Hot springs in southern California – specifically Los Angeles – offer a swift sabbatical from the commotion of the city. There’s the golden sands of Malibu or surf beaches of San Diego, but relaxation can better be found in the thermal pools in Death Valley or the Santa Ana mountains in Orange County. Read our pick of where to stay – bookable on Culture Trip.
Unwind in the natural thermal water of a hot spring in southern California. Tracing the edges of the San Andreas fault, this volcanic region is a hub for geothermal springs, lauded for their perceived medicinal properties and health benefits. All of the springs listed are close to Los Angeles, but why not make a weekend getaway of it? Whether you’re looking for a romantic escape or a change of pace during a family vacation, these are the best places to stay near hot springs in SoCal.
Where to stay
When Lake Arrowhead Lodge was built in the 1920s, there was no access road and Hollywood stars came by boat in search of ultimate seclusion. After UCLA acquired the Craftsman-style property, 74 condolets were added to the main lodge. Each is a two-story, two-bed, two-bath townhouse. Single suites and rooms are also available, all imbued with an ambience that’s a cross between lakeside and library. Meditate on the Zen Deck overlooking the lake or take to the tennis courts and hiking trails – the springs are 12.5mi (20km) from here on foot.
Come for the mountains, stay for the music at Hilltop. True to its name, this rustic inn holds the high ground between the Mojave Desert and San Bernardino National Forest. Cover bands fill the open air stage with live music ranging from Johnny Cash to Queen. After a night on the dance floor, retreat to a ranch style room with a full kitchen or kitchenette or watch the stars twinkling above the desert sands from the porch. Deep Creek is a 30-minute drive away.
Located in the middle of Death Valley National Park, the Saline Valley Warm Springs is a destination for those seeking a multiple-day camping adventure. With the right amount of supplies and experience, this secluded desert sanctuary is worth the journey. Through years of volunteer work, the site includes concrete tubs, a shower with a sink for washing, and three meticulously maintained bathrooms. The fire pit and multiple art installations scattered throughout the property create an eclectic, community-oriented atmosphere. Stay for a short vacation here and leave with memories which last a lifetime.
Where to stay
The only hotel in Death Valley National Park, the Oasis has three ways to stay wet and hydrated. The 1927 historic inn has emerged from a multi-million dollar renovation with new amenities from heated floors to rain shower baths. The jewel in its AAA Four Diamond crown is a warm pool fed by natural hot springs. The casitas surrounding the grounds are charming one bedrooms with rocking chairs set out on the terraces. Families will enjoy the more casual atmosphere at the Ranch, a former motel, with a children’s playground, a pool, and horseback rides offered at the stables.
South of Death Valley, the town of Tecopa sits on a hot springs-rich stretch of desert. This small town offers multiple campgrounds and RV resorts boasting private hot pools and opportunities for bathing. For those seeking a budget-friendly option for soaking, the Tecopa Mud Baths and nearby Tecopa Hot Tub are free of charge and a piping 105F (40C). The mineral-rich water leaves the skin feeling slick and renewed, while the muddy pool floors exfoliate and regenerate. These modest natural baths offer a unique opportunity for a relaxing night-time soak or a quick roadside stop.
Where to stay
If all the art from Burning Man coalesced into one place, it might start to look like Villa Anita. Described by the owner as a gallery/museum you can sleep in, the villa is a hodge-podge of upcycled castoffs, paintings, statues, old tires and found objects arranged into a labyrinth. Carpets in the desert lead to guest cabins and an airstream trailer. Guests from around the world gather for communal vegan dinners, pulled from the desert garden and served with plenty of wine plus great conversation. Tecopa Springs is just 3mi (5km) down the road.
Matilija Hot Springs (aka Ecotopia Matilija Hot Springs Sanctuary) is a natural healing sanctum in the mountains of Ojai in Southern California. Entrance to this easily-accessed roadside haven is by appointment only. The entry fee helps in maintaining the grounds, hot spring and local garden. Just 82mi (131km) from Los Angeles, this beautifully preserved spring is an ideal day trip for the time-conscious traveler or a short weekend refresh.
Where to stay
Ride up to the Ojai and join the creative culture at this 17-room, 1950s motel turned boho outpost. Rooms are lined with fir planks and bed frames are made of hand-cut logs. Baths are up to date with remarkably strong showers; good to know after a hike into the Topatopa Mountains or a bike ride to the Matilija hot springs. The expansive grounds have a pool, Finnish sauna and hammocks for leisure lovers. Watch the skies overhead for glimpses of the largest birds in North America heading to the nearby Sespe Condor Sanctuary.
Where to stay
The Ayres is full of pleasant surprises, starting with a complimentary full American breakfast, fresh apples in the lobby during the day and warm cookies in the evening. You can spend the day exploring the Glen Ivy Hot Springs, 40 minutes away by car. On return, watch the sunset over the Saddleback Mountains from the pool, then pull up a chair at the Old Camp Bar & Grill, a standout restaurant where locals come to dine. Spend an evening by the fire pit on the patio, before finally slipping into sleep in a Spanish influenced, contemporary suite.
Bring your team to Staybridge Corona South, an all-suite hotel where guests rave about the friendly staff. Up your away game at nearby Lake Matthews, Disneyland and the San Diego Zoo, or play close in at the restaurants and shops at Dos Lagos. Glen Ivy is just ten-minutes down the road. Suites have kitchenettes, complimentary breakfast and free coffee daily in the lobby. Fire up the outdoor barbecue, take a float in the pool or practice your layup on the basketball court. Either way, this hotel is a slam dunk.
This affordable SoCal Courtyard has an enviable location. Shopping, restaurants and walking trails that lead into nearby Limestone Canyon Regional Park are right across the street, while Glen Ivy is just a 40-minute drive away. Relax in the sheltered outdoor pool and hot tub, surrounded by palm trees and a tall stucco wall. Allergy sufferers will appreciate the Pure Rooms that feature a seven-step cleaning process. Pets can shed to their heart’s content in a separate area of the hotel.
Dominic Bertolami contributed additional reporting to this article.
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