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Lucire: Volante

Lucire 2012
Breakfast time Buffet-style, on the patio at the Hacienda.

Healing waters, soothing vistas

Stanley Moss visits the Hacienda Hot Springs Inn, finding tranquillity in its thermal spas, a mere two hours from Los Angeles


Top Therapeutic hot water awaits. Above left The front gate to the Hacienda Inn. Above right Naturally growing lemons—and they are supposed to look this way.


THE OVERWHELMED TV SERIES WRITER, pressured by deadline; the Hollywood it-couple in search of privacy and isolation far from the spotlights; the discombobulated travel editor seeking to shut up, slow down and soak in therapeutic water. They’re all headed in the direction of Palm Springs, but stray north of the interstate to a bizarre little community to chill out at the Hacienda Inn & Spa.

Why bizarre? Because Desert Hot Springs sits directly on top of the San Andreas fault line. Directly. On the actual line. This volatile seam of earth’s fragile crust supports a string of natural thermal mineral sources, where super-heated volcanic water spews from the ground into a range of spa properties. Chi-chi it’s not, not like those fancy resorts with the funny names in nearby Rancho Mirage. More like a desolate little bedroom community with a declining murder rate. But within the Hacienda compound’s secure walls, tranquillity reigns and the water flows down waterfalls through trickling ponds, into pristine holding pools reminiscent of the gardens of the Alhambra in Granada. Beyond the Hacienda’s walls lie vistas of surrounding peaks, and to the southwest a panorama of graceful white turbines swooping in the wind. And none of that puffed up attitude you might get from monolithic properties which charge pumped-up prices for all the extras.

A small resort of six suites, Hacienda sleeps 12, with only one queen or king bed per room, yet has most of the amenities of a four-star at a reasonable price, $120–$235 per night, depending on season. The grounds contain private areas, secluded seating, a rustic fire pit next to a horseshoe pitch, adjacent to fruit trees where you can grab an exotic bumpy lemon off a branch (nothing wrong with them—they’re delicious, and supposed to look that way). You could stretch your legs out in the cozy lounge, with its fireplace and big-screen DVD set up with eclectic disc library. Or simply content yourself with an eccentric book, found on shelves in every room. You’re sure to run into Socrates the cat (above right), to whom the place really belongs: he fearlessly wanders the grounds in search of photo ops.

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Creature comforts aside, Hacienda’s water is seriously beneficial to the respiratory system, muscles, and skin. A heady all-natural 130°F cocktail rich in sulphate, sodium, bicarbonate and calcium, it comes forth from every tap. The resort cools the swimming pool to 94°F, and the hot tub to 104°F. Every room looks out on the garden, and water features are never more than a few steps away. You might want to request room 2, the owner’s room, which is situated next to the hot tub; room 7 at the end of the wing, has its own private patio and hammock.

Your day begins with a buffet-style breakfast at the covered patio which faces the pool. Fresh squeezed juices, serious coffee, cut fruit of the season and the Hacienda’s legendary granola (recipe on their website) complement local ranch eggs and signature waffles hot off the griddle. You could spend your day by poolside, or shopping at the huge Cabazon outlet mall off to the west, perambulate in downtown Palm Springs (about a 20-minute drive away), or take a day expedition to the amazing Joshua Tree National Park monument an easy hour’s ride to the north.

Guests usually stay an average of two to three nights, but several times monthly the entire property gets booked in its entirety for retreats, wedding receptions or reunions. It’s best to reserve well in advance, to be certain of availability. Guests like the fact that the Hacienda is eco-friendly, with solar collectors providing most of the electrical power needs. There are also regular deals and promos, with special benefits offered to Facebook friends. The casual style and well-manicured gardens lend a sense of hospitality and relaxation, another of those islands of tranquility which feel far far away from the hustle bustle. Yet this property is less than two hours from Los Angeles.

While each room has a small efficiency kitchenette, Desert Hot Springs isn’t so totally isolated that you will go hungry. There’s a Starbucks down Palm Drive in the same shopping centre as the K-mart and Walgreen’s drugstore. You can get excellent Mexican fare at the nearby South of the Border restaurant. Thai Palms, also minutes away, features a tasty menu. And if you want local colour with your mesquite-grilled steak, try the Dillon Roadhouse for a culinary adventure.

You don’t go to the desert for electric nightlife and sensory overload—just the opposite. But at the Hacienda Hot Springs Inn you may not be able to avoid either kind of star-gazing, or the temptation to stay another few minutes in the soothing hot tub, as the stress eases away in wisps of aromatic, therapeutic fog. •

Hacienda Hot Springs Inn
12885 Eliseo Road
Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240
Telephone 1 760 251-2885


Stanley Moss is travel editor of Lucire.


Within the Hacienda compound’s secure walls, tranquillity reigns and the water flows down waterfalls through trickling ponds, into pristine holding pools reminiscent of the gardens of the Alhambra in Granada










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