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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sensualist: a person given to the indulgence of the senses or appetites
The word indulgence has a bit of a taboo feeling to it, doesn’t it? Like, I shouldn’t, but it looks so good. The original meaning was actually a kindness, or a favor. So, you’d be offering your body a kindness or a favor by giving it what it wants, which is the elevation of its senses through visual appeal, taste, and aroma — and I’m not necessarily talking about food. I mean, I am, but I’m not. It kinda applies to anything. So, I’ve made you a little list about how to gratify your senses in Palm Springs.
Sensualists want to try all the things. They crave new experiences. They want every day to have at least one “ooooh and aaaah” in it, and that’s on a bad day. They are not tourists, they are more than an adventurer, they are cultivators of magical moments. Moments they can relive over and again in their memories. So if that’s you, I’m going to do my best to add Palm Springs to your favorite moments in time. Follow me.
Let’s start with where to stay. The aesthetic of a room’s design should give you a hit of dopamine every time you enter. The freshly laundered, crisp linens on your skin, and the clean aroma should give flood your body with endorphins as you slide between the sheets into the ecstasy of a comfy bed.
There should be grounds to explore, something peeking out from behind something else. Everywhere is a point of interest. Everywhere.
There are, of course, more boutique hotels than what I’ve listed. We have more than 75, each offering a unique experience. But you’ve got to start somewhere, and this is what I have curated for you. Do some clicking down below — and this time I mean just the links. Nothing else. So calm down, Tiger.
Boutique hotels to stay at in Palm Springs
The Velvet Rope — It’s new, it’s different, it’s old Hollywood with a fun and modern twist.
Casa Cody — Romantic, historic. Did I mention romantic? The grounds are incredible.
Dive — It’s the rooms. Look at the rooms. Just LOOK AT THEM! And THAT POOL! Lots of peeking things to see.
Villa Royale — Secluded and seductive, with the Del Rey restaurant and bar.
The Wescott — Art Deco, breakfast, poolside cocktail hour. No. 1 rated B&B in Palm Springs.
The Willows — Historic, romantic, the mountains, the gardens, THE VIEW.
Sparrows Lodge — Upscale cottagecore/farmhouse glam. A long sexy pool.
The Monkey Tree — Authentic mid-century modern. IYKYK.
Stay gay (we love you that way)
Santiago Resort — Romance. And romance.
Descanso Resort — Young, hip, spa services available. Breakfast and lunch (check website) served, but dinner’s on you. The view!
Twin Palms Resort — Brother hotel of Santiago and Descanso. And just like its bro, the view!
Hacienda at Warm Sands — Quiet elegance. The gorgeous greenery. The door.
Space and time
Stargazing – It’s a pretty amazing experience getting up close and personal with the cosmos.
Agua Caliente Cultural Museum — It is an experience. And a new one at that — this just opened in November 2023.
All the sugar
Tonga Hut — Lava cake, paired with 1934 Zombie (no Zombie for you if you’ve got the car keys).
Eight4Nine — Brandini Toffee s’mores fondue, paired with Unshackled by Prisoner cabernet.
Copley’s — Toffee and date English sticky pudding with Tahitian vanilla ice cream, paired with the chocolate martini.
Jake’s — The three-layer citrus cake (not online, but it’s there and it’s ZOMG), paired with an Aperol Spritz or a sauvignon blanc.
Cocktails, wine, and bites
Clandestino — The vibe, the drinks, the view.
V Wine Lounge — Creative eats, drinks, and mocktails. Decor is divine. Friday nights have live music with local singer/entertainer Siobhan. She’s funny and a little bit (maybe a lot) naughty.
Sensuality: A Store for Her — It might be you. Might not.
Fame Cigars & Wine — Not an experience for everyone, but cigars are pure unadulterated tobacco. Not a single leaf is chemically treated or artificially altered for taste. At least that’s what the internet said. And as was the tradition with Native Americans, a treat just for special occasions.
Blue Wave Hookah Lounge — 120 S. Palm Canyon Drive. Next to the Plaza Theatre.
Brandini Toffee — Named Best Candy Store in California by Yelp
The Tailor Shop — It’s a tiny bar next to Tonga Hut. It’s like the library where men from the 1800s went after dinner to drink and smoke cigars (none of those here). But smaller. It’s a bit of a secret, but out enough that reservations are required.
Seymour’s — No bites, but you’ll feel like you’re in on something. Limited seating, like space for 10. Located behind Mr. Lyon’s (or through the hidden door).
Hike Tahquitz Canyon to the waterfall, and cool off in pool beneath it.
Talk of the town
The latest restaurants in Palm Springs are:
Alice B — In Living Out (new 55+ LGBTQ community). Open to the public.
Crudo Cevecheria — The Corridor, Uptown.
Sonny’s Bar & Grill — Arenas District.
Cipolline’s Osteria — Coming Feb. 17. You can yell FIRST when you walk in. South end of East Palm Canyon.
Hands on a hard body
Hotels with spa services:
Andreas Hotel & Spa — Everything. Steps to Cheeky’s, and so, so cozy.
La Serena Villas — Home of Whisper’s Spa, Sugar High Bar, Azucar restaurant. The view.
Korakia Pensione — Forbes Traveler named it one of the sexiest hotels in America.
L’Horizon — Historic estate, So•Pa Restaurant, it feels like you’re in a romantic film at your millionaire lover’s estate.
Check these out, too:
Séc-he Spa — OMFG!
Beautiful Spa Massage — Couples massages, five-star rating.
Fall Spa Massage — North end of Palm Springs, past Uptown.
Bow chicka bow wow
All World’s Resort — Playground for gay men.
Have fun satisfying those indulgences. Bring a special friend, or meet one here. Palm Springs DOES NOT disappoint. Unless you’re a straight cis-woman looking for a straight single man, then that’s quite disappointing. But hey, I’m happy. Hope you are too. If not, pop on out to Palm Springs. We can fix that.
Dads are notoriously hard to please, even on the gifting front (just mine?). Personally, I was never able to beat anything my sister got him. But then I figured out that I could offer him an experience, so we’d go places together. I wish he was still around so I could show him my Palm Springs. He’d love it. So, if you’ll allow me, I’d love to help you plan that perfect getaway for you and your Dad/Daddy in our little slice of paradise.
Let’s start with accommodations:
Old Ranch Inn: There are eight rooms available at the western-themed, architecturally historic resort. Every room is around the pool, so there’s no long walk like on larger properties. Just steps away from downtown, it’s a great choice.
The Wescott: Art Deco, old Hollywood style with a nice pool for swimming some laps. A top Palm Springs lodging option, it has earned a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence every year since 2013.
Ingleside Inn: If a hotel could write a book, hoo boy what stories it could tell. Luckily, former owner Mel Haber did write a book, and spills all the secrets. The bar in the on-property restaurant Melvyn’s is so old Hollywood, in your mind’s eye you can see Dean Martin leaning across the bar to talk to Dinah Shore, or Debbie Reynolds laughing with bestie Ruta Lee. The hotel and the restaurant are first class, as is the entertainment.
The Three-Fifty Hotel: Sweet 10-suite hotel with fabulous poolside views of the mountains.
Once you’ve got your hotel locked down, it’s time to figure out the rest of the experience. If Dad is a golfer, there are SO many options, you can read all about them here.
There’s nothing like the feeling of being behind the wheel of a sporty car on a racetrack, so if Dad’s into cars (and I’m going to pull a statistic right out of thin air and say 95% of all men love cars), book the ultimate driving experience at the BMW Performance Track. He’ll be talking about it for years to come.
Windmill Tours: From golf cart tours to self-driving tours, it’s all about the energy of these turbines, how they work, and how much electricity they produce. I hear it’s marvelous. Likely not for toddlers, though.
June 16 and 17: Baseball with Palm Springs Power. 7 p.m.
A nice spot to have a coffee is in the Corridor Courtyard. Choose from Ernest Coffee or Koffi (both local coffee shops) and Mod Cafe (all vegan, breakfast, and lunch) then go behind the buildings into a magical little garden away from the hubbub of Palm Canyon.
Spencer’s: Book the Bougainvillea Room.
The Purple Room Supper Club: Check the lineup and check with Dad. They have a lot of great jazz singers, and Sundays is the fabulous The Judy Show.
Johnny Costa’s: Old school Italian fine dining. The chicken parm and eggplant parm are delicioso!
V Wine Lounge and Martini Bar has a great selection of wines and fun cocktails, including martinis. It’s got a cool, retro vibe with its mid-century modern decor. Sometimes there’s karaoke and sometimes there’s other forms of entertainment. But even on a quiet night, you’ll enjoy the ambiance, and the staff is helpful and friendly, too.
Bit O’Country: Locally owned, great American and Mexican cuisine.
Elmer’s: My favorite breakfast, because hash browns.
Billy Reed’s: It’s the most old school, Midwest spot in Palm Springs.
Pinocchio’s: The home fries are made with baked potatoes, and they have free flowing champagne and Bloody Marys. It’s a party.
And now for the Daddies.
Clothing-optional resorts for men:
^^all of these are great options for couples
Trio (Saturdays and Sundays)
To get the full Palm Springs experience, head on down to Arenas Road (Blackbook is there) and check out all of the clubs. Gay Desert Guide will be a big help.
For the Sugar Daddy — you’re footing the tab, go to Paris! Looking for romance not requiring a passport? Try these resorts on for size: L’Horizon (swanky beyond swank), Smoke Tree Ranch (so exclusive most locals have never been), and Casa Cody (the romance of old Palm Springs) in downtown.
Wishing a Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there in the wild. I hope you get to spend some quality time with your kids, and that they like you. In which case, see you in Palm Springs soon!
The Santiago Resort is getting 2024 off to a great start with its ultimate Palm Springs getaway giveaway.
“We love to share Santiago with new friends, especially those who’ve never stayed at a men’s resort before,” Santiago Resort General Manager Charles Zalepeski said. “The giveaway will award one lucky winner the opportunity to experience Santiago’s elevated amenities and beautiful accommodations free of charge.”
About the Santiago Resort
The Santiago Resort is a men’s swimsuit-optional boutique hotel known for its outstanding service, beautiful rooms, and lush grounds. It has the largest pool of any men’s resort in Palm Springs, plus a 12-man spa and spacious sun deck. Every day, guests can enjoy a complimentary continental breakfast and poolside lunch.
How to enter the giveaway
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.