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.
Opened on the site of a fabulously tragic circa-1960s former Howard Johnson's, the unabashedly hip Ace Hotel (701 E. Palm Canyon Dr., 760-325-9900) has quickly earned a reputation as among the most gay-popular mainstream lodgings in Palm Springs. Part of a small but growing empire of retro-trendy, mid-priced hotels (there are sister properties in Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, London, Panama, and New York City), this sleek, eco-conscious, whimsically decorated property has 170 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.
Among the men's clothing-optional resorts in the Warm Sands area, All World's Resort (526 S. Warm Sands Dr., 760-323-7505) is a consistent favorite with guys - both singles and couples - looking for action, or simply wishing to socialize. This expansive, nicely landscaped property (it actually comprises four smaller, connected buildings) with a pair of Jacuzzis, four pools, private cabanas, a steam room, sauna, community shower, and a nicely maintained and well-utilized play area (with sling and glory-hole booths) gives the facility a steamy "gay sauna" vibe that's much appreciated by both overnight guests and those dropping by to play just for a few hours (both day passes, good from 10 til 5, and night passes, available on Fri.–Sun. from 5 pm until 5 am, are available). The Sunday pool parties - with DJ and go-go guys - are a big hit. If meeting other guys and being in the center of the action is important to you, book one of the rooms around the central pool (in the 100s). Other units each encircle smaller pools and provide for a more intimate experience. Room rates are moderate for the simplest rooms, but suites with in-room Jacuzzis and kitchen facilities are also available, and the friendly and welcoming staff has done a nice job in recent years sprucing things up and keeping both public areas and guest rooms super-clean.
Like All World's Resort, CCBC in Cathedral City, and and Vista Grande, Canyon Club Palm Springs (960 N. Palm Springs Dr., 760-778-8042) is a favorite of guys seeking a resort with a "gay bathhouse" vibe - it's an ideal fit if you're looking to make new friends (and, ideally, to sleep with them). This is a large resort with a central location on the north side of downtown, by the city's increasingly hip Uptown Design District. There are 32 rooms plus a good array of social areas, ranging from a 52-foot pool and a hot tub that as many as 16 happy guys can cram into to a steam room and dry sauna - the shaded lawn and cruise-y gardens are a nice feature, too. The location is perfect if you want to be within easy walking distance of local gay bars, restaurants, and shopping, and the management has given the place some much-needed upgrades in recent years (especially in terms of bedding and guest-room furniture), although the property could still use some TLC. It's a solid option with a high sexual energy, and the rates are fair, meaning that your odds of meeting younger guys who can't afford some of the fancier places in town are pretty good here.
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. The knowledgeable owners of Casa Ocotillo (240 E. Ocotillo Ave., 760-327-6110), 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, but without the high social energy.
Palm Springs has only a pair of women's resorts, and Casitas Laquita (450 E. Palm Canyon Dr., 760-416-9999), 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 and have been given full renovations in recent years. Entertainment and small parties are offered in the cozy "wine cellar" lounge.
Palm Springs doesn't, at the moment, have any gay bathhouses or sex clubs. This is in part because a few of the racier men's resorts offer the experience that a bathhouse might, with the CCBC (68300 Gay Resort Dr., Cathedral City, 760-324-1350) - a 10- to 15-minute drive east of PS in the city of Cathedral City - among the most popular. Cathedral City, which during Prohibition developed a reputation for discreet speakeasies and has over the years enjoyed lax zoning laws that have encouraged the opening of gay nightspots and cruise-y resorts, is less of a hub of gay carousing than it was in the '90s, but there are still a few gay bars around (Barracks, Digs, Studio One 11). CCBC, which is just a block off Hwy. 111 on a private dead-end street called "Gay Resort Drive," is - in fact - the last remaining of "Cat City's" gay resorts. The largest clothing-optional men's compound in California, the resort has about 45 rooms that range from fairly basic to quite spacious (a few larger suites have kitchens); there are also spaces for tent-camping (and you can rent your own tent). These aren't overly fancy digs, and the rates - which are pretty comparable to or only slightly less than a number of more upscale men's resorts in Palm Springs proper - reflect the fact that most regulars who stay here do so for the copious opportunities to meet other dudes and get laid. Day passes, which are good for any 12-hour period and cost from $10 to $25 depending on the day/event, bring plenty of cruise-y guys onto the property. Amenities include a large central pool and hot tub, steam room and sauna, maze-like and dungeon-inspired play areas, a waterfall, "love grotto," and plenty of other nooks and crannies for hooking up. CCBC caters to a predominantly over-40 crowd and is especially popular with the bearish set. It has its critics, but plenty of loyal guests come back here year after year.
Although located in the Warm Springs gay resort area, this sleek, stunningly designed Mid-Century Modern hideaway actually caters to a gay male crowd. Furnishings at Century Palm Springs (598 Grenfall Rd., 760-323-9966), one of the neighborhood's higher-end retreats, 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; all have Keurig coffeemakers and refrigerators. The Century is peaceful and sophisticated, yet a short drive or safe 20-minute walk from gay bars and eateries.