“Where should I stay in Palm Springs?” People ask me that a lot. I like to think this is because I always look so well rested, wear color so well, and have such a glowing all-over-even tan. But it’s probably just because I’ve been out to the desert a zillion times, love it, and have stayed just about everywhere. Here’s my quickie guide for where to stay in Palm Springs and why — now updated (with photos) for the 2016 spring festival season!
For a romantic getaway: Man, the Korakia Pensione. I love this place. It’s super serene, although just off the Palm Canyon Drive main drag, and is comprised of a pair of villas, across the street from one another, with each room totally unique. Think Moroccan tea with gingersnaps in the evening, yoga in the morning, candles, string lights, fire pits, and classic movies projected on outdoor walls. Deeply, deeply evocative and romantic. I think I’m calling this as my favorite place to stay in the desert.
For similar reasons, try the Colony Palms Hotel. There’s a stunner of a central central courtyard with pool, and some casitas have private plunge pools too (OK, more like large bath tubs to my memory) on adjacent patios. I want to truck all the Purple Palm restaurant decor to my house and recreate it; the dining room is beyond gorgeous.
To be cool: As someone who is sleep challenged, I can’t understand why the Ace Hotel Palm Springs has white tarps on its windows against the blazing desert sun. The hipster design is something you will love or hate. You should know it’s not luxurious at the Ace, and it’s not quiet, but if you want to wear a wristband, hear a great DJ crew by the pool spin your jams like “My Boo” and “No Scrubs,” and you know what you’re getting yourself into, the Ace is right for you. Bonus: dog friendly. BTW, the best part of the Ace in my opinion may surprise you (it surprised me): the food. The hipster haven King’s Highway restaurant (which was formerly a Denny’s, natch) has incredible options, including many that are vegetarian and healthy. The kale salad with quinoa and dates is a total must.
For an acceptable mix of coolness and comfort: The Saguaro Palm Springs strikes a more balanced note between coolness (just look at the colors in the picture and tell me that doesn’t say “pool party”) and relatively more comfort. The rooms are far from fancy, but they’re adequately comfortable. There’s a scene by the pool and in the restaurants, which are both good.
I’m putting the Riviera Palm Springs in that same category. It’s a larger property with cool, recently revamped modernist design, and a more overall Vegas feel. The main pool is huge, with an amoeba shape and picturesque (and quintessential) mountain views. There are many deals to be found in the desert during the sweltering summer season (which I happen to love), but a couple year’s ago we found a particularly enticing $99 rate at the Riviera. Now that’s how to make one night out of town feel like a sumptuous mini vacation for under $100.
For total grown-up comfort: Unlike the above, La Quinta Resort and Spa is not at all hip or cool, but utterly classic and refined, IMO. Think 45 acres of gorgeous little casitas against a backdrop of vibrant flowers, palm trees, and striking mountains. The place has so much personality and Hollywood-hideaway history. Frank Capra wrote It’s a Wonderful Life (one of my all-time favorites) on property. Also dog friendly! We haven’t tried it yet but this is my next pick for a family getaway with the twins with all of its amenities and dearth of hipsters.
For a splurge: Here’s one of the few hotels in Palm Springs I’ve never stayed in because I’ve never justified the expense: the Parker Palm Springs. But I have visited the spa — pardon me, the “Yacht Club” — and it’s truly special. The gardens, the grounds — oh my gosh. I’ve attended several events here, including an incredible wedding, where I famously — infamously — congratulated the maid of honor on her pregnancy when she was not pregnant. Even in one of my least proud moments, I acknowledge the glamour, sophistication, serenity, luxury, and epic California cool of the place in which I so humiliated myself. (And karma would later get me bad.)
For bragging rights — if money is no object: Move over, Parker. Now the new L’Horizon Palm Springs is on the top of everyone’s lips. The property was built in 1952 by the architect William F. Cody, and was a Hollywood hotspot in the midcentury period. Now it’s completed a multimillion-dollar reimagining (by designer Steve Hermann) and includes 25 bungalows with private patios and outdoor showers, spread out over three acres. It’s top-level luxury in the desert, with a price point to match — and an air of intrigue. I have not stayed here, but did dine at the alfresco restaurant So.Pa, which was a delight (but I wonder how it feels to eat there during the blazing heat of summer?). And even from the restaurant and well-appointed but small lobby, it’s hard to get a glimpse of the walled lodging area. Luxury and privacy (and bragging rights): win.
For a sense of luxury at an (often) affordable price point: The Avalon Palm Springs (formerly known as the Viceroy until spring 2015) can be expensive, but often — unlike the Parker — you can find a deal here too. It’s got amazing mid-century-meets-Hollywood-Regency decor, and I have often found deals online for considerably less than $200 nightly. (I recall even one Memorial Day weekend we scored a nightly rate of $175 that included all sorts of extras — and that was during a holiday period.)
For when you want to ditch the car: Triada Palm Springs, opened last year from Marriott. It’s a Spanish hacienda-style property with 56 guest rooms in the prestigious Movie Colony neighborhood downtown. The concept is meant to play on the intersection of mind, body, soul; in Spanish, Triada means three interrelated parts. There’s California cuisine, and a very intimate pool. It’s comfortable, colorful, and very well located. It’s just around the corner, for instance, from the excellent restaurant, Birba — not to be missed.
For mid-century modern enthusiasts: The laid-back Del Marcos Hotel is a 1947 stunner designed by William F. Cody, the architect behind the easily recognized former Encounter restaurant structure at LAX. The 17 adults-only rooms include many original furnishings and accessories from the midcentury modern period. While I didn’t know about this place prior to our very special New Year’s visit — we’re not super-knowledgable architecture types — I now realize it’s quite well known among the design cognoscenti: Walking out to the car to grab a bag, I ran into an aficionado ex-boyfriend on an architecture driving tour, making a stop right in front to check out the facade! It’s a charming place.
For a bachelor/bachelorette party: The new Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs made its debut with an official grand opening party in March 2014 (though it had been open for several months prior). The Hard Rock replaces (and totally revamps) the former Hotel Zoso on Indian Canyon Drive — walking distance from basically everything. As you might expect from a Hard Rock property, there are multiple weekend DJ sets, both daytime by the pool and in the lobby at night. It’s just right for a bachelor or bachelorette party (we saw several of those on our recent visit, including bachelorette-party-line-do-not-cross novelty yellow tape on at least one hotel door, and penis-shaped-straw detritus in the lobby early Sunday morning).
But you know what? There were also some young families with kids, and some older folks as well (like properly older, in the Palm Springs retiree way). Just one more reason I love Palm Springs: There really is something for everyone.
If you have a big group: While a house is impractical for a couple or a small group (remember that you have to pay not just per night, but also for hidden fees such as cleaning, pool heating in non-summer months, etc., and it can really add up), it’s perfection for groups larger than four. Search sites like VRBO (on which you can find Casa Caliente, a low-key favorite in an impeccable modernist neighborhood walking distance to the Ace and Koffi, for breakfast and a mini-scene), or Vacation Palm Springs. Through the latter, we once rented a place that had a fire pit in the pool. So that obviously rules.
With a family: We found a lot of comfort, amenities in a stocked kitchen, and tons of room to spread out in the Westin Mission Hills Resort Villas (not actually in Palm Springs, but a good choice for families in the desert).
A photo posted by Alesandra (Alice) Dubin (@alicedubin) on
Closer to the heart of things, I didn’t even have any kids at the time, but I did stay at the Palm Canyon Resort for the sole reason that it was an affordable option during Coachella weekend, and I was actually pleasantly surprised. For the price, the no-frills accommodations are huge, and there’s a full kitchen with cooking utensils. No, there’s no cachet factor. But! The pool has a pair of water slides, and obviously I had to try out the big one for research purposes. A couple of times. Dude, it’s fun!
So go, enjoy, wear sunscreen, and make a stop at the Desert Hills Premium Outlets in Cabazon while you’re at it. Obviously.