No city in the world has a greater number of gay (often clothing-optional) resorts than the Southern California desert community of Palm Springs, which is quite popular year-round but truly bustles from late autumn through spring. Most accommodations in Palm Springs are well-kept and quite nice, but it can still be hard choosing among so many options. Here's a list (in alphabetical order) of some of the top gay-exclusive and gay-friendly resorts in this beautiful desert oasis.
Opened on the site of a fabulously tragic circa-1960s former Howard Johnson's, the unabashedly hip Ace Hotel (701 E. Palm Canyon Dr., 760-325-9900) has quickly earned a reputation as among the most gay-popular mainstream lodgings in Palm Springs. Part of a small but growing empire of retro-trendy, mid-priced hotels (there are sister properties in New Orleans, Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, London, Panama, Pittsburgh, and New York City), this sleek, eco-conscious, whimsically decorated property has 170 rooms (many with private patios and fireplaces), a cushy spa, glam swimming pool and sun deck, cool diner-style restaurant, and eclectic Amigo Room bar. Furnishings pay homage to the hotel's mid-century modern aesthetic. The clientele skews toward young revelers, and this well-located property is also pet-friendly.
The well-established if rather dated Pepper Tree Inn, which is right in the heart of downtown Palm Springs and close to gay nightlife and restaurants, underwent a complete rebuild to become the Alcazar (622 N. Palm Canyon Dr., 760-318-9850). It's a beautiful property now, its 34 rooms done with a sleek, minimalist chic - white walls and floors, wall-mounted flat-screen TVs, angular contemporary desks and furnishings. The mid-priced property has a wide range of room configurations, with compact and affordable courtyard rooms to spacious two-bedroom suites. A big plus here are the two outstanding restaurants up front: Birba serves sophisticated small plates and has a fine selection of cocktails and wine (and a beautiful patio). And Cheeky's, where I've enjoyed some of my favorite Palm Springs meals, serves lunch and - quite famously - breakfast. Even if you don't stay at this gay-welcoming mini-resort, be sure to have breakfast at Cheeky's (don't miss the "bacon flight" sampler).
Among the men's clothing-optional resorts in the Warm Sands area, All World's Resort (526 S. Warm Sands Dr., 760-323-7505) is a consistent favorite with guys - both singles and couples - looking for action, or simply wishing to socialize. This expansive, nicely landscaped property (it actually comprises four smaller, connected buildings) with a pair of Jacuzzis, four pools, private cabanas, a steam room, sauna, community shower, and a nicely maintained and well-utilized play area (with sling and glory-hole booths) gives the facility a steamy "gay sauna" vibe that's much appreciated by both overnight guests and those dropping by to play just for a few hours (both day passes, good from 10 til 5, and night passes, available on Fri.–Sun. from 5 pm until 5 am, are available). The Sunday pool parties - with DJ and go-go guys - are a big hit. If meeting other guys and being in the center of the action is important to you, book one of the rooms around the central pool (in the 100s). Other units each encircle smaller pools and provide a more intimate experience. Room rates are moderate for the simplest rooms, but suites with in-room Jacuzzis and kitchen facilities are also available, and the friendly and welcoming staff has done a nice job in recent years sprucing things up and keeping both public areas and guest rooms super-clean.
This bearish, relatively new compound on the north side of downtown, convenient to the hip shops and restaurants of the Uptown Design District and within walking distance of gay nightlife, occupies a nicely restored Mid-Century Modern compound with 11 attractive, uncluttered rooms set around a large sundeck, pool, and hot tub. As the name suggests, bears are certainly a target market, but gay men of all persuasions and styles are made to feel very welcome here. Rooms at the Bearfoot Inn (888 N. Indian Canyon Dr., 760-699-7641) have dark-tile floors, platform beds with top-notch linens, climate control as well as ceiling fans, small desks, and fun zebra-print chairs; the expansive suites have full kitchens and are popular for longer stays. Guests receive complimentary passes to WorkOUT Gym.
Like All World's Inn Exile, CCBC in Cathedral City, and Vista Grande, Canyon Club Palm Springs (960 N. Palm Springs Dr., 760-778-8042) is a favorite of guys seeking a resort with a "gay bathhouse" vibe - it's an ideal fit if you're looking to make new friends (and, ideally, to sleep with them). This is a large resort with a central location on the north side of downtown, by the city's increasingly hip Uptown Design District. There are 32 rooms plus a good array of social areas, ranging from a 52-foot pool and a hot tub that as many as 16 happy guys can cram into to a steam room and dry sauna - the shaded lawn and cruise-y gardens are a nice feature, too. The location is perfect if you want to be within easy walking distance of local gay bars, restaurants, and shopping, and the management has given the place some much-needed upgrades in recent years (especially in terms of bedding and guest-room furniture), although the property could still use some TLC. It's a solid option with a high sexual energy, and the rates are fair, meaning that your odds of meeting younger guys who can't afford some of the fancier places in town are pretty good here. Day passes are available, and they sometimes offer discounts.
Palm Springs doesn't, at the moment, have any gay bathhouses or sex clubs. This is in part because a few of the racier men's resorts offer the experience that a bathhouse might, with the CCBC (68300 Gay Resort Dr., Cathedral City, 760-324-1350) - a 10- to 15-minute drive east of PS in the city of Cathedral City - among the most popular. Cathedral City, which during Prohibition developed a reputation for discreet speakeasies and has over the years enjoyed lax zoning laws that have encouraged the opening of gay nightspots and cruise-y resorts, is less of a hub of gay carousing than it was in the '90s, but there are still a few gay bars around (Barracks, Digs, Studio One 11). CCBC, which is just a block off Hwy. 111 on a private dead-end street called "Gay Resort Drive," is - in fact - the last remaining of "Cat City's" gay resorts. The largest clothing-optional men's compound in California, the resort has about 45 rooms that range from fairly basic to quite spacious (a few larger suites have kitchens); there are also spaces for tent-camping (and you can rent your own tent). These aren't overly fancy digs, and the rates - which are pretty comparable to or only slightly less than a number of more upscale men's resorts in Palm Springs proper - reflect the fact that most regulars who stay here do so for the copious opportunities to meet other dudes and get laid. Day passes, which are good for any 12-hour period and cost from $10 to $25 depending on the day/event, bring plenty of cruise-y guys onto the property. Amenities include a large central pool and hot tub, steam room and sauna, maze-like and dungeon-inspired play areas, a waterfall, "love grotto," and plenty of other nooks and crannies for hooking up. CCBC caters to a predominantly over-40 crowd and is especially popular with the bearish set. It has its critics, but plenty of loyal guests come back here year after year.
Chaps Inn (312 E. Camino Monte Vista, 760-327-8222) is an economical, comparatively intimate men's resort catering to significantly to bears, leather guys, and the like. You're not going to encounter the big crowd here that you will at CCBC in Cathedral City or any of the other properties that cultivate an energetic sexual vibe, but Chaps does have some of the facilities you'd want of a bathhouse - a gazebo by the pool with a sling and a Saint Andrew's cross, a steam room (you can also rent a sling for your room - they even have hooks for them in the ceiling). There are 10 simply but attractively furnished guest rooms and the British expat owners are personable and helpful.
It's the many little details that the management tends to that makes Desert Paradise (615 S. Warm Sands Dr., 760-320-5650) such a hit with fans, including the loyal contingent of repeat guests. The 14-room, mid-priced spread in the heart of Warm Sands, close to gay bars and restaurants, has a decidedly whimsical, almost campy sensibility - rooms are named for leading divas (Barbra, Cher, Judy, et al), and immaculately kept, furnished with high-end pieces and useful amenities (wall safes, wet bars, cordless phones, and so on). The rooms open around a decent-size pool, but you'll also find a dry sauna, steam room, fire pit, guest computer stations, fireplace hot tub, outdoor garden shower, and gurgling fountains everywhere you look. It's the definitive gay Palm Springs resort of fun-seekers.
Off on its own in a northern downtown residential neighborhood, away from most of the other gay resorts, East Canyon (288 E. Camino Monte Vista, 760-320-1928) also stands out because it's the only men's property with a full-service spa - and this is no mere massage room but a small but complete spa with the finest equipment and trained technicians. East Canyon is elegant and low-keyed. It's not clothing-optional, and it eschews the cruise-y vibe common in Palm Springs, making it a perfect place to quietly hideaway for a weekend or come with a partner for a romantic getaway. Rooms are done in muted earth tones, with lots of space to back, and top-of-the-line amenities. It's one of the pricier gay options in PS (although not by a significant factor), and the steady stream of happy repeat guests suggests its worth it.
Built in the 1940s by none other than Howard Hughes, and restored to its graceful Spanish Colonial glamor, El Mirasol (525 S. Warm Sands Dr., 760-327-5913) is one of the longest-running gay resorts in the country, having opened in 1975 in what's now the largest cluster of clothing-optional men's properties in town, Warm Sands. Comprising a pair of neighboring compounds with elegantly furnished bungalows and studios, and some of the prettiest landscaping of any resort in the neighborhood, El Mirasol's secluded and romantic - a great choice for couples. Tiled walkways, which twinkle with lights in the evening, connect gardens, fountains, two pools, lanais with fireplaces, a 10-man Jacuzzi, and a eucalyptus steam rooms.
A reliable, mid-priced option along San Lorenzo Road, Escape (641 San Lorenzo Rd., 760-325-5269), formerly known as Chestnutz, is run by owners Mark and Greg, who have outfitted the compound with attractive patio furniture, sleek Mid-Century furnishings in the spacious rooms (some with kitchens), and other thoughtful touches. Escape fills a nice niche by providing personal service, including an afternoon social hour and Continental breakfast, and creating a vibe that's equally relaxed and social - it's a good option if you're looking to meet other guys (most guests prefer to go without clothing around the grounds), but just as inviting for couples seeking seclusion. A 15-man hot tub and good-size pool round out the amenities.
Intimate, classy, and with the finest personal attention of any gay resort in Palm Springs, the Hacienda at Warm Sands (586 S. Warm Sands Dr., 760-327-8111) lies in the heart of the gay-resort district for which it is named. A well-trained, easygoing staff tends to guests every need, and the perks are many: beautiful complimentary breakfast and lunch spreads, a self-service laundry with free supplies, an extensive library with books and periodicals - there's even a pillow menu, so that you'll get a great night's sleep in your cushy room. The decor is posh yet casual enough for relaxation - think French doors with plantation shutters, Asian furniture, two-man showers (in top suites). The grounds are meticulously kept, with tile walkways, two pools, and a gurgling Spanish fountain.
The former Zoso morphed recently into the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs (150 S. Indian Canyon Dr., 760-325-9676). Long a favorite option for many gay men and lesbians who appreciate the property's downtown location, the hotel is just steps from the gay-bar and restaurant action along Arenas Road and nearby blocks. Compared with other Hard Rock hotels, this 163-room property is rather boutique-y. Rooms are have been decadently revamped with white-leather headboards, purple walls and accents, 42-inch flat-screen TVs, and rock-themed artwork - they're big, too, with standard rooms at nearly 500 square feet (and all have balconies). There's also a casual but eye-catching cafe called Sessions and a lively if touristy bar and lounge. The rebranding has definitely given this property (pictured here as the Zoso) a more vibrant and youthful look, and Hard Rock is working hard to court gay visitors to Palm Springs, although it's not clear yet how popular the property will be with the LGBT set, given all the competition.
This steamy compound in the heart of the Warm Sands neighborhoods makes no apologies about catering heavily to guys on the make (couples, singles...groups). The 24-room INNDulge (601 Grenfall Rd., 760-327-1408) is super-cruisy, but it's also well-maintained, with a respectful and fun staff, and with a bright, clean, and sunny vibe. You could stay here without feeling any pressure to socialize, but if it's quiet you want, you might want to choose another property. Rooms here have rustic pine and wrought-iron furnishings, but guests tend to spend a lot of time sunning on the grounds and around the pool, working out in the gym, and making new friends among fellow guests. Rates are about average for gay PS resorts, a good value considering the above-average accommodations and very fun ambiance.
Kimpton Palomar Palm Springs (Desert Fashion Plaza, 123 N. Palm Canyon Dr., 800-546-7866) is expected to open sometime in early 2017. You can view some dramatic renderings of this very cool-looking hotel here.
With a swanky Italian theme and extensive, beautiful grounds in PS, the 20-unit La Dolce Vita (1491 Via Soledad, 760-325-2686) is a fine destination for social butterflies - there are myriad places to mingle, including two pools, two hot tubs, an outdoor gym, a steam room, and landscaped paths and walkways. Even better, La Dolce Vita has a beautiful full-service spa offering a wide range of treatments. It's in a quiet residential area, a short walk from downtown dining. There are two distinct "wings", and many rooms have French doors leading out the pool. Private patios, Aveda bath products, and high-quality robes and linens are further enhancements, and the friendly owners, Ken and Tim, continue to make all sorts of great upgrades, including platform beds, flat-screen HDTVs, new furnishings, and eco-friendly heating and cooling. Terrific all-around.
The only reason this terrific, wonderfully original small hotel doesn't rank higher on this list is that although it's extremely gay-friendly, the Orbit In (562 W. Arenas Rd., 760-323-3585) doesn't have quite a popular a gay following as many other properties in town. But if you're fine with that, or even prefer it, this is a stunning place whose vibe and decorating provide a stylish, authentic window into mid-century modernism - all 9 rooms are done with exquisite pieces designed by the likes of Eames, Noguchi, and Saarinen. Perks are many, including free use of cruiser bicycles, in-room kitchen or bars, lovely saltwater pools, and a full range of spa services.
One of the swankiest addresses in the Palm Springs region, the Parker Palm Springs (4200 E. Palm Canyon Dr., 760-770-5000) has long been a favorite haunt of celebs - it was even featured on its own Bravo reality TV show a few years back, Welcome to the Parker, as well as being a setting for an episode of Kathy Griffin's My Life on the D-List. It's definitely a striking resort, from the lobby decorated with retro-chic furnishings and a pair of knights' suits of armor, to guest rooms with sheepskin rugs, modern art, and distinctive furniture designed by Jonathan Adler. A great thing about the Parker is the winding paths that pass beneath soaring palms and high hedges - it gives the entire property a sense of mystery and exclusivity. The spa here is exceptionally lovely, and the open-air Norma's restaurant is one of the favorite breakfast/brunch venues in the desert, just renowned for such over-the-top decadent treats as lobster frittata topped with 10-ounces of Sevruga caviar (for $1,000), and wonderfully rich foie gras brioche French toast. The playfully seductive Mister Parker's restaurant is a nice choice for cocktails or dinner. A drawback is that it's on the far-east side of town, not within walking distance of dining or nightlife (about a 10-minute drive).
Purchased relatively recently by a gay couple, Tony Gangloff and Santo Aloisi, Posh Palm Springs (530 E. Mel Ave., 760-992-5410) is a mainstream boutique resort that you might recall from a much earlier incarnation when the property was the men's retreat the Desert Bear. Posh was sold, rebranded, and extensively renovated and now bears little resemblance to the previous resort. It caters to adults of all persuasions, gay and straight, and rooms are attractively furnished with modern tile work and art deco accents that befit its 1930s architecture. There's a large rectangular pool and lanai, at which a hot breakfast is served each morning and cocktails and appetizers are offered in the afternoon. Bars and restaurants are a 15- to 30-minute walk from this upscale spot on the north end of downtown.
Long a prominent host during such major GLBT events as White Party and Dinah Shore back when it was the Wyndham, this Renaissance Resort (888 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, 760-322-6000) is looking better than ever these days following major renovations, with smart, contemporary furnishings in the guest rooms and suites, an impressive full-service spa (Spa Del Sol), and two very good restaurants. The Renaissance is an official host of White Party, and any time of year the expansive pool is a great spot to relax in the sun, and the gay bars of nearby Arenas Road are just a short walk away, as are dozens of terrific downtown restaurants. Renaissance has done a fine job revamping this beautiful resort.
Situated along the San Lorenzo Road gay-resort strip, fairly new Residenza San Lorenza (588 E. San Lorenzo Rd., 760-537-7601), formerly known as Random Haus, differs markedly in approach and style from its neighbors. It's technically a mainstream property, in that all are welcome, but this luxury compound of 12 two and three-bedroom condos is marketed significantly to the LGBT community (it's also very pet-friendly). Each unit is exceptionally swank and beautifully designed, with few expenses spared - think large kitchens with Frigidaire Pro stainless-steel appliances, expansive private patios, snazzy bathrooms with spa tubs and "rainfall" showers, and furniture and design elements that call out the building's Mid-Century Modern heritage. Each is a minimum of 1,100 square feet. The common features are pretty swish, too - a pool and spa with cabanas, an outdoor kitchen with firepit, nightly turndown (with special touches for your pets). These are among the pricier units in Palm Springs, but consider that each unit comfortably accommodations four adults and that kids are also welcome - meaning this is an ideal option for families or good friends, and it's also a memorable getaway for a special event, such as a honeymoon. You can book a stay of just one night (rates start around $250 during the winter high season), but many guests stay longer.
Among the several luxury mainstream resorts in Palm Springs, the 24-acre Riviera (1600 N. Indian Canyon Dr., 760-327-8311) - which reopened several years ago following a dramatic transformation - ranks among the most gay-popular. This visually arresting compound, whose wings are set around an expansive pool, is perfect for scenesters and fashion plates. The uber-chic Circa 59 restaurant, which serves extraordinarily tasty contemporary American fare, and swish Starlite Lounge afford visitors some of the wildest people-watching in Palm Springs, and booking an exclusive poolside cabana makes for a wonderfully relaxing afternoon. Rooms are dolled up with bold, often outrageous, mid-century modern furnishings - the look is a swish tribute to Old Hollywood in the desert. Up the glam factor by booking a treatment at the spectacular SpaTerre, which also has a first-rate fitness center.
This smartly redesigned former Holiday Inn is a partnership by the owners of the Ace Palm Springs and Ace New York and the hip Joie de Vivre boutique-hotel brand. The Saguaro Palm Springs (1800 E. Palm Canyon Dr., 760-323-1711) is the sister hotel to another recent collaboration between these two groups, the Saguaro Scottsdale in Arizona, and like that property, this sleek hotel has immediately developed a following with gay travelers, has a terrific restaurant (El Jefe), and is designed with a bold color scheme and a playful aesthetic. It's upscale but with still fairly reasonable rates by Palm Springs standards - each unit contains an appealing mix of traditional Mexican folk furniture and contemporary work desks, iPod stations, 42-inch HDTVs, and crisp linens. Rooms open around a large central pool flanked by two hot tubs, and other features include a full-service spa and a fitness center.
This tasteful, up-market compound on San Lorenzo Road combines reasonable rates and a host of useful amenities to rank among one of the city's most popular and well-liked clothing-optional resorts. New owners bought the property in 2015 and made vast upgrades to the room interiors and other amenities - it's now one of the most impressive gay resorts in Palm Springs. The crowd at Santiago Resort (650 San Lorenzo Rd., 760-322-1300) tends to be 35 and older, appreciative of the largest pool among any gay resort in town as well as such amenities as complimentary breakfast and an especially good complimentary lunch (you can choose from several very good sandwiches and wraps, which are delivered from a nearby cafe) combo DVD-CD-VCR players in rooms, and high-quality linens, bedding, and furnishings with a Spanish-Italian-Mediterranean flare, including top-notch bath amenities. The gardens and landscaping here are among the prettiest in town, and the entire resort of beautifully kept. Santiago isn't a sex-plex, although cruising isn't unheard of here (especially late at night).
The old Camp Palm Springs resort, which had become quite rundown and seedy over the years, has been completely remade and rebranded as the smart and sexy Skylark Hotel (1466 N. Palm Canyon Rd., 760-322-2267). It's still gay-owned and markets strongly to the GLBT community, but this beautiful remade property now welcomes all and is no longer clothing-optional around the pool. The 29 rooms have been given a smart, modern look with Mid-Century-style Danish furniture, framed black-and-white photos, iPod docks, and high-quality linens. And the Skylark has a nice location, right in the Design District, close to restaurants and nightlife.
In the Warm Sands area, this exquisitely restored study of Mid-Century Modern residential architecture is a bit of a departure from the other properties in the neighborhood. Thirteen Palms (962 E. Parocela Pl., 760-413-2910) is made up of five artfully decorated, fully furnished flats with well-equipped kitchens, and these can be rented by the night, week, or month. The flats open around a peaceful pool, hot tub, and lanai and allow plenty of privacy (each also has a private back entrance leading to off-street parking) but also more opportunity to socialize than typical stand-alone vacation rentals. The owner welcomes - even encourages - longer stays and also offers a pretty amazing deal for any group interested in renting out the entire property (which sleeps up to 20, among seven bedrooms, as two of the flats have two bedrooms each). Also, although the property is gay-owned and marketed heavily to gay travelers, all guests are welcome here. Accommodations are downright plush, with all sorts of bells and whistles (iPod docks, Blu-Ray/DVD players, shared laundry facilities). It's a great addition to the Warm Sands lodging scene.
Another first-rate men's resort in the more laid-back San Lorenzo Road section of Palm Springs, this well-run property with extremely competent and helpful hosts has an unusual draw, for which it's named: actual turtles live on the grounds (including one Salcata tortoise that weighs about 90 pounds). The accommodations at Tortuga del Sol (715 San Lorenzo Rd., 760-416-3111) - which tend to attract an easygoing mix of guys in their 20s, 30s, and 40s - comprise suites and studios decorated with warm, Southwest colors and fabrics. All have CD and DVD players, and most have fully stocked kitchens or kitchenettes. A 10-man hot tub, good-size pool, and outdoor shower are among the common features, and as this is a fairly social resort, these areas act as a focal point.
A peaceful, contemporary compound at the end of San Lorenzo Road, the Triangle Inn (555 San Lorenzo Rd., 760-322-7993) comprises nine cheery suites whose elegant, distinctive furnishings would suggest a much more expensive resort. In fact, the rates here are quite reasonable, especially when you factor in the many pluses, such as fully stocked kitchens or kitchenettes in each unit. Bathrooms are large and well-outfitted, and each unit comes with games, magazines, and books - the entire property has a wonderfully personal feel to it. A sleek pool area acts as the resort's focal point, where breakfast and afternoon refreshments are served each day. Of the under-10-room gay properties in town, the Triangle is one of the best, and it's a terrific value.
If you long for the not-so-long-ago days of bare-bones, no-frills glorified bathhouses proliferating among the men's resort scene in Palm Springs - and particularly around Warm Sands Drive - you may be a little disappointed to learn that just about all of these places are steadily embracing a more upscale aesthetic, with higher rates to boot. The continued revamping and improvements at Vista Grande Resort (574 S. Warm Sands Dr., 760-322-2404) are evidence of this trend, but this 27-room unit property still has some fairly cozy rooms that start at around $100 nightly - along with a number of roomier and more fancily tripped out suites that run as high as $400, and the vibe here is as sexually charged and randy as ever. It's a large, popular property with a helpful staff that seems very much intent on creating a comfortable experience for guests, and a wealth of playful common amenities (lush gardens, a beautiful lagoon and waterfall area, two attractive pools, a steam room, a huge in-ground spa tub, and - of course - the infamous Penis God statue. Rooms vary a lot in terms of noise and privacy. Guys wishing for a little more seclusion might opt for rooms No. 11 to 18, at the south end of the compound, which encircle their own smaller pool (this building is also nonsmoking). Some rooms have kitchens.
This nicely renovated former Travelodge (and before that Curve Palm Springs) is a stylish, gay-friendly budget option. Set conveniently along East Palm Canyon Drive, nestled beneath the mountains that rise over the city, the rambling, two-story V Palm Springs (333 E. Palm Canyon Dr., 877-544-4446) has two attractive pools (with fire pit and hot tub) and nicely kept grounds. The 155 rooms have a smart, contemporary look - each has a fridge, coffeemaker, safe, hairdryer, and free Wi-Fi, and a Continental breakfast is included. There's a nifty pool area with food service from Elixir Pool Bar and Grill. It's a reasonably priced option, and the money you save staying here you can set aside for dining and shopping along the swanky downtown commercial strip.