Spas of the Desert: Your Internet Guide to the Spas of the Palm Springs Area


Living Waters Spa

Desert Hot Springs, CA

By the Spa Couple

We're just back from the deepest relaxation and the most enjoyment we can remember finding in a single long weekend. I arrived stressed and exhausted and left three days later rested, relaxed, and ready to face the world.

Living Waters Spa advertises itself as a European-style mini-resort. That's an apt description, particularly the "mini" part. There are only eight guest rooms, so this is definitely a boutique among resorts. It is not possible to feel crowded here.


Driving uphill from the freeway there is no danger of missing the place: by day the restored 1960s motel shines out from the desert in its Mediterranean colors of white and blue; by night the classic neon sign brightly advertises the Kismet Lodge—the owners restored the original sign because of its historic value in the community. A smaller panel in the main sign advertises the current name.

Park in the freshly paved parking lot and ring the doorbell. You will receive a warm welcome from one of the owners, either Jeff or Judy Bowman.


Once inside we saw immediately that the restoration was not done on the cheap. We were expecting to see a patched pool deck, for instance, but found that the entire deck was resurfaced. Everything in sight that doesn't move has been painted, cleaned, or replaced.

The rooms are in similar condition, nicely furnished and decorated in a manner consistent with the 1960's building. Most are spacious, and some have kitchens. There are no TVs, and all rooms are smoke free. Three rooms have their beds placed in such a way that residents can lie in bed and enjoy the view of Mt. San Jacinto.

The Water

Hot spring spas need to have good mineral water, and they have it in abundance. A flow-through system is used so that chemicals are not needed. Pure hot water comes first into the 100° "therapy pool," a free-form gathering place that is large enough to hold every resident at one time. From there it flows down into the swimming pool, which is maintained at a minimum 85°, and then it is returned to the ground.

Mineral waters often have an offensive odor, but not in this case. The waters are odor free and colorless.

My wife's skin is prone to dryness after swimming, an effect of the chlorine commonly used as a sanitizer. Since no chemicals are added, that is not a problem here. She remarked several times about how good her skin felt after soaking in the mineral water.


European Style Clothing Optional

What do they mean by "European style Clothing Optional"? The term refers first to the fact that just as the spas in Europe, the entire facility is clothing optional. Wear what you want or nothing at all. No one cares. There is never any pressure.

During our weekend there was a charming couple in their early 20s, very much in love, who were trying out their first experience in a clothing optional place. Initially both wore bathing suits. After a while I noticed that they had moved from the hot pool into the swimming pool, and in the process she had shed her top. Later I went back to the hot "therapy pool," and found that they had returned. The bottom to her suit was lying on the deck.

A few minutes later she was whispering discreetly in his ear, and soon they went into their room. When they came out minutes later on their way to the sauna he had finally lost his suit. Usually it's the fellow who takes the initiative, but not this time.

Living Waters Spa is the only Spa in the area that features natural hot mineral water in a clothing optional environment. It is the only way to experience hot mineral water!

"European style" can also refer to the style of decor and king beds found in every room. The Bowmans invested in Scandinavian style beds that use a special frame instead of box springs. It's the exact system we have in our own bed at home, and it's wonderfully comfortable.

Finally the term is justified by the authentic classic Finnish sauna installed for guest use. For those who have enjoyed a sauna in Europe, this is a real treat. For some unknown reason most saunas in the US seem to forbid the use of water on the heater. Here you are invited to ladle water on the hot rocks to create the flash of extra heat that adds to the experience.

What it is, and what it is not

The Bowmans have a clear vision for Living Waters Spa, and they are relentless in bringing that vision to reality. Jeff is always ready to talk about his philosophy of Good Nudity and Good Touch. They are providing a safe, non-sexual setting in which guests can discover for themselves how much tension drops away when the clothes are left in the room. This, of course, is the classic way in which mineral hot springs are traditionally enjoyed.

Good Touch refers to their special massages. Both are Certified Massage Therapists; they have developed their own unique style, and offer it at rates well below those that we have seen in other resorts in the area. As we "flowed" out of the treatment room after our couple's massage (we were so relaxed that you couldn't really call what we were doing walking) my wife said, "That's the best massage I've EVER had."

Their commitment to maintain their facility as a place for quiet relaxation and rejuvenation carries over into decisions about whom they will admit. This is not a party place; don't plan to bring your cooler of beer and your loud friends. You won't get in the door.


Jeff and Judy care about people to an extraordinary degree. They view every guest as their friend, and they are determined that every visitor will go away having found more than expected. This deep interest in people often sparks conversations that continue among the guests long after the Bowmans have retired to their living quarters for the night.

The hospitality is never obtrusive, but is always there. The towels are thicker and available in more abundance than you might expect. Refreshments appear every afternoon at three. During our visit there was a light white wine Sangria loaded with fresh fruit and a non-alcoholic drink, along with cheeses, crackers, fresh fruits, veggies, and Judy's secret dip.

The refrigerator in the lounge is stocked with complimentary pop, juice, and yogurt. Guests are invited to help themselves 24 hours per day.

Breakfast is available in the lounge from 8:00 to 10:00 every morning. There are assorted breads, cold cereals, instant oatmeal, fresh fruit, boiled eggs, and yogurt. The centerpiece each morning is Judy's homemade coffee cake. Yes, it's addictive.

The View

This was a completely unexpected bonus. Snowcapped Mt. San Jacinto towers over the resort, along with the associated mountain range. It's not visible from every spot, but walk toward the south end of the pool and you will be met by an amazing view.

I wake up early, so each morning I slipped out for an early soak and coffee. The view in the early light, with the sun just touching the snow on top of the mountain, was overwhelming. What a spot for quiet contemplation!

Will we return?

Of course. The female half of this couple, who has strong preferences about which resorts deserve a second visit, made that clear when she said to the owners, "We'll be back in the area in June. We'll stay here again."

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