Escape to Desert Hot Springs

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Art Gray

Hope Springs resort

After Tim Robbins' character in 1992's The Player gets away with murdering a screenwriter in a Los Angeles alley, the frazzled Hollywood exec absconds with Greta Scacchi into southern California's empty desert. There, in the candlelight of a cloistered getaway motel, Scacchi asks her homicidal flame, "Do places like this really exist?"

They do indeed. For decades, Angelenos have been jumping into their convertibles and escaping two hours east into L.A.'s parched outskirts to surrender to the elements. Though it's dry as a bone on the surface, the region is blessed with a series of underground hot springs that hoteliers started building their businesses around in the middle of the last century. (See 10 things to do in Los Angeles.)

Some of those mod motels have been given a second life in recent years, like the wonderfully low-key Hope Springs, Originally built in 1962 in a speck of a burg called Desert Hot Springs, Hope Springs was renovated and reopened by two designers in 2000. Today, its 10 rooms encircle three pools fed by springs beneath the property. With polished concrete floors and platform beds, the rooms are spare, but the pleasures behind the property's pale green stucco walls are not. Customers come again and again to get lost under the clear desert skies and enjoy the hotel's stylish details — such as oversized robes with HOPE stitched in silver on the back, and a decadent breakfast served poolside every morning. "There's never been any advertising for this little place," says manager Chloe Peppas. "It's a particular type of person that likes the property for its simplicity." (See pictures of Los Angeles.)

The town of Desert Hot Springs doesn't offer much besides bland housing tracts and windmills spinning lazily alongside the highway, but there are plenty of worthy sights nearby, among them the stunning Joshua Tree National Park and Palm Springs' cluster of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings. But when a place like Hope Springs really does exist, sometimes it's better to make like a Hollywood luminary on the run. Take a room and lay low.

See 10 things to do in San Francisco.

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