We lie in the dim light of the yoga dome, eyes closed, the tones from a series of chakra-tuned crystal balls resonating through us. From light tinkling chimes to large deep booms, the sounds whirl through the space, then exit, leaving quiet in their wake. The Harmonic Vibrations Sound Bath is just one of the paths to contemplation offered at Two Bunch Palms Resort in Desert Hot Springs, Calif., where guests are encouraged to tune out the noise of everyday life and “be your better self.”
The search for a suitable spot to mark a friend’s milestone birthday – a quick getaway where sun and bright skies would offer a welcome break from the Vancouver winter – had led to the hot springs resort in the Coachella Valley, about a 15-minute drive from Palm Springs.
Billed as a serene destination in the heart of the desert, Two Bunch Palms is the oldest mineral hot spring resort in the U.S. and has been luring guests to their happy place since 1940.
A renovation to celebrate the property’s 75th anniversary in 2015 spruced up the resort and re-established wellness and sustainability – powered by a 3.5-acre solar farm at its centre.
In keeping with the chill vibe at Two Bunch Palms, guests are encouraged to shed their outside clothes in favour of resort robes and to partake in an electronic detox. That means you won’t find folks yakking into their cellphones or popping up from behind the lounger to take selfies. Discretion is one of the reasons the resort has long enjoyed a reputation as a getaway for celebrities. (It’s also been featured in movies such as The Player and TV series like The Bachelor.)
If honouring the light within us also included lounging by the pool and an arnica oil body wrap, so much the better. At the heart of the resort, one of the best places to do nothing is the grotto hot springs pool, where artesian waters rich in minerals including lithium, calcium and magnesium are maintained at between 37 and 40 C. The palm-lined pool is open 22 hours a day, so a midnight dip under the stars is both available and recommended.
For those who prefer company on their inner journey, free classes include everything from morning tai chi to yoga. After standing on one leg in tree position focusing on my breathing, it was time to head to the spa.
A short time later, I found myself crouching over a bath filled with thick, brown mud in a private cabana, gingerly lowering myself into the oozing liquid. Tepid at first, the mixture of peat moss, hot spring water and clay got warmer the lower I sank. I wriggled my toes to churn the mixture around my feet. With my neck propped on towels, I settled down to watch a butterfly flit around a row of tamarisk trees through the open door of the hut. While the mud baths at Two Bunch Palms are legendary, those who prefer less-mucky treatment options will find them, including hot stone, Thai massage, reflexology, water shiatsu and facials featuring organic skin care products.
With all of this on offer at the 77-acre property, you may not feel the need to leave the resort. The on-site Essence restaurant offers farm-to-table cuisine with offerings ranging from grilled prawns to whole roasted cauliflower. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options are plentiful while green tonic smoothies share space on the menu with an extensive wine and cocktail list. If you do decide to head out, Joshua Tree National Park – a 40-minute drive from the resort – is a place of otherworldly beauty that lends itself to meditation.
Here, Joshua trees are a striking feature, dotted among granite boulders formed by geological forces still active here. A drive through the park will bring you to Keys View lookout to catch the desert light as the sun dips below the mountains and the sky blazes pink and azure above the valley. The stars come out then and wheel across the sky, far from city lights. The stillness of the desert reminds us of the quiet spaces that exist both within and without.