With the opening of the Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza, visitors to Greater Palm Springs now have a unique opportunity to delve into the rich history of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, who have resided in the region since time immemorial. A beautiful 5.8-acre complex situated in downtown Palm Springs, the Cultural Plaza is a testament to the enduring legacy of the tribe. Here, both residents and visitors alike can embark on a journey of discovery, immersing themselves in the culture, traditions, and values of the Agua Caliente people who have been the original stewards of the land in and around what is now modern-day Palm Springs, Cathedral City, and Rancho Mirage.
Above: Inspiration for the Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza design is rooted in Agua Caliente traditions such as basket weaving, pottery (ollas), and bird songs, and elements native to the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation including desert landscapes, rock formations found in the Indian Canyons, the Tahquitz Canyon waterfall, and the Washingtonia filifera palm trees — the only palm tree native to the California desert.
Owned and operated by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and located on tribal land, the Cultural Plaza offers multifaceted experiences that showcase the essence of the tribe's unique heritage, including a 48,000-square-foot Agua Caliente Cultural Museum, a beacon of knowledge and insight into the history and culture of the tribe. As visitors step inside, they are greeted by a captivating 12-minute, 360-degree animation that narrates the tribe's creation story, setting the stage for a deeper exploration of their heritage.
Within the museum, cultural artifacts — some of which were recovered during the site's excavation and carbon date to 8,000 years ago — offer a tangible connection to the past, underscoring the enduring presence of the Agua Caliente people on this land. The museum serves as a conduit for preserving and sharing their vibrant history and traditions with the world.
“The Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza provides an incredible opportunity for us to share and celebrate our history, culture, and traditions with this community and visitors from around the world,” says Tribal Chairman Reid D. Milanovich. “Each federally recognized tribe throughout this country has a distinct culture that includes traditions, language, historic clothing, and housing styles as well as historical food and medicine preparations. We want to share our culture with visitors through our authentic voice. This is our story, in our own voice. We are here today just like we have been since time immemorial.”
In addition to the museum, the Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza features other enticing attractions that visitors won't want to miss, including The Spa at Séc-he, a luxurious 72,000-square-foot destination day spa complex opened in April 2023 that's situated on the site of the tribe's 12,000-year-old sacred hot mineral spring. The spa pays homage to the tribe's legacy of sharing its healing waters with a full menu of treatments and amenities, including 22 private mineral baths, a resort-style mineral pool, a cafe, and more. It offers a chance for visitors to experience the therapeutic qualities of the natural mineral waters that have played and continue to play a significant role in the tribe's culture and well-being.
Above: The spa's Tranquility Garden, inspired by the tribe's sacred canyons, offers guests a serene space to relax prior to their spa treatments.
Beyond the museum and spa, the Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza provides ample opportunities for outdoor activities and exploration. Landscaped terraces and pathways lead to a Gathering Plaza adjacent to the Agua Caliente Hot Mineral Spring, offering a tranquil space to connect with nature and reflect on the significance of the sacred water and lands. An interactive Oasis Trail within the complex provides a glimpse of the awe-inspiring beauty and natural wonders found in the nearby Indian Canyons, one of the ancestral homes of the Agua Caliente people. The trail mirrors the landscapes and features of the canyons, allowing visitors to appreciate the deep connection between the tribe and their environment.
Whether you're drawn to the museum's immersive exhibitions, the rejuvenating experience of The Spa at Séc-he, or the serenity of nature, there's something for everyone at this remarkable cultural complex. As you step onto the tribe's sacred land, you are invited to become a part of the ongoing story of the Agua Caliente people, a tale that has unfolded since time immemorial.
The museum is located at 140 N Indian Canyon Drive in Palm Springs. Parking is available adjacent to the museum at the Agua Caliente Casino Palm Springs, 401 E. Amado Road. Timed entry tickets to the Museum for future dates may be purchased HERE.
All imagery courtesy of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.