MURRIETA, Calif. — You can cool down this summer at Murrieta Hot Springs.
Although it's 25 miles inland, this spa is bathed by afternoon ocean breezes that funnel through the mountains. Guests wear sweaters or jackets on nippy evenings.
The Temeku Indians discovered the mineral waters, which continue to bubble up through an earthquake fault. Hot water also mixed with the soil where tule plants grew, and the Indians bathed in mud they believed was medicinal. A mud bath at Murrieta still is one of the informal spa's attractions.
Guests also can get mineral baths, body wraps, sea clay treatments, massages, facials, manicures and pedicures. There is a beauty salon, too.
Other facilities include 12 tennis courts, four of them lighted, an adjacent 18-hole golf course, three swimming pools, Finnish saunas and a daily exercise program.
In southern Riverside County between Lake Elsinore and Temecula, the hot springs took its name from Don Juan Murrieta, who owned the site and 52, 000 surrounding acres.
After being used for a Chinese laundry, the steaming waters became the site of a bathhouse and hotel that was built in the 1880s.
After the turn of the century a German named Fritz Guenther began developing Murrieta Hot Springs as a spa. His family ran the resort until the late 1960s.
Early visitors who soaked in the thermal waters along Cripple Creek, slept in tent cabins and were coated with "nature's poultice" in the mud bath house. They dined under gas lamps in the Assembly Hall, which is used today for aerobic exercises.
Recently remodeled were the 48 guest rooms in the original building, the 80-year-old California Hotel. The 63-room Stone Lodge, a stuccoed Spanish Colonial-Revival building dating to 1926, was renovated last year.
The improvements are part of a $3-million refurbishment program by the resort's owner, Gary Naiman of San Diego, who bought the 47-acre property in 1987.
The previous owners were a holistic group called Alive Polarity, which operated Murrieta for five years as a no-smoking, no-drinking, vegetarian health retreat. They brought the resort back to life after it was closed from 1977 to 1982 due to bankruptcy and court battles involving previous owners.
Despite its ups and downs of the last two decades, reminders of the spa heydays in the 1920s and '30s still remain.
Foremost is the 63-year-old mud-bath building decorated with a variety of mosaic tiles. Beyond its separate men's and women's entrances are 18 deep-tiled tubs filled with mud concocted of bentonite clay, peat moss and sea kelp. Cost of a 1 1/4-hour treatment is $42.
Also popular is the mineral bath, which is offered in the 1936 nature-care spa. It's another tile-decorated building that has 36 private baths, with whirlpool jets to give a hot-water massage. About 25 minutes in the tub, with aromatic bath oils, costs $20. Follow it with a body wrap for $13 more.
Colorful tiles also adorn the big swimming pool that opened in 1928 to replace the resort's first pool. A few years ago two more pools were added, a round Roman pool and the shallow American pool, which is used for aqua exercises.
Exercise and aerobic activities are scheduled every day beginning with a morning warm-up and walk at 7 a.m. Some are free, others have a nominal fee. Day guests are welcome at Murrieta Hot Springs, with spa services on a pay-as-you-go basis. Daily admission to the three swimming pools and Finnish saunas costs $10, $5 for children under 12.
Use of the pools and saunas is free to visitors staying at the resort. Use of the tennis courts is $5 per person or $12 per family a day. A round of golf at the neighboring 18-hole Rancho California Golf Course is $38 on weekends and holidays and $28 weekdays, including a mandatory cart.
Double rooms at the resort cost $65/$75 and up, with some lodging in more modern cottages and lodges. Singles $55/$65. Children under 12 years in the same room stay free.
Buffet and a la carte meals are available in the Spring Garden restaurant. Beer and wine are sold at the spa's restaurants.
For reservations, call (714) 677-7451 or toll-free (800) 458-4393.
Drive there from Los Angeles by going south on Interstate 5 and east on California 91 (Riverside Freeway) to join Interstate 15 south toward San Diego.
Look for the Murrieta Hot Springs Road exit beyond Lake Elsinore and go east about two miles to the resort.
Round trip from Los Angeles to the Hot Springs and the peaceful rural life of the Murrieta Valley is 162 miles.