Hot water wells up from the earth in several locations close to San Miguel. Unlike some other hot springs, their water is perfectly clear and unladen with a lot of minerals, stinky or otherwise. We’ve been to two of the springs.
One is a real water park, very much for kids, so it’s the first one we went to, but the munchkin isn’t into going down water slides and so on, yet, so after her initial excitement about all the bells and whistles (giant mushrooms with water pouring off them, for example–the place is kind of like Disney on a budget), all she really wanted to do was hang out in the kiddie pool. It was barely warm enough for me to be happy spending hours submerged, so I had no real desire to return.
The second place we went to, La Gruta (the cave), by contrast, is more like a spa, with a pretty good restaurant, roving waiters who will bring you drinks poolside, little tables dotting the lawns, massages for an extra fee, and lush greenery. When I hear the term “spa” or “hot springs,” I think of dark little pools somewhere, and of course people covering themselves with mud. But La Gruta’s are just small swimming pools in familiar blue, meant for fun as well as relaxation. The munchkin adores the place and so do I, and even though we’re in the rainy season and it storms almost every afternoon (the last time we visited, we had to hop out of the pool because it started to rain), I was determined to bring her back there one more time. Today was the day.
Carless, we have to take a taxi there, and because it’s remote, we have to arrange with the taxista to come get us again at a set time. I guessed that three hours would be about right, and it was a good guess; the munchkin was just starting to get that glazed look and that grumpy attitude when the time came for us to get changed and meet the taxi. We bought a floatie ring on one visit, which allows her to “swim” with an adult’s guiding hand, and today a family visiting from Mexico City let her ride on the back of their inflatable dinosaur.
La Gruta has five pools, which vary in temperature from “a little cooler than I like my bath” to “too hot for me to stay in for more than a few minutes.” The hottest is in a cave that gives the spa its name, which you reach by wading or swimming (the water is about 3 1/2 feet deep) through a tunnel long enough to be good and dark. The first time we went, the munchkin was a little nervous of the tunnel, but she still wanted to go back to the cave, and does on each visit.
I don’t usually enjoy swimming much because I’m a complete wimp about the initial cold, and even though most water does feel warmer after a few minutes if you just take the plunge, I can’t stay too long in water that’s significantly below body temperature. Also, breathing the chlorine makes my lungs ache after an hour or two. In blessed contrast, a day at La Gruta, with its warm, chlorine-free waters, is like a day spent in the bath, except that my bathtub at home isn’t surrounded by tropical plants and stone walls, nor is it under a blue sky, and if I want to sip a limeade I’m expected to get out and make it myself.
At 100 pesos each way for the taxi, 90 pesos per adult for admission, and inevitably some money spent there on lunch–a total today of about $30 US–it’s a pricey day out by our Mexico standards, and in fact by our family outing standards, period. But worth every penny.
There are hot springs near the Bay Area, but I’m not really interested in going to Calistoga unless it has pools to play in, lots of kids, and fresh-squeezed limonada.
(#18 of 20 things I’ll miss about San Miguel)