The journey to Santa Theresa Thermal Spa is an adventure in itself. As we weave around hairpin bends with views of lush mountains, our eyes dance with amusement. The sight of pickup trucks laden with people basking in the sun, hordes of stray dogs that wander into the road and endless forest. Tucked away amidst dense vegetation up a rutted winding road, our destination is a day at the Santa Theresa Thermal spa. Just 20 minutes from Ataco de Conception in El Salvador, this oasis is the perfect day out.
The hidden oasis
Santa Theresa Thermal Spa is a hidden oasis, nestled deep within the jungle. The path that leads to the entrance is lined with uneven stones that ascend a steep hillside. As we climb, we pass many of the 40 thermal pools that emerge from the jungle. Each varies in temperature from soothingly warm to invigoratingly hot. Perched above the “Los Ausoles” or “little hellholes,” shady terraces surround the pools and hammocks sway in the breeze. The spa maintains an unpretentious charm, where families delight in a leisurely Saturday afternoon with picnics.
Culinary delights and natural wonders
A series of restaurants and a café are strategically placed to make the most of the natural springs. Here, you can indulge in coffees, desserts, and a hearty meal. Entry to the Santa Theresa Thermal spa costs a reasonable $10 but if you opt for the $25 package deal, the price includes entry, lunch, and a natural mud bath treatment. What a steal! To purchase these options individually costs;
- entry – $10
- lunch – $12
- mud bath experience – $10
- drink with lunch $2
So overall you save $9 each which is a bargain!
Mud bath treatment
The mud bath treatment is somewhat unique. This will not be anything like any mud treatment you have experienced before!
Step one – natural sauna
The treatment begins with an hour-long soak in the pools to open your pores and prepare your skin for the treatment. You then move on to the unique natural sauna, positioned directly above one of the hot pools. Vents in the floor welcome intense steam into the chamber and the minty scent from branches placed on the floor masks the sulfuric stench of the thermal pools.
Step two – cake yourself in mud
Our host beckons for us to exit the sauna and apply the mud. In huge ceramic pots we find thick slabs of mud that we slowly cake onto our bodies. Once we resemble mummified muddied bodies, we return to the sauna for a second steam experience.
The mud is laden with beneficial properties to cure many ailments including digestive problems, cellulitis and many more. We pray it does some healing magic as we have both struggled with a stomach bug all week. (This could be coincidence but we actually did recover the following day!)
Step three – bathe in thermal pools
We wander down a winding path where steaming pools bubble and froth and emerge to find a much cooler dark green pool into which we sink. As the mud melts away, leaving our skin exquisitely soft, a Salvadoran family joins for their cleansing soak. This is definitely a quirky communal experience.
A rejuvenating lunch break
After the treatment, a selection of six meal options awaits those with lunch included. Choices range from a classic hamburger to delightful fish and chips featuring tender fish. Paired with seasoned chips, it’s scrumptious.
Conclusion: A day well spent
Fully rejuvenated and refreshed, guests can retire to the undercover area for a relaxing hammock session before bidding farewell to this hidden gem. The Santa Theresa Thermal Spa offers a unique blend of natural wonders, therapeutic treatments, and culinary delights, making it an outing to remember. Whether you are a local or a foreigner, this oasis in the heart of the jungle promises an unforgettable experience.
Where to stay if you wish to visit Santa Theresa thermal spa
An ideal base for a visit to the Santa Theresa spa is the nearby town of Ataco De Conception. The town brims with colourful murals that line the cobbled streets overflowing with shops, markets and restaurants.
The Casa 1800 in Ataco is in a breathtaking location on the edge of town. It offers a quiet escape with mountain and forest views.
We paid £146 for three nights during August 2023 for a standard double room.