--> Ultimate Guide to Exploring Native Palm Springs - Visit Palm Springs tag-img

Ultimate Guide to Exploring Native Palm Springs

Agua Caliente Museum

Plan Your Experience

The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians has lived in the Palm Springs region “since time immemorial.” Their presence precedes written records, and their rich narratives have been passed down over thousands of years through oral tradition. As you visit native Palm Springs, you’ll uncover the enduring legacy of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, whose presence and practices have shaped the region for centuries. From exploring ancient palm groves that whisper the secrets of survival in the desert to visiting the architecturally stunning Agua Caliente Cultural Museum, learn about the traditions that vividly depict the area’s original inhabitants.

The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians is a federally recognized Native American Tribe and stewards to 31,500 acres of Reservation lands that spread across Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, and into the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto mountains. This includes the world’s largest Washingtonia filters palm oasis and thousands of acres of mountains, streams, and bighorn sheep habitat.

The Tribe, comprising over 500 members, plays a pivotal role in the Coachella Valley. It stands as one of the largest employers in the region, with its Tribal government, three casinos, a resort hotel and spa, and attractions such as Indian Canyons, Tahquitz Canyon, Indian Canyons Golf Resort, and the new Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza. These establishments not only contribute to the local economy but also serve as gateways for visitors to immerse themselves in the Tribe’s rich culture and history.

Agua Caliente Cultural Museum

While most are familiar with the beautiful resorts and casinos operated by tribes, you may not be aware of the many other ways to experience the local native culture.

Begin your visit native Palm Springs journey at the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum, where the history and culture of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians will come to life. This is a longstanding partnership with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. It serves as an educational resource and cultural hub, showcasing the tribe’s long history and contributions.

Agua Caliente Cultural Museum Exterior
photo courtesy: Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians

The nearly 10,000 sq. ft. museum is divided into five exhibition areas, each featuring a unique piece of Agua Caliente history.

Agua Caliente Museum floor_plan

Our Home introduces visitors to the Cahuilla Nation, which includes lands occupied by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and the eight other bands of Cahuilla Indians.

Creation and Migration uses 360-degree projection and immersive digital animation to tell the Agua Caliente Creation and Migration stories in a theater setting.

Our Land explores the ancestral lands of the Agua Caliente people in more depth. Scale replicas of the Indian Canyons, Tahquitz, and Chino, as well as the Tribe’s sacred mineral hot spring, Séc-he, can be found here, along with examples of Agua Caliente ceremonial practices, material culture, and artistic expression.

Change, Adaptation, Self-Determination takes the visitor through the Tribe’s more recent history, beginning with the arrival of Euro-American settlers in the 19th century and ending in the present day, through a visual timeline and numerous audiovisual elements.

Into the Future takes a step backward to focus on archaeology, specifically the artifacts discovered during Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza excavations, including the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum and the Spa at Séc-he. The manos, metates, and projectile points on display, carbon-dated as far back as approximately 8,000 years, demonstrate the Agua Caliente people’s longstanding occupation of this region.

Cultural Museum Exhibit

In keeping with the Tribe’s enduring mission to tell its story through this museum, individual Tribal member’s stories will appear throughout the permanent exhibition spaces.

Tour The Garden

The Oasis Trail is a permanent outdoor exhibition located in the middle of the Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza that includes native plants, rock formations, and water features inspired by those found in the Agua Caliente Indian Canyons and Tahquitz Canyon. Interpretive signs provide information about traditional plant usage demonstrate how the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians have thrived in this area.

Take Home The Culture

At the Cultural Museum Store, discover Native-made and sourced art, jewelry, books, clothing, accessories, and gourmet foods that highlight or are organically grown on Tribal lands.

Cultural Museum Store

It is located at 140 N Indian Canyon.  Open Tues. – Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm.

Indian Canyons

South of downtown Palm Springs, you will discover Indian Canyons  on your visit native Palm Springs journey, a pristine slice of the ancestral home of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, popular with nature lovers from around the world. From mountain-fed streams to lush palm groves to seasonal waterfalls, Indian Canyons has long been an oasis of natural beauty and resources. It provided the Tribe with more than enough raw materials to survive and thrive.

Respectfully visiting tribal lands is an incredible way to experience the Tribes history.

Credit: Mod Traveler

Documentation from 1824 indicates the Cahuilla people were cultivating corn, pumpkins, and melons in mid-winter, sustained by irrigation ditches bringing water from Andreas Canyon and nearby Tahquitz Canyon to the valley floor.

Palm Canyon

Palm Canyon is a 15-mile-long canyon that’s home to the world’s largest naturally occurring desert palm oasis. The canyon has around 2,000 California fan palms and 15 miles of trails, including a moderately graded footpath that winds down into the canyon. The canyon also has a Trading Post that sells hiking maps, refreshments, Indian art and artifacts, books, jewelry, pottery, baskets, and souvenirs.

The variety of trails throughout Indian Canyons means there’s something for hikers of all experience and energy levels. If you’re looking to make a whole day of it, the 15-mile-long Palm Canyon boasts an elevation gain of over 3,000 feet and connections to a dozen offshoot trails that wind you in any direction you wish to head.

Seasonal ranger-led interpretive hikes leave from the trading post.

Learn More: 7 Hikes In Palm Canyons

palm canyon fan palm grove

Murray Canyon

The first stretch of Murray Canyon is a pure, open desert with small rocks, low shrubs, and fuzzy cacti sprinkled throughout. Upon reaching the first trailhead, a secluded patch of towner California fan palms, or Washingtonia filifera, comes into view. You will hear the trick of Murray Canyon Creek in the winter. The 4-mile round-trip hike will have you crossing the stream at least 15 times throughout the trek. Take time to stop, rest, and behold your surroundings.

Seven Sisters comprises seven cascading pools of water. It is truly one of nature’s masterpieces and one of the all-time hiker favorites in the Indian Canyons.

Murray_Canyon_seven sisters waterfall
Credit: World of Waterfalls

Andreas Canyon

If you’re looking for something more mellow, Andreas Canyon also offers three trails, including the Andreas Canyon Trail. This one-mile loop offers wondrous views of jagged rock formations and California Fan Palm trees in a quieter setting. It’s the perfect spot to catch your breath and reflect.

Seasonal ranger-led interpretive hikes leave from the Andreas parking lot.

Indian Canyons -Andreas Canyon

The entrance Gate to Indian Canyons is at 38520 S. Palm Canyon Drive. Tickets can also be purchased at the Palm Springs Visitor Center, 2901 N. Palm Canyon. Hours change seasonally.

Hours are seasonal. No animals allowed.

Dress appropriately. It is recommended that you wear a large-brimmed hat and sleeves, apply lip balm, and use sunscreen. Bring at least one liter of water for every hour.

Learn More: Indian Canyons Trails Guide

Tahquitz Canyon

The Tribe’s neighboring Tahquitz Canyon offers majestic views of their 60-foot waterfall between two massive walls of rock. It is named after a Cahuilla shaman who was banished to a cave in the canyon after using his power selfishly to harm the Agua Caliente people.

tahquitz canyon waterfall

For thousands of years, Agua Caliente people called Tahquitz Canyon home. They thrived on the area’s abundance of wildlife, which included rabbits, squirrels, lizards, snakes, and quail. They also sought nourishment from honey mesquite beans that were ground in stone mortars

Tahquitz Canyon_trail

Tahquitz Visitor Center

Located at the canyon’s entrance, the Tahquitz Visitor Center offers educational and cultural exhibitions and features a display of artifacts, an observation deck, and a small theater room for viewing The Legend of Tahquitz video. When planning a trip, hikers must carry water, wear hiking boots or sturdy shoes, and dress appropriately for the weather conditions to protect themselves from the sun. The canyon has little shade and no drinking fountains.

Tahquitz Canyon Visitor Center

Visitors enjoy hiking along the 2-mile looping trail that leads to Tahquitz Falls and back to the Tahquitz Visitor Center. While exploring the canyon, hikers may see such birds as the phainopepla, the red-tailed hawk, or Costa’s hummingbird. Several snakes and lizards also make their home here, including the desert spiny lizard, the granite spiny lizard, and the king snake. There are also mammals; a fortunate few may catch a glimpse of a gray fox or even a bighorn sheep.

The canyon is sacred, and for the Tribe to open it to the public is a gift.

Tahquitz Canyon Visitor Center is located at 500 W. Mesquite Avenue. Hours are seasonal. They also offer range-led interpretive hikes that depart from the visitor center. No animals allowed.

Learn More: Welcome to the Tahquitz Canyon Visitor Center

Agua Caliente Hot Mineral Spring

The hot mineral springs are located at the corner of North Indian Canyon Drive and Tahquitz Canyon Way in downtown Palm Springs. The tribe cares for and protects this important cultural resource.

It is sacred to the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, who have soaked in the water for thousands of years. The springs are a natural resource that collects rainwater and snowmelt underground and emerges from the earth at a rate of 26 gallons per minute after 12,000 years. The water is heated to nearly 180 degrees by the earth in a chamber 8,000 feet below the surface. The springs contain many minerals, including bicarbonate, chloride, and sulfur, which are said to have health benefits.

The name “Palm Springs” comes from the springs and the grove of indigenous palm trees that surrounded them.

Spa at Séc-he

The Agua Caliente Hot Mineral Springs is the centerpiece of The Spa at Séc-he, a 73,000-square-foot spa complex owned and operated by the Agua Caliente tribe. The spa has 22 private mineral baths, a treatment menu, a cryotherapy chamber, float pod suites, and salt caves.

The name Se-he means “[the sound of] boiling water.”

spa at sec he lounge

Taking of the Waters

Soaking in these waters has proven benefits for physical and emotional wellness. The minerals have been shown to increase circulation, soothe skin conditions, reduce inflammation, and release tight muscles. Soaking in the individual hot baths may also increase feelings of relaxation and well-being.


The state-of-the-art day spa offers an unparalleled experience. It maintains its close connection to the land while providing a variety of pampering, relaxation, and wellness services. Relax and rejuvenate with a luxury spa treatment, detox in our sauna and steam room, or unwind in a private cabana.

Create Your Perfect Spa Day

Book a massage, body scrub or wrap, facial, or salon service. Go for a day pass to access the eucalyptus steam room, sauna, jacuzzis, salt cave, pools, lounge areas, and fitness center.

Take the Spirit To Go

Visit the Spa boutique for products that invigorate the sense, calm the spirit, and provide therapeutic benefits.

Grab A Bite

A delightful combination of health-forward and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine, Málmal Café at The Spa at Séc-he offers a robust menu for both spa guests and the public alike. A focus on wellness is not only prominent throughout the spa, but it also shines through the Málmal Café.  Their chef blends innovative recipes with fresh seasonal ingredients to result in bold flavor profiles.

 The Spa at Séc-he is located at 200 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way. It is open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Reservations are recommended: 866.777.3243.

You May Also Like:

Agua Caliente Hot Mineral Springs – A Story of Healing

The Waterfalls of Palm Springs Canyons

Agua Caliente Tribe: A Brief History

More From Guide

View All Posts
Happy Hour drinks

Palm Springs Happy Hour Guide

If you’re looking for a place to enjoy a refreshing cocktail or two after a…

Read More
Guests raising their glasses by the pool

Summer Fun Guide to Palm Springs

Welcome to Palm Springs, where the sun shines bright, and the fun never stops! While…

Read More
palm springs sign

Guide to North Palm Springs

By Barbara Beckley Located just north of the vibrant Uptown Design District, North Palm Springs…

Read More