Desert Hot Springs is located at GR1.(33.960996, -116.508073)
The first homesteader in the area was Cabot Yerxa in the 1890s. His large adobe is now one of the oldest adobe structures in Riverside County, and houses Cabot's Old Indian Pueblo Museum, a state historical site after his death in 1947.
The town was founded by L. W. Coffee on July 12, 1941. The original town site was centered on the intersection of Palm Drive and Pierson Blvd and was only a square mile in area. Coffee chose the name Desert Hot Springs because of the area's natural hot springs caused by seismic activity.
Realtors arrived to speculate real estate appraisal of thousands of vacant lots, but the streets are laid out over a six square mile area. Over time, some homes are bought by sun-seeking retirees and the area incorporated into a city in 1963, with only 1,000 residents.
Desert Hot Springs experienced periods of dizzying growth in the 1980s and 1990s when most of the vacant lots were filled with new houses and duplex apartments. The city's population doubled in the 1980s and increased by 5,000 in the 2000 census.
In 1993, a 3-star hotel, Mirage Springs Hotel Resort opened in DHS. Despite good reviews and providing much needed financial revenue to DHS, Mirage Springs closed its doors in 1998. Another hotel, the Miracle Springs Resort and Spa, has since occupied the site.
A new high school opened in 1999, two new public parks and several country clubs either opened or were proposed. A hotel resort near the 40-year old Mission Lakes golf club is under construction.
The Desert Hot Springs Police Department was established in 1997, after residents complained to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department about being "underserved" by only a part-time deputy from the Palm Desert regional station.
As of the censusGR2 of 2000, there were 16,582 people, 5,859 households, and 3,755 families residing in the city. The population density was 275.4/km² (713.2/mi²). There were 7,034 housing units at an average density of 116.8/km² (302.5/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 68.18% white, 6.12% black or African American, 1.44% Native American, 1.97% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 16.39% from other races, and 5.83% multiracial. 40.40% of the population were Hispanic or Latino.
There were 5,859 households out of which 38.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.3% were married couples living together, 17.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.9% were non-families. 27.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.80 and the average family size was 3.45.
In Desert Hot Springs the age of the population was spread out with 33.3% under the age of 18, 9.7% from 18 to 24, 29.4% from 25 to 44, 16.5% from 45 to 64, and 11.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females there were 96.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.6 males. Desert Hot Springs has a reputation as an active adult community, where many retirees choose to live.
The median income for a household in the city was $25,987, and the median income for a family was $29,126. Males had a median income of $27,873 versus $21,935 for females. The per capita income for the city was $11,954. About 22.4% of families and 27.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 37.1% of those under age 18 and 15.0% of those age 65 or over, one of the highest for cities over 10,000 in southern California.
Several racial or ethnic groups live in Desert Hot Springs, the largest group are of Mexican and Central American ancestry. Ethnic areas such as the Korean American section of 8th Street and Cholla Drive, thousands of American Jews made the city their home, and according to the Desert Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the city's population is over 10 percent black with some sections of Desert Hot Springs being overwhelmingly black.  The city has a high proportion of Native Americans, most of whom are members of the Cahuilla tribe in proximity to the Agua Caliente Mission Band of Cahuilla Indians tribal board in Palm Springs.
Desert Hot Springs is home to a number of hot mineral water spas. During the 1950s and 1960s the town had over 80 various spa hotels, often called "spa-tels." From the late 1990s to the present a number of these boutique hotels have been completely renovated and revived. With their mid-century modern architecture they appeal to travellers who want a unique hotel / spa experience.