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Liz Moody’s Santa Fe Travel Guide (Healthy Restaurants, Hikes, And More)

healthy travel guidetravel guide

Ah, Santa Fe. I have to confess, I didn’t know much about Santa Fe or New Mexico as a whole going in. In fact, when we were a few hours away, I wondered aloud to Zack about the altitude of the city.

“I think it’s pretty high,” I said. “Like, four or five thousand feet?”

I Googled, and it was pretty high. It sits, in fact, at 7,198 feet, making it the third highest city in the US (and 2000 or so feet higher than Denver, the famous mile-high city).

All of which is to say: the city literally and figuratively took my breath away. It feel like a peaceful, magical mountain town (and it is—you can see peaks from almost any point in town and be on a trail that takes you above 10,000 within 15 minutes of downtown) but it also has some of the best restaurants and cultural offerings I’ve experienced in the US. Here’s my healthy Santa Fe travel guide.

The best healthy restaurants in Santa Fe

It was hard trying all of the recommended Santa Fe restaurants, and we were there for a month. From fine dining to fast casual, and Japanese to New Mexican cuisine, Santa Fe is definitely a gastronomical destination. Here are my top picks:

La Choza—our favorite spot for New Mexican in town. It’s definitely casual and homey in vibe but it’s POPULAR—plan for a 1-2 hour wait and just got for a walk or get drinks somewhere near by (they’ll text you when your table’s ready). Despite being heavier fare in nature, the way they prepared everything felt shockingly light and fresh. They’re famous for their green chile but the posole was the stand out to me.

Radish & Rye—the type of restaurant that wouldn’t feel out of place in Brooklyn, San Francisco, or LA, this place is worth visiting for the decor alone (I dream of those flower arrangements). They serve locally-sourced, farm-to-table Southern-tinged cuisine that’s creative, with plenty of actually-inspiring vegetarian options. The cocktails are stand outs too (the house made shrub is pure heaven). If I were going to do one night where I dressed up a bit and went out on the town, this is the restaurant I’d eat at.

Paper Dosa—wow wow wow. This restaurant. It’s not fancy but it’s SO cute, with fresh wildflowers on the table and bright pops of color. And the food—oh, the food. The South Indian dosas and uttapams are bursting with flavor, light and perfectly-spiced and filled with farm-fresh vegetables. The Puri Jeera soda is one of the most surprising and delightful things I’ve ever sipped on, and I still dream about the kale pakora. This was my favorite food I’ve had in a long time, and my only regret is that I don’t live closer because I want to eat it all the time.

Vinaigrette—if you’ve eaten at all of the above restaurants and you’re like, “okay okay, just give me as salad, I need a break,” Santa Fe has you covered for that too. The sister restaurant of Modern General, Vinaigrette makes inspired salads—like the kind that even salad haters (raises hand) will be excited about. They’re well-balanced, hearty enough to be an actual meal, interesting enough to keep your attention, and with 20+ types on the menu, you’re sure to find something you like.

Cafecito—a cute little Argentine spot for great empanadas and mate in the loveliest environment (definitely sit outside if you can!).

Modern General—a super chic, healthy cafe that serves INCREDIBLE brunches in a bright, airy environment. You can get healthy staples like adaptogenic hot chocolate, avocado toast or a smoothie (and they’re actually pretty tasty—Liz-approved, and I don’t say that lightly), but you can also get the best biscuits of your life. The green chile savory cakes are also very much worth adding to your list.

Santa Fe Farmer’s Market—this is where I had my favorite breakfast burritos in Santa Fe (although Tia Sofia’s and The New Baking Co. are tied in a strong second place)—but make sure you go early, because they were usually sold out by 11. This is also a great place to stock up on farm-fresh veggies and plenty of local chili products (an excellent souvenir!).

Clafoutis—a shockingly authentic feeling French cafe where they somehow make perfect croissants and cannelle despite the high elevation, this is a fun place to go stock up on delicious baked goods. They also have a restaurant if you want sit-down cafe fare.

Whoo’s Donuts—I dream of these donuts. Made with super high quality ingredients, they’re fresh, fluffy, and have the most creative flavors (trying a Blue Corn one is a New Mexico must). Go early, because they close at 3 PM and often sell out even earlier.

Tender Fire Kitchen—the best pizza in town, hands down. With a chewy, fermented sourdough crust and that perfect fresh-from-the-oven char, these are the gourmet pies you dream about. A great choice of high-quality and creative topping combos as well.

Kakawa Chocolate—drinking chocolate is a must-try in New Mexico, and this is the spot to do it. You can sample the various flavors which are dairy-free and made with a water or almond milk base. They also have truffles, cookies, and other sweets to take home (and I snagged one of their super cute mugs too!).

Cafe Pasqual’s was VERY highly recommended but was closed the entire time we were there, so definitely check it out if it’s open when you’re in town.

The best things to do in Santa Fe

Meow Wolf—WOW (I wanted to say, “more like WOW Wolf, amIright?” but that felt too dad-jokey. But here we are). This is an interactive art experience that you don’t so much look at as immerse yourself in. There’s a mystery to solve, if you’re keen, but if you’d rather just wander around with your jaw on the floor, you’ll still find plenty to enjoy. Make sure to play with everything—refrigerators can be doors, closets can lead to hidden universes, and hamster cages can contain important clues. A must, must do in Santa Fe—book ahead so you can be sure to get a spot!

The Georgia O’Keefe Museum—this museum was honestly smaller than I expected (we took a little less than an hour to see everything fairly slowly) but it’s a great introduction to Georgia’s gorgeous artwork, and it’s fun to spot local landmarks on the wall. Definitely worth a walk through but be sure to book ahead—this was sold out a month in advance when we came to town.

Ten Thousand Waves—what. an. experience. This is a hot springs spa in the style of a Japanese onsen. You can get massages (mine, with the special foot massage add-on, was one of the best I’ve ever had), and then go for a soak in the tree-lined pools (there’s even a cold plunge!). We did both a private pool and the public one, and while the private was lovely, I would say that it’s not necessarily worth the extra money when the public one is just as good—if you want total privacy, go for it, but otherwise it’s not necessary. While you’re there, definitely head over to Izanami for an incredible Japanese meal. Book well ahead of time.

Canyon Road—a gorgeous, winding street in a tree-lined, historic area of the city, Canyon Road is studded with galleries that will help you get a taste of Santa Fe’s thriving art scene. Pop into the nearby Folklore for well-curated sustainable home goods.

Day trip to Taos—it’d be almost criminal to be this close to Taos and not go and briefly explore. Visiting the Pueblo (a living Native American community and UNESCO World Heritage site) is a must, as is strolling through the super walkable historic downtown. The Earthships just outside of town are fascinating (they close early, so check timing and tours), and they’re just over the beautiful Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, where you might even spot some Bighorn Sheep. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can take a short hike to the Manby or Black Rock Hot Springs (both are along the river!). For dinner, definitely go to The Love Apple, which serves produce-forward, local and organic fare in a breezy, white, super chic space.

Ojo Caliente was also highly recommended but it was closed because of a fire when we were there, so definitely check if it’s open when you go.

The best hikes in the Santa Fe area

Las Conchas Trailhead—though it’s a bit out of town, this is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been and well-worth the trip. You can do the hike, an easy 3-4 mile, mostly-flat meander through a lazy river, beautiful rock formations, and a stunning green meadow, or you can just pack a picnic and relax—the beauty starts immediately at the trailhead. On your way, stop for the awe-inspiring views at the Valles Caldera (if you’re looking for some stunning Insta photos, this is the spot).

Note: There are a few “warm springs” in the Jemez area—we hiked to them all but found them too dirty to actually get into. If you want to hike to hot springs, I’d do the Taos ones, which are cleaner and warmer, or just stick with Ten Thousand Waves.

Nambe Lake Trail—one of the most popular trails in the area, but for good reason! It’s not too hard but long/steep enough to get your heart rate up, and it ends in a gorgeous alpine lake.

Atalaya Mountain and Picacho Loop—this hike starts practically downtown, but still gets you all the way up to the peak of the mountains closest to Santa Fe. Great for getting into the forest quickly and stunning overviews of the city and surrounding areas.

Where to stay in Santa Fe

We loved our Airbnb in Santa Fe, which was private and reasonably priced, with a gorgeous yard, organic linens, and filtered well-water. Check out the full listing here.

If you’re looking for more of a luxury hotel experience, Los Poblanos is a beautiful organic farm and inn with delicious food and beautiful rooms located just outside of town.

I hope you enjoyed this Santa Fe Healthy Travel Guide! Let me know any other recommendations in the comments below!

If you want to see my Tucson travel guide, you can check it out here, and my St. George/Zion & Bryce Canyon National Park travel guide is here.

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