoods Brewery is great. They serve up some tasty beers and we were pleased to have happened upon some live music out back when we got there as well. They have a super friendly staff and a pretty darn good menu, too. House made salads and hand made from scratch pizzas make this a great place to go and eat if you ever find yourself in or near Carson, Washington. We really liked Backwoods Brewery.
When all is said and done, Carson Hot Springs is home to some mighty fine water. There is room for improvement with this place to be sure but it is without question that it has some excellent Hot Springs Mineral water to soak your bones in.
Carson Hot Springs
372 St. Martin's Springs Road,
Carson, Washington, 98610
RACH: Doe Bay's tubs and sauna are some of the best in the Pacific Northwest. That being said, they are not natural mineral springs. But the natural setting, the sauna, and the retreat vibe deserves a nod from WC. The first time I went to Doe Bay it was for Doe Bay Fest 4 in 2011 and I fell in love with the place. It should be noted that this one weekend a year when they have the music festival is quite different than the rest of the year. I have also visited in the winter, and even played at the Cafe - they have live music every Friday night, and an open mic every Thursday. If you have not visited the San Juan Islands, it should be on your list. Like Vancouver Island and the Canadian Gulf Islands to the north, there is an indescribable magic that you feel, stepping out of the world as we know it. Fairies live here. And whales, of course, and bald eagles. The resort is situated on an idyllic cove, and has a range of accommodations from gorgeous rugged campsites, yurts and domes on sea cliffs, to forested rustic cabins and houses. Don't expect luxury sheets or fancy bathrooms, though. This is a truly rustic retreat, done simply, with a gorgeous bathhouse spa. Think glamping with a fancy spa. That's what we are always thinking, by the way, in our family.
JOE: Doe Bay, Doe Bay?... Ah, what can I say? I love this place. And I know, I know, Doe Bay Resort & Retreat is technically not a "hot springs" but it is totally worthy of being added to the guide. Willy Cosmo absolutely loves this place as well and highly recommends you come and soak your bones here. And not for nothing, the sauna is a top drawer sauna as it goes. So, to put it simply, Doe Bay is awesome. This visit was my second extended stay on both Orcas Island, and at Doe Bay itself. Both times have been during Doe Bay Fest and both times have been wonderful. I look forward to going back for a visit when no event or conference is going on to experience the place and space without the festival energy attached to it. We did arrive on Wednesday - which is a day before any of the music and all that business begins - and there were very few people there (compared to Thurs-Sun) so I did get a taste of what it is like when you can really soak up the peace and quite of this magical land (and water of course).
JOE: This place really is a treat of a retreat if I do say so myself. The views, the fresh air, the trees, the abundant amount of deer roaming the grounds, the excellent cafe and restaurant, the spa services, and of course, the soaking tubs and sauna with it's exceptional view make this place somewhere we really can't speak highly enough about. The list goes on of course because as I briefly mentioned above, this place is also located on Orcas Island by the way! This island, one of the many beautiful islands in the San Juan chain, is worth a visit in its own right. It's such a beautiful place and it is only really accessible by taking the ferry (or you can fly in on a little prop plane too if you happened to be one of those people who roll like that). We took the ferry and it was Willy C's first ferry boat ride and he really liked it. We played a game of cribbage and happened to be sitting next to a couple of folks who were playing at Doe Bay Fest, we learned that after they started talking to us because Willy Cosmo was charming the pants off of them. One of the bands was Lenore (and you should totally check out this lovely duo because they're really talented and their voices and melodies are quite something to behold). The other band - which will likely rock your socks off if you ever get a chance to experience one of their shows - is Jacob Miller and the Bridge City Crooners.These guys are amazing. It was fun connecting with them and we ended up hanging out off and on throughout the weekend with all these good peoples. And the ferry ride itself was rather nice. The other gentlemen we met and shared seats on the ferry ride with we had met while waiting in line for the ferry. He happened to be from Seattle and had a place about a mile down the road from Doe Bay, we ended up enjoying his company throughout the weekend as well. I chalk that up to baby magic, while we may have crossed paths otherwise, it was Willy Cosmo that drew this kindhearted man to us and invited us to visit with him and his wife and go check out their lovely property. So, yeah, the ferry ride was great actually. It's an hour and a half ride and it really is quite a lovely boat ride as it goes.
JOE: Did I mention already that we love Doe Bay? I did? Well, we do. We love Doe Bay, A LOT. One of the big things about this place that we like so much is that, besides being one of the only nice resort/spa areas in all of the greater Seattle area, it quite simply is one of the most peaceful and serene settings imaginable. It's exceptionally beautiful and the fact that the good folks who own and operate it have brought all these wonderful conferences, retreats, and modest sized, intimate music festival to the land is really something we love and is indeed an element (or elements) of what we plan to offer when we have our own hot springs resort. It just feels good being there and it is clear that the owner Joe and all those who help to operate this place really love what they are doing and that is awesome.
RACH: Their organic farm supplies the incredible cafe, which serves not only the guests but the whole island, and has a thriving scene year round. The spa is a perfectly designed sanctuary. Perched so that you can gaze out over the bay, the dry sauna is my second favorite ever (second to Stewart Springs). There are three tiers to sit on, and the top seats have little windows to take in the view. In quiet winter, you can stay all day soaking and shvitzing (little Willy Cosmo has yet to know the wonders of the shvitz), and in summer you can run down the trail to the beach on Otter Cove below and cold plunge in the sound! Or for the very brave, there is a cliff to dive off at the end of the point. Deer roam the grounds freely and happily, as do children. Festival time or no, this is a place to come get inspired creatively, to retreat and receive in peace...
JOE: We camped out at Doe Bay for 5 nights which is pretty ambitious of us considering it was our first camping trip since Willy Cosmo was born. He was a trooper though and I actually think he quite enjoyed it actually. He loves him some nature and I don't blame him! We had a really nice tucked away setting for our campsite and I decided to deck it out with a little bit of my stretched fabric art just for fun. Here's a glimpse of our campsite and a view of sunrise through the trees that first morning just a little way down the path from our tent.
JOE: It is worth spending a few sentences here to mention that Doe Bay Fest is a fantastic music festival. Super family friendly and no matter what music is going on, the setting in which you are listening to and participating in the experiencing of being a part of the musical festivities is always fantastic. I think Blind Pilot was probably the best show (I know for certain it was for Rach) but I really liked quite a few of the bands that were there this year, Sisters was one that particularly had me moving and grooving with young Willy Cosmo. The two main stages each have their charms but it is undeniable that the Otter Cove stage is one of the best places to take in live music in all of the world! That might be an exaggeration as there are likely countless other places that are equal or better but here, take a look for yourself and you'll understand what I mean...
JOE: See what I mean? Pretty special place to watch a show, eh? Willy Cosmo was digging the music and I am glad we got him a pair of those baby ear muffs for the loud music (and they came with a pair of sunglasses so he was pretty much ready to rock and roll like nobodies business). And I must admit, Jacob Miller and the Bride City Crooners are quickly becoming one of my favorite Portland bands.
JOE: During our stay on Orcas Island we also went for a day trip up to Mt. Constitution and let me tell you, that is something you just have to do! It's amazing. The views from up there are astounding. You can see so many other islands and into Canada and it is simply one of those places you want to see for yourself. Also while we were up there we decided it was Willy Cosmo's time to learn to fly. So, in front of a lovely crowd of folks that were up there as tourists (or the group of people who we witnessed getting married up there!) I gave our young lad his first proper flight. Check it out!
JOE: That was fun. Willy C loved it. Also incidentally on this particular trip, Willy Cosmo learned another new trick for his bag. As a young lad of 5 months old, not able to crawl or even sit up of his own accord just yet, Willy Cosmo realized he could do this, too...
JOE: Okay, alright, okay, okay. Well, we love Doe Bay Resort & Retreat and we love Doe Bay Fest, too! Orcas Island is mighty charming and wonderful as well. We will be back and we strongly encourage you to check it out as well!
JOE: Oh yeah! One more thing, Rachel's latest EP c'est la swimming happens to have it's album cover art from a picture I took at Doe Bay! It was from the first time I was there (Doe Bay Fest 7). Thought that was pretty neat and worth mentioning before we close out this review. Okay, that's it. That's all we've got for now. Willy Cosmo and the whole fam are big fans of Doe Bay Resort & Retreat and we highly recommend you go and visit this wonderful place yourself.
Doe Bay Resort & Retreat
107 Doe Bay Rd
Olga, WA 98279
located on Orcas Island which is only accessible by boat, ferry or small airplanes.
UPDATE: Bonneville Closed and was sold. It's last day open to the public was December 18th, 2016
JOE: So, it was our 1st Anniversary (thank you) on July 3rd and we decided we'd go and check out Bonneville Hot Springs Resort & Spa as a part of our celebrations. Amazingly, neither Rachel nor I had ever been to this place before. Why that is amazing is because it is actually the closest hot springs to us here in Portland. The forecast was looking good for the day and we decided to go for a hike with Rachel's parents along with Joy and Willy Cosmo, for a nice family outing. We packed a lunch and then the plan was to all go to Bonneville for an hour or two to soak and see what this place was all about. Rachel booked her and I a one hour soak and wrap which we have done a number of times at Carson Hot Springs (owned by the same folks who own Bonneville) and had enjoyed that very much. Carson Hot Springs is quite a unique place in that it is part of an old historic hotel and grounds that looks kinda like a ghost town. It is a kinda strange and interesting place to check out and as mentioned above, we have enjoyed going for a soak and wrap there together on several occasions. Well, we decided to go to Falls Creek for the hike, our goal was to do the hike all the way into Falls Creek Falls but we ended up stopping and having lunch a little over half way through the hike next to the creek. At that point we decided we'd better just turn back so we could make sure to get to Bonneville for our scheduled soak and wraps. We'll have to see those sweet falls another time.
On the way from the hike to Bonneville we realized that we had not thought out the booking of our soak and wraps as well as we could have. We booked them for the same time and that would mean we'd need to leave Willy Cosmo with the grandparents who also would be in charge of Joy as well (we realized we should have probably staggered them so one of the two of us could be with Willy C). That could have worked out alright, leaving our little guy with the grandparents but ultimately, Rachel decided not to do the soak and wrap and let me still give it a whirl (very kind of her!). The reasoning behind that also had to do with the fact that Rachel is nursing Willy Cosmo and the soak and wrap is a very detoxing process. On the 30 minute ride from Falls Creek to Bonneville she popped on line and in her investigations she learned that it was not recommended to detox like that while breastfeeding. So, that brought us to our arrival at Bonneville which right from the get-go was a little strange and had us kinda wondering what this place was going to be all about. To be sure, the people who built this place spent a great deal of money and the infrastructure of the building and grounds is quite grand. It still had an odd feel to it though that both Rachel and I had independently of each other, we didn't know what to think of it all. I had about 20 minutes before my scheduled soak and wrap and so we all got our bathing suits on and then checked out the waters. The big main pool area with the sauna has a lap pool, a kiddie soak pool, and a jacuzzi pool in it and outside there is a decent sized jacuzzi jet pool as well. That is where we met up first. Well, actually, I got out there before the rest of the fam did and got into the lap pool and did one length of the pool swimming the whole way under water. It is something I have done in basically every pool I have ever been in (to date I have been able to successfully hold my breath under water and swim the length of every pool, too). Then I got out and went out to the outside area and got into the jacuzzi tub where Rachel and Willy Cosmo were and then Joy got in there as well. There were a handful of others in there and then Rachel's mom joined us in there briefly as well.
We were only in the jacuzzi tub outside for a few minutes and then got out and were standing near the entry and a woman who was working there said to Rachel "No children can be in the outside tub". Rachel said she hadn't been informed of that at the front desk while checking in and hadn't seen the sign and the woman made an off-hand remark to Rachel saying "Oh I just thought everyone could read the signs that were posted there." (strangely, kids can be in the outside tub if they are staying overnight but day time guests do not get that option). So, we went in to the covered area where the lap pool, sauna, and other tubs were. It smelled of chlorine which was a very unwelcome smell at a hot springs and we were all a bit turned off by that. Shortly after this I headed into the spa area where the individual tubs are for the men and women along with the area for the wraps. I had an attendant show me to the tub that was to be mine, and he left and I had about 30 minutes to soak in my semi private tub that also had a carafe of water with a glass and 7 green grapes in a little dish (I guess that is a part of the spa treatment?). You can purchase essential oils and/or salts to add to your tub but I just wanted to experience the water au natural. While we did notice a chlorine smell in the lap pool and maybe the other tubs in the main soaking area, this water is plumbed right from the source so it was straight up hot-hot mineral water and that was what I was looking for. There is a cold plunge in the room as well and so I did my customary hydro therapy session where I go back and forth from the hot to cold no less than three times. That felt incredible and I highly recommend you give that a try. Then the attendant came back into the room and lead me to the wrap room, it's approximately 16 massage table beds with linens on them in its own area of the spa. The idea is you get under a sheet and get wrapped up for 25-30 minutes to sweat out the the evil spirits and what have you. It's actually a pretty amazing experience. There's some soft, quite music playing off in the background, they offer a cold towel to cover your eyes with (do accept that when they offer it!) and they also lay a nice n' hot towel under your back for added heat to get the sweat moving. There is an aroma of eucalyptus and perhaps one or more other essential oils my nostrils noticed which was nice. After being wrapped up and getting all that sweat out, you rinse off and spend the next little bit getting your senses back about you. It's surprising - even after several times doing this - how woozy I feel after one of these sessions. On that note, make sure you drink a whole lot of water! This is a good recommendation for your life in general but for this particular activity, please do remember to drink a bunch of water, it is super important. Dehydration is no joke.
In all, Bonneville is a nice enough place. I enjoyed the soak and wrap very much and the facilities and grounds were clean and well kept. Esthetically, it wasn't the kind of place that Rachel or I are looking for in a hot springs resort and energetically it just didn't feel quite right to us. Willy Cosmo only sorta enjoyed himself, he wasn't too stoked on the chlorine in those healing waters and while the staff at the check in counter was friendly and accommodating, there were some other staff that weren't quite as nice. So, you know, if you are looking for a soak and a wrap and you are in the Portland area, this is the closest place to find that has hot spring waters. You can also stay the night and they have a restaurant as well though we did not eat there or sleep there so we can't speak to what those experiences are like. In all, I don't think we'll be going back there very often and we'd prefer to drive another 30 minutes east to the simpler and more basic facilities of Carson Hot Springs if we are going to do a soak and wrap.
They do have the local mineral waters feeding their drinking fountains which is a nice touch. And to wrap this up (no pun intended), I do want to acknowledge that our visit was odd from the get-go and maybe the place is deserving of another visit to get a better impression of it. I wouldn't not recommend anyone go here, we just didn't have that nice of an experience overall as we'd hoped to (that's expectations for ya...). The soak and wrap are legit and the spa services I'm sure are great. I have heard good things from a couple people about this place so I know it really depends on who you are and what your circumstances are when you visit. They clearly have put a lot of money into this place and it's worth checking out yourself to see if it's the kind of place you like. It was just kinda meh for us, though.
RACH: willy cosmo does not recommend bonneville hot springs. neither does his mother. and don't get me started on carson, which has the same owners and management. carson will have its own entry... WC really doesn't want to spend too much time on these places, but i will say that the soak and wrap only at the old carson bathhouse is a real treat (just don't even think about staying overnight), and even though they just raised the price again, the water itself is worth $25. but more on carson later...
Bonneville Hot Springs Resort & Spa
1252 East Cascade Drive
North Bonneville, WA 98639
RACH: so, originally we had planned this trip to be Willy Cosmo's first hot springs. i had a crazy idea that it would even be the first place he would ever travel outside the house (i stayed in the house with him for 40 days after he was born), but he still would have been too little at six weeks old. breitenbush is a very peaceful sanctuary, and while there are kids there, it is a mostly quite environment and by the time that the trip arrived, we were confident that we had a pretty chill, warm water loving customer.
JOE: There are few places in Oregon where you can get more bang for your buck. That is, if you don't mind either being buck naked yourself, or being in the presence of those who are. Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat & Conference Center outside of Detroit, Oregon is easily one of our favorite destinations in all of Oregon and we do our best to visit this special place as often as we can. Rain or shine (or snow for that matter!), this is a place you can come to where you are truly in as cozy and secluded of a place as one could hope for, there is no wifi or cell phone reception so when you are at Breitenbush, it's time to relax, leave your worries behind, and commune with the natural world that surrounds you.
RACH: it's about a two hour and change drive from portland, and as you enter the forest, you start to feel everything drop away. we stopped along the road on the breitenbush river for a hike and lunch and willy cosmo was immediately affected by the medicine of the woods. we all felt so joyful taking deeper breathes with brighter eyes, gazing at the crystal clear water of the river. i do believe our baby was absolutely amazed.
JOE: Before arriving at the resort we stopped to have lunch, we decided to check out an abandoned old hot springs with some camping spots along the trail. We came across a young couple in their late teens I'd guess and they told us about where to find the soaking area up ahead on the trail. They informed us they were camping there and hoped they'd find a good spot. It is a first come-first serve camping area but it was a Sunday afternoon so their chances were good. They passed us on the trail and when we got down to where they were setting up camp we were a bit saddened to see that some careless human's had decided to leave many traces behind and display their disrespect for nature in grand form. Trash and empty beer cans and bottles were strewn all over the camp site. Amazingly, this young couple were making short work of cleaning up the mess! They planned ahead for cleaning up others messes (this apparently wasn't their first rodeo) and had brought trash bags along with them, there still is hope for humanity! After wiping the tears of joy from my eyes at that sight, we ventured down to the waters edge and where the abandoned hot springs were located and ate our lunch. There were a handful of others down there with their dogs and a couple of them were getting in the old concrete tubs. We then hiked back up to our car and made our way to our final destination.
our hike and lunch spot to the abandoned hot springs on the Breitenbush River
JOE: Our timing with lunch and our little hike was pretty ideal. When you stay at Breitenbush they ask that you arrive at 3:00 or later. We finished lunch and got there just after 3:00 which was perfect. The staff checking us in were sweet and kind as usual. Because we've been there so often it was a quick and smooth operation and so we went and parked, and grabbed our robes and Willy Cosmo's rabbit towel and made a beeline for the soaking pools!
As mentioned above, you can check in as early as 3:00pm but the platform tents, the cabins, and the lodge are not ready to be moved into until 4:00 which made the decision to go soak it up for an hour an easy one. We had elected to stay in the platform tent this visit because it was the only space available for an overnight stay when we booked it. We've tent camped, stayed in the cabins, and in the lodge on previous visits as well.
As you could likely guess, Willy Cosmo couldn't wait to get in those glorious waters and get to soaking. We settled in to a fantastic post lunch soak and ended up soaking with a woman who happened to live just two blocks away from us in Portland. It is a small world after all, isn't it? After awhile Rachel and Willy Cosmo stayed soaking it up and I popped over to the holiest place I know, the wooden sauna that is fed by a capped geyser. To date, I have yet to meet it's equal. The hydro therapy sessions I get from this and the cold plunge tub outside of it are a spiritual experience for me. After that I went to get our camping stuff and set up our space while the missus and Willy Cosmo continued soaking, which turned out to be something of an unexpected adventure as I will get to shortly...
RACH: so, if you know me you may know that i have a strong aversion to bathing suits, especially wet ones. the truth is, i feel better about my body and the world when i am naked. i credit two of my girlfriends for encouraging me to strip down in my twenties and get over myself - one of my best college friends diana whose east hampton pool was always au natural those summers, and my friend amanda, who grew up frequenting tassajara with her family (a spot that is on WC's list!) and a major hot springs junkie. i came to realize that once you are in an environment where everyone is naked, then it's like no one is naked. we are all people. i have now ridden in portland's naked bike ride twice, where over 10,000 people ride bare-ass through the city, and i remember commenting that it's just like a bunch of naked babies on bikes! the folks who wear thongs or pasties actually look more sexualized than the completely naked ones. so, as the years went by, i became the one who was always naked at friends' pools, and i think i can now take credit for some other people's newfound comfort with their plain bodies. i feel good about that. i bring it up because breitenbush is one of those glorious places that creates the perfect low-key environment for getting naked. and the community and clientele are pretty much all on there same page... and it's also totally cool to wear a suit if you don't share my feelings - it is an atmosphere of quiet acceptance. clothing optional. i option out. have i mentioned the food? joe probably did. it has been exceptionally good this year.
JOE: I second these feelings about naked soaking and swimming and have had the exhilarating pleasure of riding 6 miles through Portland for the naked bike ride (that year we also got free admission into the Portland Art Museum before the ride if we were in the buff, so, yeah we got to walk through the art museum naked...). And in my opinion, what has happened with the sexualization of our bodies and the taboos that surround it is damaging to our lives on many levels. For one, the body issues that males (and especially females) experience in our current society is pretty messed up. Being naked is wonderful. Wearing clothing is in its most basic form, a way to protect our bodies from the elements and beyond that, it is a costume that is often dictated by the culture we live in and of course by the amount of money we have to spend on said costumes. So then it becomes a status costume and/or an expression of our individuality or what group of humans we associate with. These things are innocent enough on one level though they also have become a part of the detriment of respectable human to human relations. I could write more about this but I'll stop. In essence what Rach and I are writing about is that we both love the freedom, vulnerability, and innocence of being naked in nature or in a setting such as a hot springs where all humans are equal and equally taking care of themselves by soaking in healing waters (and at Breitenbush much like other hot springs resorts also embracing many other self care tactics such as: relaxation, walking a labyrinth, massage, yoga, etc). If you can remove the sexualized component of being naked and just surrender into the serenity and pure beauty of being at peace in nature in this way I think you can begin to appreciate what we are talking about. The image below is an example of that serenity and what I mean by this, here's Sweethome Teacup, owner of Teacup Yoga, who, along with being an instructor of yoga, is also a teacher of healing and magical ways, she's also an animal rights activist, and a lovely, kind human being who in the early morning light of June 13th 2016 was also soaking as peacefully and content as any of us could hope to be.
That same morning I awoke before the sun was fully peaking it's head up to greet us with the new day and on my way to soak I decided to record the sounds of nature and my footsteps as I made my way to the silent pool. Here, have a listen...
And when I got to the Silent Pool I couldn't resist making a little time lapse of my soak and the sunrise for a few minutes as well.
There are so many wonderful things to mention about the grounds of Breitenbush that it is hard to narrow it down and figure out what to describe next. I'll try though. Oh, I know! Part of the incredible value of staying overnight at Breitenbush is that you get three wholesome, delicious, organic, vegetarian meals served in addition to the 24 hour access to the waters and grounds at large. These meals are served buffet style and quite frankly make the cost of admission basically free if you consider the amount you'd spend on each of these three meals if you went out to a restaurant to order them. The meals are served in the main lodge which also has a few rooms that you can rent and a super cozy two room library that is also part of the 24 hour access which is fantastic. There are tons of books, a few board games and puzzles, and a bunch of couches that you can melt into for a good reading session and/or nap if you feel so inclined. Another really awesome part of what makes this place so special is that it is basically a fully off-grid resort. The geothermal heats the main lodge and all the cabins and the hydro power of the Breitenbush River provides all the additional electrical power to run all of the facilities on the grounds. They have back up generators and use them from time to time in rare circumstances, but this place is essentially self sufficient. Sweet, huh?
JOE: So going back to what happened with check-in. I had gone up to our car and put all of our camping supplies in the cart that they provide at the edge of the parking lot and then strolled down to the platform tents where we were staying. We had been assigned to Rabbit Tent and when I got to it there were shoes outside the front and I could hear someone in there. I said "Hello?" and sure enough, this woman was in there and came out and I asked if she had been assigned to Rabbit and if, unbeknownst to me, we were supposed to be sharing the tent. She had no idea about that and did not think she was sharing the tent with anyone (I sure hadn't intended for that to be the case, either!). So I left our gear in the cart by the Rabbit Tent and headed back up to the office to figure out what was going on. It turned out that they had accidentally double booked the tent! They were very sorry and incidentally, there were no available platform tents, or any cabins, or spots available because of the conference that was also being held there that week. So, the ladies - kind and quick on their feet - came up with the idea for us to stay in Buddha's Playhouse. They radioed to some of the staff and asked if they could bring a couple mattresses into there for us and sure enough, that is exactly what they did. That was a pleasant "mistake" if there ever was one. Buddha's Playhouse is a cob structure that is usually an open space for anyone to enjoy and sometimes they have workshops or meditations in there from time to time. For our night there though, it became our sleeping quarters which was pretty awesome! (There's a couple pictures of Buddha's Playhouse in the slideshow near the bottom of the post). When I told Rachel what happened she was stoked and said she had always wanted to sleep in Buddha's Playhouse. It's great when things like this happen...
JOE: So, in writing this I've come to realize there is so much to mention that it is kind of amazing to step back and realize what the folks at Breienbush have accomplished over these past 30 years or so. The 24 hour access to the waters and all the many wonderful amenities of the grounds is top notch accommodations any way you slice or dice it. With 3 wonderful soaking pools in the meadow, the best sauna I've personally been in in all of the world, the healthy and delicious food served 3 times a day, the cozy library, the massage rooms, the many wonderful hikes in the area, the year round conferences and events that are hosted here, and there are so many more things! I haven't even mentioned the spiral tubs yet! These are down by the labyrinth and the river, it is 4 soaking pools that get progressively hotter until you get to the fourth one which is hot to trot, then just beyond that is the cold plunge. This happens to be my second (or third) favorite activity at breitenbush, I dunk fully under water in the hottest tub, holding my breath for as long as I can endure and then immediately I go into the cold plunge and do the very same thing. I try and repeat this process no less than three rounds. It is exhilarating and is glorious hydrotherapy at its finest.
For about 8 years now, both Rachel and I have been visiting this special place and I just can't speak highly enough about the resort itself, and the natural area that surrounds it. I think for now, we'll leave you with what we've shared above and the slideshow gives you a look at many of the other parts of Breitenbush that we may have touched on above, or perhaps we forgot to mention. Essentially, we (and of course Willy Cosmo) thoroughly approve of Breitenbush and rank it among the top soaking destinations in the Pacific Northwest. If you are ever anywhere even remotely close to this place, please do yourself a solid and go there! You won't regret it...
Directions via Breitenbush's Website:
Coming To Breitenbush ...
By Air: The nearest large airport is Portland International. Rent a car at the airport.
By Car: (IMPORTANT: Alternate route, Highway 224 (US Forest Service Route 46) from Estacada to Breitenbush is IMPASSABLE FROM EARLY FALL TO LATE SPRING. Every year people get stranded on this road.)
From the West: (Interstate 5 at Salem), take exit 253 and go east on OR-22 toward Stayton/Detroit for approximately 49 miles to Detroit, OR. (See At Detroit below.)
From the East: (Redmond, Bend, Sisters) Take OR-20/126 west from Sisters for 25.5 miles and turn right onto OR-22W for 31 miles to Detroit, OR. (See At Detroit below.)
At Detroit: Turn from OR-22 onto Highway 46 at the only gas station in Detroit. Drive 9.1 miles and just past Cleator Bend Campground take a right onto the single lane bridge crossing the Breitenbush River. The road is gravel after the bridge and has three forks in its 1.2 mile course. Take a left at every fork and you will end up in our parking lot. You’re home! DO NOT FOLLOW MAPQUEST, GOOGLE MAPS or GPS DIRECTIONS PAST DETROIT!
In all, Mundo Hot Springs is a place you don’t want to pass up if you’re anywhere near the area. It’s about an hour and a half’s drive from Boise and I certainly encourage you to spend a day or two there if given the chance. While the element of the surrounding RV Park could be a potential turnoff, please don’t let it discourage you from enjoying yourself. I do believe there is a sort of charm about the place, it has a friendly staff, and the waters you get to soak in make it worth every penny.
Willy Cosmo gives these waters a resounding thumbs up and he's sure you will as well.
Mundo Hot Springs is located at 3016 Goodrich Road, Cambridge, Idaho
JOE: This place was pretty awesome. Negombo Thermal Gardens has 14 different thermal pools all at different temperatures and with different scenic settings to enjoy. It goes up the cliff sides a few hundred feet and provides some pretty lovely views. The beach alcove is also connected to the grounds so you can go and take a dip in the mediterranean between soaks and lounging in the sun. Located on the north side of the island of Ischia (a delightful island by the way), this is a place I would strongly encourage you spend a solid afternoon at if you ever take a trip to this little island getaway. A little note on getting to the island, we drove into Napoli (Naples) to take the ferry there and let me tell you, I have driven through New York and in Mexico, and through a fair number of high traffic and heavily populated areas, but driving through Naples was absolutely crazy. Rachel's butt cheeks were clinched so tight for that part of the ride that I thought the seat might come out of the car with her after we finally arrived at the ferry docks on the island. It's almost like a free for all, yes, there were a few traffic signs and stop lights here and there but it was mostly people crossing several lanes of traffic wherever they pleased and bikes, and mopeds, and motorcycles, and trucks, and cars, and madness just spinning around in a way that I am amazed we made it through. I might be exaggerating a little bit but, really, only a tiny bit. It was nuts. And that reminds me, we were staying on the south side of the island of Ischia in Sant' Angelo and took the bus up to Negombo. That was also insane. Besides the fact that it was 100 plus degrees Fahrenheit, there were three times as many people as there should have been on that bus. Sure, you may have already travelled to parts of the world where this is a semi regular occurrence but for me, it was my first time, and for Rach who was nauseous with early pregnancy and thought she might puke, I thought we were in for one of those scenes from a movie like Stand By Me where it starts a domino effect and everyone is barfing everywhere. Did I just go too far off course with the intro to this review? Maybe. Well, I'll get back to Negombo...
So, the bus ride was a hot n' sweaty mess to say the least. Thankfully it was only 20 minutes or so, it was a long 20 minutes but totally worth it to get to our thermal garden oasis of a destination. While it was a really hot day, the truth of the matter (for me at least) is that I still enjoy soaking in hot springs, even on a hot day. Negombo had several of its pools that were quite cool which was great. Originally when we planned to visit here, we be both were going to do a massage. After observing the prices and really considering what this place had to offer, and given that Rach was feeling pretty crapy, I decided to forgo my massage and just have her get a really nice extended treatment. That plan fell through though for her as far as a "nice treatment" goes because when she was checking in, she let them know she was pregnant (incita) and they then didn't want to give her a massage at all! After she looked through the options though they said they could give her a scalp massage and do that hot oil deal where they pour it onto your third eye and rub your temples and all that good stuff. She asked if she could do that and they said yes. Apparently something was lost in translation though and what she actually got done was having a rather large and hairy man rubbing his sweaty hands and arms all over her face with oil and basically doing everything she could not to gag the whole time. Mind you, after I said she could just have a treatment instead of the both of us, I kissed her and headed out to grab my book and explore, knowing I'd have about an hour and forty five minutes to hang out before she got done. I had no idea this is what took place while I was gone. So, imagine my surprise when I went back down to find her and she came out looking so distraught. That was not the look I was imagining seeing from her after what I thought was going to be her getting super pampered. She then relayed the story to me (and I contained as much of the laughter as I could in the moment) and felt bad that this was what had happened to her. I did what I could to help her shake that off and we went and got some lunch. They have a cafeteria/buffet style area that overlooks the beach where you can pick and choose your main course and sides, or you can order off of a menu as well. We chose the buffet style option and the food was decent. Nothing to write home about. Then it was back to soaking and lounging and exploring the grounds.
In all, this is another one of those amazing places we strongly recommend you check out. I do want to mention - as I mentioned in the post about Aphrodite on the other side of the island - that Ischia is largely an Italian vacation destination. Only once while we were on this island did we come across english speaking people and it was in one of the pools here actually, It was a dad and his kid. When I heard words that weren't Italian, I could hardly believe my ears. With that said, all the people (staff and guests of the resort included) were pleasant enough and other than the language barrier, we found the place most enjoyable. I'd like to go back one day and visit again. We didn't make it over to Capri but that is also on the list of places to check out for sure. Negombo Thermal Gardens is inspiring to us and we will definitely incorporate some of it's aspects into Cosmo Springs.
Negombo Giardini Termali
Baia di S. Montano, 80076 Lacco Ameno, Isola d'Ischia, Italy
~*~*~Update: Aphrodite Thermal Gardens is permanently closed as of now 7/2016~*~*~
JOE: This place. This island. These waters. The volcano sauna. The Thermal heat was everywhere! It was a lot to take in, let me tell you! We arrived on Ischia by ferry boat and traveled to Sant'Angelo where we were staying at the hotel Casa Del Sole which was one of the more modestly priced hotels in that area and it was nice, nothing too extravagant and it had a great view from our balcony.
I think this entry needs to be as much about Sant'Angelo, Ischia as it is about Aphrodite Thermal Gardens & Hotel Miramare. I say that because the entire island - and specifically this part we stayed in - is just ripe with geothermal energy. The beach and ocean were even thermally heated! There is a local culinary style that is pretty unique to the area in which they catch a fish, wrap it in some leaves (or in modern days often it is some aluminum foil) and you bury it in the hot sand on the beach and go swim and relax for an hour or so and when you come back and dig up your fish, it is cooked and ready to enjoy! We didn't try that on this trip mainly due to the fact that Rach was not feeling super great with her early pregnancy conditions and she wasn't really prepared to be that adventurous while we were there, respect. The whole area was really amazing, though. We decided to check out Aphrodite Thermal Garden's mainly because it was close to our hotel and we figured it looked like a sweet place to soak it up. There are numerous spas and thermal soaking resorts in the area and I imagine if we had stayed for more than the two days in the area we would have gone to a good deal more. Alas, we just checked out this spot and it was absolutely great.
As mentioned above, this place seemed like a great choice to check out both for proximity to where we were staying, and because it was reasonably priced and boasted having 12 different thermal pools which is pretty sweet. Rachel mostly relaxed and took intermittent soaks in the main big pool and then read and soaked up some sun rays. I adventured all around the grounds and took a dip in each of the 12 pools just to see what they were all about. I also ventured down this super steep stairwell following this sign to a sauna that I just had to check out. I am glad I did because it was unlike any other sauna or steam room experience I have ever had in my life. The "sauna" is a section of the cliff side that has been carved out into this cavernous larger room with three smaller 1-2 person caves with a heavy wool cloth covering the entrance. I was the only person down there and there wasn't anybody to ask questions about it so I just went in and checked it out. I first sat in the main area and embraced the intense heat that was coming straight from the thermal mass of earth that was just behind the cave. That was pretty cool, then my curiosity lead me to explore the small curtained rooms. That's where my mind (and body) was officially blown. You see, these little cave-rooms must be mere feet from liquid magma flowing through the earth because the intensity of the heat in them was incredible. Not only that but as I really gained presence in the space, taking very mindful deep breaths in and out, I noticed the pulsing almost heart beat like rhythm of the earth itself. It felt like both a heart beating or breathing (or both?). It was simply incredible. Thankfully they had put a nice cold plunge pool not far from the entrance so I did my customary rounds of hot to cold hydrotherapy action a number of times before heading back up to Rach. It was so cool, er, hot I mean ;) After I met back up with Rach we headed down to the ocean and took a dip in the amazing blue waters of the Mediterranean and then went back to our hotel to clean ourselves up for dinner. It was a really sweet place and I'm glad we had checked it out.
This place is kinda like a dream, except it is real. Oh, I also wanted to mention that we went in mid-late July and that we were the only American (or english speaking) folks in the entire area. I'm not kidding, either. We didn't run into another english speaking person until we were on the other side of the island for what was to become our second thermal springs adventure on the island. This island is where the Italian people go to vacation. It's just good to be mindful of that. Everyone was very gracious and kind with us, even being the only non Italian speaking Americans around. Most tourists from the US and Europe vacation on the island of Capri which isn't too far from this island.
One of my favorite "recreational activities" when traveling basically anywhere is to wake up just before sunrise and go and venture out into these new and foreign terrains and see what is to be seen when few other human beings are around to disturb the natural order of things. This was an exceptional experience in that regard. I saw and heard many birds as they awoke and sang their songs, I swam in the ocean finding pockets of heated water and sat in the sand in the thermally heated spots as well. It was a really great walk and swim and for anyone out there who might be interested, I highly encourage you do this very same thing. And not only if you were to find yourself at this particular place in the world, waking up before sunrise and taking a walk at dawn is one of the most therapeutic and serene free activities you can do in your home town or anywhere you find yourself in the world.
This was a fun place to hike down to and spend an afternoon at. Spiaggia Cavagrado is a pretty fantastic little beach! We actually took a huge swim out to these giant rocks that were out above the water line and soaked up some sun before swimming back. Rachel was feeling good enough to do this which was really great. I wouldn't recommend you do this unless you are a confident and experienced swimmer and with that said, if you are, then by all means do this because it was absolutely awesome.
In all, there is a ton of wonderful places to explore in the Sant' Angelo area of Ischia and many, many thermal spas and soaking places to check out. I very much would love to go back and visit again when Rach is feeling better, it was a really special place.
JOE: This place was really special. We nearly didn't find it but thankfully, we finally did! My phone which was our primary navigation tool for the trip was running out of batteries and Rachel's phone had disappeared minutes after we landed in Italy (story for another time?) so we were trying to be old fashioned about getting there using some directions we wrote down and some local help. That made it extra challenging as well because we didn't know where we were going to be sleeping that night and we don't speak or understand Italian very well at all. All these factors put together made for a little challenging - and a fair bit stress-inducing - trip to these magnificent waters. It was all worth it though. We had travelled to the Tarot Garden (Il Giardino dei Tarocchi) earlier that day (a trip you absolutely must make if you are anywhere even close to that place!) and we were intending to head back up to the lovely Agritourismo that we were staying at in Todi. As you may have gathered from previous posts, our ambitions sometimes get the better of us. By the time we got to Saturnia and knowing my phone was just about out of juice - and with maybe an hour of sunlight left - we made the snap decision to find a place to stay as close to springs as possible. Luckily we found a room available at the Grand Budapest Hotel which was a short drive from the Thermal Springs. I say the Grand Budapest Hotel because it felt like that to Rachel and I after a long day of travel but the place is actually called the Saturnia Tuscany Hotel. The place seemed out of a movie and that was appropriate because the day had been something out of a movie for the two of us.
I feel compelled to go briefly back to the Tarot Garden experience for just a minute here. It needs to happen. This place was on a grand scale of madness and magic that sets it apart from basically anywhere else I've ever been to. Dreamed up by the esoteric visionary artist Niki de Saint Phalle, incredibly, she actually lived inside "The Empress" for several months during the construction of the gardens which is a huge sphinx like sculpture on the outside and the interior is completely covered in mirrors (there's a picture of Rach inside there below). It is based on the 22 major arcana cards of the Tarot and comprises of 22 huge sculptures/structures that you can explore now that the place is open to the public (it has been since 1998). It's in Tuscany and if you are ever visiting Rome it isn't more than an hours drive or so from there. It's totally worth a couple hour visit.
Well, getting back to our soak at Saturnia. We had been staying at an Agritourismo that was an hour and a half drive from Saturnia so we thought we could make it back there after visiting the Tarot Garden and Saturnia but the circumstances of our day just didn't quite come together to help make that happen. My phone was almost out of batteries and we didn't have a working car charger and without a map to get us back (and the fact that it would be dark before we got back), we had to make the decision to stay at the Grand Budapest Hotel and go soak at Saturnia in the morning. And so that is exactly what we did. We got to the hotel and thankfully they had a room available, we went down to the restaurant and ate outside and watched the sunset, and then headed up to our room and read for a bit and went to sleep reasonably early so that we could get out first thing to go get our soak on. With a fully recharged phone/navigational tool, we headed out and found our way to the parking area - which is not well marked - and hiked down to these majestic waters on the edge of the thermal creek. The area (and a lot of Italy actually) has tons of thermal waters and had we more time (and if Rach was feeling better) we would have visited even more of them. It turns out that traveling in your first month of pregnancy in pretty much steady 100 degree heat can be a pretty rough experience. Rachel was a trooper I must admit and was a good sport in still adventuring with me a great deal throughout our trip. When she wasn't up for it, I made sure she had everything she needed and I would go off exploring by myself which was really awesome.
What a neat natural wonder. The water was pleasantly warm and had a mild sulphuric scent to it. It felt so good to soak there. It has been a time honored traditional for hundreds and even thousands of years for people to come to this place and receive the healing goodness these waters provide. It seems to be something of a tourist destination but I gathered it is mostly the local folk who come routinely to soak in these waters. There is a fancy resort just up the road with tennis courts, a golf course, and spa and all that business but this place is free and open to the public to come and enjoy. I could see it getting pretty crowded during the height of the day here and would recommend going as we did shortly after sunrise.
Terme di Saturnia or Saturnia Thermal Springs if you will, is a place we definitely recommend you check out. And on that note - while it might not be something everyone is up for - I also recommend renting a car for at least a couple days if you are traveling through Italy. There is so much to see and while I have travelled by car and taken many "great american road trips" through nearly every state on the continent, Italy and Tuscany and the surrounding areas of it are breathtaking. After our soak here we road through more of Tuscany and it was so beautiful. We spent one more night in the area (this time we stayed in Volterra with some family friends), we made our way to ol' Napoli (Naples) to leave our car for a few days and take a ferry boat to the island of Ischia (near the island of Capri) where we went to two more thermal hot springs adventures. Willy Cosmo - still in utero - sure got to experience a lot of amazing waters before he came out to join us in the world!
Terme di Saturnia, 58014 Saturnia, Manciano GR, Italy
Negombo Thermal Gardens
Aphrodite Thermal Gardens
Saturnia Thermal Springs
Bonneville Hot Springs
Reykjadalur Hot Springs ~ Iceland
Blue Lagoon ~ Iceland
Breitenbush Hot Springs
Water of the Gods ~ Norris Hot Springs
Symes Hot Springs Hotel & Mineral Baths
Mundo Hot Springs
Crystal Hot Springs