The front entrance to Les Cactus Palm Springs painted green and pink with cacti in pots

Centrally located in the Warm Sands neighborhood of Palm Springs, the historic 1930’s property has been refreshed under the direction of up-and-coming LA-based hotelier/designer Matthew Kurtz in partnership with local hoteliers Richard Crisman and Jeff Brock. Together they strive to deliver a new, whimsical boutique hotel with minimalistic yet chic design and approachable service – all at an affordable price point.

John Janulis is not the first guy from the Pacific Northwest to fall in love with Palm Springs (nor will he be the last) but he is the latest and greatest, making a splash with the sleek and seductive renovation of an old Hollywood haunt tucked away on the south end of town.

A patio swing

Gorgeous rooms? Check. Relaxing spa with a variety of services? Check. A sparkling pool? Check. Restaurant with rooftop lounge and intriguing cocktails? Check.

Everything you need for the perfect Palm Springs stay is at La Serena Villas. Originally built in 1933 as a 26-unit hotel, this resort in the Historic Tennis Club neighborhood was redeveloped as a luxury hotel in 2016 by architect May Sung. The 18 secluded villas each have a private patio with a clawfoot tub, fire pit, and built-in benches, with Avenue Interior Design behind every room’s furniture, finishes, and materials.

Whispers Spa offers facials, massages, and body treatments, while Azucar restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Enjoy dining in the restaurant or sipping cocktails at Sugar High, the rooftop lounge. The hotel, owned by Lars Viklund, has a Spanish colonial feel, and is next door to one of his other properties, the Del Marcos Hotel, and across from his latest acquisition, The Three Fifty Hotel.

 

You made a wise choice to visit Palm Springs, where the sun shines 360 days a year. As you pull up in front of the Avanti Hotel, the contemporary exquisite stone entrance affirms that you also made the right decision for your home away from home…especially if you brought your pup.

The secure hotel requires newcomers to ring the doorbell. Suddenly, Jim Rutledge, the owner, and manager opens the door, for he lives on site. His huge smile and very welcoming greeting immediately help you understand you are about to have a memorable experience.

Pets are always welcome at the Avanti Hotel in Palm Springs.

Dogs are very welcome at Avanti. Next to the registration area is a knee-high dog constructed of real looking plants sitting beside a chalkboard welcoming your dog with their name and a water dish. When is the last time your dog has been welcomed in such a gracious manner?

Avanti View as you enter into the complex.

When you look around the space, you see the spacious pool surrounded by the ten rooms identified by bright sunshine-yellow doors. Framing the doors are full-length beige drapes, which help define each space.

Lucky room 88 at Avanti Hotel in Palm Springs.

If you are fortunate, you will be checked into the lucky room, Room 88. Why the number 88 when there are only ten rooms, you ask?  The number four is considered unlucky by those with traditional Chinese beliefs. When management learned about the number four, they had already numbered all the rooms. Since eight is deemed lucky, they decided to make room number four twice as lucky by labeling it 88.

The hot tub is open 24/7 at the Avanti Hotel.

It is not often you will find a spacious hot tub separated from the main pool. In this case, it is not only separated from the main pool, but it also has its own private walled space. Comfy benches are strategically placed around the perimeter, and artwork adorns the walls. Once again, the long beige drapes make an appearance adding to the elegance of space.

The jacuzzi holds 12 people. Can you imagine having a retreat here and saying, Let’s meet at the hot tub for a brainstorming session? By the way, the hot tub and pool are open 24 hours a day. However, there are rules, and they will be enforced.

Avanti Hotel patios offers refuge from the world.

 

Four rooms have kitchenettes and one a full kitchen. So even though snacks are freely available, it is good to know you can prepare your own romantic dinner if you so choose.  Or order from a Palm Springs restaurant that will deliver meals complete with cocktails. Some of the rooms have large patios with a dining table. These patios are an excellent place to hang out if you want to do some quiet reading.

Breakfast is Served Poolside at the Avant Hotel in Palm Springs.

Breakfast is served around the pool. As Jim was quick to point out, it is a cold breakfast. However, there is more than enough to get you on your way for the day.

After a day of sightseeing, you will want to get back for Happy Hour, which will be the perfect time to mingle with other guests, often from other countries. For example, the Avanti has the same visitor from Iceland come back a year and after year.

Avanti owner and Manager Jim Rutledge with doggy diva Maya

Jim Rutledge is the owner and has been watching over the development of the space for ten years. Here he is pictured with his companion, Maya, who is the diva of the Avanti.

He keeps a close pulse on the community. Thus, guests have access to a wealth of information to decide how they spend their time exploring the Coachella Valley.

When asked what brings him joy about living here and managing the Avanti, his reply was with a large smile, “It’s the people I meet from all over the world.”

The swimming pool at Dive Palm Springs with swings next to it and palm trees behind it

Step foot on the Dive Palm Springs property, and you’ll immediately be transported to the French Riviera of the 1960s.

Dive Palm Springs opened in August 2019 after a two-month renovation. The hotel was built in 1954 as the Sunrise Villa, a western-style hotel. Over the years, it changed names and themes, ultimately becoming the Alpine Gardens before transforming into Colt’s Lodge in 2015. Since being purchased earlier this year, the 11-room property has been “extensively redesigned, both inside and out,” new owner Abdi Manavi says. “We have developed a sense of luxury in all the rooms, and a feeling of serenity throughout the different areas of the grounds.”

The hotel features furnishings by Serena & Lily and Anthropologie, premium linens, and original murals. Most of the King rooms come with an outdoor patio, complete with an oversized daybed, and one has a private hot tub. The most magical room is the La Reve, French for “The Dream.” This room has a custom ceiling mural and wallpaper by Christian Lacroix, a solid brass queen bed with an ultra-comfortable Tuft and Needle mattress, and a red-tiled bathroom with a rainfall shower and smoked glass two-way mirror between the bedroom and shower.

“Dive is more than a hotel,” Abdi 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.”

Dive is an adults-only property, and can host events for up to 150 people, including weddings, retreats, and reunions. Guests have been raving about the lush grounds, cozy daybeds, the restored original Libott pool, the koi pond, and The Orchard — Dive calls this its “vacation spot within a vacation spot,” as it has a two-person swing chair, waterfall, comfortable couches and loungers, and a vintage neon sign of a diving girl, affectionally nicknamed Lulu.

“My business partner Dale Fox and I have created an intimate atmosphere for our guests, as you would have staying at a friend’s house,” Abdi says. “We are here to provide magic and ensure our guests are relaxed and happy during their stay. Though I take on the role of an owner and general manager, my business card says ‘Liaison to Happiness.'”

“I always say, shopping is cheaper than a psychiatrist.” — Tammy Faye Bakker Messner

People tend to think of Palm Springs as a place to go and relax by the pool with a cocktail, and it totally is — however, when you leave the luxury of your small boutique hotel, adventures in shopping await.

Don’t believe me? Tammy Faye Bakker Messner and her scandal-of-an-ex-husband had two homes in Palm Springs, one of them in Movie Colony. According to the Los Angeles Times, she was well known for her frequent shopping sprees in the posh clothing and jewelry stores of Palm Springs. That was back in the mid- to late-1980s. Imagine how much it’s grown since then? (You don’t have to — I’m going to tell you!)

These days we have the very visible The Block, an amalgamation of high-end stores from Tahquitz to Museum Way (here’s a great little map of the area). If you’re looking for a distinctive gift to make friends and family feel special, you need to shop outside of the big box. So, let’s venture across the street from the commerciality of the big brands and take a leisurely doggie paddle toward the treasure trove of unique boutiques teeming with the panache of our friendly shop owners who will add an extra dash of holiday cheer to your day. 

They are always available to help you find that perfect gift, or that perfect outfit that puts a big fat smile on your face. (Browsing is perfectly fine, too.) There are a LOT of local retailers, and it’s hard to list every one, so I’ve done a bit of pre-sorting for you with a few links that can get you to the right stores for the category in which you’re looking to purchase. 

Clothing and Accessories Stores

Gifts, Accessories, Collectibles

Specialty Food and Wine

Pets

Art, Galleries, and Supplies 

Collage by Kay Kudukis

If you’re into finding shops on your own, the best tip I can offer is to make sure you duck down into the side streets and a few little alleyways that have their own enclave, like the shops around the corner from men’s store Frank Clothier and celebrity favorite Crystal Fantasy.

We also have a toffee shop, Brandini’s, near the historic Plaza Theater. They have a terrific story and out-of-this-world toffee creations. Absolutely worth the calories.

Along the way are coffeehouses galore, and delightful lunch spots where you can meet or regroup with friends, or if you’re a lone wolf, relax in a sunny spot and plan the rest of your shopping spree. 

Collage by Kay Kudukis

There’s also the Corridor, just north of Alejo on Palm Canyon Drive. It’s a great place to grab a coffee or a bite to eat, enjoy the artwork, then do a little side shopping at Jill’s and Absolutely Fabulous.

Speaking of fabulous, check out the uptown Design District at Palm Canyon Galleria. It’s chock full of vintage high-end wares and home furnishings and many carry numerous mid-century and vintage items. Get a load of Bon Vivant with its vintage glass and jewelry, Froelick Gallery, and more. Inventory has included Blenko glass, vintage Tiffany jewelry, Bakelite pieces, Murano and Ikebana vases, Marbro lamps, Raymor pottery, a Bjorn Windblad porcelain bowl, and pieces by Palm Springs artists. Regular hours are Thursday through Monday. 

If you’re into vintage jewelry and have a few hundred Hamiltons to spend, try Gallerie24, local designer Carlos King’s boutique (by appointment only). On Indian Canyon are a few cool spots, specifically the Mojave Trading Post, where local crafters have their own mini-shops with wondrous things. And because Palm Springs is associated with retro and vintage items, here is a nice little list of all things antique-y:

Home Furnishings and More

Antique Galleries of Palm Springs
505 Industrial Pl.

Sunny Dunes Antique Mall
507 E Sunny Dunes Rd.

Little Shop of Treasures
616 E Sunny Dunes Rd.

Aida’s Antiques
401 Industrial Pl. S

Victoria’s Attic Antique Mall
798 N Palm Canyon Dr.

a La MOD INC
886 N Palm Canyon Dr.

Porter & Plunk
3500 E Tachevah Dr. Ste. H

Vintage Clothing

Iconic Atomic
1103 N Palm Canyon Dr.

Mitchells Palm Springs
106 S Indian Canyon Dr.

The Frippery
664 N Palm Canyon Dr. 

Vintage PS Gal
798 N. Palm Canyon Dr. #VPSG

That’s it for me this year. Hope to see you at one of our cool resorts or walking down our festive streets — I’ll be the one in the mask. Cheers to 2022!

By Susan Montgomery

I have often dreamed of living in a lovely hotel for a while.  I can just envision the heavenly experience now — sipping coffee by the pool each morning with a good book, enjoying a delicious breakfast in my own little kitchenette, taking leisurely strolls around the nearby shops, dipping in and out of a refreshing pool during the day, relaxing in the evening with a glass of wine on my own delightful patio as I watch a glorious Palm Springs sunset over the mountains, and then snuggling peacefully each night on a comfy bed with luxurious linens.

It’s always good to get away from the day-to-day frenzy of at-home obligations where myriad household and work tasks always beckon. Fortunately, there are quite a few boutique hotels, all part of the Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels group, that cater to my dream by encouraging long stays (two weeks or more).

Below are some hotels where you could live out this dream. All these hotels offer swimming pools, coffee pots, refrigerators, and kitchenettes, which are essential for long stays. Many offer other amenities such as furnished patios and barbecue grills for guests. Some cater to adults and some even welcome pets.

The Wescott Palm Springs

At the Wescott, you can enjoy a relaxing cocktail hour each evening on the patio around the soothing fresh water pool.

This historic hotel (opened in the 1930s), caters to adults and offers a Hollywood ambiance and art deco design with recently updated rooms. Since the Wescott is located in the trendy Uptown Design District, lots of shops and restaurants are within easy walking distance. A complimentary breakfast is offered each morning and there is a relaxing cocktail hour each evening around the soothing fresh water pool.

Adara Hotel Palm Springs

Ideally located near downtown Palm Springs, this charming, nicely furnished hotel is conveniently located right across from the Stein Mart Plaza Shopping Center. This quiet oasis features swaying palm trees and beautiful landscaping, making it a true getaway. Every room features a striking view of the San Jacinto Mountains and everything you need for an extended stay visit, such as flat-screen TVs, microwaves, refrigerators, and coffee makers.

Canyon Club Hotel

The Canyon Club Hotel has an exceptionally spectacular pool.

This 32-room, clothing optional, gay men’s resort is within easy walking distance from Palm Canyon Drive where there are lots of shops and restaurants. Eight rooms have private patios and there is a beautiful 50-foot diving pool plus a gym, spa, sauna, steam room, and a large park in the back that even has a fun maze. And you can bring your furry friends.

Avance Hotel

This relaxing getaway is an adults-only property that offers nine different kinds of suites, all but one with king-sized beds and four with private patios. These suites are like modern apartments and several have full kitchens. The courtyard is beautifully landscaped and the inviting saltwater pool is heated. Avance is very private but centrally located, only about a mile from downtown Palm Springs. Views from all the suites are spectacular. Complimentary bicycles are available.

Desert Hills Resort Hotel

At the Desert Hills Resort Hotel you can enjoy a flower-filled courtyard with a beautiful pool.

Ideally located at the foot of the San Jacinto Mountains in the historic Tennis Club District, this adults-only, mid-century modern hotel is serene and very private. There is a barbecue grill and ice machine for guests. One and two-bedroom suites have beautiful patios that overlook a lovely flower-filled courtyard with a beautiful pool and spa. Many rooms have complete kitchens and all the linens are luxurious cashmere. This is a serene getaway for those who want a quiet, peaceful retreat.

Hotel California Palm Springs

Designed in a classic California mission style, with Spanish touches, this lushly landscaped hotel offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and 14 beautifully furnished rooms around a glistening pool with refreshing cool misters. There are grills for guests to barbecue and even a private outdoor cigar lounge. This is a romantic getaway with a rustic ambiance. Loyal guests come back here year after year, in part because of the impeccable friendly service.

Andalusian Court

Andalusian Court is a Spanish Revival Hotel that exudes romance and charm.

This charming Spanish Revival hotel exudes romance and is ideally located in the historic Tennis Club District. The grounds are nicely landscaped and highlighted by flowing water features. Each of the seven villas has a full kitchen, bedroom, luxurious bathroom, dining room, and living room. This is a true getaway and perfect for a serene extended stay. No wonder Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz often stayed here.

Little Paradise Hotel

This quiet hotel caters to adults and features eight spacious, modern rooms, each with fully equipped kitchens and two furnished patios. A beautiful salt-water pool is surrounded by lots of lawn chairs for the utmost in relaxation as you listen to the magical sounds of tinkling waterfalls. This “little paradise” is located about a mile from downtown Palm Springs, and there are also some nice restaurants within easy walking distance.

Les Cactus Palm Springs

Named after the 60s French rock ‘n roll hit by Jacques Dutronic, this historic hotel has been lovingly updated with stylish décor. A mix of one-bedroom suites and studios make this a perfect place for a long stay. Amenities include a massage room, a hot tub, a hammock garden, and a glorious rooftop deck — an ideal home away from home that may even be nicer than home.

Tuscany Manor

Tuscany Manor features an enchanting courtyard and a newly refurbished pool.

Clothing is optional at this peaceful retreat, which caters to single women and couples. The 24 apartment-like suites, with one or two bedrooms, fully equipped kitchens, and living and dining areas, are perfect for long stays. A plus for many guests is that the property is entirely smoke-free. A spacious, enchanting courtyard features a newly refurbished pool, spa, and barbecue area. While the intimate setting is very private, the hotel is only a short walk from downtown Palm Springs.

There are other PSPSH hotels that may meet your needs for extended stays, so check out the PSPSH website. And don’t worry about the summer heat during your extended stay in Palm Springs. All these hotels are air-conditioned, of course, and you can dip in and out of a refreshing pool all day.

Blogger Debra Schroeder of Traveling Well for Less found herself captivated by the Albert Frey-designed Monkey Tree Hotel, with its mid-century modern architecture and fun vintage decor.

Tamanrasset is an installation of large-scale abstract paintings and light by Vivian Suter. Photo Lance Gerber.

There are plenty of us who love getting out to see the desert close up and personal. Especially this time of year, the cacti are starting to bloom, and wild desert flowers are peeking their fragile heads out of the desert soil. Breathing the fresh desert air is sure to revive a tired soul. Now, there is another way to explore and appreciate the desert… by exploring Desert X, which is happening now through May 16, 2021.  Book a romantic getaway with your sweetheart or take the kids to a family-friendly small hotel. Either way, prepare yourself for the creative desert adventure known as Desert X .

What is Desert X?

Desert X is an exhibition of 13 contemporary artwork installations, created by artists from eight countries, that are designed and built on site-specific locations through the 40 miles of Coachella Valley. The exhibition is  organized by the Desert Biennial Board, a California nonprofit that selected the sites and artists.

Students and scholars worldwide come here to study and write about the art and emerging and established artists who created these often monumental edifices in unexpected places.  Subject themes range from the environment, immigration, or climate change, to name a few.

However, what makes this adventure very special is that it is an activity an entire family can enjoy. Finding the locations, which are often obscure, may require one to use GPS coordinates. Get the whole family involved in the treasure hunt to find another installation often not visible from the road. The Desert X mobile app is a great tool for learning the details about  the art and its artist.

Here a few examples of the sites that will be revealed as you explore.

Desert X Wishing Well by Ghana Artist Serge Attukewei Clottey

These brilliant canary yellow cubes are constructed of plastic water buckets used to carry water in Ghana. The four-inch squares are connected with wire on four corners. The artist wanted to bring attention to the Coachella Valley’s future and its continuing dependency on water.

Desert X What Lies Behind the Walls by Saudi Arabia Artist Zahrah Alghamdi

This wall is about a quarter-mile hike up a slightly elevated path.  It is made out of insulation dipped in glue and then rolled in the earth surrounding the area. Metal rods in the interior hold it in place. Thus, it displays the different colors of the soil and forces one to think about people’s diverse cultures and experiences throughout the world.

Desert X ParaPivot by Poland Artist Alicja Kwade

This art installation is placed on top of a hill with a path that quickly gains elevation. More than one person has stood at the bottom of the trail and decided it is too much of a challenge to tackle on a warm Palm Springs day.  Representing glaciers, balanced in precarious positions, one walks through it and contemplates the what-ifs surrounding our everyday life.

Note: IF you have a disability placard, please let the volunteers know, and they will facilitate a way to see the art.

So make your reservations to come to Palm Springs. Pack your suntan lotion and your hats, and head out to explore this unusual way to see our valley.

The pool at Drift Palm Springs surrounded by palm trees and loungers and yellow umbrellas

Once the construction fences went up, curiosity soared about what was being built on South Indian Canyon across from the downtown multilevel parking garage. The wait is over: it’s called Drift Palm Springs, and this boutique hotel is quickly gaining a reputation as a place to stay, relax, or meet up with friends.

Even the Drift Palm Springs sign hints that this is no ordinary hotel. Like all of the Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels, it has its own vibes.

Welcome to Drift. Photo courtesy of Drift Palm Springs

What makes the Drift Palm Springs stand out?

Its proximity to everything happening in Downtown Palm Springs makes it a great home base while you dine in the area’s restaurants and shop in the many retail stores.

However, what makes the Drift Palm Springs unique from other hotels is its ability to welcome individuals, families, and retreats by easily adjusting the size of the accommodations.

There are 30 rooms, with 84 guest rooms. Confused? So was I. Then Paul Patino, Drift Palm Springs’ general manager, showed me what this meant. Once you unlock the door, you are in a spacious room with a kitchen bathed in light from the floor-to-ceiling windows. Then the magic happens. Paul opened the door to the grand room, and after he unlocked another door, it revealed a bedroom. There is still one more door, and look! It opens into an additional room.

As Paul explains it, this is why the Drift Palm Springs works so well; it can be configured according to your needs. You can reserve a studio or up to four bedrooms with them all connected for your bachelorette party or family reunion.

Bedrooms at Drift are made for relaxing. Photo by Erin Feinblatt

‘Industrial chic’ décor

When walking into the space, my first reaction was that it felt so clean and the energy seemed great. I was drawn to the sliding doors leading to the patio, and there before me was a stunning view of the San Jacinto Mountains.

Back inside, I marveled at the furniture’s simple structure and classy style. It was all oversized yet comfy, with natural colored cushions. Paul shared that the owner, Philip Bates, designed and manufactured the furniture to his specifications. Various raw materials, stone, Italian brick, brass, and cedar wood provided a calming reaction against the tan walls. The term coined by the hotel management, “industrial chic,” fits the style of the décor perfectly.

Meeting space at the hotel is abundant, with areas that are perfect for intimate parties or corporate retreats. One “drawback” for a retreat is that the view out the window is of the beautiful mountains — it might be a bit distracting.

A special outdoor setting

Yes, there is a large pool, lounge chairs, and cabanas. One of the real draws is at night. The lighting is superb, and the fire pits scattered through the area add a special touch. You will want to have a cocktail, sit there, and enjoy the beautiful atmosphere under the desert sky.

A little prediction: I believe this will become a place where you can meet locals. One of the reasons is that the restaurant, Maleza, is open to the public and has a patio area where people can grab a drink after a day of work and enjoy it poolside.

The poolside views are delightful. Photo by Erin Feinblatt

South of the border dining

Maleza is quickly becoming a favorite restaurant in Downtown Palm Springs. If you can’t make it to the Baja Peninsula, here’s a great option.

This rustic restaurant lets you get your fill of Mexican food with the unique twist you look for when traveling down south, and of course you can also get a delicious cocktail made with mezcal, the hot spirit taking the United States by storm.

The bar at Maleza. Photo by Erin Feinblatt

Explore the surroundings

If you want to explore the neighborhood, ask for directions and then hop on one of the bikes available for guests to use. Head over to Old Las Palmas to see some magnificent original homes — this area offers a glimpse into a world that is often missed by visitors.

As a resident, I’m excited to have Drift as a new addition to our community. If you are planning to come to Palm Springs, I suggest you head over to the Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels website and make your reservation before the word gets out, and you miss an opportunity to be one of the first to visit this special place in the heart of downtown.