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“I need to disappear, escape for a little bit / Take a trip to Palm Springs if you’re into it.”Mistel Marie, “Palm Springs”

It’s hot and getting hotter in Palm Springs, and unless you’re a Bedouin, it’s a bit too too for outdoor adventures. How do desert rats even exist?

I’d love to tell you, thanks for asking.

We stay in and around the pool with snacks and (adult) beverages close at hand. We wear sun bonnets (we don’t) and sunscreen (we should). Our rosé is always chilled, beer mugs frosty, tequila iced, and our martinis are shaken, not stirred. The only thing missing is someone to do all the cooking, cleaning, and bartending.

And that’s where these resorts enter our three-part (!) story.

They all have gorgeous pools, and some have massage services, but they all have a restaurant or food options so you never have to leave. No cooking and cleaning for you, my friend. You are completely carefree to don swimwear all day, and work on your tan and alcohol intake in a place that is far, far away from the madding crowd, in the enchanting city called Palm Springs.

In this part, I’ll introduce you to the larger boutique resorts that have full restaurants.

Alcazar Palm Springs. Photo credit: Visit Palm Springs

Alcazar Palm Springs — Featured in Food & Wine, the Los Angeles Times, and Travel+Leisure, Alcazar has 34 suites and is located in the Uptown Design District. The rooms are modern and sleek, featuring Italian linens, flat screen televisions, fireplaces, and your choice of poolside or private patios. In addition to their immaculate attention to detail, Alcazar offers WiFi, coffee, espresso, tea, juice, daily fresh pastries, and Townie bikes for exploring the neighborhood.

It is also attached to two of the best restaurants in Palm Springs, Cheeky’s and Birba. Although they don’t do room service, there is a passageway from the resort to both restaurants so you can stay as cool as you are.

The Cole Hotel. Photo credit: Visit Palm Springs

The Cole Hotel — In the same neighborhood is one of the more affordable resorts in Palm Springs: The Cole. It’s a 30-room resort with three different floor plans — the Cole King, Cole Suite, and Pool Suite, plus the 600-square-foot Honeymoon Suite, complete with a private balcony. There’s also a nice, swimmable pool where they have 21+ pool parties. The Cole recently welcomed Freddie’s Kitchen, conceived by Chef Frederic, who has a long history in French cuisine in Southern California and was once chef de cuisine for Joël Robuchon — the chef and restaurateur named “Chef of the Century’ by the guide Gault Millau and awarded the Meilleur Ouvrier de France.

Alas, they do not serve breakfast, but they do open at noon and snacks and drinks are available poolside until 9 p.m. Dinner starts at 5 p.m.

The Ingleside Inn. Photo credit: Visit Palm Springs

The Ingleside Inn — Classic Palm Springs, old school vibe, and another very swimmable pool. The Ingleside Inn was built in the 1920s, and transformed into an invitation-only private club by Ruth Hardy (check out her park), where notables Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner, and Marlon Brando stayed; Carole Lombard and Clark Gable honeymooned there.

Since then, the property has become open to the general public, but they’ve kept the Hollywood glam intact, including their restaurant, Melvyn’s, a favorite of Frank Sinatra. He was particularly fond of their Steak Diane.

This resort has 30 rooms and is situated on two acres of land, closer to the south end of Palm Springs on Belardo, and is still a home away from home for many celebrities. The Casablanca Lounge has a piano player nightly, and you never know who might sit in — anyone from Neil Sedaka (“Breaking Up Is Hard to Do”) to James Marsden (Enchanted and Dead To Me) to local favorites.

Poolside at La Serena Villas. Photo credit: La Serena Villas

La Serena Villas — Here’s another resort that has it all. It’s located in downtown Palm Springs, but well off the beaten path. They have the Whispers Spa that is for guests staying at La Serena Villas, the Del Marcos, and The Three Fifty Hotel only, so you can be pretty certain you’ll get the services you want, when you want them.

Also, it has a terrific restaurant called Azucar that is open to the public, so you can invite your friends to join you for dinner then invite them back to your suite for a nightcap on your private patio, or take it to the big, gorgeous pool.

The entrance to Smoke Tree Ranch. Photo credit: Smoke Tree Ranch

Smoke Tree Ranch — I have a friend who grew up in Palm Springs, and this is one place she’s never been and really, really wants to go. It’s that exclusive.

Located at the base of the mountains, the views from each of the 49 cottages are stunning. Sunrises and sunsets are actual events you won’t want to miss when you’re staying here. Some of the amenities include: flatscreen televisions, wet bars, refrigerators, coffee makers, cozy down pillows, deluxe down comforters and blankets, luxurious bathrooms with separate tubs and showers, plantation shutters, telephones with voicemail (!), private patios, and WiFi. Most cottages also have carports and wood-burning fireplaces.

Activities? Swimming, soaking, horseback riding, spa services, horseshoes, pickleball, tennis, golf, volleyball, basketball, croquet. And they have babysitting services.

The restaurant is old school; it has a dress code, so that’s kinda fun. Dress in your best summer designer fashion, and enjoy the poshness of it all while dining on the best Chef Tony Marks can cook up, including lobster and the finest steaks he can procure.

And get this — cottages are traditionally sold with three full meals per day in the Ranch House Dining Room. The meal plan begins with dinner on the day of check in, followed by breakfast and lunch the following day, and includes all gratuities.

But wait, there’s more! Coming up next week: a guide to the restaurants and bars at Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels that have no more than 30 rooms.

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

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