I have a sibling who joins friends in Palm Springs at the same resort every year. I appreciate rituals but after three days exploring classic Palm Springs experiences, it would be fun to convince them to change their ritual. The city is graced with dozens of small hidden hotels that are perfect for groups of friends or a family reunion. With styles ranging from Spanish Colonial like Los Arboles to the modernist comforts of The Monkey Tree Inn, there’s something for every taste. The famous spas and resorts, golf clubs and the historic Tennis Club shout their presence while the best classic Palm Springs small hotels sit quietly behind modest facades. You can drive by and never notice. I have for decades!
This visit was hosted by IFWTWA and the Palm Springs Association of Small Preferred Hotels. As always opinions are all my own.
Monkey tree hotel one of the classic Palm Springs small inns

The pool inside the Monkey Tree Hotel

One secret is that they’re not called hotels by historical design. Pearl McCallum, one of the founding family’s siblings, started to build out her father’s legacy of hundreds of acres in the middle of the last century. She broke with the tradition of Spanish Colonial architecture to encourage a more modernist style. Mid-century masterpieces rose, architects careers were made and their collaborations keep the city on the map today. Pearl’s influence lives on in the dozens of small hotels that dot Palm Springs neighborhoods. After floods and fires, economic and wartime woes that blunted the nation and Palm Springs popularity, the small inns were the first ready to invite guests back. The city continues to favor the name Inn over Hotel in appreciation ever since.
View from the landing at the Santiago hotel in classic Palm Springs

View from the landing at the Santiago hotel in classic Palm Springs

Hollywood stars, from the silent era to today’s blockbusters, are another influence on classic Palm Springs style.  You can roll through the Movie Colony neighborhood on a bus tour and glimpse the home where Frank Sinatra romanced Ava Gabor, Liberace threw his notorious parties, and on the hillside, the spacey roofline of the home where Bob Hope could seat 300 for dinner. The Rat Pack were notorious guests. Elvis Presley honeymooned here and Leonardo di Caprio keeps a house ready for visits.  The bus tour guides pack their narration with historical notes and fun anecdotes. Here’s a post of some of the places covered on the tour.

Bedroom suite in the Santiago Inn

Bedroom suite in the Santiago Inn

The city is blessed with a stunning setting at the base of the mountains and a deep aquifer has ensured that the town, famous golf resorts, and spas have plenty of water. On the outskirts, there are a few iconic chains like the Ace Hotel and even a Hotel Six (they had to shrink the word Hotel on their logo!) Many have grand and glamorous settings.  However, I found that the small inns have the most unique and delightful touches and you don’t need to be a sleuth to find them. The association of Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels features a buffet of inn experiences to choose from. There are over 71 hotels in their membership from hip hangouts to European traditional and swimsuit optional seclusion. Some are close to downtown or tucked away in the neighborhoods around the area. Each has amenities and a singular character that bigger hotels could never compete with. I’d like to stay in each one!

Here’s a sampling of small scale, classic Palm Springs hospitality

Inside the Monkey Tree Jungle Suite

Inside the Monkey Tree Jungle Suite

The Monkey Tree

Palm Springs is the center of Modernism with more inns embodying that style than anywhere else in the country and more places are being revived all the time. The Monkey Tree sits a bit north of downtown on Racquet Club Lane. You can’t miss the sweeping angles of the main building but the biggest treats are behind the entry doors. I’ll be writing up all the wonders at this bright and fun spot soon.

King suite in the La Maison Inn

King suite in the La Maison Inn

La Maison

The La Maison Inn swept Trip Advisor’s Traveler’s Choice Awards this year. Canadians, Richard Slosky and Cornelia Schuster opened the Mediterranean-country-styled space in 2012 and have been nurturing guests at their property ever since. They pamper visitors with sweet touches like lavender sachets on pillows, complimentary espresso drinks, fresh popcorn, bottled water, soda, beer, and a nightly wine hour. Each of the 13 rooms offers luxury linens and L’Occitane bath amenities.

westcott hotel pool sitting area

Westcott Art Deco hotel

The Westcott

You can’t miss the Art Deco lettering and signature curves on the street entrance to the Westcott. Inside the courtyard arches and rooms curl around a slim pool. The rooms are garnished with Art Deco touches from headboards to chandeliers. Morning amenities – delicious fruit and yogurt dishes, fresh pastries and coffee greet early risers. In the afternoon, guests mingle at a complimentary happy hour. Owner, Mathew Westcott purchased the hotel in 2017 after leaving a corporate career in London and New York. He has a natural talent for hospitality.

The Santiago Inn street entrance

The Santiago

One classic Palm Springs trait is an affection for privacy. For the guest wanting an inclusive, swimsuit-optional and male-centric experience, the Santiago is a gracious inn with an impeccable sense of style. The 23 generously-sized rooms are set with leather lounge chairs, deep hues, and crafted woods in a Modern Ranchero mood. It’s one of the few neighborhood inns with a second story framed by mature palms and foliage. After coming under new ownership in 2015, the partners determined to “redefine what a premier gay resort can be” according to General Manager, Kent Taylor.

While focusing on male guests, women are not excluded. During the last Coachella Festival, a group of four women booked rooms at the Santiago because they knew it would be a “fun and safe place to stay.” The hotel is steps from three other LGBTQ friendly inns tied together into a supportive community.

Entrance to Los Arboles Inn

Los Arboles

The Castenada family, Felipe, Lisbet and their eldest daughter, Karina are part of every effort at the Los Arboles. The building was in ruins when they purchased it but you wouldn’t know that today. There’s a beautiful courtyard restaurant with a choice of pool-side service. Los Arboles means the trees and bird song filters past the hammocks at each room. The setting transports you into a Mexican oasis.

Gloria Swansons suite in the Amin Casa

Gloria Swanson’s suite in the Amin Casa

Amin Casa

Once Hollywood legend, Gloria Swanson, entertained her paramours and close friends in the original Amin Casa bungalow. Now the original home, garage and tennis courts have been transformed into guest rooms. No luxury has been overlooked and lush gardens hem walkways. There’s room for only 14 adult guests and downtown is a short walk away.

It’s hard to decide which one to stay in next time I visit classic Palm Springs. Which would you choose?

Classic Palm Springs hotels pin 2 Classic Palm Springs getaway pin 1

Many thanks to IFWTWA and the Palm Springs Association of Small Preferred Hotels for making these discoveries possible. As always opinions are all my own.