Putting "The Spring" back in Palm Springs (2023)


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A new spa at this California resort's original -- and only -- hot spring adds to the growing number of resorts in the Coachella Valley where you can relax.

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Putting "The Spring" back in Palm Springs (1)

ByAbbie Kozolczyk

Palm Springs conjures up many images in the popular imagination: California oasis, Old Hollywood hideaway, golf and tennis hotspot, mid-century modern pilgrimage site. But long before Richard Neutra's spacious, glass-fronted Kaufmann house or John Lautner's concrete-domed Elrod house, there was Welwood Murray's rickety wooden bath house.

Built over a hot spring in the late 1880s, this two-room cabin was one of the first tourist attractions in the Coachella Valley—recently accessible by rail to those suffering from tuberculosis and other ailments who sought solace in the desert air and mineral water.

Mr. Murray, a Scottish rancher and entrepreneur, rented his bathhouse from the Cahuilla Indian tribe of Agua Caliente. But as the "Agua Caliente" in their name suggests, this hot water was too important to their identity to be left in anyone's hands for long, and by the beginning of the 20th century, control had returned to the tribe.

"The mineral hot spring is basically our heart and soul," said Reid Milanovich, who has served as president of the tribe since April 2022. "We've used these waters for generations for both spiritual and physical healing."

The tradition of sharing the spring with guests also stretched back generations: the tribe operated a series of bathhouses before opening the Hotel Spa Resort on the site in 1963.thelocal water extraction point. In fact, it was the only place, as it retained exclusive access to the spring of Agua Caliente, the only option in the city. So when everything in the complex except the casino closed in 2014, anyone hoping for a hot mineral bath in Palm Springs was stranded on dry land.

The tribe determined that the 1950s water collection system needed enough repair to require the spa's demolition — a catalyst for rethinking the entire site. "We are talking about one of the most important parts of the reserve," said Mr Milanowicz. "We had to make sure it was protected for future generations." Tribal members and leaders concluded that the best way to do this was to create learning experiences that celebrated Cahuilla heritage.

After almost a decade of work at the site and one of the country's most important indigenous archaeological finds, thousands of artefacts have been discovered; thousands of years added to the local historical record, the new spa in Séc opened on April 4. And at the end of 2023, the adjacent museum will delve into the excavations as well as the tribe's history, culture, language and more.

Although in the heart of Palm Springs, Séc-he (pronounced SEH-hee or SEH-khee) is just one of many spring spas in the region. About 10 miles away, the town of Desert Hot Springs - with its ownfamous aquifersand waterlogged areas — it's coming back to life after filing for bankruptcy in 2001 and narrowly avoiding a repeat in 2013. But since the community became the first place in Southern California to legalize large-scale medical marijuana cultivation in 2014, society has returned, new retreats are opening and old favorites are thriving.

Here's your guide to total immersion in Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs.

Palm Springs

Spa med Séc-he


It is a place of 73,000 square meterstranslates from Cahuilla to "the sound of boiling water". Still sonorous, if not boiling, as it bubbles at 104 degrees through the signature hot tubs, the spring delivers a deeply soothing sound. As well as several other water features, from the fountain in the reception to the waterfall wall in the inner garden of tranquility.

A one-day pass ($145) gets you a 15-minute soak in one of the 22 private baths, where the mineral-rich water is not only sublime — especially if you've got the jets on — but wonderfully softens and lures away the dead. skin cells. (Between each use, the tubs are emptied and cleaned.) And if you don't have enough spring water after 15 minutes, you can continue your dip in the outdoor zero-edge mineral pool, where you'll also find a waterfall pool, mist-cooled cabanas, and large lounge chairs.

Outdoor pools are included in the price of the day pass, as are aromatherapy showers, salt caves, steam rooms and saunas, and fitness equipment for the more adventurous. All of this is also complimentary with any spa treatment — one of the standouts being the 90-minute Quartz and Wrap Massage ($325), with crushed quartz said to evoke hot desert sand.

desert hot springs

To Bunker Palmer


The most venerable of Desert Hot Springs retreats,To Bunker Palmerit served as Al Capone's hideout (or so the story goes) and a Hollywood backdrop (in Robert Altman's 1992 film The Player). At 70 acres, the oasis is vast—its eponymous palms dominate a landscape so lush that water turtles and birds seem to be as common as spa-goers. (Don't worry: people and animals get their water in separate places.)

Amid the pandemic, the property has added a large new spring-based bathing area, where the latest tubs—all typically between 100 and 104 degrees—are set to complement the beloved old grotto. A large communal spring-based pool surrounded by Eden greenery and smaller bathtubs, the Grotto has a warm cascade that acts as a head, neck and shoulder massage. For an official treatment, however, visit the spa, where the $245 90-minute TBP Double Body Scrub is hard to beat. (Think a salt scrub followed by a cornmeal scrub and soak in warm mineral water infused with sage.) There's also an ever-growing menu of classes, with a schedule of 60 to 70 options a week, from classics like yoga to new releases like creating natural smell.

For those who prefer privacy, each of the four new Grove Villa Suites has its own spring-loaded teak tub (as well as a fire pit, patio and extra-large bedrooms). But no matter which accommodations, activities, and spa treatments you choose, one thing is non-negotiable if you see it on the menu: Sticky toffee cake with local dates. Rooms from $265.

Desert hot springs

Good house


A similarly lush but much more intimate option,Good houselooks like your friend's secret hacienda. In this newly renovated seven-room hideaway with a communal dining table where the chef serves up vegetable specialties, it's impossible not to feel like part of the family. Do these animals play in the yard? Yes, and you can bring your own.

While the ongoing expansion to the adjacent lot will roughly double the resort's footprint over the coming year, the scale will remain small — welcome news for fans of the Good House's cozy atmosphere. (Not that anyone is complaining about having more room for the massages and facials already offered in the small spa.)

Instead, you can easily spend all your time in the 94-degree pool and 104-degree hot tub - each tucked away in lush greenery, surrounded by yellow lounge chairs and illuminated with twinkling lights at night. You don't have to stay overnight to enjoy the amenities, though: there are plenty of options to choose from, from the $40 Soak Pass (two hours) to the $210 Chill Pass Deluxe (all-day soaking privileges and 30-minute massage, 30-minute facial and star mock-up). Rooms from $250.

Desert hot springs

Hotel Onsen i spa


Although it only opened in February, TheHotel Onsen i spait harks back to the region's mid-century heyday, with its decades-old architectural bones, 1950s-saturated color schemes and late-night hours. So for anyone looking for Technicolor desert vibes, here you are. "Think of Lucy and Ricky's weekend package," said General Manager John Hopp.

Relaxation options at this oasis — whose name means "hot spring" in Japanese — include a 98-degree pool with water and 102-degree hot tub, Osea organic spa treatments, yoga mats in every room, and mountain views that practically insist on calming down . Rooms from $143.

Desert hot springs

Azure Palm Hot Springs Resort & Day Spa Oaza


Recently purchased and renovated,Azure Palm Hot Springs Resort & Day Spa Oazait is home to a huge outdoor mineral pool (86-90 degrees), built-in bathtubs (106 degrees but adjustable with a cold tap), a Himalayan salt room and various saunas. Still, the new Oasis - the large wellness garden - is probably the hardest part to leave. It makes its own informal circuit and offers a cliff-bound spring-powered reflexology walk; self-priming shower with a hot bucket; and a series of vats ranging from 100 to 104 degrees, each of which is sufficiently closed that the only intruders may be hummingbirds.

This summer, the resort plans to introduce Midnight at the Oasis events, where overnight guests will have late pool access. Later this year, there will also be private cabin tubs - can be booked for the day with associated fire pits and hammocks. The indoor spa has one of the most extensive menus around - the 60-minute Foot and Scalp Ritual ($145) is the best complement to reflexology walks and showers. Day passes that include access to the resort's pool, indoor and outdoor spas, sauna, coffee shop and yoga studio, from $56. Rooms from $169.

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