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Mount San Jacinto park and hike in Palm Springs
Photos: Chieko Kato

The Glassy’s Healthy Guide to Palm Springs

It's not a mirage: This desert destination is a wellness oasis.

by Rebecca Willa Davis | 04.29.2018

It’s a hot, dry, hazy weekday afternoon on CA Route 111, heading south from Palm Springs. To my right: Target and Arby’s. To my left: McDonald’s and Walgreens.

In other words, I’m deep in strip mall land. And I’m hungry. And thirsty. And really hoping to find something with more green in it than just a soggy wisp of lettuce sticking out of a hamburger bun.

[There’s] a steady stream of sunglasses-clad Californians emerging with what looks to be green juice in hand. Is this all a mirage?

And then a sign catches my eye: ORGANIC LOCAL.

I crane my neck as I’m stopped at yet another interminable red light, and see that this message is wedged between signs announcing HARVEST HEALTH FOODS and LUSCIOUS LORRAINE’S, the latter of which has a steady stream of sunglasses-clad Californians emerging with what looks to be green juice in hand. Is this all a mirage?

Turns out, it’s more like a desert oasis—arguably the healthiest strip mall in America, with a wellness-obsessed café, a health food store, an all-natural pet shop, and a raw-organic beauty shop one next to the other—and, in many ways, emblematic of the Palm Springs and Coachella Valley area.

From Desert Hot Springs just minutes from I-10 (with its famed mineral-rich pools, once enjoyed by the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Al Capone for its promised healing properties) down to Indio, you can find the usual signs of SoCal splendor and sprawl. But between the mid-century modern homes and eerily green golf courses you’ll also find spots that speak fluent wellness.

Palm Springs and Coachella Valley healthy travel guide

Terpene-infused honey and lozenges at Headies Boutique

“It was so different 18 years ago,” Lorraine Ornelas tells me over CBD-spiked juices and a probiotic vegan cheese sandwich. She’s the owner of Luscious Lorraine’s, a Palm Desert staple serving up everything from vegan breakfast bars to Paleo-friendly lunch bowls for years. “That’s why I opened it—because there was nothing here.”

Then of course, there’s Desert Hot Springs: a town that quite literally sprung up in the name of health.

She’s alone no more; there’s now Yoga Center Palm Desert (which Ornelas co-owns), Healthy Nibbles (a make-your-own salad and juice spot), and the Traditional Chinese Medicine-centric Acupuncture + Herbs—and that’s just across the street. In downtown Palm Springs, I pass a CBD pharmacy, a crystal shop, an avocado mousse-proffering hotel lobby cafe, and a practically private Pilates studio in the span of a few minutes. Many visitors trade their car for bike once they arrive, opting to explore on two wheels (or two feet, if they take on the many challenging hiking trails nearby). And then of course, there’s Desert Hot Springs: a town that quite literally sprung up in the name of health.

Jeremy Smick, who owns the dreamy Palm Springs homegoods shop Thick as Thieves with his wife Samantha Caltagirone, tells me about how the duo was so drawn to the area’s natural beauty—not to mention balmy weather—that they up and left their home in St. Louis to give the desert a go. They’re among the many recent transplants who have sought to turn this stretch into their own personal oasis, and as I wander down Palm Canyon Drive, sipping on what is arguably the most interesting-tasting health tonic I’ve ever had in my life (and I’ve had quite a few) while the San Jacinto Mountains frame my view, I understand the allure of staying for way more than just a long weekend.

But ultimately, Palm Springs is all very manageable—and you don’t need to abandon your plans to laze around your Airbnb pool all day (or continue onward to Coachella) to take advantage of it. Who knows, your personal healthy sanctuary might be right there, wedged between a Del Taco and a Walmart as you whiz along Route 111.

Palm Springs and Coachella Valley healthy travel guide

The Glassy Blackbook: Palm Springs

Vibe: Retirees rubbing elbows (and sharing CBD balms and yoga mats) with sophisticated spirit seekers and design-obsessed weekenders.

Pack: Preppy-sporty if you’re staying near Palm Springs, boho-sweaty if you’re Coachella-bound, and a swimsuit if you’re taking a dip at Desert Hot Springs. Hats strongly encouraged no matter where you end up.

Drop-ins: Generally welcome—some spots (like Urban Yoga Center) don’t even accept advance reservations.

Walkability: If you’re in downtown Palm Springs, it’s easy enough to navigate the wide sidewalks. But beyond that you’ve got either the desert or endless strip malls—making it hardly pedestrian friendly.

Runability: It scores high…if you’re properly hydrated. Follow Palm Canyon Drive for a mostly flat run, the South Lykken Trail if you favor dirt over concrete, or the Tramway Hill for a legit workout.

Cycleability: A handful of roads around Palm Springs have bike lanes (plus hotels like the Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs and The Ace offer up rentals to their guests), but the main roads extending north and south are multi-lane and speed limits reach 65 MPH so….

Clean eats: That’s not a mirage—there are a number of ridiculously delicious health-minded spots in the Coachella Valley, from spirulina-spiked smoothie bowls to vegan fast food.

Supermarket run: There’s a Whole Foods if you need to stock up your Airbnb kitchen—or opt for Palm Desert’s Harvest Health Foods, which carries artisanal products from the SoCal region. Another option is to hit up the farmers’ market, which runs every Saturday (although look up the location, as it moves around depending on the time of year).

Water situ: The water is safe to drink—but be mindful of your usage (ahem, no long showers please), as the area is prone to droughts.

Toiletry pick-up: Whole Foods or Harvest Health Foods both have an impressive range of natural personal care products, but for skin care head straight to The Body Deli. (Um, hello small-batch superfood moisturizers and cleansers.)

Make your base: Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs for the location (and avocado flatbread), The Ace Hotel and Swim Club for the scene, or Two Bunch Palms for total relaxation. There are a handful of dreamy, design-friendly Airbnb options too—our fave is the Instagram-ready Palm Springs Dome House.

Top souvenirs: A succulent from Moorten Botanical Garden, stuffed dates from the farmers’ market, Lemon Haze Terpene Lozenges from Headies Boutique.

If you eat at one place: Luscious Lorraine’s is a healthy person’s oasis in the desert—CBD-infused juices and probiotic almond cheese sandwiches included.

If you work out at one place: Ecore Fitness for the toughest (non-Megaformer) Pilates workout of your life.

If you relax at one place: The Spring, where booking a spa treatment also gets you a few hours at their tranquil, mineral hot spring-fed pools.

Check out the complete Glassy Guide to Palm Springs.

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