It’s early Friday morning and I have my bag packed. Two bathing suits (one dark for mud per the website), my book, writing notebook, an iPhone charger, headphones, sunscreen, wallet, and my bathing suit cover-up. I stuff two pairs of sunglasses for my Facebook photos and hop into my car for the 56-minute drive from Long Beach, California, to Glen Ivy Hot Springs in Corona, California.
The Glen Ivy Hot Springs Spa sponsored me for a day to enjoy a Premier Wellness Passport at its oasis. It came with a private cabana, butler service, a three-course lunch, cocktail, a 50-minute massage (I’m still thinking about it), access to the overabundance of pools, saunas, secluded spaces, a sulfur mineral bath, an underground skin hydrating experience, and a chance to play in mud. It’s California’s best-kept destination secret, establishing itself as having “California’s only therapeutic red clay mineral bath.” With everything Glen Ivy offers, if you like playing in the mud, then you’ll love California’s Glen Ivy Hot Springs Resort.
I was not certain what to expect at Glen Ivy, but when I rounded onto the roadway heading to the spa, the world seemed to quiet down. Lush landscape and the Santa Ana mountain backdrop gave me a sense that relaxation was undoubtedly up ahead. With a nearly 2-year hiatus from the spa environment, this moment was sacred. An understanding that certainly some fragments of my life were really coming back to a new normal.
Glen Ivy Hot Springs Spa is the 19th of 25 historic locations in Corona. It is reported that before it commercialized the land in the 1880s and turned it into a greatly sought-after destination among stars, the spring waters were used to treat circulatory medical conditions of the landowner’s wife. The property feels upscale from check-in and matches its reputation of being luxurious.
Met by my “dedicated host” in the lobby, I was accompanied to the bathhouse for my spa robe and given a rundown of the 11-acre property, before being escorted to my private area. My first thought was that Glen Ivy is an all-day experience. Filled with items to replenish what you may have overlooked, including a good book, the spa-lifestyle store had everything. As a reader, it drew me to the bookshelf. Books on meditation, affirmations, journals, and indeed my favorite, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, lined the shelves. I ordered my usual Starbucks venti-sized iced-caramel macchiato with oat milk from the Goco Café and settled into my lounger overlooking the lounge pool.
My host went down my itinerary for the day and gave me a tip to enjoy before my grotto treatment. He stated, “30 minutes before going to your grotto experience, spend 15 minutes in the mineral bath, and then go to Club Mud.” Following his suggestion, I headed to the mineral bath for a bubbly sulfur-smelling hot soak. The clientele appeared as diverse as the amenities from couples, to groups, to solo adventurers like me. The mineral baths are communal and, although I was there alone, ended up being a part of a trio of friends having a ladies’ day at the spa. They introduced themselves and we became instant friends. One was a member of the spa and her friends were first timers — each of us Californians. We all commented on the need for time to rejuvenate and shared our excitement about our upcoming treatments.
The entrance to Club Mud looks like a portal into a secret magical garden. When you enter, you see the California red clay blended with mineral water available on a podium under misters and in the center of a cement pool filled with water. Red clay is claimed to be a skin detoxifier and produces smoother skin when applied and rinsed off. The instructional signs guide you on how to play in the mud in a more refined manner than you recall as a child. According to the directives, you get wet, smooth on a thin layer of red clay, let the clay dry, brush off dried clay, and rinse off. Turns out that applying the mud under the mister or in the pool nets the same ends.
The mud is changed daily. It feels velvety to the touch and has no particular odor. I saw others along with myself having a sniff to find out. It feels non-abrasive on your skin. Club Mud is full of lounge chairs and towels if you would prefer to dry in the sun. Alternatively, you can go in the WAFA Cave — a warm place to dry your mud. This, too, is a communal experience. Once the mud has dried, you clean it off in one of the shower enclaves. This experience pleasantly surprised me. I never liked getting dirty. However, I was thrilled with how my skin felt. After the experiment on my legs and arms, I put mud on my face. When going by, you can hear the childlike squeals and hilarity from the people playing in the mud. Mud and laughter together make fun.
Heading to the grotto, I feel light in mood and soft on my skin. A grotto, by definition, is an indoor structure simulating a cave. This cavern is underground and takes a down elevator to get to. Prior to descending, you view a video to prepare for the treatment. Greeted by staff, I am ushered along with a group of other spa-goers to a secluded cave area where I am asked to hold out my arms and I am painted — yes, painted with a warm masque blend of oils. It is explained that the mix hydrates the skin, and they put it on my legs and arms with a paint brush-type instrument. It smells wonderful as I get further into the cave to relax and allow the mixture to absorb into my skin. After the designated time, I clean off in another separate space and relax under the sights and echoes of a waterfall. The low lights, warmth of the area, and waterfall increase my relaxation and appetite.
The Ivy Kitchen
Lunch for me was the massive house salad, the Ivy “vegan” chili, and the deconstructed fruit tart made with coconut custard, fresh berries, homemade sugar-free glaze, and almond vegan crumble. As a vegan, I was pleased that the menu supported my diet without compromises in taste or presentation. The resort’s premier restaurant, The Ivy Kitchen, offers breakfast, lunch, desserts, small plates, fountain drinks, beer, and wine. The Glen Ivy culinary team leads the food and beverage programs, sourcing organic and locally produced ingredients. Adhering to the farm-to-table approach, they yield the citrus juice ingredients and avocados from trees cultivated on the property.
The spa also has other casual spaces for eating and day drinking. The Chill Zone is where you can find your fruit and vegetable smoothies. The Warm Up Zone soothes the “I’m not hungry but I can eat something” craving. The vegan esquites — sweet corn kernels, vegan mayo, vegan butter, cotija cheese, and Tajin — hit the spot. Lounge 1860 is the go-to for cocktails, beer, wine, and sangria.
As I explored, I encountered something different around every corner. A rocking chair, a fountain, another pool zone, a secret garden for meditation, and yoga classes. I even found more places to experience inside the bathhouse. No matter your stature on the outside, once you enter Glen Ivy, you are truly a celebrity.
I concluded my time at Glen Ivy by taking a last walk through the Glen Ivy labyrinth. The plaque read, “This ancient tradition is a metaphor for your journey through life. Your venture into the labyrinth represents your life’s journey to discover your true self, your purpose in life. The center of the labyrinth is sacred. It represents who you really are; a place to rest in the arms of your own soul. How you express your unique beauty, talents, and gifts in your life moving forward is represented through your path out.” It was the ideal ending to the day. When getting close to the parking area, you catch a sign that says, “Welcome, Your Wellness Day Awaits You.” No truer words have ever been written.
Know Before You Go
Plan to arrive early and do an entire day at Glen Ivy. If you have hairstyles that don’t work well getting wet, bring a cover. There is no in and out. Expect a security check at the entrance. Security will check your bag before check-in. No outside food or drink is allowed. You can bring an empty water bottle as there are plenty of water stations throughout. There are free lockers to put your belongings in that are accessible to you the entire visit. Payment for retail items, food, drinks, and spa services are contactless. Put your card on file at check-in to be applied when making purchases. If you plan to consume alcoholic beverages, get the blue wristband. Lastly, if you can splurge for a Premium Wellness Package — Do it!
Spas are located in all parts of the world and a favorite indulgence for many travelers: