The Palm Springs Guide
Palm Springs was a wellness destination as far back as the early 1900s (all that dry heat), before evolving into a glamorous, Hollywood, Halston-wearing escape in the ’50s and ’60s. These days, both sides of its personality remain strong, as you can tell from its mind-boggling collection of healthy restaurants, preserved mid-century buildings, and retro diners. But the area continues to evolve every year as new generations discover the charms of this playground in the desert. Which is exactly why we’ve had our eye on the recent crop of hotel, restaurant, and store openings. Palm Springs (and nearby Joshua Tree, Pioneertown, and Yucca Valley) is unlike any other place in the world. It’s hard to believe that this convergence of past and present and style and wellness is only a couple hours from LA—depending on traffic, of course.
Ace Hotel & Swim Club701 E Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs | +1 760-325-9900
Palm Springs is the perfect embodiment of Ace’s casual, retro-cool brand. So it’s no surprise that this outpost of the hotel chain seems particularly at home. A former motor lodge from the ‘60’s, Ace took over and renovated the place in 2009. Rooms mirror the surrounding desert, outfitted in shades of khaki and ochre, with canvas-covered walls (try and snag one with an outdoor firepit and views of the San Jacinto Mountains). Two saltwater swimming pools are popular daytime hangouts, but when night falls, dinner at Kings Highway (a former Denny’s-turned hipster canteen) and a mezcal cocktail at the Amigo Room make for fun-filled night.
Arrive1551 N. Palm Canyon Dr., Vista Las Palmas | 760.507.1650
Arrive is the kind of place you dream about when you dream of Palm Springs. There's a bocce court, bikes to cruise around town, poolside cabanas for day, and firepits for night. Service is thorough but relaxed (you can request anything you need via text). And the building's industrial-cool steel, wood, and concrete features are starkly dramatic against the dry, sandy desert backdrop.
Colony Palms Hotel572 N. Indian Canyon Dr., Movie Colony | 760.969.1800
Situated just off Palm Springs’ main drag, this Moorish-themed hotel revolves around the main pool (trust us, it’s a good pool). It’s kind of a party hotel, but in a nice way, which means that while there’s generally always a scene, it’s not particularly loud and the hotel itself is really charming. While not officially kids-free, you won’t see any Swimmies in the pool. All of the guest rooms are lovely and done up in eye-pleasing neutrals and pops of print. That said, the freestanding Casita is a worthy splurge for romantically inclined couples—it's quite a bit more private and comes with an outdoor bathtub sized for two.
Hotel Lautner67710 San Antonio St., Desert Hot Springs | 760.832.5288
This part of the desert is a treasure trove of mid century architecture—Hotel Lautner gives guests a chance to call one of these gems home, even if its just for the span of a weekend. As the name suggests it’s the handiwork of renowned architect John Lautner and structurally, it’s more of a four-unit compound with a shared outdoor common area than a freestanding house or hotel (there’s no concierge on duty but maid service can be requested for extended stays). Taking in the surroundings, complete with succulent gardens, dipping pool, and fire pits, and bumming around the spectacular rooms (all are outfitted with vintage-modern furniture, kitchens, and a selection of architecture-themed books) is the extent of on-property activities, which is pretty great in its own way. There’s also an event space attached that can easily fit 200 or so people making it the ideal spot for a wedding.
Korakia Pensione257 S. Patencio Rd., Historic Tennis Club | 760.864.6411
It feels more like Tangier than Palm Springs at this family-run pensione that channels the rustic romance of Morocco and the Mediterranean. Villas are filled with hand-carved wooden furniture, with lemon and olive trees right outside your window. Fountains, fire pits, and colored glass lanterns decorate the outdoor courtyard where group yoga and evening screenings of old movies happen (there are no TVs or phones otherwise). Ask for the Moroccan villa.
La Serena Villas339 S. Belardo Rd., Historic Tennis Club | 844.932.8044
Between the big beds covered in the softest Frette linens, the fireplaces, and the private outdoor patios with firepits and clawfoot tubs, it’s easy to never leave your bungalow. But then you’d miss out on the freshest watermelon salad and ahi bruschetta at Azucar, the hotel’s poolside restaurant. Or a reflexology massage at the spa. And it’s all a short walk from Palm Canyon Drive, where you’ll want to spend at least a couple hours exploring the shops, cafés, and galleries.
L’Horizon Hotel and Spa1050 E. Palm Canyon Dr., Deepwell Estates | 760.318.2781
Originally built in 1952 by William F. Cody, L’Horizon began as the home of Hollywood producer Jack Wrather (of Lassie and The Lone Ranger fame), who used to host Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable, among others. L’Horizon is considered one of Cody’s finest works, and a lasting example of Palm Springs’ 1950s heyday. In 2015, the property opened as the region’s swankiest hotel, reimagined by its new owner, LA-based designer Steve Hermann. Hermann spent two years renovating the interiors, modernizing everything along the way—and the result is an open-air spa and restaurant and twenty-five bungalows that recall the original glamour but don’t feel stuck in a mid-century time warp. Each bungalow is outfitted with exposed post-and-beam wood ceilings, stone walls, custom Italian furnishings, wide plank floors, and a marble bathroom with a rain shower—in other words, the best of the past and present.
Parker Palm Springs4200 E. Palm Canyon Dr., Canyon Sands | 760.770.5000
Before you set up camp by one of the resort’s retro-glam pools, be sure to explore the winding pathways and sprawling grounds of this desert oasis: You’ll find outdoor fire pits, hammocks, cricket courts, and the Gene Autry Villa (the cowboy crooner’s former residence is always available, for a sizable fee). Much like the rest of the property, each of the 131 guest rooms and 14 suites are decked out in color-happy accessories, geometric throw pillows, and other mid-century elements, courtesy of Jonathan Adler’s interior decor skills. The PSYC Spa and its Moroccan-themed indoor pool (no kids allowed) are the ideal sanctuary for whiling away a rainy afternoon with the hotel’s signature Pimm’s Cup in hand.
Sparrows Lodge1330 E. Palm Canyon Dr., South Palm Springs | 760.327.2300
Just like so many Palm Springs properties, this lodge has lived many lives before it’s most recent incarnation as a beautifully-restored 20-room retreat. The Sparrows is the sort of place where the salt-water pool isn’t much of a scene but rather a serene spot to work your way through a fat stack of magazines. In lieu of a restaurant there’s the barn, which serves as a communal breakfast area and a bar-slash-hangout the rest of the day. There are no phones or TVs in the rooms, but there are Swiss army blankets, rain showers, and rustic furniture. At night, guests tend to gravitate to the fire pit for drinks and conversation.
The Amado1821 E. Amado Rd., Baristo | 760.537.0053
Photographer Jaime Kowal is planting deep roots in Palm Springs. In addition to Ernest Coffee and Bootlegger Tiki, she’s also the proprietress of The Amado, a five-unit boutique hotel in the heart of town. After putting the property through an extensive top-to-bottom renovation, she decorated each apartment-style suite (private kitchens, vintage fireplaces, and pool access are standard) with one of the five elements in mind. Overall, the aesthetic is minimal with jolts of Southwestern patterns and photography thrown in for good measure.
The Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage68900 Frank Sinatra Dr., Rancho Mirage | 760.321.8282
The Ritz is by far the largest—and definitely the fanciest—place to stay in Palm Springs. The truth is, unless you’re looking to explore the town or take a drive to Joshua Tree, there’s really no need to leave the hotel grounds. There are three kickass pools and inviting little nooks to take in the surroundings, you can find a really good steak and insane views of the desert at the Edge Steakhouse, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better Sunday brunch spread than the one at State Fare Kitchen. And of course, there’s the Ritz Kids club to keep the littles occupied so you can clock in some blissful spa time.
Twin Palms a.k.a. Sinatra HouseMovie Colony | 877.318.2090
Built in 1947 to serve as Frank Sinatra’s weekend retreat (according to lore, he paid for the house and architect E. Stewart Williams’ services with his first big paycheck from MGM), Twin Palms has been lovingly transformed into a four-bedroom vacation rental. While the original recording studio, piano-shaped pool, and scattered Sinatra memorabilia are the main draw, the property itself is a pillar of mid-century architecture. The kitchen has been upgraded with brand new Viking appliances and modern amenities are all accounted for, but the mid-century furnishings and famous cracked sink (a byproduct of one of Sinatra’s and Ava Gardner’s many marital tiffs) do a good job of preserving the home’s history.
The Rowan100 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Midtown | 760.904.5015
The Rowan is right in the thick of downtown’s bustle. It’s convenient when you want to step out and have a big range of dinner options—though one of the best meals in town is right here at its restaurant, 4 Saints. Small plates with a Mediterranean bent are the work of chef Stephen Wambach and include gorgeously plated dishes like Fish in the Forest (kampachi, wild juniper, matsutake mushrooms, and baby leeks). And the rooms are nothing to sneeze at either: they all offer sweeping views of the San Jacinto Mountains thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows.