Hot Springs Eternal

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Edgy design that amplifies the attributes of sun, water and shifting sands in Desert Hot Springs, Calif. at the Sagewater Spa. Image courtesy of Sagewater Spa

Desert Hot Springs is a self-contained spa destination ideal for those spa goers who consider water healing therapeutic.

It’s an old story, and one that began here, officially on July 12, 1941, when L.W. Coffee held an open house for his new and rather enormous concrete bathhouse brimming with healing waters.

“Health is wealth” was his mantra and it made a big splash for those who believed in the benefits of thermal waters, sparking a tourist trend that bubbled over to the 21st century.

The bad news was that the original spa vanished into the pages of history. The good news is, the reputation of Desert Hot Springs as home to a salubrious natural resource that’s excellent for bathing and drinking continues to flourish.

What you won’t find in this sleepy city are mega resorts with 50-plus treatment rooms and valet parking. Instead, there’s an impressive range of small spa resorts with high marks for design and equally high marks for hospitality and value. Starting from the smaller spa resorts, such as the Swiss Health Resort and the Tuscan Springs Resort and Spa, with 20 rooms and less, to the largest spa complex on Palm Drive, that being the Desert Hot Springs Spa Hotel, and Miracle Springs and the venerable Two Bunch Palms, there is a spa covering every spin on massage, facials, scrub and beyond. And that doesn’t even include mud baths, spa treatments in an authentic Moroccan tent and clothing optional spa Living Waters, where you can steep in the rejuvenating waters au naturel. Desert Hot Springs’ “spa map” is a journey in itself with smallish spas constructed in the 1950s giving way to hip renovations with owners who fuse the past and the present with panache.

Newest on the route is the Acqua Resort and Spa, a rather chic, surrealistic spa managed by Brian Bescobey under the direction of Tana Illustrisimo, formerly of the Viceroy in Palm Springs. Miracle Manor Retreat, voted one of 150 on National Geographic Magazine’s “must stay” list, features Cube Suite guestrooms with handcrafted metal fixtures and windows dramatically set off by the dancing desert light. April Greiman and Michael Rotundi have been fine-tuning this architectural statement since they took ownership in 1997.

Sage water Spa is an amazing escape where Rhoni Epstein and Christina Pestana create personalized spa treatments that challenge the norm. Combining massage and progressive modalities into treatments that can span an afternoon or several days, they transform stress to sybaritic bliss. As for value, check out the $119 summer rate at the Bella Monte Hot Springs Resort and Spa; it is valid Sunday through Thursday for a spacious room with a king-sized bed. Spa treatments are additional, and as the temperature rises in the desert, it often triggers lower rates for accommodations and spa services.

The world stops and that is when the DHS waters flow along on their magic journey.

Here is a working list of spas featuring the mineral waters that confirm the dictum “Health is Wealth:”

Acqua Resort and Spa: www.acquaressortandspa.com; 760.992.6714

Agua Caliente Hotel & Mineral Water Spa: www.aguacalientehotel.com; 760.329.4481

Bella Monte Hot Springs Resort & Spa: www.bellamonteresort.com; 760.676.5125

Desert Hot Springs Spa Hotel: www.DHSspa.com; 760.251.2069

El Morocco Inn & Spa Resort: www.elmoroccoinn.com; 760.288.2527

Hope Springs: www.hopespringsresort.com; 760.329.4003

Miracle Springs Resort & Spa: www.miraclesprings.com; 760.251.2069

Sagewater Spa: www.spagewaterspa.com; 760.251.1668

The Springs: www.the-spring.com; 760.251.6700

Swiss Health Resort www.swisshealthresort.com; 760.329.6912

Tuscan Springs Resort & Spa: www.tuscansprings.com; 760.251.0189.

Two Bunch Palms Resort and Spa: www.twobunchpalms.com; 760.329 8791

Pamela Price is a contributor to ForbesTraveler.com