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Palm Springs’ newest boutique resort for men exceeded all of my expectations. 

Descanso Resort is a fully refurbished and thoughtfully reimagined Palm Springs paradise with a “California garden patio” motif that somehow manages to weave its way through every detail of your experience. And after my recent three-day staycation there, I’m almost giddy to report that it’s brimming with pleasant surprises.

Spoiler alert: if you want to first experience these surprises in person, you should stop reading here.

Gregory Douglass and Glen Nadeau at Descanso Resort. Photo credit: Gregory Douglass

Much like its brother Palm Springs property Santiago Resort, there is an immediate sense of familiarity as soon as you arrive. The property’s 16 charming suites wrap around you like a much-needed hug from a friend you haven’t seen in ages. The Descanso website proclaims General Manager Kent Taylor and his team “hold advanced degrees in pampering,” so you know you’re in for a treat.

If you check in before your room is ready, you’re actually in luck. Go ahead and lounge by (or in) their saltwater swimming pool, heated to a perfect 90 degrees at all times. You can also enjoy their saltwater spa, rinse down in the outdoor shower, or just retreat under the light mist of their outdoor cooling system. There’s even a communal fire pit to enjoy if the desert heat (or your fellow gaycationers) aren’t hot enough for you already.

The Descanso Resort’s pool area. Photo credit: Gregory Douglass

Every poolside guest lounger has a fresh beach towel, rolled up like a bright green tube pillow. You won’t need a swimsuit either, because clothing is optional here. The 24-hour cantina is always stocked with snacks and beverages — picture a perfect Arnold Palmer and various coffee options, depending on your taste. It’s a Type A personality’s paradise.

The Pamper Patrol (aka the Descanso team) will happily hold your bags while you are busy melting into your favorite new desert oasis. Once your room is ready, you’ll have forgotten you were even waiting for it.

As you might have guessed, my husband Glen Nadeau and I arrived an hour before our room was ready. As we lingered by the pool, I sensed an unpretentious sophistication that made me feel like I could finally take a breath. In English, the Spanish word “Descanso” means “break,” as in “you deserve a break,” so I’ve since learned that was exactly how I was supposed to feel.

Descanso guests can enjoy iced tea or lemonade throughout the day. Photo credit: Gregory Douglass

When we checked into our Balcony Suite, we were met with flush views of the majestic San Jacinto mountains and the Descanso’s magnificent landscaping, consisting of Mexican flame bushes, birds-of-paradise, lime trees, and vines that envelop the hotel’s exterior. Every detail of Descanso is old Hollywood architecture meets mid-century modern decor, but the landscaping is truly the focal point, serving you lush greenery that looks like it is painting an elegant white canvas. Various shades of green are the only “pop” colors that accent Descanso’s interior motif, echoing the symphony of greenery like a standing ovation.

The suite amenities include all you would expect of a place this deliberate — each room has a king-sized bed, Gilchrest & Soames luxury bath products, a mini portable fan, complimentary snacks and water, and a couch you can sleep on (should you have any expected — or unexpected — guests). There was even a “book” by the bed that opened to reveal a small treasure box containing some fun adult amenities for your (or his) pleasure.

The treasure box. Photo credit: Gregory Douglass

After settling into our room, it was time for a complimentary “stay & splash” poolside lunch, provided by Aspen Mills Bakery. We could have then meandered around the neighborhood on Descanso’s complimentary bicycles, exploring the many restaurants and shops in the Palm Springs Uptown District, but we decided to stay poolside to see what else we had in store.

It wasn’t long before someone from the Pamper Patrol circled around the pool, offering each guest a popsicle from a silver platter (literally and figuratively speaking) to accompany their retreat. Soon after, the same rotation served a tray of rolled up frozen washcloths that had been dipped in eucalyptus, and I spent 10 blissful minutes breathing in the cool arctic vapors.

Descanso Resort General Manager Kent Taylor. Photo credit: Gregory Douglass

As the sun changed position, so did the shade. But since Descanso’s lily-white umbrellas are also on wheels, the shade was always in reach. There’s even a bathroom within steps of the pool, with framed swimwear hanging on the walls (you can find this signature look in every bathroom at the resort). All of the property’s artwork is stunning, but the swimwear upstages its company because of its unexpected uniqueness, almost implying that bathing suits should remain a relic here.

When I finally dipped in the pool, it was difficult to get out. The salt water absolutely blankets you with minerals, acting like a natural moisturizer as opposed to the skin-drying effects of its evil stepsister (a.k.a. chlorinated water).

Once I retired to the outdoor saltwater spa, I had a simmering feeling that there were still subtle surprises around every corner. Sure enough, I looked down at the small rocks surrounding the tub and caught a glimpse of this one lone stone wearing a pair of painted underwear.

An unexpected rock at Descanso Resort. Photo credit: Gregory Douglass

As potential new friends began to get friendlier throughout the evening, I couldn’t wait for what other pleasant surprises the night would reveal. But that’s a story for another time.

If you’re looking to plan the ultimate boys gaycation weekend with your besties, there’s no doubt that Palm Springs, California, is on your short list of places to go. It’s one of the few LGBTQ+ safe havens in the country that caters to the queer community year-round — and it’s a mid-century modern desert oasis of fun in the sun. In fact, the entire Coachella Valley is one of the most welcoming places for you and your boys to stay, play, and slay (yaaass, queen).

Ready to start making an itinerary? Here are a few of my suggestions for Palm Springs boutique hotels, restaurants, and activities:

Stay

Santiago Resort

The intimate and luxurious Santiago Resort is a paradise for men if you and your boys want to let down your guard – and your swimwear. If you haven’t yet experienced a saltwater (saline) pool, you’re in for a genuine treat at this ever-popular clothing-optional resort. If they happen to be all booked up, check out their brother resort Descanso for a similarly sophisticated experience. From their complimentary poolside lunch to the new friends you’ll meet poolside, you won’t want to stay anywhere that isn’t clothing-optional again after this.

The Santiago Resort at dusk. Photo courtesy of the Santiago Resort

INNdulge Palm Springs

INNdulge is a popular men’s resort in the Warm Sands district of Palm Springs, with a 24-hour heated saltwater pool and 12-man jacuzzi. It’s a more economical option as well if you and the boys are on a budget (or holding out for more of the fun stuff). They have 25 years of experience assisting men with their first time at a clothing-optional resort, but you can also watch the alluring videos on their website in advance if you’re curious.

The INNdulge grounds. Photo courtesy of INNdulge

Desert Paradise Resort Hotel

The Desert Paradise Resort Hotel is an intimate 12-room boutique hotel that strives to go above and beyond for their guests from check in to check out. Also conveniently located in the Warm Sands district, Desert Paradise is a beautiful, relaxing option for an attitude-free atmosphere with spectacular views.

The Desert Paradise’s pool and spa area. Photo courtesy of Desert Paradise

Eat

Eight4Nine Restaurant & Lounge

From its chic, colorful interior to fantastic music playlist, Eight4Nine Restaurant & Lounge is a must for any first-timer’s boys weekend. Their New American cuisine is as contemporary as their Pop Art atmosphere, and it’s a great option for brunch, lunch, happy hour, and/or dinner. It even has Miley Cyrus’ seal of approval, so need I say more?

Grab a drink at Eight4Nine. Photo courtesy of Eight4Nine

AsiaSF Palm Springs

Now with their second location right here in Palm Springs, AsiaSF is a cabaret dinner show that has been dazzling audiences for 23 years in San Francisco. Think of this as an elevated drag show, with the exception that all AsiaSF performers are transgender women, bringing the house down each night with legendary lip syncs, light shows, and choreography. Their Asian-fusion three-course meals are as memorable as their performers as well, so it’s truly a feast for the senses!

Blackbook Bar & Kitchen

Blackbook is located in the heart of the Arenas district and has a reputation among locals for having the best bar food in Palm Springs. It’s a great place to meet new friends during happy hour — and a great place to sober up if you’re bar-hopping throughout Arenas’ many gay watering holes. Try the cheese-stuffed Juicy Lucy burger (or the Juicy Lucifer if you want to add some heat).

Experience

Drag shows

What would a boys weekend be without drag shows, hunty? Luckily, there are drag shows all throughout the greater Palm Springs area. Drag brunch is a must, so check out the Mile High Boozy Brunch at PS Air Bar & Lounge, a playful airline-themed speakeasy inside the Bouschet wine store. Then check out Vanity’s Doll Haus every Friday night at One Eleven Bar in Cathedral City. You might even catch a Drag Race Ru Gurl there now and again. Here’s a complete list of drag shows from Gay Desert Guide for more ideas. Shantay, you stay!

MOGO Silent Disco

MOGO Silent Disco is Palm Springs’ latest event where you and the boys can turn up the volume on your headsets and dance your a**es off on a private parade through downtown. Kaftans, sequins, and stunning outfits are always encouraged!

Sunday Funday

Everything gay happens here in Palm Springs on Sunday, which is why the locals call it “Sunday Funday.” Start the day with drag brunch, naturally. Then lounge by the hotel pool or crash a pool party until it’s time for Oscar’s legendary tea dance. After you’ve had enough disco, strap on some leather gear and head on over to the Barracks for their legendary Beer Bust.

Explore

Mid-century modern tours

If you’re as big of a fan of mid-century modern as I am, consider Palm Springs Mod Squad Tours or Mid-Century Modern Tours. If a self-guided tour is more your jam, you and the boys can caravan around some iconic mid-century modern neighborhoods with The Palm Springs Guys’ MCM Architecture Self-Guided Tour Guide (Google Maps GPS-ready!). As a bonus, there are always open houses worth checking out here on the weekends that will have you feeling like you’re at Modernism Week.

The mid-century modern Visitors Center. Photo by Arthur Coleman Photography

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

If you’re looking to cool down, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway climbs up two-and-a-half-miles of Chino Canyon cliffs to the top of Mt. San Jacinto State Park — an elevation of 8,516 feet and temperature drop of nearly 20 degrees. This is the self-described “world’s largest rotating tram car” and riders enjoy spectacular views of the panoramic valleys below. There are 50+ miles of trails — after a hike through the butterscotch-scented Jeffrey pines, take to the observation decks for happy hour before a nice dinner at Peaks Restaurant.

Palm Springs Art Museum

The Palm Springs Art Museum has an incredible collection of 12,000 works of modern and contemporary art, architecture, and design, and is always inspiring to see. So are the installations surrounding the property, like Palm Springs Babies and the 26-foot sculpture of Marilyn Monroe located directly in front of the museum.

When your ultimate boys weekend in Palm Springs comes to an end, you’ll leave with plenty of memories and photos to post on the Gram — be sure to tag them with #gaycation and #ilovegaypalmsprings.

Marilyn Monroe in all of her glory. Photo courtesy of Visit Palm Springs

The Vista Grande Resort isn’t just a men’s clothing-optional boutique hotel in the heart of Warm Sands. It’s a philosophy and an opportunity for gay men from all over the world to gather and simply be who they are. “The Art of Being” is their adage, and it’s embedded in the guest experience as much as it is embedded in their logo.

Established in 1984, Vista Grande was the first gay clothing-optional hotel in Palm Springs. It’s also the longest running, and their mission remains steady: “To save the world one man at a time, providing discerning gay travelers with an unforgettable blend of comfort, fun, and pleasure in our secret garden sanctuary where we celebrate life, love, and personal freedom every day.”

The moment you arrive at Vista Grande, you enter a secret garden that feels like an endless oasis of pleasurable potential. The lush landscaping envelops the labyrinth-like property and is carefully curated by one of its founding fathers, Robert Fields. It almost feels like a tropical rainforest in the center of the low desert. With an ever-breathtaking view of the San Jacinto Mountains, Vista Grande invites you to explore your vigor for being alive. It also invites quite a few hummingbirds to the party as well!

The property’s gorgeous waterfall. Photo courtesy of Vista Grande Resort

What makes Vista Grande truly unique though is a commitment to their philosophy. You can feel a visceral surge of freedom in every aspect, from their inquisitive amenities to their communal sense of hospitality. The attentive staff’s comforting approach makes you feel more like family than the average resort as well. And since Vista Grande doesn’t “specify,” it makes for a popular, unpretentious mix of men of all types, ages, shapes, and sizes that seems to make everyone feel right at home.

The Avalon seating area. Photo credit: Gregory Douglass

Vista Grande is one of the only men’s clothing-optional resorts that offers extended stay opportunities. Their spacious garden apartments are fully equipped with all the comforts you would expect in a home, but with additional concierge hotel services, housekeeping, swimming pools, a spa, a steam room, waterfalls, and beautiful views of the gardens (and the neighbors)! What’s more, an extended stay at Vista Grande grants anyone the liberty to experience a prolonged sense of freedom rather than just a weekend of delight.

My husband Glen and I spent a pleasurable evening in one of their four Mirage Waterfall Suites, located in the beautiful enclave just steps from the steam room, 18-man spa, blue lagoon, and waterfall. It’s the perfect fairy tale setting for just about anything, and Mirage suites are elevated by concierge services like VIP parking, welcome gifts, and breakfast trays delivered to your room daily. We even had special burgundy towels specific to the Mirage suites experience to wear like badges of honor throughout the evening. At the end of our stay, the staff proudly proclaimed to us, “You are Mirage Men now!”

Breakfast in bed. Photo courtesy of Vista Grande Resort

Get cozy on the couch in one of the Mirage suites. Photo credit: Gregory Douglass

Another unique aspect of Vista Grande is the layout of amenities throughout the property. There are two swimming pools on the grounds, each equipped with a floating canopy covering about a third of the pool for shade. The Vista Grande Villa art deco-style pool serves as a quieter, non-smoking and no-music pool with a vintage Palm Springs vibe. The Avalon pool is a more expansive “party” area that is ripe for male adventure.

During our stay, I had the opportunity to connect with Robert Fields himself, and it didn’t take long for me to realize how deeply invested he is in the essence of Vista Grande. He compared his sprawling garden creations throughout the property as a “canvas to paint upon.” He also hinted at the magical relationship he had with his late husband Bob, and how together they created Vista Grande to serve as an extension of their mutual celebratory spirit for all others who visit the resort to benefit from. Robert is still very much the heart and soul of the place, and it’s apparent how much his employees appreciate him and his philosophy too — most have been working there for years.

After just 24 hours, I left the Vista Grande Resort feeling inspired, rejuvenated, and much freer than I had felt before checking in. I can only imagine what a longer stay would have revealed in “The Art of Being.”

All men are welcome at Vista Grande Resort. Photo credit: Gregory Douglass

The Triangle Inn is like a charming man with a cheeky wit and a very sexy smile. Who wouldn’t want a second date?

Let’s start with a few fun facts, rated Hollywood-style.

The Triangle Inn spans the corners of San Lorenzo (très exotique, non?) and Random Road, a flirty wink from the street naming committee.

Rating: R for randy randomness

When it was built, the hotel was called The Impala Lodge. The year was 1958, and the architect was notable mid-century modernist Hugh Kaptur. 

Kaptur apprenticed for mid-mod darlings Harrison and Wexler, and Wexler apprenticed under the man they called the Desert Maverick, William Cody. In a 1958 Desert Sun article, Kaptur described the architectural design of the Lodge as the highly non-PC “Indian Modern.”

Rating: Winner, best documentary

Then, like the rest of us, the lodge went through some changes. From lodge to apartment building and into disrepair, the modernist gem was badly in need of an image overhaul.

Rating: Elizabeth Berkley

In the late 1980s/early 1990s, Matthew Robinson and Kevin Rice purchased the property, restored the original architecture, remodeled the rooms, and when the flag finally flew it was a rainbow flag, waving high above the newly named Triangle Inn, an eight-suite, men’s clothing optional resort. 

Rating: Kal Penn

The Triangle Inn’s entrance. Photo courtesy of The Triangle Inn

In 2000, Robinson and Rice were looking for someone to love the inn as much as they did, and ran into some wicked good luck. Two frequent Palm Springers from Atlanta (let’s call them Michael and Stephen because those are their names) decided they wanted to live in paradise and purchased the classy little mid-century revival gem.

Its massive glass-paned walls let the sunshine in and provide an endless view of our gorgeous mountains. Angular steel beams and the slanted roof are punctuated by lush tropical foliage; there are fruit trees all over the property —  mango, lemon, blood orange — making it feel as remote and as exotic as Gilligan’s Island without Ginger, Marianne, or the Howells (they’re so pretentious), but with way better amenities. 

But it’s not remote; it’s intimate. The hotel is actually only five minutes from downtown Palm Springs. That’s five by car, 15 if you’re biking. Drinking and biking renders various results, but generally longer durations and is not recommended.

Rating: A Star is Born

The living room in one of The Triangle Inn’s suites. Photo courtesy of The Triangle Inn

Consistently garnering five-star ratings and rave reviews, it shouldn’t surprise you that The Triangle Inn has a very long history of repeat guests. There are many reasons for this — the lovely suites, the fine amenities — but also because there is zero judgment. They’re very light on the rules, and then there’s that southern hospitality: warm as the sun and cool as the night air. 

Breakfast offers an assortment of breads, fruit, yogurt, and cereals, as well as coffee and tea — all gratis — on the covered patio by the pool. If you’d like a White Claw (again, no judgments, you’re on vacation) they’re $3 and you can drink them poolside. It’s all very chill.

The suites echo the style of the exterior, all in the mid-mod aesthetic, dressed in earthy tans and browns; light, sky blues; and rich sunset oranges. Even the Tarocco bath amenities are in burnt orange. 

The bathroom in one of The Triangle Inn’s suites. Photo courtesy of The Triangle Inn

The bed linens are crisp 500-count cotton, and all the accommodations have either a kitchen/dining room or a kitchenette depending on room size. Instead of a dishwasher in each of the suites, the houseman takes care of the dishes when he tidies your room.

Of all the places you can choose to stay in Palm Springs, The Triangle Inn is, perhaps, the most social. The intimate setting provides an opportunity for guests to become lifelong friends, not just with Michael and Stephen, but with each other, flying in from all over the world to meet up for a repeat performance.

Yet, because the rooms are all down the corridor, away from the outdoor activities, festivities, and laughter, guests can work from their suites before they go out to play. Some book for a month at a time, several times a year. It’s their home away from home. And because Michael and Stephen live on property, guests experience family-style hospitality that’s all rom-com and zero drama. 

Rating: All the stars

P.S. The Triangle Inn welcomes friendly canines. Inquire within.

The pool at night. Photo courtesy of The Triangle Inn