There's a timelessness about Maruia. Nestled in the remote mountains of Lewis Pass National Reserve, the site has been used for relaxation and healing for centuries. It has a colourful history, used first by Maori pounamu (greenstone) traders and warriors to sooth their aches and wounds, the site has since been a European resort which grew from cottages to a hotel, a pub, a gas station, and in the late 1900s a Japanese-style Onsen. Finally, after new ownership in 2015, it became home to the award-winning hot spring retreat found there today.
The hot pools - of which there are three in total - are fed by a geothermal spring, and are chemical free, infused only with natural minerals and trace elements. The high mineral content also means they are home to a unique black algae, which is supposedly beneficial in similar ways to the superfood spirulina. Rather than ingesting it, though, guests are encouraged to rub it in to their skin. The algae gives Maruia's pools a distinctive look, and the water can be varying shades of green, grey, and jet black.
Though the natural temperature of the springs is around 56°C, the pools themselves are kept at a range of more bearable heats. We found ourselves flitting between the different pools - though the hottest was the most enjoyable for me, we found we couldn't stay in it for too long!
Out of the variety of accommodation options available (ranging from campervan spots to deluxe hotel rooms), we chose to stay in one of the deluxe glamping pods. We found our quiet little pod somehow both cosy and spacious, minimal and rustic. The theme at Maruia seems very much to be of every detail designed with both simplicity and beauty in mind. There is no clutter, no unnecessary touches, just space to breathe and let the mind be still.
Did I mention the whole resort is completely off grid? All electricity for the buildings, heating and saunas is produced by Maruia's own hydro power generator. Mobile phone coverage is very limited, and though wifi is available, guests will have to pay a premium as the site's only internet is provided via satellite. Most relish the opportunity to switch off and opt to give the wifi a miss, as we did. Take a good book.
Another bonus is that guests have the option to use the pools 24 hours of the day, and I would definitely encourage making the most of this and experiencing a night time soak. Though we weren't fortunate enough to have clear star-gazing skies, there was something pretty special about using the pools in the rain. The surrounding mountains were cast in atmospheric mist, and there was something very satisfying about watching raindrops fall in the water around us.
If I could, I'd visit Maruia every few weeks. Rarely do I switch off as much as I did in those couple of days.
It's worth noting that, like the majority of the South Island's West Coast, Maruia suffers from sandflies, which can be incredibly annoying. Don't let that put you off, though - there's a dispenser full of sandfly repellent right by the pools, and I found when I used that they left me mostly alone.
I could write a whole other post about how delicious the food in the restaurant was, but I'll just say that their vegan option for the evening meal was like nothing I've ever tasted. Unless you're staying in a camper, the restaurant is your own option for meals, as none of the accommodation is self catered - so if you're on a budget, like we were, take plenty of snacks. If money was no object, we would have happily had breakfast and lunch at the restaurant too (it smelled amazing all day long), but instead we brought some supplies that could be eaten cold.
Between the soothing sounds of the rain, morning yoga, deep tissue massages and plenty of time for soaking in the pools, we gradually felt our troubles melt away.