No one's quite sure which springs gave Palm Springs its name, but historians consistently guess it had to do with the area'a natural hot springs, which Native Americans were using long before Europeans showed up to settle the area in the 1800s. Starting more than a century ago, a series of homemade shacks were built in the middle of the downtown area to host visitors for a dip in the steamy mineral springs. They called the ritual "taking of the waters."
Those splintering shacks have been relegated to the distant past, but you will find archive photographs of them on the wall at The Spa at Séc-he, which replaced them with this lavish and newly built facility in 2023. Unlike the way these stories usually go, the natural springs have not been commandeered by profiteering outsiders. Instead, they're still owned by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians—their name actually means hot water—who welcome modern tourists to "take the waters" on the same site as part of a much more comfortable, premium-level experience. A few resort hotels in Palm Springs have spas, but none of them are as elaborate, none of them have such direct links to the long traditions of this area, and none of them are smack in the middle of downtown, avoiding a car ride.
The mineral-rich water emerges from the earth at a fairly comfortable 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40.5 Celsius), doled out in 15-minute sittings in private indoor cabanas (pictured above)—drop the swimsuit during your session if you like. Fortunately, these hot springs aren't as smelly as the ones in other parts of California.
But that's not even close to the end of the offerings. Your Taking of the Waters also includes a day pass the the rest of the 73,000-square-foot facility (which is mostly co-ed, so swimwear will be required—the spa can provide a disposable suit if necessary). Other things to do include a huge list of other treatments including aromatherapy showers, a eucalyptus steam room, menthol inhalation saunas, cryotherapy, darkened relaxation rooms with vibrational loungers, two halotherapy salt caves, an outdoor pool deck with a waterfall pool, zero-edge mineral pool and whirlpools, and even a very well-stocked fitness center. All of that is included in a Taking of the Waters day pass, but there's also a full menu of massages and treatments (charged separately) ranging from facials to hair to body scrubs to the signature Water Cupping Massage. Food is served both at a café and poolside.
Tips: It's easy to turn a visit into a whole day, so if your appointment is in the morning, you can stay longer and get the most out of it. Bring sunscreen if you'd like to sit at the outdoor pool, but note that the best, south-facing cabanas alongside it have to be rented. The spa will issue you some sandals, but they're grey and will heat up in the sun, so flip them over while you're in the pool to avoid scorching your soles when you put them back on.