Where the sun shines all day and the stars shine all night, it’s hip to be cool in the hot and contemporary Coachella Valley. During the last seven to eight decades, this playground, generically, best known as Palm Springs, has served as a popular go-to destination for such Hollywood celebs as Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, and Dinah Shore and every President from Eisenhower to Obama. But as much of a retreat from the limelight this region may be for the elite, the same is absolutely true for Napa wine country residents seeking an unparalleled sense of escape, adventure and recreation in the Southern California desert.
If arriving by air, the Coachella Valley resembles something of a jigsaw puzzle of interlocking fairways and greens weaving throughout palm trees and red rooftops. What visitors will also discover is a myriad of accommodations standing by with the key to your home away from home. However, with close to 200 such properties, from posh mega-resorts to trendy boutiques scattered around the renowned destination, honing in on one selection can be extremely intimidating.
Well, settle back. There is pair of distinctly different properties that have managed to carry forward their rich history in the Coachella Valley while, at the same time, satisfy the demands of the modern day traveler seeking a respite for mind, body and spirit.
At the northern end of the Coachella Valley in Desert Hot Springs, acknowledged as “California’s Spa City,” is where legendary waters flow from an underground aquifer brimming with natural hot mineral waters and there to take full advantage of its therapeutic magic is Two Bunch Palms. Nobody will have any problem realizing they’re approaching the resort with a “spa zone” sign posted just above the 35 mph speed limit sign.
In 2014, the 75-year old hot springs spa that has welcomed legendary gangsters (Al Capone is reputed to have made this his West Coast hideout thanks to the thick walls where the spa is located and the underground escape tunnels), Hollywood stars, and musicians, went through a restorative transformation with a multi-million dollar renovation of its 70 pristine rooms, restaurant featuring farm-to-table cuisine, yoga dome and meeting facility. In addition, the construction of a 3.5-acre solar field solidified the adult-only (guests must be over 18) Two Bunch Palms as the first “Sustainable Wellness Resort” in North America.
“People come to Two Bunch Palms because they want a quiet respite sanctuary,” explains Riana Riego, who handles the resort’s branding and communications. “We are located on a positive vortex with the convergence of five different elements: earth; fire; wind; hot waters; and sun and they all help amplify everything your body feels so, when people stay here and wonder why they feel so peaceful, it’s the vortex.”
The mineral rich lithium-infused artesian waters is apparently, the main ingredient helping to fortify that easy, tranquil feeling and what also distinguishes Two Bunch Palms from other spa retreats in the area. When the aqua reaches the property from below the ground, it goes directly into a system to cool the temperature from around 160 degrees to 125 before heading out to the grotto and two pools. This is where the water will first see the light of day.
All day long, it’s not uncommon to observe guests wandering around the property in their robes, going in and out of the water or to any one of a long menu of spa treatments including facials, massages, mud baths, immersion therapies, and Watsu, all designed to detox the mind and soul in a harmonious environment where the only creatures that get a bit jumpy are the ducks, turtles and fish in the grotto when they see a guest show up with food.
The far opposite end of the Coachella Valley is home base for a very contrasting getaway experience. One glance at the extensive collection of amenities at La Quinta Resort & Spa, at the foot of the Santa Rosa Mountains, is all the convincing necessary to realize why this secluded resort rises to the top of the deck. A stay here further validates why legendary film director Frank Capra chose this blissful setting to script his feel-good film, It’s a Wonderful Life.
Today, with “Joe Guest” playing the lead role, this beautifully manicured refuge delivers a stellar supporting cast of 620 casitas, 98 villas, 23 tennis courts, 41 swimming pools, a 23,000-square-foot spa, two top-tier golf courses (plus several more at nearby PGA WEST) and, to placate visiting canines, 10 pet relief stations. This many frills under one resort umbrella constitutes more than what might be found in many single destinations.
In 2014, the curtain was raised on a new era for La Quinta Resort & Spa. The iconic property that premiered in 1926, as a hacienda-style hotel with 20 casitas constructed for $150,000, became the benefactor of a multi-million restoration while keeping intact its vintage California charm and enhanced its status as the quintessential desert retreat for relaxation and rejuvenation.
“As we moved forward, one of the key focuses was maintaining the historical aspects and we looked at this not as a renovation but as a restoration,” says Chris George, director of marketing at La Quinta Resort & Club. “Every step along the way, we kept in mind the history and tradition of the resort while at the same time bringing in some of the contemporary amenities savvy travelers have come to expect, such as USB charging ports, reading lights built into the bed headboards or refrigerators with built-in ice makers. These are the little touches that add to the overall luxury experience.”
The opening scene commences with a resort familiarization session at the front desk, where guests receive a colorful map of the 45-acre layout. If you’re a newbie, after being escorted to your casita you’ll be relieved to have the reference for navigating the maze of pathways weaving between the guestrooms clustered around the plethora of pools and spas. But if you do happen to find yourself wandering aimlessly, stop to smell the roses and bougainvillea and citrus trees planted throughout the grounds and appreciate the Spanish-style architecture that was originally molded from more than 100,000 hand-formed adobe bricks and 60,000 locally fired roof tiles.
If it’s true what is said about life imitating art than it’s a shame Capra is not alive to experience the wonderfulness of the Coachella Valley! NVL