Don’t bother looking for the gay district in the desert resort town of Palm Springs. That’s because LGTBQ culture is the back bone of all of Palm Springs life. From night clubs to restaurants, boutique hotels to well, boutiques, Palm Springs may be the queerest, gay-fueled resort town on the planet.

If you’re heading to Palm Springs for Pride Week, forget the big hotels and experience what community is all about. Palm Springs has dozens of charming, independently-owned boutique hotels that are just as unique as you.

And that’s important because Palm Spring Pride is like no other.  Here, community is defined very broadly and allies are enthusiastically celebrated.

Proof in point: this year’s Pride Week theme, inspired by (and in support of) “youth-led movement-building efforts that are awakening critical conversations for social change,” is Youth Power for Change. In a profoundly symbolic gesture, the youth of Coachella Valley were collectively named Grand Marshalls of the 2018 Pride Parade. 

The Palm Springs is unusual because it does not contain gay ghettos like most cities.  Decades ago, when Palm Springs was drifting into oblivion like so many small desert towns, it was the gay community who infused it with new life, starting hotels and other businesses that set the course for the Palm Springs of today.

And to this day, many Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels are owned or managed by members and allies of the LGBTQ community.  

Where to Stay

Case in point: For women who remember the Bee Charmer Inn, it is now called La Maison and under the gay-friendly new ownership of allies Cornelia and Robert.  Voted one of the most romantic inns in the country by Trip Advisor over the past few years, La Maison provides a safe and welcoming haven for solo travelers and couples. Exceptionally serene and lush, La Maison prides itself on small touches of perfection that make guests feel cherished.

The woman-owned, Alcazar Palm Springs, is managed by the talented Robert Hunt. This stunningly beautiful contemporary hotel is conveniently located near some of the best restaurants and shopping in town. Known for its diversity and inclusiveness, The Alcazar enjoys bragging rights for its salt water purified pool and garden courtyard with fire and water walls. It’s even pet friendly.

If clothing-optional man space is your thing, there is no better place to celebrate Pride than at one of the men’s resorts on San Lorenzo Road. In one short block, you’ll find at least four of the best (and most beautiful) resorts owned and operated by and for men, including: The Triangle Inn Palm SpringsSantiago ResortTortuga del Sol, and Escape Resort.

Palm Springs, known for its welcoming, “come as you are,” spirit and iconic desert modern living, has rightfully earned its place on every self-respecting queer’s bucket list. But be warned, once you visit, you’ll want to keep returning to this desert paradise where privacy is prized, the parties can last for days, art and culture thrive, and the San Jacinto Mountains offer selfie-worthy settings at every turn.

INNdulge Hotel

The name says it all.

At INNdulge, guests take full advantage of being on vacation, relaxing in the saltwater pool and 12-man jacuzzi and reveling in the property’s gardens. This clothing optional gay men’s resort in the Warm Sands neighborhood is a mid-century modern hotel built in 1958, with 24 rooms. Jon Jackson has owned INNdulge for 10 years, becoming a hotelier after retiring as an attorney.

“My hospitality experience is in restaurants, but those skills easily converted,” he said.

An expanded continental breakfast is served in the morning, and an evening social hour and weekend pool parties bring guests together. Visitors often tell Jon they enjoy “the social aspect of staying with other like-minded gay men,” and in turn, he’s thrilled to provide “a great product and service.”

INNdulge, he added, “is a property that caters to gay men, who appreciate the pride of ownership we take in maintaining our property, and who in turn treat it with the type of respect deserving of a home away from home.”

It has been over a century since Hollywood put Palm Springs on the map. Rudolph Valentino may have been the first to bring it to national recognition when he honeymooned with Natacha Rambova at Florilla White’s Palm Springs Inn. What’s so newsworthy about that? Well, he was not quite legally divorced from his first wife, actress Jean Acker, and he was arrested for bigamy. Escándalo! 

Since then, a lot of privately owned resorts in Palm Springs have opened, and they are all very special. Some had a prior life as private homes for recognizable Hollywood names, others were built by starchitects, and many have wonderful stories about well-known people who stayed there. Each has its own personality and all of them are charming. Several have that old Palm Springs feel and some are classic mid-century modern retreats, but there is one men’s resort that has combined the old Hollywood feel with the new Hollywood aesthetic: the Descanso Resort near the Uptown Design District.

Courtesy of Descanso Resort

The English translation of the Spanish word “Descanso” is “break,” as in “you deserve a break,” and young professionals looking for that Hollywood Roosevelt pool feel with a tropical vibe will definitely appreciate the look, feel, and social amenities at Descanso. The resort has only been open for a few months, but the reviews are already in — and they’re five-star raves.   

Built in 1946 and last known as East Canyon Resort, the property has good bones — a classic, sought-after exterior design, with its large suites around a beautiful pool and spa — but by the time 2020 rolled around, it was very much in need of some TLC. A “group of guys from Portland” (who now live in my head as the Portland Authority [the Authority™]) recognized its potential, paid the man, and got to work.

They started by tackling the landscaping. The view of the pool was completely obstructed by greenery covering the eaves, so straight away they cut some Louise Brooks bangs, or fringe if you’re posh (and we are), and began finding out what was underneath the overgrown flora.

Now landscaped for maximum comfort and privacy, every lounge chair, every structure, every spot in the resort has a clear eyeline to the shimmering (saltwater!) pool, the majestic palms dotting the horizon, and the grandeur of the San Jacinto Mountains backdropping the picturesque view. 

Courtesy of Descanso Resort

The property is swanky but not fussy; it has a casual elegance that makes you feel like something special is about to happen. Two white columns flank the entrance, which leads to a breezeway filled with lush exotic greenery and white wrought iron and frosted-glass gates. 

The all-glass lobby is cheerful with its funky 1970s green and white flowered front desk and attached sitting room. All of the wall art is mid-mod style, including photos by Slim Aarons and current local William Dey. Paintings are by Shawn Savage, who is known around these parts as the “Palm Springs Lifestyle GURU and the go-to guy for top interior designers.”

Courtesy of Descanso Resort

Varying in size from 400 square feet to 515 square feet, with either a poolside or balcony view, the 16 suites are festooned in the hues of the desert —  armless couches wrapped in palm tree green, rich charcoal and cloud-white checkered accent chairs, sleek platform king beds dressed in crisp white linens, accent walls in blues and greens, and desertscape seagrass floor tiles. It is sleek mid-century modern design with a firm nod to minimalism. 

The suites also come with a fridge, a safe, an iron, and a hairdryer, but let’s talk about the bathrooms. You guys, they have freestanding deep white porcelain tubs, Gilchrest & Soames luxury bath products, and little white tables on either side of the tub to rest your cocktail. Big fluffy green towels are for après bath. 

Courtesy of Descanso Resort

Because a vacation should be all about the aaaahhh, and not about waiting for an available table, Descanso provides a full-on craft services breakfast: fruits, yogurts, croissants, ham and cheese, granola, etc. Lunch is ordered in from a Palm Springs eatery, like Aspen Mills Bakery, with offerings including delectable sandwiches and salads. Snacks and beverages are readily available in the 24-hour cantina, but dinner is all about going out to one of our fabulous restaurants and joining in the merry at the many bars that cater to the gay community. Of course, you’re not restricted to gay establishments; the world is your oyster in Palm Springs. So, spice it up, throw on some Tabasco, and enjoy. 

If you’re looking for recommendations, the Descanso’s staff is more than accommodating, so just ask. The Wi-Fi is strong with this one — if you want to do your own research on where to go for drinks or dinner, or have to work on that script or secure that deal, you’re in the money.

Courtesy of Descanso Resort

Feeling adventurous? Grab one of the bikes (complimentary use for guests!), tool around downtown, then pop back for a quick outdoor shower and have that massage you’ve been looking forward to (the one you booked from Descanso’s well-curated list of male massage therapists).

When your massage is finished, have a soak in the spa beneath the courtyard’s misters — a lovely combination of cooled air and steamy body, but not so wet as to douse the flames from the fire pit. If it’s the weekend, you might like to time it around Wine O’Clock, Descanso’s happy hour. Mix it up with new friends, or have an intimate date for two, or three — no one’s judgy here. We’re too busy spending every day in paradise. 

Courtesy of Descanso Resort

Author: Andrew Schaeffer

I’m not an outdoorsy guy. I’m in my element when I’m lounging on the couch binging something on Netflix. But, I needed to change that habit and get out and get moving—and what better way to do so than by going somewhere with plenty of outdoor activities?

There’s no need to pack a big suitcase for stays at these Palm Springs resorts.

The city is home to more than 20 men’s clothing-optional boutique hotels, where guests are free to roam the property sans attire. These resorts are known for their gorgeous pools and spas, steam rooms, gardens, and comfortable accommodations. For first-time visitors, there are some things to keep in mind when it comes to choosing a clothing-optional hotel.

Small boutique hotels that cater specifically to gay men and women, or anyone who wants a clothing-optional experience, provide spaces that are “worry-free, stress-free, and nonjudgmental,” says Michael Green, owner of The Triangle Inn Palm Springs. “There are people who come from all over the world — sometimes from places, regions, or even countries where they are not accepted but also persecuted for being gay.”

It’s key to remember that not wearing clothes is optional, and if a guest doesn’t feel comfortable removing their garments right away, that’s OK — they can wait until they feel more comfortable, or remain clothed during their entire stay.

“Clothing-optional resorts attract all ages of gay men seeking a safe refuge, where they can feel free from outside influences,” INNdulge owner Jon Jackson says. “Only about half of our guests enjoy nudity, but all of them love having the option. Most come for the social aspect of spending their holiday exclusively with like-minded gay men.”

Another important thing to research before booking a stay is the sexual “temperature” of a resort, as this varies from property to property.

“A lot of people choose a clothing-optional resort because there is less pretense when a person is naked,” notes Ric Gomez, owner of Tortuga del Sol. “One of the myths I believe still exists is that gay clothing-optional resorts are sexually-charged hotels with low standards and minimal amenities. In reality, the majority of gay clothing-optional resorts are owner operated and exceed the hospitality and amenities levels of larger, mainstream hotels.”

These resorts are judgment-free zones, Gomez says, and in Tortuga del Sol’s common areas, “guests are free to openly demonstrate affection for their companion, or make a new friend or friends.” There are also guests with all body types, because “Nudism is a lifestyle that embraces the human body in all its forms,” Robert Aikens, head innkeeper at La Dolce Vita Resort and Spa, says. “There are many reasons people come to clothing-optional resorts, but always be friendly while respecting other’s rights to privacy.”

Palm Springs is known internationally for welcoming members of the LGBTQ community, and they flock to these resorts because they “are able to find an experience they literally cannot find anywhere else,” Green says. “Lots of our guests get to the resort, do some shopping, then come back and pretty much never leave except to shop or hike or see the sights. We are a destination within a destination for them.”

The Hacienda at Warm Sands is a gay resort for men-only that invites every guest to “Enter Quiet Luxury.” That’s exactly what I got to experience upon my arrival, from the moment I was greeted at the front entrance by The Hacienda’s devoted staff. In fact, there was no checking in at any front desk. I was immediately accompanied to my spacious private suite, then given a fresh Arnold Palmer and tour of the beautiful, peaceful grounds The Hacienda has come to be appreciated for by its faithful repeat guests.

Total relaxation awaits at The Hacienda at Warm Sands. Photo by Gregory Douglass

The Hacienda at Warm Sands has been a staple in the Palm Springs gay resort community since the 1970s. It’s draped in lush foliage, Southwestern plantings, Saltillo-tiled patios and walkways, and breathtaking vistas of the San Jacinto Mountains. It’s an intimate resort that features only 10 luxurious private suites, each equipped with its own dedicated WiFi as well.

There are two large swimming pools men can enjoy day and night, as well as a jetted in-ground spa and adjacent fireplace. Each pool area is surrounded with cush, ultra-comfy chaise lounges that even sport their own fitted towels to lounge on.

The Hacienda at Warm Sands is a swimsuit-optional resort, which is different from a clothing-optional resort. Guests are welcome to wear their clothing (or not) in their suite, in the pools, or on the grounds, but it’s appropriate to be clothed while walking throughout the grounds. This is what differentiates The Hacienda the most from other gay, men-only resorts here in Palm Springs, in my opinion. It’s a place for relaxation more than it is a place for recreation.

Spa time at The Hacienda at Warm Sands. Photo by Gregory Douglass

Another Hacienda motto is “Expect the Uncommon.” My expectations were surpassed when the house manager offered me some vintage “welcome” documents from when The Hacienda at Warm Sands first opened and operated as Hacienda En Sueño (“The House of Reverie”) in the late ’70s. The documents were prepared on a typewriter, and provided a fascinating read and an uncommon glimpse into the covert nature of our LGBTQ+ past here in Palm Springs.

Back then, there was no mention of male guests. It was simply described as a “unique and secluded” special oasis that is a “carefully guarded” and “meticulously groomed retreat.” The hotel used to be monitored by armed, uniformed police protecting the property at least four times each evening. While The Hacienda may no longer offer grocery deliveries and a selection of sun tan oils (ranging from 0-15 SSP), it still honors the same pampered philosophy of “intimate privacy and guest compatibility” that it has since the beginning.

The Hacienda En Sueño’s guests were usually by referral as they did not advertise in those days. They also described the resort as being “particularly attractive to the literate, sensitive, and well bred” — and that also still rings true today from what I observed.

During my stay, I witnessed several guests buried in a book, enjoying extended reading time by the pool. I didn’t experience much social time with my temporary neighbors beyond daily pleasantries like “Good morning.” People were quiet, independent, and very respectful of one another’s personal space and shared need for rest and relaxation.

There were plenty of perks to assist with the restoration process too, including a complete pillow menu in the suite bedroom and personalized pillows with guest names embroidered in them. In addition to the custom pillows, every note was personalized as well. The bedroom closet was equipped with a selection of bathrobes, slippers, and yoga mats, and the bathroom featured two showerheads (should you want some company). In the kitchen, there was a welcome basket with various treats and a binder with menus for a daily complimentary lunch (catered by Manhattan In The Desert).

Custom pillows are a fun touch. Photo by Gregory Douglass

The common area breezeway housed their daily complimentary breakfast selection as well as water coolers (hot, cold, and room temp), guest laundry access, and a daily calendar of local events featured on a bulletin board.

In the spirit of “expecting the uncommon,” there were also intriguing dog paws cemented in the tiles in various spots throughout the property. I asked the manager about them, and while there was no real story or deeper meaning behind the paws, it made for a fun scavenger hunt one afternoon.

What really defines the true Hacienda experience is their five-star hospitality services. I spoke with a manager named Victor and he described their approach as “striving to anticipate guests’ expectations.” They encourage feedback and take it seriously, and have more than 500 Tripadvisor reviews. 

Fun fact: the final episode of Logo TV’s Finding Prince Charming was filmed at The Hacienda at Warm Sands. And who knows — perhaps you’ll find Prince Charming during your next Hacienda stay!

The welcome basket provided to guests at The Hacienda at Warm Sands. Photo by Gregory Douglass

By Steven Skelley and Thomas Routzong, Gay Travelers Magazine

Palm Springs, California is a wonderful place for anyone to visit but it is especially significant for gay travelers. Palm Springs has an inclusive, welcoming vibe, excellent entertainment and dining options, beautiful views and a variety of quality gay resorts to choose from.

It’s event season here in Palm Springs and the weather is beautiful. Our quaint town is buzzing with activity and fun events. Check out these must-attend upcoming LGBTQ events in Palm Springs.

February 8, 2020

The 26th Annual Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards

For 26 years, The Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards has been honoring Humanitarians from all corners of the globe. They are people who radiate compassion – who seem to have been born for a higher purpose. The 26th Annual Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards will honor Hank Plante, Garry Kief, and Ambassador Deborah L. Birx M.D and feature entertainment from Kristin Chenoweth. The Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards is attended by more than 2,000 of the Coachella Valley’s most fashionable humanitarians making red carpet arrivals and the after-party events unto themselves. This year marks the 26th year for Desert AIDS Project’s largest fundraising event which is named for one of DAP’s earliest financial supporters, the designer Steve Chase.  Find out more here.

February 20-24, 2020

International Bear Convergence

The International Bear Convergence is the premier winter LGBT for bears and the admirers. This is a five-day event where the community can get together and enjoy activities that range from pool parties to live DJ performances. Find out more here.

March 21, 2020

Red Dress Dress Red

The Center’s Red Dress Dress Red on March 21 from 8 to 11pm at the Palm Springs Air Museum is not only the hottest dance party of the Palm Springs Season, it is THE party of the Season! Whether it’s a frock, fishnets, or a fantasy come to life, Red Dress Dress Red is an opportunity for you to harness your creative expression and to share that gift in a community of 1,500 other visionaries-to-be. Once you’ve arrived, your body will be sure to pulse to the beats by DJ Galaxy that will fill the Palm Springs’ night sky. With all that energy in the air, and Mt. San Jacinto as our backdrop, we’ll treat you to an open bar and tasty bites from area restaurants to round out this night of delight. Find out more here.

April 1-6, 2020

Club Skirts presents The Dinah

More than 15,000 women from all over the world will gather in Palm Springs for The Dinah, also known as The Dinah Shore Weekend by Club Skirts. This LGBT event has been in Palm Springs for 30 years and is the largest, most famous all girl event and music festival in the world. Enjoy comedy, pool parties, galas, theme parties and more, come and celebrate, unite, empower and live out loud. Find out more here.