Body and Sol, page 4:

The spa at the Spa Hotel prides itself on an unregimented, Baden-Baden-style atmosphere, where patrons are encouraged to spend the day wandering in and out of the wet, dry, aromatherapy and relaxation venues, to enjoy the large outdoor whirlpool, the shallow mineral water soaking pool, and the large swimming pool, have lunch in the spa or on the pool terrace, and return to the spa for beauty and health treatments. Male patrons have their own spa facility, here, where the most popular activities are massage, facials, and exercise on the cardiovascular and strength training equipment.

Emerging from my afternoon in the spa, I strolled around the terrace to the entrance of the 24-hour-a-day casino, briefly considering whether or not I felt lucky, then fled to my room for the deepest sleep of my life.

The casual atmosphere and large swimming pool make the Spa Hotel a good place for a family group. Golf packages are offered, and, within a block or two are restaurants, movies, shopping and the Palm Springs Desert Museum, which has not only spectacular collections of contemporary, ancient and western art, but live desert animals for children to view at their own eye level.

Among other spa facilities that I visited was a white columned mansion in a rose garden, the Givenchy Hotel and Spa -- a bastion of French elegance master-minded by the couturier, Hubert de Givenchy. White orchids and bowls of fresh roses soften a formal atmosphere in the Kingdom of Beauty spa. Only here will you enjoy the glorious, very private indoor swimming pool, and beauty products developed for the original Givenchy Spa in Versailles. In addition to traditional European-style treatments, you can slip into a hydrotherapy tub for a blasting by forty-seven lively jets of water, with therapeutic seaweed and Givenchy Oil added for skin softening. You would never guess that cowboy actor, Gene Autry, once owned a tourist hotel on this site; now, the well-known owner is former TV star, Merv Griffin.

On another spa discovery expedition, I was temporarily dismayed by the fast food, gas station and discount store-riddled boulevard leading to Two Bunch Palms, a luxury spa resort in the town of Desert Hot Springs. I found the place carefully hidden in a palm and willow grove overlooking the valley and the mountains. Since the 1930s, Two Bunch has been frequented by celebrities seeking complete privacy and rejuvenation. Hot mineral waters fill a large swimming pool, which is surrounded by tropical greenery and a waterfall. A signature treatment here is the Watsu Massage, where the lucky patron receives a slow, yoga-like underwater massage.

The entry drive into the four-star Marriott's Desert Springs Resort is guaranteed to induce a "wow!". Pink flamingos pose at the edge of a landscaped lake, hundreds of palms wave over acres of green turf??part of the championship golf course -- and waterfalls and fountains hint at the hanging gardens and water theme within the vast 884-room resort. In addition to a long list of traditional and exotic body and beauty treatments, the spa at the Marriott is unique in the desert for one of the largest free-weight and cardio gym fitness facilities in the country, an adults-only spa swimming pool, hot and cold plunge pools, and a private, clothing-optional sun deck. With iced spritzer water bottles to cool your body, and iced compresses to refresh and protect your eyes while in the lounge position, "taking the waters" has an entirely new meaning.

Popular with male guests are fifty-four state-of-the-art "cardio-theater" workout stations connected to personal cable TV. Men also go for the all-day schedule of exercise classes, the rock climbing wall, and the massages and facials in their own spa area. Other sports at the resort are 36 holes of Ted Robinson-designed golf, an 18-hole putting course, plus hard surface, clay and grass tennis courts, nine swimming pools and whirlpools, a sand volleyball court, croquet and biking.

Windows, skylights and glass doors open to the dramatic mountain range and gardens create a wide-open-spaces effect. Among three dozen spa treatments available here is Ayurvedic Shirodhara Therapy, where a stream of warm oil is poured on the "Third Eye" -- the center of the forehead -- while hands and feet are soothingly massaged. Goldie Hawn, Will Smith and Vanessa Williams are among the notables who have been pampered and revitalized at the Marriott spa.

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©Karen Misuraca; all rights reserved.