PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY AZURE PALM SPRINGS
This may be one of the few times that you’ll be told adding salt to your life is healthy.
When Azure Palm Hot Springs opens in 2021, the Desert Hot Springs resort will house possibly the only Himalayan salt room in Southern California, says Maria Lease, who along with a group of investors are taking over what was the CJ Grand Hotel since 2006.
The walls of the room are lined with Himalayan salt, and a bed of the therapeutic salt is covered with bamboo mats for you to lay on and literally absorb the experience. Hot water runs through the pipes, heating the room to around 110 degrees and creating a sauna-like feeling. Inhaling the Himalayan salt is said to be good for respiratory issues like asthma, allergies, sinus conditions, and hay fever, according to online sources.
And history is on your side, Lease says. “In the 1800s, they discovered that people working in the salt mines weren't coming down with traditional illnesses like everybody else,” Lease says. “So. you breathe in the salt and it's incredible for your respiratory system. Helps purify the blood and somehow it helps boost your immune system. It's a great experience.”
Lease, who owned the Spring Resort & Spa in Desert Hot Springs for 14 years and sold it in 2017, chats with Palm Springs Life about why this property made her want to return to the hospitality scene.
This Himalayan Salt Room at Azure Palm Hot Springs provides therapeutic help for respiratory issues.
What drew you to this hotel?
I always had kind of a fascination for this property and the gentleman that owned it just wasn't sure what to do with it. He kept trying things and kept failing, and I kept sort of on and off talking with him. And so the more I thought about it, I would get other people excited about it. And suddenly I had, without even trying, I had a group of investors that were ready to give it a try. It’s an incredible location. Six acres overlooking the valley and it's perched right in the middle of the very hottest mineral water. And the significance of that is that the hotter the water, the greater concentration of minerals. This water in Desert Hot Springs is talked about all over the world. You can go to any spa in Europe and they know Desert Hot Springs water.
You purchased the hotel at the end of February. How has the pandemic impacted your plans to open?
There's just been a lot of delays. And then some of the big shows that you would normally attend when you're doing a hotel, like hospitality design in Las Vegas, they were all canceled. So sourcing materials and sourcing design items has been a little more challenging than usual, but we’re getting through it. I think it's got to to be worth it. We’ll have a soft opening tentatively in December and open in January.
What details of the hotel can you share?
It is an expansive 50,000 square feet resort with only 40-guest accommodations. So that's an incredible ratio. In 22 of those rooms, we'll be offering in-room mineral tubs and those rooms are a little under 500 square feet. We have two Santa Rosa suites, and those are almost 1,000 square feet and they have their own spa tub as well, overlooking the valley and the mountain range. The rest of the accommodations are west facing with balconies that overlook Mount San Jacinto and Mount San Gorgonio. Really stunning. When you enter the hotel, there's a very large open-air lobby that takes you right out to the courtyard. So right when you walk in, you have the beauty of the outside and the nice cool air.
How has the pandemic impacted what you can and cannot offer?
We’re building a new locker room area, but for the first year due to the pandemic we’re not going to open it to provide a safe environment. However, we do plan to set aside a few of our spa suites for half-day rental so people can come in and enjoy the mineral water in privacy.
Relax by the outdoor spa area. The resort's 50,000 square feet ensures giving guests the space they seek during the pandemic.
I think it's going to be a completely different season, and that's why we're trying to prepare for what those people want. They want space. We certainly have it here and we're going to even give them more space. We have to allow for adequate spacing at the pool. So we will eliminate the day spa and then rent some of the spa tub rooms on half-day rental where they can really enjoy the incredible mineral water.
We're going to offer cleansing programs. We'll start that right away. Cleansing programs to Vita cleanse, juice fasting retreats. We'll offer yoga retreats. We have a beautiful yoga room and we'll also offer regularly scheduled yoga classes. So, and then as I said, in our spa, we do have 12 treatment rooms and our spa menu of treatments that are designed to rejuvenate the mind, the body, and the spirit, and really have you leave here feeling like a million dollars.
Eventually, our spa oasis is going to expand. Right now our oasis is going to offer some beautiful and restful areas, waterfalls, and streams. But eventually it's going to expand to include a full three acres. And I truly believe it's going to become the mineral water destination in Southern California. It will be the place to really enjoy the desert in a beautiful restful environment. It's just so beautiful. The view is so striking and the water is so incredible here.
Do you plan to serve food?
Our cafe, which will be the first cafe of its type up here, will serve healthy, primarily plant-based foods, locally sourced and fresh juice. So it'll be great to have some good locally sourced, healthy food up there. And we'll be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Who have you brought in to help run the hotel?
I've had, thank God, just a great team here that has really pulled through this hard time to make this happen. Our general manager, Mike Conrad, has 35 years of hospitality experience. He is just an absolute star in sales. He's been here right from day one. And also our director of sales and marketing, Richard [Lembach] is fabulous. He's also extremely good at IT and helping us source and put together all our software so that we can have a really smooth guest experience when they check in. We’ll have an app that they can learn about the resort.
Sounds like you are glad to be back in the hospitality business.
I’m excited and happy. I’m also excited for Desert Hot Springs because this city is such a tourist destination, and yet it's not getting, it needs the one anchor. And I think that eventually that Azure Palm Hot Springs can be the anchor that really helps to build right here. We already have some fabulous spas here, but it kind of needs the one place that everybody knows, "Oh yeah, I've heard of that place. That's the place to go." Kind of an anchor, like a Macy's in a mall.
Azure Palm Hot Springs, 67589 Hacienda Ave., Desert Hot Springs, 760-251-2000; azurepalmhotsprings.com.