Palm Springs and the Desert Resorts Feature

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Spa Life, Desert-Style

These days, taking the waters at a spa in Palm Springs is massively different from the experience imagined by the Cahuilla Indians when they first discovered the healing powers of their hot springs more than a century ago.

While you can still savor that tradition at the Spa Hotel, most desert spas including the Spa Hotel offer more, including signature treatments employing local materials such as clay, desert-dwelling plants, salts, or sugars. And some are considered world-class within their industry.

Here are some of the best spa options in the area.

The Viceroy Hotel Estrella Spa earns top honors each year for the indoor/outdoor spa experience it offers with a touch of Old Hollywood ambience. You can enjoy your massage in one of four outdoor treatment rooms in a garden, experience a Vichy shower massage, have a facial or pedicure fireside, or enjoy a couple's full-body treatment with lemon crystals in the spa's Ice Haus. Whatever the treatment, you can use the spa's private pool, dine on a spa lunch, even order a drink from the hotel's bar.

It's all about fun at the Palm Springs Yacht Club in the Parker Hotel, according to Commodore Stephanie Neely, who invites guests to play video games, use iPod Touches, select a book from the spa's library, or watch the game on TV poolside indoors. You can get a complementary shot of whiskey, vodka, or the Commodore Special while lounging in a poolside tent reminiscent of Somerset Maugham's colonial India. Get massages, body treatments, or a Daily Excursion (three treatments). Personal trainers can help you with your workout in the gym; go get heated in the sauna or practice a little yoga poolside. When you're ready to crash, wander out to the outdoor café, the Deck, and order a burger and Pimm's. The salon at the PSYC, Jose Neira, caters to quite a few marquee names.

The Spring offers a laid-back alternative to other "more is more" resort spas. It also heads many national lists as a great place to get away from the urban world, and "focus on cleansing, detoxification, and rejuvenation," according to spa director Maria Lease. The setting is simple, as are the rooms. With day-spa services and multi-day packages, you can immerse yourself for four to five hours of personal pampering, plus spend time in the Finnish sauna and the mineral pools for which Desert Hot Springs is famous. You can get the most out of a signature treatment such as the European Power Polish that will send you home cleaned, exfoliated, stimulated, and ready for a deep massage. The Spring Day offers three hours of bliss.

Despite its funkiness, the Feel Good Spa at the Ace Hotel takes its services very seriously. Spa Director Lisa Ross spins a lot of magic to help "bring your bod back to the good ol' days of health and balance." Lotions, essential oils, rubs, and scrubs are organic botanicals here; you can even blend your own. The estheticians use a lot of local clay, mud, and sea algae in this 21st-century hippy hangout. The Ace offers a variety of choices of where to have your rubdown, but the coolest is inside one of the two yurts set up poolside. Ross says the yurts are popular in summer when groups of clients order up clay bakes, followed by outdoor showers and salt scrubs.

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