A Soak in These 12,000-Year-Old Hot Springs May Be California’s Best Wellness Experience

A new Palm Springs spa promises good things for visitors and residents alike

November 7, 2023 6:37 am
Lady in a pool looking at water fixture
These just might be California's best hot springs.

Most bathtubs don’t have stairs, but The Spa at Séc-he isn’t most spas, either. A day at Séc-he, a new standalone spa in the heart of downtown Palm Springs, starts with a native ritual that’s sacred to the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, who own and steward the land that houses the ancient hot springs that have made it so valuable. While the Tribe is well-known in the Coachella Valley for its trio of casinos in Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage and Cathedral City, this new outpost features not just the spa but a soon-to-be unveiled cultural center and museum; it’s a much more holistic approach to telling their story and incorporating Tribe culture.

To begin their signature “Taking of the Waters” treatment, guests enter a private room where the tub has been freshly filled with near-boiling water, descend the few steps into the shallow stone pool and let the 12,000-year-old springs do their thing. A simple wooden timer filled with sand indicates when the complimentary 15-minute session is up, after which guests are ready to embark on the rest of the wellness journey contained in this 73,000-square-foot spa (for reference, extremely spacious luxury spas usually clock in between 10,000 to 20,000 square feet). 

Brown colored room with small pool
Séc-he’s mineral bath
Séc-he Spa

But first a word on these healing waters, which are among some of the most pure hot springs in the entire valley, because the chamber below the earth where the water collects before bubbling up isn’t connected to any other water sources. Rainwater and mountain snowmelt collect underground and the earth heats these waters to around 180 degrees at their hottest. On the journey to the surface, geological surveys show the water travels along a natural pipeline, absorbing calcium, magnesium and other minerals, before emerging at this hot spring at a temperature around 105 degrees. 

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It’s so close to kismet it’s hard to call it anything else, and these might literally be California’s most perfect hot springs. While there’s always a bit of a woo-woo element with hot springs, the waters do actually have measurable effects: A soak will increase circulation, reduce inflammation, soothe skin conditions, loosen tight muscles and relieve soreness. And with these holy waters as the backbone of the place, Séc-he has built a robust offering of state-of-the-art wellness treatments that make the pricey spa a must-visit desert outpost. 

A rundown of all the treatments available gets closer to a laundry list than a review, but highlights of the expansive offerings include a premium fitness center complete with cryotherapy and zero-sensory floatation tanks, all manner of massages, facials, body scrubs and herbal wraps, nail and hair treatments in the on-site salon, IV and vitamin therapies, wet and dry saunas, halotherapy salt caves, a eucalyptus steam room, mineral pools, steam showers, co-ed and single gender lounges, an indoor tranquility garden (complete with a piped-in redwood scent) and a full-size outdoor resort pool. 

Two people laying in room with walls made of salt
Séc-he’s salt caves

Both indoor and outdoor cafes offer sandwiches, salads, Mediterranean-influenced plates, smoothies and juices — all fairly healthy fare that suits the environment, but still substantial enough for a meal. Just a few blocks away, The Sandwich Spot is an excellent choice for a heartier after-spa choice, but there’s also no shortage of dining options in this central area of the city. Then again, a full meal might not even be necessary with so many treatment options to hop between — and in the relaxation lounge, date bars, dried apricots and savory trail mix are included as complimentary snacks (for those already veering off the wellness path, yes, the pool has a bar with alcoholic options). 

Back to the amenities: Most day spas offer a handful of the above treatments in a significantly smaller space, but what Séc-he has set out to do is actually create a destination spa, somewhere that locals and the constant stream of visitors and snowbirds who frequent the desert will want to regularly spend their time. And their pricing reflects options for both groups: a monthly membership for locals currently fluctuates between $400 to $600 (depending on the season) for both the gym and access to all spa facilities, while day passes run a one-off visitor $125 to $145. Some treatments and appointments, of course, incur additional fees, but there’s still a whole host of amenities on offer that don’t.

Woman doing yoga in a pool
Join Séc-he’s mineral water yoga classes, one of its many offered amenities

One standout offering that’s unique to this spa is the quartz and poultice massage, which is conducted on a treatment table filled with a layer of crushed quartz. Therapists literally mold the warmed quartz crystals to the body before beginning massage with — you guessed it, quartz poultices. Designed to mimic the hot desert sand, this treatment sweats out toxins, and also includes sound bowls, aromatherapy and a rolling air flow system installed in the high-tech massage table.

Séc-he, which translates to “the sound of boiling water,” opened this past April, but it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Just a few towns over, in Rancho Mirage, the Agua Caliente team has been testing, tweaking and refining plenty of these treatments and offerings at the Sunstone Spa, which is part of the Agua Caliente Resort, the Tribe’s only hotel in the region. 

Person on massage table with stones on back surrounded by different-colored lights
Enjoy a desert rain massage at Sunstone Spa
Sunstone Spa

This famed 10,500-square-foot facility has set the bar for excellence when it comes to California spa culture, picking up the coveted Forbes five-star rating, as well as a host of other accolades. If you’re staying at the hotel, this award-winning spa is the one to check out, particularly a gemstone scrub that uses heated salt stones to buff and polish the skin. A visit to Sunstone might be the thing that convinces you to stop by Séc-he on the way out of town, and a session of forest bathing or salt therapy will make the drive home that much more relaxed.


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