Taking the Plunge

At first glance, the parched, bone-dry landscape of the mojave desert east of los Angeles seems an unlikely address for a watery haven. At Desert Hot Springs, the sand blanketing the baked earth temporarily surrenders at Two Bunch Palms Resort & Spa, where visitors have long found rejuvenation within a natural hot springs oasis.

 Two Bunch Palms Resort & Spa
Two Bunch Palms Resort & Spa

The historic 58-acre property was purchased by California-based King Ventures in May 2005, which also acquired the Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort in San Luis Obispo in 2003. Though the desert landscape surrounding Two Bunch Palms and the lush coastal setting of Sycamore Mineral Springs (located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco) have distinctly different environments that influence the spa experience, both properties share a common focal point: thermal waters that support a more traditional, European approach to a spa vacation.

Guests are encouraged to relax and enjoy nature at Two Bunch Palms
Guests are encouraged to relax and enjoy nature at Two Bunch Palms

Development of treatments and operating philosophy at both locations is under the supervision of Deborah Coryell, director of health and wellness for King Ventures. She admits that the decision to place less emphasis on trendy treatments and more focus on the healing benefits of mineral waters may be in direct contradiction to today's typical approach to building service menus, but she explains that management's goal is to create an atmosphere that mirrors a broader, more worldly experience—where spas are defined by steaming, soaking, and sipping rituals known as "taking the waters."

Two Bunch Palms offers a variety of hydrotherapy treatments
Two Bunch Palms offers a variety of hydrotherapy treatments

Besides the soaking pools and grotto at Two Bunch Palms, water therapy includes Watsu ($125, 60 minutes), Aqua Reflexology ($75, 30 minutes; $145, 60 minutes), and Wassertanzen ($120, 60 minutes), a Watsu massage that involves being entirely submerged for several moments during the course of the treatment. "We wanted to create a different angle on what we consider to be an ancient spa tradition; to go back to what spa really means and develop a new American tradition of healing through water," says Coryell.

Clients can also choose from a number of indoor treatments.
Clients can also choose from a number of indoor treatments.

Many treatments at Two Bunch Palms are enhanced by the addition of the property's exclusive mud, which is a green clay drawn from the mineral-rich aquifers. The Chai Soy Mud treatment ($130, 60 minutes) includes a dry brushing followed by a chai-spiced mud wrap and a full-body massage with lemon oil.

Guests can relax in the lobby of Two Bunch Palms.
Guests can relax in the lobby of Two Bunch Palms.

According to general manager Brian Bescoby, guests often remain in their spa robes all day, without ever leaving the property during their stay. "I've seen guests spend as much on their spa treatments as they do on their rooms per day," he says. "The average guest books two treatments a day and spends multiple hours soaking. We're definitely more European in that respect, going beyond the modern spa practice of simply booking services."

Guests can relax in the lobby of Two Bunch Palms.
Guests can relax in the lobby of Two Bunch Palms.

At Sycamore Mineral Springs, therapeutic soaks in the warm sulfur-rich waters are supplemented by energy treatments offered in the Healing Arts Institute. Guests can book an integrative healing and counseling session ($185, 90 minutes) that helps them explore alternative healing systems from China, India, and other parts of the world. The Color, Sound & Aromatherapy Healing ($185, 90 minutes) includes a consultation and a complete chakra-balancing session, while the popular Sycamore Integrative Massage ($90, 60 minutes; $110, 90 minutes) blends Swedish massage with a selection of energy healing techniques. "We are committed to the integrated model," says Coryell. "We want to educate people that there is a different philosophy, one that should stand shoulder to shoulder with the modern fitness spa, where you don't have to be busy all the time."

One of the many areas where guests can relax in the waters
One of the many areas where guests can relax in the waters

Despite the therapy-savvy Los Angeles-based clientele who frequent Two Bunch Palms, spa director Ashley Avery says that the energy treatments, such as Ayurvedic massages, Trager, reflexology, and craniosacral therapies, can be difficult to sell. Her staff recommends them to guests as add-ons to calm the body and mind before additional treatments and offers specialty coupons to provide an introduction to these therapies. She says that plans are underway to build a separate space for yoga and Pilates, and that this addition to the spa's offerings may help build greater awareness of energy work.

Other treatments, such as hot stone massage, are offered at Sycamore.
Other treatments, such as hot stone massage, are offered at Sycamore.

Future plans at Sycamore include personal and corporate wellness retreats that embrace the ideals of wellness traditions within a business paradigm. Coryell hopes that through direct experience, business leaders and managers will discover the benefits of assimilating modalities such as meditation and restorative yoga into the workday. Education, she says, is key. To that end, she's also developing a journal that will be given to guests upon arrival, with tips and advice to help guide them through a personal healing journey.

Two Bunch Palms Resort & Spa
Two Bunch Palms Resort & Spa

Not that this mission is without challenges. "We try to help people recognize that it's okay to not do anything," says Coryell. "So many people are afraid of empty time, of not being scheduled. It's really difficult for people in our culture to not be plugged in. But when they try it, magic happens."

The Treatment Center At Sycamore Mineral Springs
The Treatment Center At Sycamore Mineral Springs

Suggested Articles

Created by Julie Pankey, founder of Spa Hive, in memory of Danielle Knerr, the award honors leaders who exemplify four critical traits.

Enjoy a fall-themed facial, massage, and manicure or pedicure, all inspired by the iconic pumpkin spice drink.

Discover some of the most common spa marketing mistakes, and a few ideas on how to circumvent them.