Where to Stay in Palm Springs for a Local Experience

From Old Hollywood charm to hipster chic, Palm Springs has timeless vibrancy
From Old Hollywood charm to hipster chic, Palm Springs has timeless vibrancy | © K. L. Howard / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Tim Rowland
4 January 2021

Palm Springs is that rare example of a resort town whose first rush of popularity – as a haven for the stars of Old Hollywood – may have passed, but has retained the best features of that period while managing to move with the times. It’s now a place where old snowbirds rub shoulders with bearded hipsters, and there’s a vibrant LGBTQ scene. The variety of places to stay is great too, from classic mid-century modern boutique hotels to wellness retreats and luxury resorts with all the amenities you could want.

Hotel California

It really does feel like you’ve stepped into an Eagles song at Hotel California, with its adobe-effect walls, terracotta roofing and old Spanish-mission vibe. The common areas are all tiles, water fountains and local flora, with a heated pool and hot tub thrown in too. There are only 14 rooms, so it’s quiet, and you can throw together your own food in the communal kitchen, fully stocked with provisions, pots, pans and cutlery. There are also two gas-fired barbecues for grilling, and fire pits to gather around and enjoy your dinner.
Everything you need to know

At a Glance

Free WiFi
Concierge services
Terrace

Two Bunch Palms

This spa hotel has a really interesting history – it is rumored to have once been owned by Al Capone, hence the two Capone suites, which have private teak-and-concrete soaking tubs in which you can ponder the irony of a wellness retreat once being the preserve of America’s most notorious gangster. It’s also built on a spot where in 1857 a settler is said to have discovered natural springs, and in those waters you can bathe – it’s been flowing beneath the surface for 600 years and a high lithium content makes it therapeutic and mood enhancing, apparently. Or you can just chill in a hammock slung between two palm trees.
Everything you need to know

At a Glance

Free WiFi
Breakfast available (surcharge)
Restaurant
In-room accessibility
Full-service spa
Conference space
24-hour front desk
Multilingual staff
Terrace
Bar/lounge
Smoke-free property

Caliente Tropics Hotel

This has to be one of the most fun places to stay in Palm Springs, with an endearing tiki aesthetic, which means cabanas, outsized umbrellas and lots of tropical cocktails at The Reef Bar – try the Hemingway Daiquiri with Maraschino liqueur, Admiral Nelson’s rum and a splash of grapefruit. It all happens around the giant pool and lawn area, which is really sociable, and there’s also a 12-person jacuzzi shaped like a clover, from which you can thank your lucky stars as you take in the view of the San Jacinto Mountains.
Everything you need to know

At a Glance

Free WiFi
Outdoor pool
In-room accessibility
Wheelchair accessible (may have limitations)
Conference space
Concierge services
24-hour front desk
Multilingual staff
Terrace
Bar/lounge
Smoke-free property

Amin Casa

Hotel, Luxury
Map View
271293809
Courtesy of Amin Casa Palm Springs / Booking.com
Another boutique hotel with a fascinating past is Amin Casa, which may have hosted an infamous affair between former owner and Hollywood actress Gloria Swanson and Joseph Kennedy – father of President John F Kennedy. Stay in Swanson’s original residence, in a pool studio suite or one of seven private bungalows. The whole compound hosts up to 14 adult guests at a time, who can enjoy beautifully kept gardens and the timeless art deco style of the living quarters.

Desert Isle of Palm Springs

This resort-style hotel may be situated on a busy crossroads off East Palm Canyon Drive, the main highway running north-south through Palm Springs, but as soon as you step inside you know you’ve found a place of rest from the desert heat. One of the pools and an adjoining hot tub, from which water bubbles up like a hot spring, are surrounded by desert rocks to give a real oasis feel. All of the one- and two-bedroom condos have great mountain views and there’s table tennis shaded by a palm-frond roof.
Everything you need to know

At a Glance

Free WiFi
Outdoor pool
Fitness facilities
Smoke-free property

Sands Hotel & Spa

There are few more striking hotels in Palm Springs when it comes to decor, with a riot of patterned tiles offset by flamingo pinks and vivid greens, all put together by interior designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard. The aesthetic is a combination of classic mid-century Palm Springs and Moroccan influence, right down to the ornate fabric headboards on the beds. Flying the flag for everything pink is the Pink Cabana restaurant, which boasts some great cocktails – try the Pink Lemonade with Absolut Elyx vodka, herbes de provence, Lillet Rosé and sea salt.
Everything you need to know

At a Glance

Free WiFi
Outdoor pool
Restaurant
In-room accessibility
Concierge services
24-hour front desk
Dry cleaning/laundry service
Terrace
Bar/lounge
Smoke-free property

Ace Hotel & Swim Club

The Ace Hotel is a lesson in how to take something dangerously uncool – a beaten-up old motel with a Denny’s attached – and turn it into something seriously cool – a retro, desert modern hangout where hipsters can happily congregate. The Amigo Room bar is great fun and there are old vinyl records in some of the rooms – and record players on which to spin them. Beautiful Tahquitz Canyon – a park and gardens with a waterfall, rock art, plants, wildlife and a visitor center – is nearby.
Everything you need to know

At a Glance

Free WiFi
Breakfast available (surcharge)
Restaurant
Full-service spa
Express check-out
24-hour front desk
Limo or Town Car service available
Fitness facilities
Multilingual staff
Bar/lounge

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  • The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage

    Palm Springs isn’t short of hotels with great views but the astonishing vistas of the Coachella Valley from the Rancho Mirage are tough to beat. You can tuck into a hunk of beef at The Edge Steakhouse and take in the sunset through floor-to-ceiling windows 650ft (198m) above the desert floor – try the chef’s signature dish of chorizo chickpeas sautéed and served with vegetables, toasted saffron and paprika, or any of the steaks aged in-house for 21 to 65 days. There’s also a luxury spa, two pools and great hiking nearby on the Bump and Grind and Hopalong Cassidy trails.
    Everything you need to know

    At a Glance

    Free WiFi
    In-room accessibility
    Full-service spa
    Express check-out
    Conference space
    24-hour front desk
    Dry cleaning/laundry service
    Terrace
    Bar/lounge
    Smoke-free property

    Palm Mountain Resort & Spa

    This resort is almost right at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains and manages to feel secluded while being within walking distance of the heart of downtown. That means the Cactus to Clouds hiking trail is within walking distance, and so is the main east-west drag of East Tahquitz Canyon Way. Inside the grounds, you can gather round a fire pit in a wicker chair, shade yourself from the sun beneath a giant, bright-orange parasol, or enjoy a treatment at the spa – try the Desert Clay Body Mask with a massage of rehydrating shea body butters to finish.
    Everything you need to know

    At a Glance

    Outdoor pool
    In-room accessibility
    Wheelchair accessible (may have limitations)
    24-hour front desk
    Dry cleaning/laundry service
    Multilingual staff
    Terrace
    Smoke-free property

    Movie Colony Hotel

    Right in the Movie Colony neighborhood, this minimalist boutique hotel, opened in 1935, is the perfect place to stay if Old Hollywood glamor is what you’re looking for. It has classic desert modernist architecture, courtesy of one of the main protagonists of the style, Albert Frey. The former homes of yesteryear stars such as Cary Grant, Jack Benny and Dinah Shore are all within walking distance. There’s a complimentary continental breakfast in the courtyard bar of bagels, fresh seasonal fruit, juices and French-pressed coffee and some great views of the San Jacinto Mountains too.
    Everything you need to know

    At a Glance

    Free WiFi
    Outdoor pool
    In-room accessibility
    Wheelchair accessible (may have limitations)
    Concierge services
    Smoke-free property

    Alcazar Palm Springs

    This is a great value boutique hotel with a minimal and modernist feel inside Spanish revival-style walls. Formally known as the Pepper Tree Inn before undergoing a redesign, Alcazar opened in 2011 and is now a staple of the Uptown Design District, where you can find great antique stores, shop for designer dresses or contemporary art, high-end furnishings or dine at a trendy restaurant. One of the hippest is Cheeky’s, attached to Alcazar, where you can get a knockout brunch – try the roasted yam and maple sausage hash with leeks, mushroom and poached eggs.
    Everything you need to know

    At a Glance

    Free WiFi
    Outdoor pool
    Breakfast available (surcharge)
    Restaurant
    In-room accessibility
    Concierge services
    Multilingual staff
    Terrace
    Bar/lounge
    These recommendations were updated on January 4, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.