Thermal is a small unincorporated community located approximately 25 miles southeast of Palm Springs and about 9.5 miles north of the Salton Sea. Although one can find sunny skies most days, residents occasionally endure strong winds and sizzling summer temperatures well above the 100 degree mark. The community's elevation is about one hundred twenty feet below mean sea level. It is inside Area code 760 and is in ZIP Code 92274. It lies along the Yuma Subdivision of the Union Pacific Railroad. Area crops include citrus orchards and date palms. Recent development and housing tracts from Coachella has spread out onto the open spaces of Thermal, Mecca and the highly affluent exurb of Vista Santa Rosa shares the same zip code with the working-poor community, but hasn't affected real estate prices.
Thermal and nearby Mecca, California are two towns with both seasonal and permanent residential growth. Almost all the population of the region are Latino, most of them are employed in agricultural and manual labor jobs. 4,000 people live in Duroville, a legally dubious trailer park on the Torres-Martinez Indian Reservation. 
The region is served by a two-lane Expressway. State Route 86/111 is a modern transportation corridor that serves as a fruit shipping and international trucking route to connect with Interstate 10 in Indio.
Arabia, California once existed along the route of present-day SR111 between Avenue 60 and Avenue 61. The town had a post office in the early 1900s.
There are several schools in Coachella Valley Unified School District in and near the community. These include schools in Salton City, 20 miles south of Coachella, in Imperial County, California. In Thermal, they are Westside Elementary (K-6), Oasis Elementary (K-8), Mountain Vista Elementary (K-6), Saul Martinez Elementary (K-3), Mecca Elementary (4-8), Edward Park Elementary (K-5), Toro Canyon Middle (6-8), Bobby Duke Middle (6-8), John Kelley Elementary (K-8), Coachella Valley High (9-12), Cesar Chavez Elementary (K-6), Cahuilla Desert Academy (Junior High: 7th and 8th grade), Desert Mirage High School (9-12), West Shores High School (9-12) and La Familia Continuation High (9-12).