By Heidi Simmons

This night, the sky is thick with grey clouds. The local forecast does not include rain. But this is Desert Hot Springs, above the valley floor and against unspoiled mountains the weather is less predictable. There is barely a breeze and the low clouds keep the temperature at a balmy 74 degrees.

As is the tradition, the tour begins at the famed Two Bunch Palms Resort & Spa. Built by mobster Al Capone in the 30s, the spa has maintained its hideaway charm, but has recently spent $4 million to upgrade its facilities with the highest quality of comfort and design. It still has the celebrity vibe – a place of tranquility and privacy.

The property is 77 acres. Natural hot mineral water fills the grotto pool. The run off carves a path through the resort and enters a large pond where it seeps back into the aquifer and is eventually recycled. This weekend, all 70 rooms are sold-out.

The resort plans on spending a total of $30 million on further developing the property. It has just completed a large solar farm, part of its goal to be completely environmentally green. With its old trees, open space, mountain views and mineral water, you can feel the healing and rejuvenation begin the second you walk onto the grounds.

Once referred to as Spa City, Desert Hot Springs has long claimed to be situated in a vortex that promotes health and wellness. The theory is: The city’s natural elements of mineral water, unspoiled mountain and desert expanse, its elevation, fault lines, wind and sunshine create a significant energy field. It’s believed the vortexes are negative ion generators influenced by magnetic forces, which produces good energy, well-being and healing.

Desert Hot Springs sits on two aquifers, which are divided by a tectonic fault. One side is hot water and the other is cold. Due to the depth of the aquifers, layered decomposed granite serves as a filter eliminating sulfur odor and bad taste. Experts say the water has a perfect balance of PH and Alkalinity. This produces silky mineral water good for the body inside and out.

Soaking in geothermal heated water, the body is able to better absorb minerals like Lithium, which elevates mood. Relaxing in natural hot water increases blood flow, re-generates cells and increases the body’s natural ability to heal. It also aids in cleansing and detoxing the body.

Like on a treasure hunt, luxury Cardiff buses traversed the city’s spa zone with VIP ticket holders. There are ten spas on the tour. Our guide is Councilmember Scott Matas, a born and raised DHS local. He says there are 40 spas in and around the city limits.

The first stop is on the main drag, Palm Drive, The Aqua Soleil Hotel & Mineral Water Spa. With 110 rooms, it is both hotel and boutique spa. Several rooms have their own large indoor spa. The resort is clean and contemporary. It has a hip and youthful feel. The four treatment rooms use lotions, oils, soaps and scrubs from local Palm Desert business Body Deli. It also has a spacious and friendly “Kafe Bar.”

Winding up into the hillside, The Spring Resort & Spa seems to sit on the top of the world. This retreat has 11 rooms and two villas. Minimally appointed, the serenity makes you want to whisper. There are no televisions and no landlines in the rooms. The water here comes out of the ground at 170 degrees.

The water at Miracle Manor Retreat comes up 400 feet to fill their pools. There is a sense of stepping back into time with its Mid-century modern vibe. With only six rooms, there is an intimate, meditative quality to the spa and pool. This bed and breakfast is all about health and healing.

If you like to travel with your dog or dogs, DogSpa Resort & Wellness Center is for you. Dogs stay for free! Behind the gate of this retreat, a friendly Brad Pitt greets the guests — Brad Pitt-bull that is. In this hotel there are dog beds, dog towels, dog snacks and a private dog park. Built in 1957, this two-story spa has kitchenettes in every room. The owner is a vet.

Lido Palms Resort & Spa feels like an oasis in the desert. Cross through the gates here and the earthy scent of lavender and geranium seems to match the changing color of the sky. Massage therapists and aestheticians give sample massages. On my hand and forearm, a scrub is applied, then an oil and finally a lotion. From the elbow down I feel bliss. Here at Lido, they use organic handmade skincare products from Hungary.

Vista Ventana Spa & Resort is the new kid in town, but not new to the business of resort health and wellness. The owners also run the Monroe in Palm Springs. All 16 rooms at Vista Ventana have a custom bright color. You can’t help but feel cheerful in a South Beach kind of way.

There are two two-story suites and although they serve a hot breakfast, have drinks and snacks throughout the day, each room has a complete kitchenette. Look for their special day spa deals like the Pretty-n-Pink Spa Party. Ventana joyfully whispers, “Let’s have a good time!”

A spa for adults only, Anahata Springs Spa and Retreat pampers couples but invites individuals. Clothing optional, Anahata is the name given to the heart chakra. The wide-open courtyard seems to embrace the sky. A giant Buddha oversees the pool and evokes a feeling of harmony.

Want to get away somewhere exotic to rejuvenate? El Morocco Inn & Spa will take you there. It’s night and the resort is delightful. The courtyard bar is covered by iridescent cloth that undulates in the breeze as the bartender serves the signature Morocco-tinis. A belly dancer moves about the glowing pool and fire pit, her bare feet on Persian rugs. A light rain only adds to the ambiance and charm. El Morocco has a “Far Infrared” room, which promotes healing for bones and body.

The tour ends at the Hacienda Hot Spring Inn. Mature trees and large pools create a place that invites relaxation and rejuvenation. Walking through the gate is like discovering paradise. The Hacienda’s stucco walls, tile roof and exposed beams create a rustic, open feel. A communal patio space inspires sharing food and stories.

The VIP after party food is served on the Hacienda’s large hand-honed wooden table. A combination of Mexican cuisine and sushi sums up the eclectic evening of spa styles. A jazz band adds to the celebration. VIP ticket holders received a spa robe and a bling bag stuffed with spa items like soap, lotions, sprays, salts, balms and more.

All the above spas have private treatment rooms, day spa packages that include a menu of specialized treatments by the valley’s best massage therapists and skin specialists.

There is no other CV city like Desert Hot Springs. Perched on the sunny side of the western edge of the valley, it is a bedroom community in which these amazing spas are randomly scattered. Many residents enjoy the same dazzling vistas and have their own spa-like retreats in their backyards.

But as the luxury buses traveled from spa to spa, the dark side that sometimes plagues the CV reared its ugly head. There was a shooting in town. It’s a shame that the city with its fine people and spas can be tainted by the cowards and bullies in its midst. Yet that juxtaposition is what makes DHS residents so resilient.

The Spa Tour is sponsored and organized by the Desert Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce. The money raised from the tour goes to help market DHS, the Hotelier Association and the DHS High School award winning ROTC program.

If you are not familiar with DHS, this is the perfect way to get acquainted with the city on the hill.

  • Anahata Springs

  • Hacienda Hot Springs

  • The Lido

  • The Spring

  • Vista Ventana