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Near downtown Palm Springs, California, the Korakia Pensione quietly reveals itself on South Patencio Road. 

As someone who lives in Palm Springs, even I was surprised this pensione — meaning a small hotel — was unknown to me until I discovered it through the Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels website. 

Korakia is pronounced kor-a-kee-a. The name comes from the Greek word for “crow,” a bird abundant in the mountains of Greece. The hotel’s original name was Dar Marroc, but when Doug Smith, of Greek descent, became the owner in the late 1980s, he changed the name to Korakia Pensione. 

Once you enter the grounds, you will instantly see why Smith felt at home here. Olive trees surround the Moroccan-style architecture, and flowering bougainvillea winds its way up the beautiful arches. When painter Gordon Coutts built the property in 1924 as a hideaway, he brought with him décor reminiscent of his life in Tangier. 

The Marrakech Suite. Photo courtesy of Korakia Pensione

Three-tier fountains grace the courtyard, and a spacious pool is heated to 94 degrees. Yes, you read it right. One of the luxurious amenities is the ability to swim in the middle of the winter under our beautiful Palm Springs starlit sky. 

After a swim, wrap yourself in a robe then find your way to one of the property’s many fire pits. People come here from all over the world, and you’re bound to find yourself sharing stories with other guests.

An extension of the inn

The silent screen actress J. Carol Naish owned the villa across the street from Coutts’ property, and after it was purchased in 1933, it became part of the pensione. The Mediterranean-style buildings and grounds have seamlessly been combined, offering 28 rooms on more than two acres. 

The Naish House. Photo courtesy of Korakia Pensione

The courtyard serves many purposes

Surrounded by olive and fruit trees, the courtyard is the place to be for guests when it’s time to enjoy the breakfast provided by the pensione. Small tables allow you to have your coffee alone, or if you want to join others, moving tables is not a problem, so you can have robust conversations if you desire. 

Then in the afternoon, a lovely tea is served to guests, still providing another opportunity if you choose to engage in conversation with others. 

Tea is served. Photo courtesy of Korakia Pensione

A recent addition to the hotel’s offerings is a Moroccan dinner catered by Eight4Nine, a popular local restaurant. Its success has even caught the staff off guard, so you will want to check their schedule and make reservations if you are in the area when this special evening is offered (which, at the time of writing this article, is once a month). 

Rent the venue for…

A corporate retreat

Recently, the entire space was rented for a corporate retreat — those were some lucky employees, though it may have been a tad hard to concentrate knowing there is a heated pool steps away. There are plenty of spaces for people to scatter during breaks or even to play bocce ball. Later in the evening, join colleagues around the firepit to watch a classic or foreign film on the outdoor screen.

Outdoor movie screenings are a benefit of staying at Korakia. Photo courtesy of Korakia Pensione

To ensure you have the team’s full attention for the retreat, there is no WiFi, TV, or clocks to distract from the task at hand. This is a resort that believes if you want to refresh and renew, technology needs to be left behind.

Weddings

Are you planning a desert wedding? One spot that should be moved to the top of your list is the Korakia. The courtyard, already surrounded by olive trees and bougainvillea, is turned into a magical place, with more flowers added to the arched doors. You now have the perfect backdrop for your vows. 

Cocktail hour is by the fountain, which welcomes guests with rushing water. All around the pool, your friends and family can mingle and share stories about how your life touched theirs. 

The perfect wedding backdrop. Photo courtesy of Korakia Pensione

The celebration doesn’t stop there. A short walk across the quiet street to the other section of the pensione brings you down a path set aglow with lanterns and candles to still another courtyard for your reception. This flat space is perfect for your festive tables. 

I love the idea of your cake on a small table near the firepit. Imagine the effect created in your photos, so the glow reflects in the nighttime sky as you cut your cake together. 

Photo shoots

If you want to do a Mediterranean photo shoot without the expense of flying to Europe, Korakia Pensione can fill that need. Remember, we talked about the olive trees and fountains, and oh yes, they have a spa too, which lends itself to luxury photos. 

Family reunions

I can only imagine getting an announcement from a relative that it’s been decided our next get together will be at the Korakia. Some caveats: children under 13 are not allowed at the resort, and your beloved dog must find another place to vacation.

An authentic experience

I recently interviewed Korakia General Manager Paulette Monarrez, and as our conversation was coming to a close, I asked how long she had been involved with the hotel. Her smile broadened as she said, “15 years.” I then asked what she was most proud of in her work here, and without a beat, she responded, “We have an all-women staff. Also, I appreciate that so much care has been given to preserving the buildings. Plus, authentic Moroccan and Mediterranean artwork in the rooms and throughout the grounds adds a special touch to the Korakia.”

Walking away, I smiled to myself. Touring one of our Palm Springs boutique hotels is always rewarding because they are all so different. My suggestion: Use the Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels website to pick out your winter destination and call the hotel directly — they can assist in making the perfect accommodations for your desert stay. 

One of the hotel’s many fire pits. Photo courtesy of Korakia Pensione

Recently we took our sweet cocker spaniel, Fender, on a short trip to Palm Springs. It was a beautiful afternoon when we arrived at the so aptly named Azure Sky, one of the most recently renovated Palm Springs Small Preferred Hotels. Yes, the sky and enticing pool were both sparkling azure when we arrived at this stunning boutique hotel. 

The grounds are lushly landscaped with blooming native plants and palm trees that help create a tranquil getaway in the middle of the desert, but Azure Sky is also still ideally located in the heart of Palm Springs. Here you can have it all — a peaceful hideaway that is still close to the activities and restaurants that attract so many visitors to Palm Springs.

As we entered the hotel grounds, we were especially impressed by the striking, steel entryway gate, which introduces guests to the innovative contemporary design of the hotel.

The pool area of Azure Sky. Photo courtesy of Azure Sky

This hotel was originally built in 1959 and was a timeshare and then apartments for many years. In June, an extensive two-year renovation was completed, resulting in a stylish retreat featuring wood and stone with an emphasis on natural light. The hotel has a modern vibe while still retaining its original mid-century charm that is so characteristic of Palm Springs. There are only 14 rooms so you almost feel as if you are staying in your own personal, private retreat — and since this property caters to adults, you can expect peace and quiet.

We were warmly welcomed in the chic, inviting lobby with a refreshing cocktail, and Fender was even greeted with a little doggie bag holding a special healthy treat, which he eagerly devoured. It is so nice to be able to visit such a wonderful hotel that is also dog friendly.  

We were then shown to the Agave Suite, which was spacious and comfortable. Our room included a lovely living room with a kitchenette and a separate comfy bedroom with a unique floating wooden bed featuring linens that were as soft as clouds — just like the clouds in the azure sky. We also enjoyed the outdoor private patio connected to our room. There are four different room configurations at different price points.

An Azure Sky bedroom. Photo courtesy of Azure Sky

This suite included almost every amenity possible except a TV, which we did not miss at all. It was nice to tune out the news of the day and enjoy our quiet retreat. The soothing palate of subdued colors enhanced the serenity of our room; even our dog was ready to curl up and take a snooze. There were bottles of cocktail mixes to purchase in our room so we enjoyed drinks as we embraced the restful atmosphere. My husband and I agreed that Azure Sky provided a much-welcomed escape from our busy, daily lives.

The luxurious courtyard with spectacular views of the dramatic San Jacinto Mountains offers guests ample outdoor areas for relaxing and contemplating life. Guests can gather around one of the two fire pits for pleasant conversation or quiet reflection. The expansive terrace surrounding the pool had plenty of lounge chairs and is another ideal place to relax after a refreshing swim or dip in the warm waters of the jacuzzi. Azure Sky is truly an enchanting getaway designed with the comfort of guests in mind. 

The inviting pool at Azure Sky. Photo by Todd Montgomery

After relaxing in our room, our only decision was where to go for dinner. So we adjourned to the comfortable Azure Sky lobby lounge and warmed ourselves in front of the fire crackling in the fireplace while we savored a cocktail and considered our dinner options. Of course Palm Springs offers many superb restaurants, but we found ourselves enjoying the ambiance of Azure Sky so much that we were reluctant to venture out for dinner. Instead, we ordered a pizza (which was delivered right to the lobby) and talked with a few of the other friendly Azure Sky guests while we nibbled and sipped. We met two pleasant young women from Paris who had been traveling around Southern California on business and they were also genuinely impressed with the upscale charm of Azure Sky.

Susan Montgomery and Fender enjoy Azure Sky. Photo by Todd Montgomery

Azure Sky offers a complimentary continental breakfast and freshly brewed coffee every morning, which helped us launch our day ahead in Palm Springs. We learned that the hotel is also the perfect venue for weddings and other special occasions. Sometimes all the rooms are sold out for events so that guests can have the entire property to themselves.

By the way, while we were in Palm Springs we had a delightful lunch with a friend at another PSPSH property, La Serena Villas, where the much celebrated restaurant, Azúcar, is located. We dined on delicious swordfish tacos, scrumptious chicken lettuce wraps, and a shrimp cocktail while we sipped the restaurant’s special margarita called the Rosearita, which is made with tequila, rose liqueur, and agave nectar. Azúcar’s outdoor patio setting around the La Serena Villas pool captures the quintessential relaxing spirit of Palm Springs. Our friendly restaurant server even brought Fender a bowl of water. We’ve learned that dogs are generally very welcome in Palm Springs.

The Rosearita. Photo by Todd Montgomery

We could not have had a more perfect day and of course we ended it at Azure Sky, which truly is over the top and quickly became our home away from home. We will be back — and so will Fender who loved Azure Sky as much as we did!

Twin Palms Resort is Palm Springs’ newest kid on the block. 

An upscale boutique hotel, Twin Palms is a brother property to the Santiago and Descanso. This trio of remarkable resorts offer gay men a gorgeous selection of naturally chic, swimsuit-optional retreats right in the heart of Palm Springs, and having now experienced all three properties myself, I can happily say “the third time’s a charm” with Twin Palms Resort.

Welcome to Twin Palms Resort. Photo by Gregory Douglass

Santiago was my first experience at a men’s resort in Palm Springs, back in 2018. As a 40-year-old gay man living in Los Angeles at the time, I’d never felt such freedom and restoration from a long weekend away from my big-city life. It was a game-changing experience for me.

I was curious how the other men-only resorts here in the Coachella Valley compared to the distinguishable Santiago experience. “How different can they all be?” I wondered. Having now experienced the majority of gay hotels here, it’s a privilege to be writing about what a spectrum of enticing options we have — each with its own flavor, vibe, and healing benefits.

The modern clubhouse. Photo courtesy of Twin Palms Resort

Twin Palms Resort is no different from its brother properties when it comes to top-notch luxury and leisure. The “casually extravagant” experience is what many have come to expect from a Resorts Palm Springs property, and yet Twin Palms already has a distinct personality of its own. Santiago has a modern Spanish aesthetic, while Descanso boasts a “California garden patio” motif. Twin Palms is the first to celebrate a true mid-century modern concept inside and out.

Nested in Palm Springs’ first modernist neighborhood, Twin Palms Estates, the resort looks as timeless as it does fresh in style, with its pops of yellows, blues, and greens. These colors accent that classic, clean white modernism style that makes Palm Springs architecture so iconic. It might even rival the hotel’s historic start — opened in 1959 as the Brentwood Apartments, the property was originally developed to blend in with the neighborhood’s 90 modernist tract homes, designed by one of the founding fathers of Palm Springs modernism, William Krisel.

Hotel guests can use these bikes to tool around town. Photo courtesy of Twin Palms Resort

What really makes Twin Palms Resort unique is its communal layout. The perfectly heated saltwater swimming pool acts as a centerpiece to its 20 single-story guest rooms, yellow umbrellas, and chaise lounges that all wrap around the pool like a rainbow. The 12-man spa is just as welcoming as the luxurious patio space, which faces a breathtaking view of the San Jacinto Mountains.

You have to love those mountain views. Photo courtesy of Twin Palms Resort

Like Santiago and Descanso, the Twin Palms experience also includes a hip clubhouse guest lounge, a communal fire pit, an outdoor mist cooling system, a 24-hour canteen with complimentary beverages, a daily complimentary continental breakfast, and complimentary poolside lunch.

You can expect the same level of guest service as well from Twin Palms’ friendly staff, and in-room welcome amenities too. Some highlights include beautiful modern gay artwork, a resort texting hotline for direct communication with the staff, lamps with charging stations, luxurious heavy-weight bathrobes, some fun “adult goodies” in the drawer of each bedside table, and even a personalized welcome note upon your arrival.

A plush king room at Twin Palms. Photo courtesy of Twin Palms Resort

In addition to an outdoor shower and pool bathroom communal showers, every room features grand marble bathrooms with spacious walk-in glass showers, sporting both rain and handheld shower heads – lending even more community appeal to the place.

The outdoor shower is one perk of staying at Twin Palms. Photo by Gregory Douglass

Twin Palms Resort is also as earth-friendly as it is gay-friendly, offering off-street guest parking with four electric vehicle chargers, sustainable bath products from Public Goods, and even bicycles you can borrow to explore the neighborhood.

It’s easy enough to retreat from the community as well. Every room features remote lighting and window shades, as well as private rear patios. Even the mini-fridge is tucked away in the bathroom vanity, which I thought was a clever decision.

The author enjoying his room at the Twin Palms. Photo by Gregory Douglass

What makes the communal aspect of Twin Palms Resort so special is its potential for new friends and new connections to be made. In an environment somehow as nonchalant as it is enveloping, it was seamless to connect with fellow guests and then naturally go our separate ways. 

I’ve learned that every resort has a “scene” of its own. Time will tell what the Twin Palms scene is — but the stage is set for all sorts of possibilities. I suspect it will help spark a long line of lasting friendships that will all begin at the charming little gay hotel in Twin Palms Estates.

Unwind in the resort’s pool and spa. Photo courtesy of Twin Palms Resort