Bubbling under the granitic rocks of the Coachella Valley’s San Jacinto Mountains is a powerful healing elixir.
Warmed by ancient lava, the sacred water melts from the highest mountain peaks, flows into the rugged terrain of Palm Canyon, streams under a forest of magnificent fan palms that glow green as emeralds pushes back toward the sun through a mineral-laden chimney, and into a bubbling hot mineral bath.
The Agua Caliente Band of the Cahuilla Indians calls this sacred process Sec-he, which, according to the tribe, roughly translates to, “The sound of boiling water, which is up to the earth and on the earth, which is never to dry up, never to go away, but to be there forever and always for the sick.”
The powerful waters of the Agua Caliente Hot Mineral Spring are now the centerpiece of the dazzling new Spa at Séc-he, a sprawling oasis of wellness and renewal, a secretive luxury hideout built into the tribe’s cultural center located across from its casino in downtown Palm Springs.
“The water comes straight from the ground to be enjoyed in its purest state, which maintains the integrity and efficacy of the mineral-rich thermal waters,” spa Director Daniel Spencer explains during a tour of the 73,000-square-feet property and its two sparkling outdoor pools—one fed by the Hot Mineral Spring—and assorted hot tubs. The amenities inside are state-of-the-art and include floatation suites, salt caves, an acoustic wellness lounge, and a Zen Garden.
But it’s during a 10-minute soak in one of Spa at Séc-he’s 22 private Hot Mineral Spring rooms where stress has no place. Agua Caliente elders insist its healing waters can release stress, ease muscle aches and joint inflammation, and even help dryness, redness, eczema, and rashes. I’m not sure a ten-minute visit offers a conclusive affirmation of those claims but I can say while I was adrift in its mildly sulfuric bubbles an unfettered meditative mantra took hold: Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe knew a good thing when they were driven out to the desert by their studio handlers for a recharge.
An alternative to Las Vegas, Agua Caliente is a quick two-hour drive from Los Angeles and offers three properties in the Coachella Valley—its intimate casino in downtown Palm Springs, a larger gaming emporium in Cathedral City, and its award-winning resort in Rancho Mirage. all the amenities of the Vegas Strip—the entertainment, table games, slots and upscale Steakhouses—can be found at Agua Caliente, which is smoke-free.
Hallelujah! Let the stench-free luxury unwinding in well-appointed rooms with panoramic views of the desert-scape begin. And unwind I did, starting with dinner at the Cathedral City location’s Café One Eleven, a Latin American-inspired eatery specializing in tequila flights and truly revolutionary guacamole (worth a day trip just to try it). Back at the hotel (Agua Caliente only offers rooms in its Rancho Mirage location), I wandered the casino floor, lingering over a loss, albeit friendly hand—or two, or three—of blackjack before lounging in the mineral-free soaking tub in my room.
The Spa at Séc-he is undoubtedly the Amalfi Coast of the Agua Caliente spa experience, but sometimes spending the first night in Rome isn’t so bad, which is what I thought in the Rancho Mirage location’s Sunstone Spa. I could have happily remained holed up in its dimly lit rooms had I not known about its sexy sister location a short drive away. Finishing the day on a bar stool in its Steakhouse is true perfection.
It’s all part of the kaleidoscopic play, eat, chill experience that Agua Caliente offers without the hellish ride home from Vegas, baby.