Desert Star

For decades, Palm Springs (CA) has attracted a host of Holly-wood icons, serving as a hot spot for the likes of Lucille Ball, Bob Hope, and Frank Sinatra, among many others. This past spring, a new star blazed into this funky desert town with the opening of The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage. Located upon a bluff overlooking Palm Springs and the picturesque Coachella Valley—along Frank Sinatra Drive no less—the much-awaited resort features 244 guest rooms and suites, three swimming pools, inviting terraces and fire pits with valley views, and The Ritz-Carlton Spa, a wellness superstar that is making healing headlines in the region and beyond.

“The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage opened in May following many years of anticipation during which the recession impacted both progress and ownership arrangements,” says spa director Timothy Williams. “Our opening was a day of great joy and celebration. There was a Ritz-Carlton hotel on this site quite some time ago. Ultimately, it changed names, then closed, but was then reborn with this year’s opening. The local community, as well as travelers to the Palm Springs area, have been eager for this luxury debut, and they have embraced us with an incredible spirit of welcome.”

A particularly appreciated addition is the stand-alone two-level 25,000-square-foot spa. Intended to serve both hotel guests and residents of the region, it features 15 treatment rooms with private outdoor showers and terraces, each of which is named after the gardens at the nearby Sunnylands Estate, the site of many important social events and political summits. Included are two hydrotherapy rooms, one with a Vichy shower and one with a hydrotherapy tub; two couples’ rooms, each with a private outdoor terrace and shower; and 11 multipurpose rooms. Eucalyptus-infused steam and sauna facilities; an alfresco relaxation area with waterfalls, plunge pools, and mountain vistas; a retail boutique; a fitness center with indoor and outdoor yoga and meditation spaces; and more round out the spa offerings.

According to Scott Lee, president of SB Architects, the spa stands out because of its unique combination of indoor and outdoor space, what he calls the “interplay between the rustic authenticity of the exterior materials, and the polished sophistication of the white interiors.” A neutral palette throughout brings the two together. “A wall of glass leading to the coed relaxation garden nearly erases the line between indoors and out, creating an interesting connection between the sleek interiors and the rock outcroppings grouped to form a waterfall, which is the focal point of the courtyard,” he says. “The dramatic, double-height entry is a glass jewel on the façade.” There, spa guests follow the stairs upward and cross the space on a raised catwalk, looking down on a unique installation of 222 rough-cut quartz crystals that reflect the region’s 300-plus days of sunshine.

The menu is also inspired by the desert locale, the most indigenous offering being the Spirit of the Mountains ($325, 1 hour 50 minutes). This indoor-outdoor spa experience incorporates Body Bliss products containing arnica flowers, lavender, and prickly pear and includes a gentle body exfoliation with natural mineral salts infused with healing botanicals, a rinse in the outdoor shower, a massage with organic lavender oil and warm desert stones, and a body wrap and scalp massage with warm lavender oil. The service concludes with a healing stone to take home. “The products used in this service feature pure essential oils sourced from desert plants and botanicals,” says Williams. “We wanted to keep our spa treatments relevant to the local environment, so we chose products that were not only organic but also sourced from the desert.” Other locally inspired signature services include a black diamond dust-infused Rat Pack Facial ($175, 50 minutes; $245, 80 minutes) for men, referencing the region’s beloved status with 1950s actors, and the Quirogolf Massage ($230, 80 minutes) performed with heated golf balls and designed to target individual stress points, an ideal solution for those who spend the day enjoying one of the area’s many courses. 

Another aspect of desert living is conservation, and as such, the spa embraces a green philosophy. The lighting and air conditioning are monitored for energy efficiency, and Comphy Co. linens made with eco-friendly materials that require reduced drying time are also used. “The spa is designed to save energy,” says Williams. Plus, two of the most popular services, The Ritz-Carlton Facial ($160, 50 minutes; $230, 80 minutes) and The Ritz-Carlton Customized Massage ($100, 25 minutes; $160, 50 minutes; $230, 80 minutes; $325, 1 hour 50 minutes) are performed using Body Bliss and Éminence Organic Skin Care products, respectively.

Due to all of these efforts and more, the spa is quickly proving to be a superstar of the resort, often selling out on weekends and maxing out the spa team of 25, many of whom are dual certified to perform esthetic services and bodywork, and the spa’s 150 daily treatment capability. Clients are encouraged to book in advance of their visit to ensure they receive the services they desire. Nonetheless, the spa team still works hard to spread the word, offering a portable scrub bar at the resort’s pools and enticing guests with custom scrubs and body lotions that they can use in the spa or at home, as well as offering a value-focused Desert Escape summer menu, which was quite successful at luring hotel guests and locals to test out the new spa.

Future plans include connecting more with nearby residents—currently, the spa sees a breakdown of approximately 75 percent resort guests and 25 percent local guests. “We have been extremely popular with the locals,” says Williams. “They are very excited to have the Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage, and the community wants us to be successful. We plan to launch a local membership to embrace this ongoing support very soon.” Another new addition will be the debut of a salon in the fall that features valley views, allowing guests to achieve their head-to-toe pampering goals and, like the glamorous icons who helped make Palm Springs famous, always be ready for their closeups.

Owner: New Age Rancho Mirage

Spa Director: Timothy Williams

Opened: May 2014



75% female

25% male


25,000 square feet; 15 treatment rooms


Archipelago, Body Bliss,  Body Deli, Clarisonic, Christina V, Coola, Éminence Organic Skin Care, FarmHouse Fresh, GlamGlow, Hanky Panky, Hommage, I Am, Kneipp, Mama Mio, Me! Bath, Moroccanoil, Natura Bissé, NuFace, Oka B., OmGirl,  Pure Inventions, Sonoma Lavender, Spa Fresh, Trina Turk, VoluSpa, Wrinkle MD, Yoga Balm


Chadsworth & Haig, Comphy Co., Madison Collection, Oakworks, SpaSoft, Technogym, The Ritz-Carlton Private Collection


SB Architects (San Francisco)      


Wilson Associates (Dallas)