Where to Book a Stay in Palm Springs for a Local Experience

With Old Hollywood charm and hipster chic vibes, Palm Springs has a timeless vibrancy
With Old Hollywood charm and hipster chic vibes, Palm Springs has a timeless vibrancy | © K. L. Howard / Alamy Stock Photo
Tim Rowland

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. Here’s where to stay in Palm Springs – from classic mid-century modern boutique hotels to wellness retreats and luxury resorts with all the amenities you could want.

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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.

Caliente Tropics Resort

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.

Amin Casa

Another boutique hotel with a fascinating past is Amin Casa, which may have hosted an infamous affair between the 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 Resort

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.

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, herbs de Provence, Lillet Rosé, and sea salt.

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.

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.

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 around 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.

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.

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.

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