Our Story


The Natural Mineral Spring
The history of the springs begins hundreds of years ago with the Calusa Indians who were the original inhabitants of this area. They used the mineral spring water for medicinal and trading purposes. Then, in the early 1500s, Juan Ponce De Leon discovered the spring in his quest for the Fountain of Youth. Although he never found it, many believed the natural mineral waters running through the spring have special healing properties.

This natural mineral spring, which is still flowing on the property today, is the very spring for which the city was named – Bonita Springs.

Gilmer Heitman
Gilmer Heitman
Pre-construction location of the Heitman Hotel ~1921
Site of the Heitman Hotel ~1921. The mineral springs can be seen near the people standing.

The history of Shangri-La Springs starts in 1921 when Gilmer Heitman, considered to be a visionary of Bonita Springs, constructed The Heitman Hotel with 25 rooms along Heitman Avenue, now known as Old 41 Road. The hotel was built as a place to stay for home buyers during construction of their house.

In 1935, the hotel was sold to Robert and Bess DeFoor for $6,000. But the hotel fell on hard times during the depression and the DeFoor’s sold the property to the Haverfields who expanded the hotel to 50 rooms and changed the name to the Bonita Springs Hotel.

Walter A. Mack, owner Mack Cadillac Corporation in Chicago, then purchased the property and his financial means afforded extensive upgrades. He changed the name to Villa Bonita and added access to a beachfront cabana club on Hickory Island near what we now know as Barefoot Beach.

The Villa Bonita Cabana Club
The Villa Bonita Cabana Club ~1950s

The next owner was Dr. Charles Gnau. Dr. Gnau was an osteopath and a believer in the healing powers of the mineral water springs. And it was he who is responsible for the installation of the spring-fed pool with a statue named the Indian Maid of the Springs which is still on the property today.

Bonita Springs Hotel ~1930s

In 1963, the property was sold to a neuropath, Dr. R .J. Cheatham. Dr. Cheatham changed the name of the hotel to Shangri-La invoking the image of the pathway to paradise as described in the novel Lost Horizon. Under Cheatham’s direction, the hotel became an institute devoted to the practices of natural hygiene.

In 1993, Leo Dahlman bought the property with the goal of developing Shangri-La Springs into a first class health resort. With a background in historic restoration and hotel management, he restored much of the property to its original grandeur. But, the property fell into foreclosure and became available for purchase in 1998.
The current owners, Lama Hana Trust, a conservationist organization, purchased the property in 1998 and vowed to protect the integrity of the hotel as an important landmark in Bonita Springs. Once again, Shangri-La Springs is dedicated to healthy lifestyles.

Our stately property features an intimate boutique hotel experience with 2 guest suites in the main building and an additional 6 guest rooms in the Villa Ascona building near the property’s courtyard.

Amenities include a full-service organic spa, organic restaurant featuring ingredients from our on-site 4-acre  organic garden and orchard, destination wedding venue, meeting rooms and a lively event calendar.

Villa Bonita brochure

Shangri-La Springs is a Blue Zones Project recognized organization offering guests a nexus of beneficial practices, activities and engagement opportunities that include yoga and wellness classes, art shows and special programs.

A range of natural and organic treatments and products including facials, massages, Eucalyptus Steam Room, Himalayan Salt Infused Sauna and private garden lounge are offered at The Spa at Shangri-La Springs.

Our organic farm-to-table restaurant, Harvest & Wisdom, utilizes fresh produce from our on-site organic garden, locally-sourced organic proteins and organic beverages for guests and visitors alike.
The mineral spring at Shangri-La Springs
The mineral spring for which the city was named - Bonita Springs ~1950s


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