Are you looking for a place with a serene setting to relax and forget about your hectic schedule? Look no further than the Amin Casa boutique hotel, where you can spend hours sitting and listening to the sounds of a three-tiered water fountain and birds chirping. 

Located just steps away from bustling downtown Palm Springs in the Historic Tennis Club neighborhood, you can park your car at Amin Casa and take a rest from the congested roads that may be part of your daily life. If you fly in, no need to rent a vehicle — the airport is a quick 10-minute trip by taxi. 

Amin Casa owner and manager Nelson Cooley. Photo credit: Nadine Conger

Owner and manager Nelson Cooley is quick to bounce out of his office to greet you upon arrival. He has your keys in hand, and the online registration filled out ahead of time told him everything he needs to escort you to one of the property’s eight bungalows, your home for the next few days.

A historic place

This repurposed hotel was once the home of famed Hollywood actress Gloria Swanson, considered one of the most photographed women of her time. Indeed, there are numerous photos around the property of her walking the grounds with people from the entertainment world. It is rumored Joe Kennedy was a frequent visitor, so imagine the entourage he brought with him.

Another interesting factoid: During this period, Swanson was the highest-paid entertainer in the world. She starred as Norma Desmond in the 1950 classic Sunset Boulevard, one of the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest American Movies of All Time.

The Amin Casa grounds. Photo credit: Nadine Conger

Gorgeous grounds

Swanson recognized quickly that the four-bedroom house needed a swimming pool and, of course, a guest house to help maintain her privacy. The pool and tennis court were added to entertain her guests, who were also summoned to participate in Swanson’s famous movie nights. Today, the tennis court has been replaced by a lawn, which is home to a 100-year-old cactus.

A new chapter 

As Swanson’s career skyrocketed, she decided to sell her home to a newspaper heiress from Rhode Island, and moved to a new place in the Movie Colony neighborhood. The Swanson property was transformed into a hotel, with a kitchen added to the guest house (those quarters still have the original all-oak paneling). The inn was called Arenas Garden Hotel, which gave homage to the road it is located on and the gardens that wind their way through the property. 

New owners bring life back to the property

In recent years, the property languished for lack of visitors and no caretaker to make sure repairs were done. It was becoming an eyesore, and fear was mounting that this beautiful place would come to face the fate of a wrecking ball.  

Cooley and partner Ramon Bautista were frequent visitors to Palm Springs, and when they saw the hotel, they appreciated the architecture of the building and understood its historical significance. By chance, Bautista went to a dinner party in Los Angeles and was seated next to a woman he knew well, who told him, “I need your help. I have a friend who owns a small boutique hotel in Palm Springs inherited from a childhood friend who had no heirs, so he left the place to my friend. She lives in Chicago and does not know what to do with it. Would you look at it?”

Yes, it was the hotel the two men had admired from afar. In March 2016, they bought the property and the work began. Cooley, a former high tech executive, took over the outside and interior structural aspects and day-to-day management of the hotel. Bautista is the mastermind behind interior design while continuing his medical practice in Pasadena, where he specializes in international travel medicine. Their goal was simple: to maintain the integrity of the architectural structure, interior, and grounds

Amin Casa’s bungalows are fully equipped for your stay. Photo credit: Nadine Conger

Staying at the Amin Casa

When getting ready to launch Amin Casa, the men wrote down everything they disliked about going to other hotels. The list included parking fees, resort fees to use the amenities, and extra charges for special cleaning, satellite television, and Wi-Fi. Today, when you go to check out at Amin Casa, you will find no surprises on your bill — everything is included in the cost of your room. 

This hotel heats its pool all year, giving guests the opportunity to swim or read a book and sip a cocktail poolside during winter, spring, summer, and fall. Since Palm Springs has 350 days of sunshine, you can work on your tan at the same time. 

Amin Casa’s sparkling swimming pool. Photo credit: Nadine Conger

Longterm guests are welcome, with many already booked for years to come. Amin Casa’s bungalows are well-appointed with everything one may need to live comfortably — in the deluxe bungalow, I was surprised to see fine china displayed in the glass-door cupboards. If you want to prepare a gourmet dinner for special friends, you have everything you need to impress even the most persnickety.

The bungalows have lovely living rooms, which could be used as part of a movie set. Attention to every detail has been magnificently executed throughout the entire property. 

Yes, there is a great deal of history in this 94-year-old structure. It is one of our premier Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels standing open and ready to invite you to bring your family here for a reunion or a wedding. However, most of the year, it is a beautiful place to relax and meet fascinating people. If you want to escape the real world for a bit, this is the place to step back in time and be pampered. 

Dive Palm Springs, BelleVue Oasis join the Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels family.

It was a summer of change in Palm Springs, and this fall, you’ll want to check out — and check into — the newest boutique hotels to open in the city.

LaReve room at Dive hotel

Dive Palm Springs is an 11-room paradise, inspired by the French Riviera. Formerly Colt’s Lodge, the property reopened in August, after a meticulous two-month renovation. Most of the rooms come with an outdoor patio, and the most magical one of all, La Reve, features a customer ceiling mural and wallpaper by Christian Lacroix and a gorgeous red-tiled bathroom with a rainfall shower and smoked glass two-way mirror.

“Dive is more than a hotel,” owner and general manager Abdi Manavi says. “It’s a private luxury time machine. Evoking the casual elegance of Saint Tropez in the 1960s, we created Dive to transport our guests to a romantic forgotten world where it’s still safe to relax, play, explore, and release all the trappings of modern life.”

In September, Escape Palm Springs officially became BelleVue Oasis. It is no longer a men’s clothing-optional hotel, but will remain a 21-and-over, mid-century modern resort. The lush grounds are what inspired the new name, with senior hotel manager Charles Zalepeski saying once you walk onto the property, “it’s kind of shocking, you don’t expect it to be as beautiful and as big as it is. The pool is beautiful, and the mountain views are ridiculous.”

Casa Cody, the oldest operating hotel in Palm Springs, is under new management by the Casseta Group. Casa Cody was founded in the 1920’s by Hollywood pioneer, Harriet Cody, cousin to the legendary, Buffalo Bill. Renovations are underway in several rooms as well as at the Winters House, an original 1930’s California Ranch House, which was added to the property in 2004.

With the closing of the Terra Cotta Resort, Tuscany Manor is now the go-to destination for adults looking for a clothing-optional experience. The all-suite hotel boasts apartment-style units with one or two bedrooms, plus kitchens and living and dining rooms. There is also an updated flower-filled courtyard, complete with a renovated pool, spa, and picnic area. In another major change, the entire property is now smoke free.

As for the Terra Cotta Resort, it is being renovated and will reopen in the fall of 2020 under a new name.

And if owning an exclusive boutique hotel is the dream of a lifetime, The Old Ranch Inn, a Spanish-style landmark hotel built in Palm Springs in the 1930’s, is available for sale at $2.5 million. 

About Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels

Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels is a consortium of independently owned boutique hotels, which are an essential part of this desert resort town’s uncommon culture and economy. From quirky to charming, mid-century modern to clothing-optional, Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels has got your stay. Follow the fun on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

The spirit of optimism is alive and well in Palm Springs. 

“While the sunshine, heated pools, and stellar attractions make the city a destination for people looking for relaxation and adventure alike, the pandemic has changed Palm Springs’ visitor profile considerably,” Michael Green, chair of the Desert Gay Tourism Guild and Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels, said. “Visitors from Europe are not coming as frequently as in previous years, and Canadians, who typically help boost the Coachella Valley’s economy, didn’t start returning until November.”

That said, the number of visitors overall exceed those of pre-covid days, and since June 2020, the vast majority of travelers have been domestic. Let’s dive into the reasons why.

Beautiful flowers in bloom. Photo credit: Kathy Condon

Feeling Safe on the Road

With the pandemic ongoing, many people feel safer planning a road trip with their family instead of getting on an airplane or cruise ship. San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix are no more than a 3.5-hour road trip away from Palm Springs, and even people from the San Francisco Bay Area can drive here within a day. For those in the northwest, they can turn Palm Springs into a road trip destination, making leisurely stops to see sights along the way. Road trippers not only pack their comfort items, but pets are welcome in Palm Springs, so Fifi and Brutus can come along for the ride, too.

Art at the Palm Springs International Airport. Photo credit: Kathy Condon

Direct Flights to Palm Springs

For travelers who do choose to fly, the Palm Springs International Airport is easy to navigate, just five minutes from downtown Palm Springs, and welcomes direct flights from many U.S. cities. Major airlines are always adding direct routes to Palm Springs, and new carriers are building the city into their business plans. According to Daniel Meier, Palm Springs International Airport’s deputy director of aviation, marketing, and air service, arrivals are up nearly 25 percent at the airport. 

Professional Mobility

When people first couldn’t go into the office to work, they came up with innovative ways to get their jobs done. Zoom allowed them to connect with colleagues and customers from anywhere with WiFi, and Palm Springs became a choice workcation destination. “With the ability to work remotely, we noticed a trend that people were taking advantage of the opportunity to stay longer,” Joyce Kiehl, director of communications for Visit Greater Palm Springs, said.

A Change of Residence

Palm Springs was one of the epicenters of the 2021 summer real estate boom, as harsh northeastern winters and being stuck inside brought to mind visions of sitting under a palm tree near the pool, conducting business meetings on Zoom. Robert Hunt, manager of Alcazar Palm Springs, said he has noticed that “many of our guests are staying here while looking for property.” Bob Deck, an agent with Town Real Estate, has found that people interested in buying homes in Palm Springs are “tired of the traffic in the bigger cities. They are looking for ways to take their commute time and turn it into family time.” 

A couple explores Palm Springs by bike. Photo credit: Visit Palm Springs

What Does the Data Show?

Things are looking up in Palm Springs, with hoteliers and retailers seeing a 23 to 25 percent increase in business in November, compared to the same month a year earlier. Jeff Witthuhn, owner of downtown gift shop Peepa’s, said he’s seeing “many more customers are coming from the East Coast,” while Kim Galland, owner of the women’s accessory store Kimbals, attributes her growth to previous customers who are delighted to be out in the world shopping.

In October, the city reported that transit occupancy tax collection increased almost 45 percent over 2020. Randy Garner, marketing manager for the Palm Springs Board of Tourism, noted that most events and conferences were canceled in the fall and winter of 2020, and the recent success of the 2021 Palm Springs Festival of Lights Parade illustrates people are ready to get out there and enjoy the many aspects of our welcoming community, including new public art and restaurants.

Inside Gigi’s Restaurant. Photo credit: Kathy Condon

Thriving is a word that best describes Palm Springs. Remodeling of stores, the upgrading and restoration of our hotels, and additional direct flights are making our ever-changing desert community a destination that encourages visitors to come back again and again. What are you waiting for? Make a reservation through Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels to see this fabulous city for yourself.