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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.

“We’re not interested in being the most expensive resort in Palm Springs, but we are interested in being the nicest.” — INNdulge owner Jon Jackson

Warm Sands is a beautiful Palm Springs neighborhood with sprawling estates, their edges lined with walls of perfectly-manicured, oversized hedges requesting you respect their privacy. You often don’t know what’s behind them — is it one of the many private homes, or is it one of the many men’s clothing-optional resorts? There’s a lot of bush going on there, it’s hard to tell.  

On that alone, INNdulge stands out. 

From the classy stone marquee on the tip of the property and generous parking spaces, to the rainbow flag waving above the mid-century modern structure of steel and tinted glass that screams “I’m a hotel lobby,” the INNdulge resort is out and proud on the street.

But that’s only a perk if you are directionally impaired. What really makes INNdulge stand out is what’s through the door. 

It’s entirely unexpected: A lobby that is the definition of minimalist, with a teak desk that’s functional art on marble tile flooring. Where there aren’t floor to ceiling windows, there is art. Gorgeous art. 

The INNdulge lobby. Photo courtesy of INNdulge

Off the lobby is a retro bistro table next to an open wall of glass that lets the outside in, and that outside is so mid-century perfect that your mind’s eye can see Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter soaking up the rays on the lip of the pool, or maybe Cary Grant and Randolph Scott cheekily cavorting in the water. 

It all has a sophisticated playfulness to it, something you’ll find sprinkled throughout the rest of the property. It’s one of the benefits of having an owner who has an intense passion for visual mediums. 

Speaking of playfulness, it’s hard to miss the two large statues flanking the pool, both with very large Flintstone-esque feet. 

This statue keeps watch over INNdulge. Photo courtesy of INNdulge

“It’s by an artist named Mavis McClure,” INNdulge owner Jon Jackson tells me, clearly as fascinated with the artist as he is the art. “We met her when she was a professor at Berkeley. She does both male and female figures with oversized hands and feet. She did these at Berkeley; the models were two cousins from Italy that were exchange students.”

Most of the art is by gay artists, but Jackson doesn’t discriminate. If he loves it, he buys it.

Unexpected art is scattered across the entire property, and every suite is not only clad in the mid-century modern aesthetic, but each has their own original paintings. 

A room at INNdulge. Photo courtesy of INNdulge

Another thing that sets INNdulge apart from other men’s resorts is that with 31 rooms, it lands in the mid-sized category. At this particular resort, more people equals more fun, which is one of the reasons INNdulge has an 80 percent guest return rate.

“Everything is designed around the pool in such a way to encourage people to meet, and every evening we have a social hour,” Jackson explains. “It’s BYOB because of the California liquor licenses. But we do it to encourage people to foster conversation and friendships. That’s why people come back.”

Most of the suites are poolside, with only about 10 of them away from the pool, and those have quieter patios in case you’re looking to have a cup of coffee away from the bustle.

Poolside views. Photo courtesy of INNdulge

Speaking of coffee, INNdulge lays out a couple of fabulous spreads for breakfast. Yogurt, berries, croissants, ham and cheese, and of course juice, coffee, and tea.  

There’s a lot to do in Palm Springs, and Jackson has found that first-time visitors often book themselves with activities every minute of every day, from modernism tours to tennis lessons. 

“When they come back the second time, it’s just to hang out by the pool,” Jackson says. “Of course, they go out to dinner, but they sort of get in this vibe. I don’t claim that, it’s not INNdulge’s vibe, it’s the Palm Springs vibe. And we try to recreate that here.”

And nothing says Palm Springs like a soak in a 12-man whirlpool spa that is open 24/7, so if you can’t sleep and think some friendly bubbles might soothe you, just hop on in. The water’s the perfect temperature, and the desertscape at night is breathtaking.

“We do a major remodel of something every single year primarily for our repeat clients,” Jackson says. “We do that because they come to expect what they know — this is the best value in the desert.”

The INNdulge grounds. Photo courtesy of INNdulge