The California coast is one of the world’s top beach destinations, but the hot springs near San Diego are another reason to head west. After getting a fix of the sand and surf, head to one of these geothermal water locations for a relaxing soak to complement that salty air.
Some of them have on-site accommodations, but they are all within day-trip distances from the city. In order of proximity, here are the closest hot springs to San Diego, CA:
Carlsbad Mineral Water Spa – 35 miles | 40 minutes
The Carlsbad Mineral Water Spa was formed after discovering mineral water well near a farm owned by a man named Captain John Frazier. Located right on the original site, this establishment’s magical waters were found to be very similar to the world-renowned ones in Eastern Europe.
Frazier decided to create the village of Carlsbad right by the well and bottle his coveted waters to sell across the USA. The water and area were still popular until the Great Depression when it lost regular maintenance but was revived in the 1950s with new owners.
Families traveling to Carlsbad can take advantage of booking a spa day for the adults and a theme park day at Legoland California for the younger ones. The attractions are four miles apart.
All spa treatments are done in a themed, historic, private room with a personal therapist. Packages are from one to three hours and include everything you need for a completely relaxing experience. Services include mineral baths, facials, massages, wraps, and a salt glow. Treatments are offered for both singles and couples.
The spa is open Monday through Sunday from 9 am to 6 pm and on most holidays, except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Evening appointments can be accommodated by request.
Many hotels in Carlsbad include the Best Western Beach, Beach Terrace Inn, Carlsbad Inn, and many more. There are options for every budget ranging from two-star hotels to large resorts. Visitors that want to camp can find their spot at one of many campgrounds, including Paradise by the Sea Beach RV Resort and South Carlsbad State Beach Campground.
Elm Hot Springs – 80 miles | 1 hour 20 minutes
At the bottom of the Palomar Mountains, the Elm Hot Springs Resort is one of Southern California’s places to pamper yourself and indulge in healing thermal waters. The property also offers overnight accommodations and a space for events or church retreats. A BBQ facility is also on-site.
There are three hot tubs and two cooler pools filled with natural water infused with sulfur. These waters are believed to have healing anti-inflammatory benefits, increase range of motion, and improve skin irritations. Guests can swim or soak indoors and outdoors, which is convenient since this resort is open year-round. To keep the thermal waters pure, putting on sunblock before going into the pools is prohibited.
Guests and families at the resort are welcome to use the indoor and outdoor kitchen setups to prepare their own meals. The facility has electrical outlets for cookers, a metal sink, propane stoves, marbled countertops, a toaster, and all the cooking utensils and bowls you would need for meal prep.
Elm Hot Springs offers partially furnished bungalows and campground sites for overnight stays. Campsites are for tent camping and are limited to six people. Guests will have plenty of areas to meditate and relax, as well as access to the water areas.
Glen Ivy Hot Springs – 89 miles | 1 hour 30 minutes
Glen Ivy Hot Springs is a wellness resort that offers a variety of self-care amenities. They provide workshops and classes for those that like guided activities in addition to the pools, retail shops, salon, dining areas, and cabanas to relax in by the water. Admission is charged per person, but the cost can be bundled with services for one or more people.
Aside from their temperate swimming pools, hot mineral baths are kept at 104℉ and are ideal for 15-minute soaking sessions. These sulfur-rich waters have a pH level of 9.44, which is very alkaline and provides many health benefits.
Visitors also come for the mud baths that leave skin baby-soft after cracking it off and washing down. The Grotto is another key feature of the resort, which is a gently heated cave where guests can lather themselves in an oil blend for a unique revitalizing experience.
Glen Ivy is a commercial hot springs day spa, but there are plenty of hotel options in the town of Corona, where it’s located. The Glen Ivy RV Park is only half a mile away and is excellent for travelers who want to camp in the area by the hot springs.
Agua Caliente County Park – 113 mi | 1 hr 50 min
Set on 910 acres, Agua Caliente County Park is a recreational area that is easy to visit and has two outdoor hot springs pools and an indoor geothermal tub. The entire area is family-friendly and a popular spot for spending time outdoors, camping, and group get-togethers. Visitors are welcome to spend the day or night, with the only fees being for parking or camping permits. Pool hours are 9:30 am to 5 pm daily, with evening hours on Fridays and Saturdays from 6-9 pm.
The nearest hotels to the spring pools are in the town of Julian, about 45 minutes away. Camping in Agua Caliente County Park is very popular, especially in the winter. There are several camping areas, including tent sites, RV spots with full and partial hookups, a caravan area for larger parties, and seven rustic cabins with a few amenities.
Holtville Hot Springs – 130 miles | 2 hours
Also known as “Old Fogey Hot Springs” and “Highline Hot Well,” Holtville Hot Springs is a public area on BLM land with two man-made mineral water tubs. The water is piped out of the artisan well at 125℉ and cools down to around 104-110℉, flowing from the hotter, larger pool to the smaller one. There’s also a pond lagoon that collects the runoff water from the on-site showers and tubs but isn’t for swimming. A restroom and enclosed changing area are located near the water.
Soaking hours are from 5 am to midnight and are usually cleaned weekly. No food or glass containers are permitted near the water.
Since the hot springs are just off the highway, the closest hotels are in El Centro and Calexico. Camping at the springs is also permitted, but remember that September 15 – April 15 is fee season for long-term stays. Permits can be acquired online or at a BLM office in Yuma or El Centro. During the non-fee season, visitors are welcome to stay up to 14 days in 28 days.
The next time you plan to head to the Golden State, be sure to squeeze one of these hot springs on the itinerary. There’s also a fair share of hot springs near Los Angeles if you’ll be basing in that SoCal city instead. Sometimes a relaxing soak is a perfect activity to incorporate into any vacation.