No city in the world has a greater number of gay (often clothing-optional) resorts than the Southern California desert community of Palm Springs, which is quite popular year-round but truly bustles from late autumn through spring. Most accommodations in Palm Springs are well-kept and quite nice, but it can still be hard choosing among so many options. Here's a list (in alphabetical order) of some of the top gay-exclusive and gay-friendly resorts in this beautiful desert oasis.
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Opened in 2009 on the site of a fabulously tragic circa-1960s former Howard Johnson's, the unabashedly hip Ace Hotel has quickly earned a reputation as the most gay-popular mainstream lodging in Palm Springs. Part of a small but growing empire of retro-trendy, mid-priced hotels (there are sister properties in Portland, Seattle, and New York City), this sleek, eco-conscious, whimsically decorated property has 180 rooms (many with private patios and fireplaces), a cushy spa, glam swimming pool and sun deck, cool diner-style restaurant, and eclectic Amigo Room bar. Furnishings pay homage to the hotel's mid-century modern aesthetic. The clientele skews toward young revelers, and this well-located property is also pet-friendly.
A little different from the typical Palm Springs gay resort, this whimsically decorated, tranquil 1930s hacienda-style compound comprises just six suites and bungalows - it's the perfect roost for romantics seeking seclusion yet still preferring a gay-owned and gay-frequented accommodation with a central Palm Springs location. Knowledgeable owners Vic and Brian have created this upscale hideaway with common amenities that include a stocked guest kitchen, outside fireplace, and heated saltwater pool and hot tub. Rooms have top-of-the-line linens and bath products, distinctive artwork and furnishings, and private patios - some rooms are pet-friendly, too. This is a beautiful little compound with the perks of a much larger resort.
Palm Springs has only a pair of women's resorts, and Casitas Laquita, thanks the dedication of its competent and caring ownership, offers the best overall experience. The Southwest-themed 15-casita compound sits on more than an acre on the south side of Palm Springs, just off busy (mind the noise) but convenient East Palm Canyon Drive. Towering palms and fragrant gardens give the grounds a secluded, luxuriant feel, and Laquita has one of the largest pools of any gay resort. A plus here is the wide range of room sizes and styles - many have fireplaces, and some come with full kitchens, and even the least expensive units are quite large and well-outfitted. Entertainment and small parties are offered in the cozy "wine cellar" lounge.
Although located in the Warm Springs gay resort area, this sleek, stunningly designed Mid-Century Moderne hideaway actually caters to a gay male crowd. Furnishings at this high-end retreat pay homage to the top designers of the mid-20th century, with pieces by Eames and Noguchi. There are just nine rooms, opening to a courtyard with a small but attractive pool, and the sun patio looks out at Palm Springs' magnificent desert mountains. Rooms are minimalist chic, and some have full kitchens and separate private patios. The Century is peaceful and sophisticated, yet a short walk from gay bars and eateries.
This beautifully renovated former Travelodge is a solid, gay-friendly budget option. Set conveniently along East Palm Canyon Drive, nestled beneath the mountains that rise over the city, this rambling two-story compound has two attractive pools (with fire pit and hot tub) and nicely kept grounds. The 155 rooms have a smart, simple, and contemporary look - each has a fridge, coffeemaker, safe, hair dryer, and free Wi-Fi, and a light Continental breakfast is included. It's nothing fancy, but the money you save staying here you can set aside for dining and shopping along the swanky downtown commercial strip.
It's the many little details that the management tends to that makes Desert Paradise such a hit with fans, including the loyal contingent of repeat guests. The 14-room spread in the heart of Warm Sands, close to gay bars and restaurants, has a decidedly whimsical, almost campy sensibility - rooms are named for leading divas (Barbra, Cher, Judy, et al), and immaculately kept, furnished with high-end pieces and useful amenities (wall safes, wet bars, cordless phones, and so on). The rooms open around a decent-size pool, but you'll also find a dry sauna, steam room, fire pit, guest computer stations, fireplace hot tub, outdoor garden shower, and gurgling fountains everywhere you look. It's the definitive gay Palm Springs resort of fun-seekers.
Off on its own in a northern downtown residential neighborhood, away from most of the other gay resorts, East Canyon also stands out because it's the only men's property with a full-service spa - and this is no mere massage room but a small but complete spa with the finest equipment and trained technicians. East Canyon is elegant and low-keyed. It's not clothing-optional, and it eschews the cruisy-steamy vibe common in Palm Springs, making it a perfect place to quietly hide away for a weekend or come with a partner for a romantic getaway. Rooms are done in muted earth tones, with lots of space to back, and top-of-the-line amenities. It's one of the pricier options in PS, but the steady stream of happy repeat guests suggests its worth it.