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Salt Caves and Spa encourages healthy lifestyles with 'safe haven'

Owners Myra and Rafier Maldonado opened The Salt Caves and Spa after trying to find holistic treatments for their mothers, who died of cancer.

Myra Maldonado shows the inside of one of the salt caves. The salt came from Pakistan, and the cave was designed to transport people to a calm, relaxing "safe haven," she says.
Myra Maldonado shows the inside of one of the salt caves. The salt came from Pakistan, and the cave was designed to transport people to a calm, relaxing "safe haven," she says.
Photo by Liz Ramos
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Lakewood Ranch’s Myra Maldonado wanted to find a holistic treatment to help her mother, Maria DeJesus, who had liver cancer and fallopian tube cancer.

Maldonado said DeJesus decided to stop cancer treatments because she was tired of pumping medicine and chemicals into her body. 

Maldonado’s mother-in-law, Annie Candelario, also was suffering from pancreatic cancer.

That’s when Maldonado started researching holistic treatments, but she struggled to find options that were affordable. 

The desire to help her mother and mother-in-law feel better inspired Maldonado and her husband, Rafier Maldonado, to open The Salt Caves and Spa at Lakewood Ranch, which opened May 1.

Rafier Maldonado and Myra Maldonado opened The Salt Caves and Spa to encourage healthier lifestyles.
Photo by Liz Ramos

Myra Maldonado said the salt caves are made of salt from Pakistan, and the goal is to create a calm, relaxing environment that mentally transports people to a “safe haven.”

Although she knows it’s not a cure-all, Maldonado said she hopes the salt caves and infrared therapy can help people feel better in some way. 

“If I could help even one person, to me, I’ve done my job,” Maldonado said. 

The Salt Caves and Spa is the Maldonados' latest venture in trying to help others. 

The Maldonados started their careers as police officers in Long Island, New York, until surgeries caused them to retire from the force. Rafier Maldonado had back surgery after 12 years on the force, while Myra Maldonado retired after having next surgery 14 years after joining the police department. 

The couple then opened and owned an Edible Arrangements for 15 years. Maldonado said the thought was selling fruit would be a way to encourage healthy lifestyles.

In 2022, the Maldonados decided to sell the business and move to Florida to help care for their mothers. The cancer diagnosis for DeJesus and Annie Candelario was heartbreaking for the family, and the Maldonados wanted to do all they could to help others have positive choices when it comes to dealing with health issues. 

Myra Maldonado hopes she made DeJesus, who died of cancer in February, and Candelario, who died of cancer in October 2022, proud by opening their new business. 

“What made us do this was hopelessness,” Rafier Maldonado said. “You feel hopeless when you get a diagnosis like cancer and you watch your parents fade away. So you want to help them before it gets to that point. Let’s take care of our bodies before we get to that point. … If we can help anybody avert that and not have to go through that hopelessness, that’s what we want to do.”

Salt therapy, also known as halotherapy, helps with respiratory health, skin health, stress, anxiety and more. 

Rafier Maldonado said although the therapies cannot cure illnesses, it can help people get into a healthy mindset. He said they want to educate people on healthy and natural ways they can live at a younger age to avoid issues later in life. 

Myra Maldonado, owner of The Salt Caves and Spa, shows the infrared machine used for pet halotherapy.
Photo by Liz Ramos

Myra Maldonado said she wants every client to feel at home at The Salt Caves and Spa. She said she hopes halotherapy becomes a part of people’s lifestyles like going to the gym.

The Maldonados not only want to help people but they also provide pet halotherapy. They have an infrared halotherapy machine that people can go into with their pets to receive salt therapy. 

“It’s funny because people ask why we’re adding that to a spa, but pets are still part of our family too, right?” Myra Maldonado said. “I think we spend more money on our dogs than we do on ourselves. We pamper them.”

Myra Maldonado said her 12-year-old dog, Minion, suffers from allergies, and the halotherapy helps his skin. 

She said if the pet halotherapy becomes popular, she hopes to take it on the road in a mobile unit and she can start to treat more animals, including farm animals.



Liz Ramos

Liz Ramos covers education and community for East County. Before moving to Florida, Liz was an education reporter for the Lynchburg News & Advance in Virginia for two years after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism.

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