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Opened in September of this year, the 23,000 square-foot, $4.5 million Spa La Quinta is a perfect match for the rest of the 1920's-style, tile-roofed resort buildings. The courtyard fountains, vivid talavera tile decoration and deep archways are La Quinta signatures. A sign of welcome, red pepper ristras -- braided strings of bright peppers -- hang on every door in the spa. Health and beauty treatment rooms are open to garden patios with close-up views of the sheer, rock-faced mountains. Lounging in the Inhalation Room, I readied my body and my spirit for my first treatment, a Grape Seed Crush Glow exfoliating rub, which was followed by a Celestial Shower -- an invigorating traditional Swiss shower in a private tiled room open to the desert sky.

Among valley spas, only La Quinta offers Sacred Stone Therapy, where heated, smooth black stones are expertly manipulated over the chakra points on the spine and neck. Sounds like it might hurt, but, in fact it's Spa Director Mary Jo Jackson's favorite indulgence, a soothing relief for tense muscles and sore joints.

International golf star, Greg Norman, will be here in 1999 to open a new course which he designed for PGA West at La Quinta. Perhaps he will repair to the spa for a Just for Guys facial and the Sports Pack Body Wrap, where warm mud is sensuously applied and wrapped over a golfer's hands, arms, lower back and shoulders.

I finished off my pamperings at La Quinta with a Solar Body Bronzer, emerging (artificially) tanned and (really) relaxed.

It's hard to beat the weather here, with an average year-round temperature of 88 degrees. Snowbirds from blustery climes arrive all winter to play in the clear, dry air. Advance resort, spa and golf reservations are absolutely necessary in the high season, January through March.

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©Karen Misuraca; all rights reserved.