By Heidi Simmons

It is a balmy evening as the spa tour begins at the world famous, sprawling Two Bunch Palms Resort. Hot mineral water moves along a stream toward a grotto, vapor drifts above the surface. Clouds spread behind San Jacinto, thin in the Banning Pass and curl around San Gorgonio. Long rays of sun illuminate the green lawn and sparkling warm pools.

The unobstructed view from the property is spectacular. As the sun lowers, the sky fills with variegated blue, mauve and orange. The mountains are purple silhouettes framing the valley floor. On this night, there is wind. Contrary to the belief of outsiders, it is not always windy in Desert Hot Springs, but this night it is – and for the occasion, it’s perfect!

It is the type of wind you feel standing on a bluff above the ocean or at the top of a ski slope. Intermittent gusts are strong enough to blow your hair about your face and ruffle your clothes. The sound of the wind moving in the mature trees and native shrubs is soothing. These active molecules seem to surround you as if to emphasize your presence in the moment. It’s energizing, peaceful and meditative. And this is what the Desert Hot Springs spas are all about.


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, earthquake faults, wind and sunshine create a significant energy field. It’s believed the vortexes are negative ion generators influenced by magnetic forces, which produces positive 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 geothermally heated water, the body is able to better absorb minerals like Lithium, which is known to elevate 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.

The Angel View Foundation was established in Desert Hot Springs for these curative elements. Established in the 1950s, Dr. Robert Bingham began by treating polio patients.

There are 24 spas and hotels that vary between six and 110 rooms. The spa tour visits ten. The guides, all wearing spa robes, host groups on luxury Cardiff busses. Jody Weikal is a guide. His business, Palm Springs Errands & More, is a member of the Desert Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce. “It’s really nice up here,” said Weikal. “Some people have the wrong idea of Desert Hot Springs. It’s a great community and the spas are amazing.”

The first stop is at Cabot’s Old Pueblo Museum. In 1913, Cabot Yerxa was one of the first to make Desert Hot Springs his home. With the help of a local Native American, Yerxa discovered water on his property — both hot and cold. He called his homestead Miracle Hill. Although there is no spa on the property, it is apropos to start the tour here. The Pueblo is a journey back into time. Today it is owned and operated by the city as a Non-Profit Foundation.

Caddy corner from Cabot’s is Miracle Manor Retreat. This spa sits on a knoll with spectacular mountain and valley views. The hot water comes up 400 feet to fill the pools. With only six rooms, this Mid-century style spa has a natural opulence with elegant aesthetics. It prides itself on peace and quiet. The owners’ goal was to create a spa where guests could find “peace of mind through vastness of space.”

The Spring Resort and Spa is a tranquil and spacious retreat with only 11 guest rooms plus two villas. Water emerges from their well at 170 degrees. The rooms are beautifully and minimally appointed. This is a lush hide-away that offers an array of spa services. An elegant and inviting place, the benefits of the vortex begin when you walk into the courtyard.

Just a street below, surrounded with a myriad of tall trees, the Hacienda Hot Springs Inn and Spa is a much more casual retreat. Step through the gates at the Hacienda and you enter a charming and eclectic oasis. Their well provides hot water around the clock. With only ten rooms, the property feels very communal. There is an outdoor dinning room and a BBQ. This is a retreat that’s a perfect destination for family reunions, private parties and weddings.

El Morocco Inn and Spa is a quintessential boutique spa. It feels exotically Moroccan. Beautiful lanterns, billowing curtains and colorful Persian rugs surround the courtyard pool. One of their many spa treatments includes a mud body mask using clay from the Atlas Mountain in Morocco. The spa, fed by their own well, fills at 104 degrees and seats 20 people. The swimming pool is 90 degrees. Every night, they serve a complimentary Morocco-tini. When you toast at El Morocco, you say, “Here’s looking at you kid.”

Anahata Springs Spa & Resort is a Zen based, clothing optional retreat. Catering to couples, it focuses on spirituality and sensuality for those seeking an atmosphere to reconnect and relax. Anahata is the name for the heart chakra. It is a friendly, relaxed and open place with 14 rooms.

Living Waters Spa is also a clothing optional resort. They pump pure hot mineral water at the rate of 20 gallons per minute through its pools. For 18 hours, the hot mineral water fills its pools under pressure and leaves under gravity. The water feels like satin. The husband and wife owners are passionate about water and massage. They offer individual, couple and even a four-hand massage.

The Mid-Century Modern Desert Hot Springs Spa has the most pools and 50 rooms. It has five hot tubs, a large exercise pool, a cold plunge pool and children’s pool. Its sister hotel, Miracle Springs, also offers multiple pools of varying temperatures. With 110 rooms, the facility offers ballrooms, banquet space, a restaurant and full spa treatments.

The Aqua Soleil Hotel & Mineral Water Spa is a casual yet elegant retreat with colorful modern rooms and suites, some with private spas. It has full service spa treatment rooms, a bar and restaurant. They use organic spa products made locally in the CV. On weekends they have an inflatable big screen and show movies. It has a hip and energetic feel. It is already nearly booked for the Coachella and Stage Coach festivals.

All the boutique spas have a specific feel. Each resort radiates a distinctive character and has a health component. Most offer day spa packages. There is so much more to these wonderful spas, it is worth staying and getting acquainted.

Desert Hot Springs Mayor, Adam Sanchez was at the closing party at the Miracle Springs. “I’ve witnessed the growth and development of the smaller spas and the investments the spa owners have made. I know how much time and energy goes into developing the spas to make them unique,” Sanchez said. “They’re not doing it because they’re getting rich, they’re doing it because they really believe in the healthy lifestyle. People come from all over the world to enjoy the spas.”

The Spa Tour is sponsored and organized by the Desert Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce. Chamber President Heather Coladonato said, “This tour opens the doors to our boutique spas and larger hotels. It invites guest to come see what sits behind the gates and walls,” said Coladonato. “It’s important that people understand the unique nature of this destination and experience our award winning water. It also reminds us to take a moment to really take care of ourselves.”

The money raised from the Tour supports the Hotelier Association and the Chamber. They use the funds to help market DHS. They also donate money to the high school ROTC. Students, in uniform, stand at each spa property. They politely give directions and assist guests on and off the busses.

With hundreds of people moving from spa to spa, there was one snafu. Bonnie Kodesch started the tour at Desert Hot Springs Spa. “We’d only seen two locations and when we came out of the last spa, there was no bus,” said Kodesch. “We waited in the cold. We had no guide and no bus! And no one to call.” A bus finally showed up and Kodesch finished the tour. She thought most of those on her bus just went home. Coladonato apologized and instructed those affected to contact the Chamber. “With the popularity of the event, we are always doing our best to improve the experience,” Coladonato said. “We will continue to evaluate the format and make adjustments.” Over 700 people attended with very few complaints. Tour options were VIP, guided or self-tour.

Kimberly and Joel Peterson have lived in DHS for 19 years and finally took the VIP tour. “We have driven past these spas and never knew what was inside,” Kimberly Peterson said. “We’re tired, but we had a lot of fun.” Leaving the after-party, the Petersons clutched their gift bags filled with spa goodies and plush spa robes that came with the cost of the VIP ticket. In addition, they won a raffle prize for a spa stay and treatment at the Hacienda.

By the end of the night, the wind had mellowed and so had the guests. New friends were made and new places were discovered.

The Desert Hot Springs Spa Tour is a great way to meet the good people of DHS and experience its fantastic resorts and retreats. It is a beautiful hillside community on the sunny side of the Coachella Valley, rich with natural resources and hidden treasures.