Few places in the world can claim the sheer quantity of gay-friendly accommodations that Palm Springs, Calif. , does — you’ll find resorts, most of them clothing-optional and male-oriented, set throughout town. In recent years, many Palm Springs properties have undergone extensive, and impressive, upgrades.
Even better news for visitors interested in staying at a gay-friendly but not necessarily gay-exclusive property: A slew of historic boutique hotels and mainstream resorts have been given retro-chic makeovers, and many of these stylish pads have begun actively jockeying for a slice of the LGBT tourism pie. Several new spots have opened here, too. If you love Palm Springs, but you’re not so much a fan of clothing-optional, single-gender accommodations, you’ve got plenty of great gay-friendly choices.
Now for the tricky part: With so many great choices, it can be challenging deciding where to stay. With that in mind, here’s a cheat sheet detailing a good variety of the city’s best gay-exclusive and gay-friendly accommodations. Getting your spa on …
A couple of gay resorts in town have impressive, full-service spas among their amenities. The already-quite-successful men’s getaway, La Dolce Vita [(877) 644-4111, www.ladolcevitaresort.com], opened a small, high-quality spa in 2009 — here you can book any number of enticing treatments, including deep-hydration facials (definitely helpful in arid Palm Springs) and seaweed-infused body wraps. This friendly 20-room resort with two pools and airy, smartly furnished rooms is set along a quiet residential street, yet just a short walk from several great restaurants.
The plush East Canyon Resort [(877) 324-6835, www.eastcanyonps.com], which caters mostly to gay men but also welcomes women (it’s not clothing-optional) became the first gay resort in town to open a full-service spa — complete with facials, massage, body treatments and shiatsu. Since it opened several years ago, it’s been one of the most talked-about gay getaways in the West. This lushly landscaped Spanish Colonial complex has large, handsome rooms with Sony stereos with MP3 inputs, DVDs, large flat-screen TVs, top-quality linens and earthy desert tones.
Some gay guy’s faves
It’s sometimes tough to distinguish the many properties in the Warm Sands neighborhood, home to about a dozen gay resorts. Hacienda Warm Sands [(800) 359-2007, www.thehacienda.com] deserves consideration for being the best of them all. In-room accents, depending on the suite, include Saltillo-tile floors, Asian rugs, teak and bamboo furniture, double showers and custom kitchens with high-end appliances. Rates include some of the most lavish breakfasts and lunches of any resort in town. One of the friskier men’s resorts, nearby Inndulge [(800) 833-5675, www.pridenation.com/indulge] has 24 rooms and draws a lively, sexually open bunch (the 12-man hot tub is very popular). The staff is fun-loving, accommodations are spacious and bright, and the pool is one of the best in town.
A stellar choice in the San Lorenzo area, a few blocks south, is Santiago [(800) 710-7729, www.santiagoresort.com], whose 24 large rooms (furnished with contemporary light-wood furniture and VCR-DVD-CD players) overlook a huge rectangular pool — with a 12-man sauna. Another reliable spot along the same street is Chestnutz [(800) 621-6973, www.chestnutz.com], which has been going strong for nearly 15 years. This laidback spot with a loyal repeat clientele has a nice variety of rooms, some with full kitchens and private patios. The owners are highly knowledgeable about area dining and nightlife, and the extensive grounds are carefully maintained.
Friendly and enthusiastic owners operate over Terrazzo guesthouse [(866) 837-7996, www.terrazzo-ps.com], and they’ve made plenty of notable upgrades over the years. This is a laidback place with Southwestern-inspired decor, and the staff works hard to make guests feel pampered — a full complement of breakfast, lunch and snack foods is included. The only slight drawback is a bit of noise from the busy road outside. Another men’s spot that’s been gaining in popularity in recent years, in part thanks to the hard work of its efficient and friendly owners, is the Spanish-style Warm Sands Villas [(800) 357-5695, www.warmsandsvillas.com], which lies right in the heart of the neighborhood for which it’s named. The 27 attractively refurbished rooms have beautiful stonework, and some larger units have kitchens and fireplaces.
Cozier men’s properties
An intimate, relative newcomer to Palm Springs, the handsomely furnished and well-priced Casa Ocotillo [(800) 996-4108, www.casaocotillo.com] is a terrific little gem. The artfully restored 1930s hacienda has just six suites and bungalows, each with distinctive, individually furnished rooms. Offering a luxurious, romantic vibe with reasonable rates, this secluded yet centrally located getaway has such handy amenities as a fully stocked guest kitchen, a small but attractive pool and even some pet-friendly rooms.
Another terrific spot that’s also notable because it dates to the 1950s and ranks among the city’s most distinctive examples of mid-century modern architecture, Triangle Inn [(800) 732-7555, www.triangle-inn.com] has fun, helpful hosts and attracts a similarly easygoing and friendly clientele. In addition to eight beautifully furnished suites (some with full kitchens), there’s a four-bedroom house — a nice option for groups of friends planning a vacation together. Furnished with striking mid-century modern furniture done in bold, elegant colors, the Century Palms Springs [(800) 475-5188, www.centurypalmsprings.com] is close to the cluster of very social resorts in the Warm Sands area, but it’s a relatively quiet and private space. There’s a beautiful patio affording great views of the mountains, and rooms have such thoughtful touches as LATHER-brand bath amenities and flat-panel TVs with DVD players.
Where the women are
The majority of lesbians who vacation in Palm Springs choose a mainstream hotel, but the town does have a pair of superb women-oriented resorts. Upscale Casitas Laquita [(760) 416-9999, www.casitaslaquita.com] is a hip and attractive complex of Spanish Mission-inspired casitas — many with kiva-style fireplaces and all with full kitchens. The grounds are absolutely gorgeous, with an on-site barbecue and a small basement library-lounge where guests sometimes mingle. In-room spa treatments are available. Queen of Hearts [(888) 275-9903, www.queenofheartsps.com] is also a real stunner, and it’s a great value year-round. Again, Southwestern-style decor predominates, and rooms have tile floors, VCRs, hair dryers, fine linens and sumptuous furnishings; several have kitchens. The grounds are bright and striking, with orange trees, strings of white lights, and a pretty pool that’s bikini-top-optional.
Swank mainstream resorts
The talk of the town in 2009 among fans of posh resorts was the re-opening of the Palm Springs Riviera Resort & Spa [(866) 588-8311, www.psriviera.com], a smashingly stylish — some might say over-the-top — property that has undergone a spectacular transformation. Set across 24 acres and with several wings of dramatically decorated rooms and suites set around two large and scene-y pools, the Riviera draws plenty of bon vivants with its fabulous SpaTerre, which offers a full slate of Indonesian- and Thai-style treatments, and the hip Circa 59 Restaurant, which serves first-rate contemporary American food. The centrally located Renaissance Palm Springs [(760) 322-6000, www.marriott.com], slated to open early in 2010, is actually an elegant refurbishment of the former Wyndham Palm Springs (which remains open as a Wyndham until this time). This venerable property has hosted many gay parties in Palm Springs, but it’s been much in need of the makeover it will be receiving from Marriott Hotels, of which the Renaissance brand is a part.
Stylish boutique hotels
A whimsical and ultra-hip newcomer is the gay-popular Ace Hotel & Swim Club [(760) 325-9910, www.acehotel.com/palmsprings], part of a Portland, Ore.-based brand of offbeat lodgings. This distinctive property has all sorts of cool attributes, including spa and an expansive pool and sundeck (the Swim Club) and a funny restaurant (King’s Highway) and bar (the Amigo Room), where scenesters mingle over tasty modern-diner fare and groovy cocktails. Indeed, this youthful, social resort has been well-received by 20- and 30-somethings. The retro rooms are a trip, each with old-school turntables and vintage LPs from the ’60s and ’70s, low-slung beds and honor bars stocked with plenty of top-shelf booze and the unusual snacks.
Close to the gay nightlife along Arenas Road, the posh Hotel Zoso [(760) 325-9676, www.hotelzoso.com] is another notable design-minded property, its luxurious rooms done with such contemporary items as Herman Miller desk chairs, Bodum coffee presses and Aveda bath products. Guests can nosh on tasty food in mod restaurant Eatz and or sip wine in jazzy lounge Z Bar.
The Viceroy Hotel [(800) 237-3687, www.viceroypalmsprings.com] is Palm Springs’ chicest small hotel, a favorite of celebs (Barry Manilow often stops by the chichi white-on-white bar-restaurant, Citron). Many of the 70 units have full kitchens and hot tubs. It’s the kind of place that revels in its shag carpeting and retro-glamorous appearance. Orbit In [www.orbitin.com] comprises two funky properties, the Hideaway and the Oasis, both of which contain curvaceous, low-slung furnishings, many of them created by interior-design legends of the 1940s through ’60s. Guests can order facials, wraps and massage treatments from the extensive spa menu.
Andrew Collins covers gay travel for the New York Times-owned Web site About.com and is the author of “Fodor’s Gay Guide to the USA.” He can be reached care of this publication.