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Road Trips: A desert reprieve in Coachella Valley

Road Trips: A desert reprieve in Coachella Valley

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The sun shines every day and stars sparkle all night in Coachella Valley.

During the past seven to eight decades, this popular Southern California desert playground has served as a sought-after go-to destination for Hollywood celebs such as Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, and Dinah Shore and a steady stream of presidents since Dwight D. Eisenhower.

But as much of a retreat from the limelight this region is for famous personalities, the same awaits anyone seeking a sense of escape, adventure, and relaxation.

If arriving by air, the Coachella Valley resembles a jigsaw puzzle of interlocking fairways and greens weaving throughout rows of palm trees and red rooftops.

Once on the ground, visitors will realize a myriad of accommodations for their home away from home. With hundreds of lodging possibilities, from posh mega resorts to trendy boutique hotels to a plentiful supply of Airbnb options, honing in on one selection can be a daunting challenge.

Well, settle back. There is a pair of distinctly contrasting properties that have successfully carried forward their own rich history in the Coachella Valley while, at the same time, satisfy the demands of modern-day travelers seeking breathing space for the mind, body and spirit.

At Two Bunch Palms, located at the northern end of the Coachella Valley in Desert Hot Springs, acknowledged as “California’s Spa City,” artesian waters have been flowing 600 years from an underground aquifer to provide guests with soothing therapeutic benefits. The “spa zone” sign posted just prior to the sanctuary’s entrance is a visitor’s first clue to start slowing down.

In 2014, the 80-year-old hot springs’ spa resort — where legendary gangster, Al Capone, is reputed to have hidden out, thanks to the thick brick walls near underground escape tunnels — went through a multi-million-dollar restorative transformation, including all the rooms, farm-to-table restaurant, yoga dome, and meeting facility.

In addition, the construction of a 3.5-acre solar field solidified the adult-only (over 18 years) Two Bunch Palms as a “sustainable wellness resort.”

What seems to fortify the easy, tranquil feeling at Two Bunch Palms is its supposed location on a positive vortex with the convergence of five different elements: earth; fire; wind; hot waters; and sun.

But the primary factor setting it apart from other spa retreats in the Coachella Valley are the artesian waters low in sulfur and rich in lithium. When the aqua reaches the property from below ground, it flows directly into a system to cool the temperature from around 160 to 125 degrees before streaming to the grotto and the two pools, where the water will first experience the light of day.

During non-pandemic times, it’s not uncommon to observe guests wandering throughout the grounds all day long, attired in robes on their way to the pool or to choose from a long menu of spa (temporarily closed) treatments including facials, massages, mud baths, immersion therapies, and Watsu They are all designed to detox the mind and soul in a harmonious environment where only the ducks, turtles, and fish in the grotto get a bit jumpy when guests appear with edibles.

The far opposite end of the Coachella Valley is the home base for an entirely disparate getaway experience. One glance at the extensive collection of amenities offered at La Quinta Resort & Club, situated at the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains, is all the convincing one needs to realize why this unpretentious resort rises to the top of the deck. A respite here will further validate why famed film director, Frank Capra, chose this blissful setting to write his feel-good film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Today, with Joe Guest playing the lead role, this manicured refuge delivers a stellar supporting cast of 617 guest rooms, 161 villas, 23 tennis courts, 41 swimming pools, a 23,000-square-foot spa, two top-tier golf courses (plus several others at nearby PGA West), and to appease visiting canines, 10 pet relief stations. With this many frills under one resort umbrella, there shouldn’t be any need to wander off this desert set.

The property that opened in 1926 as a hacienda-style hotel with 20 casitas constructed for $150,000, received a major upgrade in 2014 and raised the curtain on a new era at La Quinta Resort & Club. While keeping intact its vintage California charm, the luxurious property clearly enhanced its status as the quintessential desert retreat for relaxation and rejuvenation.

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 room you’ll be thankful for having the reference to navigate the maze of pathways weaving between casitas clustered around a plethora of pools and spas.

But if you do happen to be wandering aimlessly, stop to smell the roses and bougainvillea and citrus trees planted throughout the grounds and also 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, then it’s a shame Capra is not alive to appreciate the wonderfulness of the Coachella Valley.

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Robert Kaufman is a travel writer based in Marin County, CA. He can be reached at rkaufman717@gmail.com and his work can be viewed at PictureParfect.com.

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