A Day at Santa Theresa Thermal Spa: A Hidden Gem in the Heart of the Jungle

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 forest through which you drive to arrive at Santa Theresa Thermal Spa in El Salvador
The forest through which you drive to arrive at Santa Theresa Thermal Spa in El Salvador

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.

One of the many pools at the Santa Theresa hot springs complex
One of the many pools at the Santa Theresa hot springs complex

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!

Just one of the pools on the Santa Theresa thermal spa complex
Another of the pools at the Santa Theresa thermal spa complex

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.

Soaking in the pool before our mud treatment
Soaking in the pool before our mud treatment

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.

The soaking pool where you clean off all the mud
Jump in and soak off all the mud

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.

The lunch options that are included in your Santa Theresa spa experience outlined on the board
Take your pick from one of the lunch options

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.

The views from Casa 1800 Ataco De Conception
The views from Casa 1800 Ataco De Conception

We paid £146 for three nights during August 2023 for a standard double room.

Book your stay at Casa 1800 Ataco De Conception


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About Anne

Anne is the founder and editor of Frommilestosmiles. If she isn't travelling, she is thinking of travelling or planning her next trip. She has visited over 90 countries on six continents and sampled everything from backpacking to bank bursting travel. Her mission is to help you enjoy more luxurious travel without the luxury price tag through the use of airline and hotel rewards and other money-saving travel tips

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