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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.

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

From the boldly chic Cheetah Hotel to the artsy Fleur Noire, visitors to Palm Springs now have even more options for boutique hotels.

“We are delighted to welcome these new hotels and their owners to Palm Springs,” Michael Green, owner of the Triangle Inn and chair of Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels, said. “They bring such creative vision and energy. And now visitors will have even more fabulous places to stay.” 

A room at the Tiki Hotel. Photo courtesy of Tiki Hotel

Husband and wife team Tracy Turco and Jerry Turco have revamped and renewed three mid-century modern Palm Springs properties, all within a few blocks of each other. Their first project, the 8-room Art Hotel at 1339 N. Indian Canyon Dr., is vibrant and colorful, with the works of local artists on display across the grounds and a large outdoor mural by Damon Johnson greeting guests. Next, they transformed the former Carlton Hotel at 1333 N. Indian Canyon Dr. into the 11-room Tiki Hotel, a Polynesian paradise with ukuleles in every suite and a gift shop with necessities for every Palm Springs vacation. 

A Cheetah Hotel bedroom. Photo courtesy of The Cheetah Hotel.

Their latest property is the 12-room Cheetah Hotel at 354 E. Stevens Rd., featuring a black and yellow color scheme and cheetah icons designed by Tracy (she picks out or creates all of the wallpaper, linens, and furniture for the Turco hotels). All of the rooms are just steps away from the courtyard pool and separate spa, and $10 from each booking goes to the Cheetah Conservation Fund.

“What I love most about Palm Springs is nature’s beauty,” Tracy said. “I love the sunsets, love the mountains with the palm trees, and all of the fruited trees.” While walking around town, Tracy loves to stop and take in the “gorgeous flowers in full bloom all year round,” she added. “The beautiful bougainvillea makes it like you’re living in technicolor. It’s just magical.”

A room at the Descanso Resort. Photo courtesy of Descanso Resort.

At the new Descanso Resort, it’s all about that indoor/outdoor living. This men’s resort, formerly the East Canyon Resort & Spa, is the brother property to the Santiago, and provides the same luxe accommodations. Located at 288 E. Camino Monte Vista, the hotel underwent a total transformation, with all guest rooms and areas undergoing renovations. The rooms are equipped with new furniture, high-end linens and bedding, and Gilchrest & Soames luxury bath products. The pampering starts as soon as guests arrive — at check in, a snack bag is provided, and complimentary food and beverages are available in the cantina; a continental breakfast and poolside lunch is also offered. The private grounds feature native plants, a heated pool and spa, day beds, and a garden shower.

A beautiful mural at Fleure Noire. Photo courtesy of Fleur Noire

The Fleur Noire at 1555 N. Indian Canyon Dr. offers an eclectic mix of 21 casitas, bungalows, and suites, each one with its own distinct design — and a refrigerator that is stocked daily with complimentary water. There are stunning floral wall murals by artist Louise Jones (a.k.a. Ouize) on display across the property, and guests can lounge by the heated pool and multiple fire pits or in the club house, which has a communal pantry and working and dining areas. La Boisson, a speakeasy champagne and rosé bar, is opening later this spring.

An Azure Sky bedroom. Photo courtesy of Azure Sky

Azure Sky, a 14-room luxury hotel at 1661 S. Calle Palo Fierro, is set to open in the early spring, and is already causing a stir. Originally built in 1959, new owners Acme Hospitality and Eastern Real Estate have lovingly restored the property, bringing in vintage lighting and custom woodwork to dazzle guests. Most of the rooms have private patios with hammocks and kitchenettes, with built-in beds, stone tile flooring, and mid-century modern inspired design accents. The lounge boasts a premium cocktail bar, and outside, there’s a sparkling pool, fire pits, two courtyards, and a large hot tub that can hold up to 25 people. 

Whether it’s for a weekend getaway, a romantic retreat, or a long much-needed workcation that’s not too far from home, there’s a small boutique hotel waiting for you in Palm Springs with just the vibe you crave.

About Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels

Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels is an association 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. Subscribe to our Monthly e-Newsletter, Boutiquely Palm Springs. From tips on what to do, see and eat in Palm Springs, to interviews with hoteliers, it’s the insider’s guide to everything great about Palm Springs and its iconic boutique hotels. Follow the fun on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest.

With summer officially in full swing, hospitality staff at Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels are turning their attention to pampering visitors from all over the world. 

The pools are cool, the nights are warm, and everyone is languid. Yes, it’s hot, but hey, midday, head to the museums, the top of the mountain on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (where it’s always 30 degrees cooler and the views are breathtaking), or hit the air-conditioned stores and galleries to take advantage of their sizzling summer sales. Most Palm Springs restaurants remain open — however, they may adjust their hours, so be sure to check their websites. 

The sooner you book your stay, the better. For the past couple of summers, Palm Springs’ small boutique hotels, many with a vibe to fit your travel style, have been busy. That said, you can save some serious money and time by booking directly with a boutique hotel inside of going through a third-party travel platform. Plus, you’ll have a much better experience in general.

“Small hotels have distinct personalities. That’s one of the things that makes them special,” says Michael Green, owner of the Triangle Inn Palm Springs. “So if you want to stay at one, go direct. You’ll get the best sense of the hotel itself.”

Here are six reasons you should book directly with a boutique hotel or resort:

1. Room choice

Many of Palm Springs’ small hotels and resorts (those with no more than 50 rooms) have been remodeled, often resulting in new additions, removal of walls to make larger suites, and a carefully-curated environment to enhance the guest experience. 

Third-party booking companies are given a block of tickets to sell in a particular area of the hotel, with no knowledge of where rooms may be located or details on the hotel’s total environment. 

“Room choices are often ‘run of house’ with third parties, as opposed to the guest booking directly with the hotel and locking in their room,” explains Sarah Martinez, general manager of Azure Sky, a new luxury boutique hotel in Palm Springs. Green concurs, saying, “Booking platforms generally only get a select piece of inventory from hotels, and especially from small hotels — maybe just one room type — so for the full picture, it’s always better to talk to the hotel directly.”

Sarah Martinez, general manager of Azure Sky.

2. Accountability 

We’ve all been there. You booked a flight through one of the discount sites, and it gets delayed due to weather, there’s a schedule change, or you have a family emergency. You need to contact someone for help, and that’s when the epic nightmare of a time sink begins.

After a long wait on the phone, the airline says they can’t help because you booked through a third party, so you must call them. The person who answers does not understand the situation or doesn’t have the authority to make changes and says there is no way they can help. You push for a higher manager, and the saga continues. The same scenario can happen when you use a third party to book hotel reservations.

“Because third-party reservations lock us out of any changes or adjustments, it’s easier to adjust a reservation that has been booked directly,” says Kent Taylor, general manager at Descanso Resort.

3. Flexibility 

The text arrives: Aunt Mable decides she wants to come along on the trip after all. Great — you have a built-in babysitter! — but now there aren’t enough beds for everyone.

“If you booked directly with the hotel, it’s super easy to call it and modify your reservation … perhaps to a suite or whatever accommodation hotel management suggests. Flexibility is number one,” Martinez says. “Once a guest books a room through a third party, the hotel cannot make changes to the reservation and the guest has to deal with the third party directly. It created a middleman which can lead to frustration because it may appear the hotel is not helpful.”

Taylor agrees, saying, “We try very hard to be as flexible as possible. There are so many unforeseen situations in our world these days, the last thing anyone needs is more complications while just trying to take a vacation.”

4. Packages and special deals

Especially during the summer, when making a reservation with a hotel, ask if there are any packages available. Palm Springs is a very close-knit community, and often attractions work with hotels to offer guests special rates for the abundance of things to experience. 

“Many hotels offer perks to those who book directly, such as upgrades or cancellations without penalties,” one hotelier revealed. “But it’s usually on a case-by-case basis, so you’ll never find them on one of the third-party booking platforms.” Martinez is more blunt, declaring, “Hotels offer various deals and packages not found on third-party sites.”

5. Pricing 

Being a responsible traveler and planner, you are probably accustomed to checking out third-party websites. Always a good idea, but do not stop there. Once you have selected the hotel that appears to meet your needs, check out their website and call the number listed. Be ready with your accommodation needs and ask them for their advice and the price. If it appears the price is higher than you found online, tell them — they would rather give you the discount than pay the third party a fee. 

According to Martinez, hotels will often price match, except when the third party is directly undercutting the hotel or is packaging the room with other sales, such as airfare or car rentals.

“We prefer direct bookings to reduce the commission cost of 18 percent from the OTAs (other travel agencies),” says Robert Hunt, general manager of Alcazar Palm Springs. This alsoallows the front desk agent to discuss the type of room that best fits the guest’s needs, since we have 10 different room types available on the property.”

Plus, sometimes a “deal” from an OTA or booking platform really isn’t. Taylor shares this cautionary tale: “I had a small group call about booking a specific weekend with several rooms. After giving them the information they needed, they decided to all book themselves on the website. Everyone but one booked directly with the hotel. One member of the group booked with a specific website that offers a portion of a free hotel night, if a certain number of rooms are booked in the year. The one guest who booked with that third-party website was paying approximately $25 more a night than everyone else in his group. I was shocked to see it! He was paying in advance for his ‘free night’ … and then some.”

“Some OTAs use tricky, misleading tactics to make it appear the guest rate is lower than the hotel,” Martinez warns. “The initial average room rate can sometimes look less expensive but as the guest books, there are large fees added to the booking and the guest is not actually paying a lower rate.”

Kent Taylor, general manager of Descanso Resort

6. Book direct and make better memories

The special touch offered by front desk agents at Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels will make your stay more memorable.

“The very nature of a third-party booking website removes the personal touch,” Taylor says. “We take many reservations over the phone and people ask a variety of questions that inform their vacation on the whole. Where can we go for our special dinner? Is there a gym close by? Do you serve vegan yogurt at breakfast? Only someone helping you at the hotel will know the answers to these types of questions. It is like having a direct connect to a local for help in creating the best vacation you can have.”

Pro tips to remember:

If you book your hotel directly and need to make a change, they can help you do so with one short phone call.

A direct relationship with the hotel gives you a lot more flexibility because they are in the hospitality business, not the booking business.

When you speak to an employee at a boutique hotel, they can answer your questions about the property, unlike third-party agents who are not familiar with the offerings.

Some booking platforms make it look like you’re getting a lower price, but they tack on hefty fees at the end, increasing the final total.