For the life of me, I can’t figure out why it’s taken me a decade to get here. ‘Here’ being the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa, one of the nation’s best resort spas, located on secluded tribal land in the New Mexico high desert near Albuquerque, less than 200 miles from my home. It’s enchanting, culturally authentic, and a road trip away. Throw in gorgeous landscapes, Native art, indigenous spa treatments, nationally ranked golf, award-winning dining, and it’s easy to see why the resort topped our wish list when my husband, Hank, and I decided to look locally for a weekend getaway. We couldn’t have chosen better.

We moved to New Mexico from the East Coast a dozen years ago and have explored more of it than many native New Mexicans, but it still feels exotic and slightly alien, another world altogether. More than its legendary land and sky, New Mexico is an ancient, mystical place that seems to bypass my head and go straight to my heart. 

Tamaya, known as “a quiet and special place,” is a small Pueblo with a rich history dating back more than 1,000 years. Today, the old Pueblo of Tamaya lies on the north bank of the Jemez River on the Santa Ana Pueblo, nine miles from the resort. 

Designed in the traditional low-slung style of Pueblo architecture, the 500-acre Hyatt/Santa Ana Pueblo partnership resort embodies its Native American heritage in more ways than looks. A daily calendar of activities boasts everything from bread baking demonstrations, Native American dancing and flute performances, to guided art tours, and pottery making classes. Additional resort based activities include trail rides, hot air ballooning, storytelling under the stars, a weekly rodeo with cowboy dinner, and three outdoor heated swimming pools.

Although conveniently situated approximately half-way between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, making it an ideal base camp for day-trip exploration, the resort is a destination unto itself. I’m glad we planned our stay to be a romantic resort-only escape, but if it’s a family or cultural adventure you’re after, there’s plenty on-site and off to keep the young - and young at heart - in your clan happy.  

One of the savviest decisions I made during our two-day stay was to book the Ancient Drumming spa treatment for the evening of our arrival. Drawing on the indigenous ingredients of the surrounding Jemez Mountains, the 90-minute signature treatment features New Mexico’s famed red chile and Jemez mud to create a highly detoxifying body mask. As the mud dried, the therapist applied rhythmic drumming to my sore muscles using muslin bags filled with flaxseed dipped in piñon-scented oil. Although that would’ve been extraordinary enough, for the finishing touch, the therapist then drenched the dried mud with warm oil and a sprinkling of Piñon resin scrub for a light-exfoliating rub. Trust me, it’s magic!

The luxurious Tamaya Mist Spa became my favored ‘quiet and special place’. From the three outdoor relaxation areas, perfect for napping and sunbathing, to the steam room, sauna and amenity filled shower rooms, I returned each day to spend time in this healing in-house retreat.

New Mexico, infused with a blend of Native American and Spanish influences, is the ultimate foodie destination. Complimenting the region’s sophisticated culinary scene is the resort’s upscale Corn Maiden restaurant, featuring New Mexican fusion food that walks a complex line between global innovation and regional flavors with dishes like Green Chile Escargot, Rose Sea Salted Buffalo Ribeye and Spicy Apricot Glazed Korubota Pork Loin.

At the recommendation of our server, Raymond, we ordered appetizers Tapas style. “Try the Rosemary Flatbread or the Buffalo Crostini. You won’t regret it. The flatbread is house made with caramelized onions and bleu cheese and the Buffalo is complemented by a poached quail egg and red chile lime mayonnaise.” We don’t regret it at all.

From the Signature Rotisserie menu, Hank opted for the ‘Corn Maiden Classic’, with chorizo sausage, Fresno chile chicken and red & green chile rubbed beef rib eye. Me? ‘The Ocean,’ with sweet chile glazed Ahi tuna, swordfish with an Ancho chile rub and citrus jumbo shrimp. Each was delicious, but it turned out to be way too much food for the two of us. One rotisserie would have been plenty, leaving us more room to enjoy their decadent dessert selection. 

At checkout, as we thanked everyone for their amazing service and gracious hospitality, a couple from New York walked in. The husband asked “Was it as good as the brochure promises?” Memories of relaxing to the healing beat of the spa therapist’s rhythmic drumming, wine and cheese savored on our suite’s private balcony, the sounds of Native flute music and the rustle of cottonwood leaves drifting across the night breeze, and lingering like newlyweds after dinner to take in the purple majesty of the day’s last rays over the Sandia Mountains, play in my mind’s eye. “Better,” I reply. “Much better.”

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For up-to-date information about the resort’s latest offerings and specials, you can find Tamaya on Facebook and Twitter.

photography courtesy of Hyatt Regency Tamaya and ©2010 Ellen Barone.

Learn more about the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa and other luxury hotels from our sponsor, the Kiwi Collection.  



Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".