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Spa Trend Still Hot In The Desert

Grotto1_th(DESERT HOT SPRINGS, CA) - A month-long, just-completed, multi-million-dollar rehab of Two Bunch Palms, near Palm Springs and Los Angeles, indicates that the spa business, which has thrived throughout the country during the past few years, is still hot in the desert, where it began.

We're talking destination spas--the kind to enjoy for more than a day, although day spas are also right up there in terms of popularity with the stressed out, "I need a massage" crowd.

At Two Bunch Palms, a legendary hideaway of Chicago mobster Al "Scarface" Capone during the late 1930s, mineral water was the thing. It still is. Two Bunch Palms is the largest and most well known spa in the Coachella Valley. It has its own ample filtered therapeutic water supply and mud baths from an on-premises artesian well that has been in use as a spa since the 1920s.

Officially discovered by the U.S. Camel Corps in 1907, the steaming pools at Two Bunch Palms look like natural rock grottos. They are manmade, but nearby, in the largest palm tree at the resort, a real-life Great White Owl sits, by local Indian custom, as protector of the land and its environment.

palapa-th.jpgTwo Bunch Palms was sold for $20 million in 2005 to San Luis Obispo-based developer John King and his King Ventures, according to public records. King had some big plans for the spa but decided to take care of some basic refurbishment plans first. King Ventures owns several spas and boutique hotels in central and northern California.

Room 7_th.jpgKing built a yoga dome and a nail salon, replaced old, shag carpet with travertine floors, stripped the dark, stained wallpaper, installed new TVs in all of the guest rooms and  got rid of "mattresses with springs that were popping out of the beds," general manager Mark Eads said. The resort had 40 guest units when King bought it. He added a dozen.

There are two regulation doubles tennis courts with night lights and a dining room with a chef, described by Eads as "trying to bring new dishes to the table." The restored casino became the dining room. The gambling hall was previously a brothel, Eads said.

During the '30s, ornate bungalows of solid rock with stained glass windows, medieval style interiors with planked oak floors and a massive rock fireplace were built alongside the stone walkways. The resort was on about 200 acres when King purchased it.

Accommodations range from suites to a private hilltop home with views of the entire Coachella Valley. Room rates range from $150 to $575 a night, but they aren't easily available. "Eighty per cent of our guests have been coming here for 5 to 40 years," Eads said.

King plans to build a health and wealth center, which may be constructed over some of the tunnels built by earlier owners. "You can drive all the way to the highway--about 10 miles--through them,"Eads said.

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