A Pocket Guide to Greater Palm Springs, California

A desert oasis dotted with retro-chic spa hotels, hip restaurants, vintage boutiques and magnificent modernist architecture, Greater Palm Springs also makes a brilliant base for exploring wineries, snow-capped mountains and boulder-strewn desert landscapes.

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In the 1950s and 1960s, the desert enclave of Greater Palm Springs was the weekend escape of choice for Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Sammy Davis Jr, Lucille Ball, Liberace and other Hollywood stars. Hot-ticket architects like William F Cody, Howard Lapham, Donald Wexler and Richard Harrison competed to construct ever more extravagant modernist homes. Fancy restaurants, tennis clubs, theatres, spa hotels, golf courses and fashion boutiques sprang up, catering for this decadent desert set.

Today, Greater Palm Springs is a welcoming and pleasingly progressive Californian region, where well-to-do retirees mingle easily with the burgeoning LGBTQ+ community, sports obsessives and design and architecture afficionados. And, for visitors, the destination still evokes a sense of escape, adventure, inspiration, pleasure and relaxation.

Palm Springs is the principal city of the Coachella Valley, a cluster of nine desert towns including upscale Palm Desert, spa-studded Desert Hot Springs and Indio and Coachella, home to the legendary music festival and plenty of family-owned date farms. Travellers are first drawn to Greater Palm Springs by the city's sunny retro vibe and ravishing mid-century modern architecture, plus the seductive vision of lazing poolside or in a natural hot mineral spring pool at a super-stylish boutique hotel.

Return visitors inevitably stay longer, treating Greater Palm Springs as a base for an astounding array of experiences. There's the mountain resort town of Big Bear, organic vineyards in Temecula, the otherworldly landscape of Joshua Tree National Park and the achingly cool bohemian boutiques, eateries and music venues that border it, as well as gloriously quirky and unique artist colonies at Salvation Mountain and the Salton Sea. Greater Palm Springs is dream-getaway material for imaginative, intrepid travellers who crave some dedicated time on a sun lounger, but also want to be awestruck by art and architecture, delighted by design and vintage finds, enlivened by the destination's acclaimed restaurants and speakeasies and uplifted by a uniquely varied natural landscape.

Keen to explore the creative Californian enclave? Start planning your trip now.


Villa Royale

This 38-room adults-only hotel, located in a quiet residential neighbourhood of Palm Springs, was a favourite haunt for Hollywood stars throughout the 1950s and 1960s, and the new owners have embraced the original Mission Revival aesthetic, surrounding the terracotta-roofed villas with bougainvillea bushes and dotting serene pools around the gardens. More modern flourishes include oversize rock’n’roll prints and geometric tiling, while the in-house restaurant, Del Rey, is a place to see and be seen.


1620 S Indian Trail, CA 92264


Avalon Hotel and Bungalows

The downtown Palm Springs location of the Avalon Hotel puts car-free travellers smack in the middle of the action, and yet this deservedly popular cluster of 67 Spanish-style lodgings still feels like a peaceful oasis, with three swimming pools spread over four acres of lush gardens. The friendly staff and relaxed ambience of the restaurant, Chi Chi, makes it a particularly good bet for solo travellers.


415 S Belardo Rd, CA 92262


Two Bunch Palms

Once rumoured to have been the Cali hideaway of Al Capone, this beautifully renovated 1930s resort in Desert Hot Springs is famed for its hot mineral waters, which flow into the multiple natural pools and soak tubs dotted around the 72-acre property. The touch of new owner – millennial wellness entrepreneur Erica Chang – is evident in the down-to-earth spa programmes, daily yoga classes and plant-forward menu at the restaurant.


67425 Two Bunch Palms Trail, Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240