Sam’s Family Spa Hot Water Resort – Desert Hot Springs, California

Sam’s Family Spa is a true oasis in the desert.  This is a 50 acre RV campground that is centered around a large lake with lush gardens and lots of shade.  It’s been a family run and family oriented business since 1971.

Campsites at Sam’s (from

Desert Hot Springs is the lesser known cousin of Palm Springs, California.  Desert Hot Springs still retains its desert feel, even though it is a fairly large city.  The approach to Sam’s is no different; the roads are dun and dusty. Once you arrive at the grounds, the campsites retain that desert feel – ours had a large saguaro as well as some smaller desert plants, and we shared our RV site with a desert hare who seemed to accept our presence as a mild inconvenience.

The central feature of the RV park is the lake, complete with ducks and other wildlife.  It’s a true oasis, a very tranquil centerpiece and a nice change from the surrounding desert.  There are walking paths around the lake and a large well furnished rec hall.  There is a volleyball court and picnic tables.  And of course there are the springs.

The Lake at Sam’s (from

Outdoor soaking pool at Sam’s (via Yelp)

The spring water is pumped from deep underground Desert Hot Springs aquifer, and comes to the surface at about 105 F.  There are 5 soaking pools and another pool for smaller children, along with a sauna and a regular swimming pool. All the pools are clean and well maintained.  There were lots of times when we were the only ones in the pools so we found it very relaxing.  I really enjoyed listening to the birds singing while I soaked.  I moved from pool to pool, both indoors and out and soaked up the moisture of the oasis after a week in the desert dust.  The lushness at Sam’s is a really nice change from the desert.

Children are everywhere here and it is a great place for them to run around and enjoy the outdoors.  While we were here, we never felt crowded – there was lots of space and many different types of areas to relax in.  There is lots of shade at Sam’s so we didn’t have to worry about the desert sun, but we could step out of the shade to dry off instantly in the desert wind.

Sam’s is one of the best RV parks I’ve ever seen.  It has loads of activities and great hot springs pools in a lush desert setting.  There are very few well developed hot springs in California and I count this as a great place to stay for an extended period, and especially good for families.  Because of the layout of the springs and pools area, it’s one of the few places where a parent can have a relaxing soak while still keeping one eye on the children.  Check out Sam’s Family Spa Hot Water Resort the next time you are in Desert Hot Springs!

An American Expat Onsen Addict in Japan

Every week, I like to repost someone else’s blog that is particularly interesting and focused on hot springs.  This week, I found this blog written by Greg Goodmacher, an American expat living in Japan.  His blog is about the cultural experiences of life in Japan seen through the eyes of a “hot springs addict”.  There are over 27,000 onsen in Japan, so he’s in the right place to be an addict!

Greg’s most recent post is called “Amazing Snowshoe Trip and Japanese Onsen” and is about snowshoe & hot springs.  It is similar to my own experience in the Gatineau Park & Spa Le Nordik here in Canada, that I wrote about in “Snowshoe & soak”.  The big difference is that he got to visit this cool ice cave near Hokkaido!

Ice Cave in Japan, by Greg Goodmacher

Ice Cave in Japan, by Greg Goodmacher

Follow Greg’s blog and give him a big shout out for sharing his experiences as a Hot Springs Aficionado living in Japan!

Baden-Baden’s Caracalla Therme

Emperor Caracalla

I think this was the first fully developed hot spring baths I ever went to. If you’re going to start going to baths, where better than in a town named Baths-Baths?  Baden-Baden is one of the most famous spa towns in Germany.  There have been baths here since at least Roman times.  The most modern of these is Caracalla Therme, named for the Emperor Caracalla who visited this town almost 2,000 years ago to treat his arthritis.

Twelve springs supply the 4,000 m² of pools and saunas at Caracalla Therme.  There are many different bathing areas, including a large “no-bathing suits” sauna section.  The overall feel is very clean, white and modern with a passing salute to Rome from the columns and statues by the pools.  There are three outdoor pools and some poolside seating but most of the baths and saunas are indoors.  It can get quite busy and the atmosphere is family friendly, accepting children aged over 7 years, so it can be good to go early in the day when there is less traffic.

In the adult only nude section, there can be older German men who unabashedly ogle women.  I was there with my husband so I don’t know how they behave with single women.  I took it in stride as a cultural thing – when you travel you can’t expect everyone to behave the same way they do in your home country.

hot springs aficionado caracalla bubble jetMy best memory of Caracalla Therme was the bubble jet bath.  I love underwater air jets, especially where these were located in the middle of a larger pool – it gave a real sense of airiness to the experience.  I loved the sensation of so many tiny bubbles massaging my body.  It gave me a tingling sensation running up my back and bubbling to the surface like champagne – it was almost a feeling of being immersed in a giant cup of bubbly Reisling, very light and airy.  Being surrounded by white columns and white statues gave a very classic feel to the experience!

hot springs aficionado caracalla whiteWe spent many hours at Caracalla Therme, wandering from one experience to the other, trying different scented saunas, relaxing in the outdoors area, dining, and always returning to the centerpiece pools with their tall glass solarium walls that marry the feeling of being indoors with the feeling of being open to the air. That was my overall memory of Caracalla: a sense of airiness and openness.

In the lobby is a fountain from which you can drink the waters – at the time I went, little telescoping cups were provided as souvenirs, and I still have mine! The waters are from natrium-chloride springs and are quite strongly flavoured with salts and sulfur, so they taste medicinal and you won’t be drinking very much. The temperature at the main spring is 68C (155 F).

Add Caracalla Therme to your travel plans if you are going to the Black Forest – it’s a wonderful place to spend a day relaxing and recovering from your trip!  Watch the promotional video below to see more of the interior of Baden-Baden’s Caracalla Therme.


Malaysia – Deal at Banjaran Hot Springs Retreat

BanjaranEnjoy 3 days at Banjaran Hot Springs Retreat for 855 euros, leaving from Kuala Lumpur. Click here for details.

This looks like a fabulous resort, with excellent Tripadvisor reviews. I haven’t been there, so if any other Hot Springs Aficionados can comment on it, please do!

History Undressed: “Taking the Waters,” in Bath, England

I found this blog post that I enjoyed reading and I thought I would share it with you.  It’s written by a historical romance author, and has a very playful take on bathing culture in Bath.  It’s a quick read, and worth it!  Click here to read History Undressed: “Taking the Waters,” in Bath, England.

In more recent times, the Great Bath of the Temple of Aquae Sulis Minerva was closed to bathers.  In 2006 Thermae Bath opened, finally ending a 28 year period of no baths in Bath.  I believe it’s operated by the same group that operates Thermae Valkenburg.

I’ll be doing a series on the history and culture of soaking in the coming weeks.  Follow Hot Springs Aficionado on Facebook or Twitter to keep in touch as we explore the rich history of the relationship between humans and hot springs.  In the meantime, if you want to know more about “Taking the Waters” in Bath today, here is a video from Thermae Bath that invites you to spend the day in one of the world’s premier luxury soaks.

Escape to One of These Four Affordable Hot Springs Oasis in Southern Colorado

An artesian hot springs corridor follows the Sangre de Cristo mountain range in Southern Colorado. Along this route are four unique mineral springs establishments that offer lodging or camping and are open year round for the tourist passing through or for the locals needing a relaxing soak.Winter in AlamosaIt is winter here in the San Luis Valley and when it looks like this picture on the right, I head out to the Sand Dunes Hot Springs Pool which is only about 20 minutes from my home.  This artesian oasis located…. to read more follow this link :

 Escape to One of These Four Affordable Hot Springs Oasis in Southern Colorado.

Valentine’s Gift Idea: A Hot Springs Soak

It’s the first Monday in February – which means Valentine’s Day is next week! What will you do? Whether your status is “in a couple” or “solo” or “it’s complicated”, there is a simple way to deal with the stress of Valentine’s Day: Go for a soak!

Le Nordik Spa-Nature, Chelsea, QC

Le Nordik Spa-Nature, Chelsea, QC

First, for those who are solo (I will talk about couples further down in this post). We all need to spend time with the people we love, and we need to love ourselves first. And that means there is nothing wrong with going to the baths solo. Spend some time relaxing, get a massage, pamper yourself and enjoy your time. Self-care is precious. And if you feel stressed about being solo at Valentine’s, a day at the springs will help you forget that stress before it even starts. As with couples, the trick is to go BEFORE Valentine’s Day!

Le Nordik Spa-Nature, Chelsea, QC

Le Nordik Spa-Nature, Chelsea, QC

My husband and I were married at Valentine’s, so we have a tradition of celebrating our anniversary by going to our local Scandinavian baths at Le Nordik and spending the day together there. The trick, of course, is that we go a few days BEFORE Valentine’s Day! The main benefit of that is that the spa is much quieter than it will be AFTER Valentine’s Day when everyone is redeeming their gift certificates. An added bonus is that when everyone else is running around trying to buy last minute chocolates at the pharmacy, we are done, relaxed and happy. There is nothing that says “couple” better than “we already had our Valentine’s Day together”.

Peter & Dawn.  Read the full story here:

Peter & Dawn. Read the full story here:

If you are in the right location there can be other great reasons for you and your lover to head to the hot springs! Just ask Peter Cousins, the British citizen who was hit with a $250,000 USD medical bill following a heart attack at a remote natural hot spring he and his girlfriend found on a Nevada ranch.  He has no regrets, he says, and his final comment? “It was worth it for the sex”.

Read his full story then head out to the nearest hot springs right now – just make sure you have medical insurance first! Have a wonderful Valentine’s retreat with yourself and the ones you love.

Furnace Creek, Death Valley’s Warm Spring Oasis

Death Valley… Just the name makes you sweat. It is one of the hottest and most arid places on the planet, yet in the center of it all is the lush verdant oasis at Furnace Creek. Here in the desert, hundreds of feet below sea level, there are groves of cedars, palms and dates.

Furnace Creek is hot. During the summer months, the Inn closes and there is a reduced staff at the Ranch. But in the winter, this valley is a refuge for the heat seekers. In the early part of the 20th century, Furnace Creek was a destination for those seeking to heal in its warm springs water. Over the years, the marshland that surrounded Furnace Creek was replaced with lawns and golf courses. Today the resort offers bike rentals, tennis, horseback riding and Jeep tours and full service restaurants. There is more of a focus on photography these days, and many hikers can be seen carrying large SLR cameras and tripods into the wilderness.

Warm Springs Fed Pool at the Furnace Creek Ranch

Warm Springs Fed Pool at the Furnace Creek Ranch

But in the midst of it all, there are the warm springs. The spring’s temperature is 85F at the wellhead. By Death Valley standards, this is cool but it does make a lovely pool temperature. The spring is channeled into a pipe that flows directly into the Furnace Creek Ranch’s swimming pool – there are virtually no chemicals in the pool. From the main pool, overflow water is piped to irrigate the golf course and grounds. Although it looks like a regular hotel swimming pool, and is not really promoted as a spring, it is indeed a warm spring oasis in the desert, with a history of giving and healing life.

I decided to spend a few days at the Furnace Creek Ranch to recover from a busy business trip. It was a mid-week in January so it was quiet. The “Saloon” offered a variety of red wines – I ordered one of the three California cabernets they offered, along with a very large and varied cheese plate that was well worth $10.75 I paid for it – it had sweet blueberries, strawberries, grapes, dates, and at least ten different cheeses. It included a spiced smoked Gouda that was particularly good! I sat outside by the fires watching the stars come out and chatting with a young Australian couple about which springs to visit next. I couldn’t help but wonder: what took me so long to become a Hot Springs Aficionado?

I am a Hot Springs Aficionado.  Join me!

I am a Hot Springs Aficionado. Join me!

Yudanaka Part 2 – Jigokudani Monkey Park

The walk to the monkey's hot springs

The walk to the monkey’s hot springs

Yudanaka is best known for the Jigokudani monkey park, where Japanese macaques enjoy their own onsen. Yes, these are those charming fellows who lounge around in hot springs all year round, stealing tourists’ phones to do facebook updates! You can visit them at the Jigokudani park, located outside of town. Just a bit of a warning – in real life, a 40 lb macaque has very large teeth and one heck of an attitude, along with a penchant for taking anything that’s not locked up. Be careful.

Inside the Jigokudani Monkey Park is Korakukan, a 150 year old mountain lodge accessible only on foot, for the adventurous who carries their luggage. We didn’t stay there but it does have good TripAdvisor reviews, so I will definitely try it the next time I go.

Park keepers throw rice into the hot spring to get the macaques to dive in.  You can get very close to the monkeys when this happens since the monkeys are more interested in the rice than in the tourists.  It’s fun to watch the little ones swimming underwater and the social dynamics of the macaque families.

At the onsen in Jigokudani

At the onsen in Jigokudani

Onsen tamago, or "hot spring eggs", Yudanaka, Japan

Onsen tamago, or “hot spring eggs”, Yudanaka, Japan

Walking back from the park, we stopped in at a wonderful sake factory and museum on the main street. It was full of history and some lovely flights of sake. I stocked up on Nigori sake, my favorite. Then we found one of the funkiest things I saw in Yudanaka: onsen tamago, or onsen eggs. These are eggs placed in a pot under a hot spring. The heat of the flowing water boils the egg. There was another basket to leave money to pay for the eggs you take, on an honour system. We sat in the park by the river with our eggs and our sake and had a memorable dinner!


A Visit to Hot Springs Country, Yudanaka, Japan

This post is Part 1 of a series. There are too many hot springs in Yudanaka for just one post, so I have broken this down into sections. Stay tuned for more!

Nagano county, seen from the train

Nagano county, seen from the train

Yudanaka is a quaint and lovely village about an hour away from Nagano. It is very picturesque and traditional. We went in mid-September, and I really enjoyed the train ride through miles and miles of apple orchards and rice fields. The rice was a glorious golden yellow and the wonderful crisp fresh apples and their products were in season in all the markets.


Yudanaka, Japan

Yudanaka, Japan

Yudanaka is full of onsen. Hot streams run through the town, and there are springs bubbling up in almost every front yard. Some of the waters can be quite hot, so caution around puddles is a good idea. There are foot baths on many street corners, and most ryokan have their own onsen.


On our first night, our host at the ryokan took us to a local onsen with a view. We traveled along a windiYudanaka Onsenng switchback road to a private bath house up high on a mountainside ski hill. The lights of the village glittered far below, as we enjoyed our own private outdoor pool. The water is not strongly scented, the baths are clean and again there were apples for the taking in a basket. There were low light candles all around us. It was a truly magical experience!

Yudanaka has a long history as a small ski and hot springs resort town, so there are a lot of hotels, springs, restaurants and other services.  Somehow though, it has not lost its human scale and is inviting, charming, and tranquil.  This is a wonderful village to spend a lot of time in.

Yudanaka’s most famous hot springs aficionados are the Japanese snow monkeys.  Stay tuned for the next post in this series, where we will spend a glorious day in Jigokudani Monkey Park!