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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.

Blogger Elaine Masters wanted a classic Palm Springs vacation, and that’s exactly what she had, soaking in the city’s sights and visiting some of the most popular hotels, from the Spanish-style Los Arboles to the Art Deco-inspired Westcott.

The Santiago Resort celebrated its 20th anniversary by undergoing a complete transformation, but its mission remains the same — to provide guests with outstanding service in a serene environment.

The Santiago first opened its doors in the 1990s, and came under new ownership in March 2015, when three partners purchased the hotel and set out to “redefine what a premier gay resort can be,” general manager Kent Taylor said. All 23 rooms have been completely upgraded in the Modern Ranchero style, with custom-designed furniture, luxurious linens, Saltillo tile, and FLOR carpet.

Outside, guests can lounge around the pool, which is the largest of any of the men’s gay resorts in Palm Springs, make their way through the tranquil gardens, and stop by the 24-hour cantina with complimentary beverages and snacks. As the resort is swimsuit-optional, there is a large hedge surrounding it, ensuring privacy for all guests.

The staff goes out of its way to make sure guests are comfortable and feel welcome, and they enjoy getting to meet a variety of people. “We have world travelers who have so much to say and so many interesting stories to tell,” Kent said. “I love that every single day is different. One would think it is the same thing over and over, but it’s quite the opposite — every day is a new experience, a new challenge, and new faces.”