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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.