A luxury travel guide to Palm Springs: The best hotels, restaurants & places to visit
Words by Sara Darling
If Gwyneth Paltrow is the poster girl for California, there is a good reason.. Her sunkissed skin, green juice glow and healthy lifestyle work in the favour of the world’s most sexy hiker… there are no muddy clodhoppers on her hoofs!
But California has enough of the great outdoors for everyone. The weather oozes 300 days of guaranteed sunshine and the countryside is just begging to be explored, whether by your own feet or on one of the desert-friendly ponies!
It’s not only the hipsters and yoga bunnies who flock from LA to the hills though. Palm Springs is full of holiday homes belonging to rich Hollywood moguls, and it’s not unusual to meet a sexagenarian halfway up a mountain, or on a horse ride in the canyons.
Fly into LAX, and spend a couple of days at the beach, or just head straight to the vast deserted landscape of Greater Palm Springs; Made up of nine interlinked cities (which could be towns but who cares about size?) A generous two- hour drive means you could be in the hills by lunchtime, and many LA-ers head inland when their temperature dips to the mid twenties. However when temperatures peak at mid forties during summer time, July and August are for hardcore sun-worshippers only. But this also means you get a great deal on five star accommodation, as it’s not as popular with US tourists.
Whether you are seeking out a golden tan or are going full throttle for a deeper tangerine, anything is possible in Palm Springs. Home to sunshine, dates and a healthy outdoors lifestyle, this is the perfect place to get away with the girls; Or on a holistic holiday alone.
Activities are endless, and the wide range of drop in classes mean tourists are welcome to join a yoga, meditation or spa sessions at their leisure. Most hotels offer yoga sessions and first class gyms. Some even offer sunrise hiking or vino and vinyasa class (yup that is wine with yoga!!!) and is highly recommended.
With shopping, sightseeing, healthy eats and trekking, it is easy to fill your days if you are a solo flyer or with a group. Hire a car or get a driver and hit the mountains for some of the most beautiful hiking or pony trekking routes, or join a group (the Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage offers an accompanied walking tour at sunrise and dusk) or join one of the Red Jeep tours to go off the map with a guide in a 4 wheeler. A perfect way to get some nature education and burn off some calories.
If you get the hiking bug (which is remarkably easy to come by!) Soak up the landscape in a two hour drive and visit the infamous Joshua Tree. Join the ‘in’ crowd which peaks at approximately 2 million per year, and soak up the otherworldly landscape inhabited by wild-limbed trees, ancient stacked boulders, and give your spiritual side an airing.
Make sure to bring plenty of water, and watch out for the rattlesnakes! You won’t be the first to post your images on instagram, but you can be assured you will get lots of likes. Or keep it local and head to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, an excursion in itself which whizzes you more than 8,000 feet up the mountainside and offers superb views and ample organised routes for short or long hikes when you emark. Spend a day exploring and treat yourself to some heartwarming snacks at the breathtaking restaurants. You deserve it!
Nothing is too much trouble in Palm Springs. You don’t want anchovies and prefer red peppers, no problem. Coconut milk latte that’s not on the menu, of course!
Not many places in the world offer such a variety of fresh vegetables and vegan options as Palm Springs. Food is a major passion and is served in every way imaginable, from grilled, fried, baked, roasted or raw. Be prepared to be inspired, and impressed! Open minds are welcome.
So it follows that the restaurants are just as exotic! Ranging from health bars, selling organic field to fork recipes which are as inventive as they are delicious. Wildest Greens is a great brunch or dinner stop; Founded by Denise, a serial entrepreneur, and yoga devotee, she knows a thing or two about sustaining a healthy lifestyle, and this shows in her ever changing menu which caters for such as raw, vegan, gluten-free, and paleo diets, and you can get everything from cold-pressed juices and organic coffees, wines plus and a gourmet evening menu. Her aerial trapeze studio is also worth a visit- the drop in classes are the perfect sampler for beginners!
Nestled close enough to Hollywood for the stars of the fifties to be able to get back to the Hollywood Studios to re-shoot without too much commotion, Palm Springs has long been the playground of the rich and famous. Still retaining its old school glamour, it is easy to imagine the Brat Pack socialising on the wide boulevards and sun terraces. Find your way to Frank Sinatra’s Cali pad and get a photo on his lawn, and marvel at the photographs is many of the local restaurants which served the stars in their prime.
The residents are particularly proud of their architecture. With many houses being built after the war in the fifties, the result is a distinctive shape of low flat bungalows complete with high windows and carports. Nowadays you can see these up close and personal in the ‘windy valley’ and even though the owners only use them as holiday pads they go on the market for 2 million USD.
Thanks to its natural aquifers, Desert Hot Springs offers an impressive collection of boutique spas and resorts that offer tranquil mineral water pools to recharge. Settled in the mountains, the hot springs are the perfect place to enjoy the healing mineral waters, breathtaking views and peace and quiet. The Two Bunch Palms is an intimate oasis about thirty minutes drive into the desert. Offering on site accomodation, or a day pass for use of the pools, this spa resort is set amongst a backdrop of ancient palms and giant tamarisk trees, within a peaceful 72 acres of desert landscape. A week would not be long enough if you like to meditate! These tropical surroundings provide a paradise for self-love and personal development and it prides itself on the pools consisting of mineral water, renowned for therapeutic and mood enhancing properties which is low in sulfur, and rich in lithium which you can spend hours luxuriating in.
With an abundance of hotels for every taste, you can go boutique or classical, and the oldest hotels in the ‘Springs, started out in 1926. The La Quinta Resort, still retains an intimate feel with bungalows and private pools shielding guests from anonymity. Rumour has it, this is where certain celebrities with the initials KK always stay for the Coachella festival- I can believe it!
Palm Springs is not a place to come and indulge. In fact it is prides itself on it’s healthy vibe- and is the ideal place to come and detox, chillout and find yourself. And even if you don’t find yourself, you might find a new found liking for brussel sprouts or horse riding, and might just buy a juicer on your return home.
Or you might just hit the shops and enjoy some serious cocktail action and people watching at Palm Springs infamous restaurant-bar, The Nest. I won’t judge!
Norwegian Air (norwegian.com/uk)
Norwegian operates 11 weekly flights year round direct from London Gatwick to LAX.
Fares start from £175 one-way and £320 return including all taxes and charges and subject to availability.
Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort and Spa. Rooms from $350 (approx. £261) per room, per night
Jeep Tour (red-jeep.com) – $139 (approx. £104) for a three hour tour
Date tasting at Shields Date Garden (shieldsdategarden.com) – Date tasting is free of charge, the famous Date Shake is available for $5.95 (approx. £4.00)
Horseback Ride (smoketreestables.com) – Two hour ride $120 (approx. £89) per person
Two Bunch Palms spa and soak (twobunchpalms.com ) – $85 (approx. £63) or by buying day spa package, which includes a treatment from $195 (approx. £145)
AC3 Restaurant + Bar – ac3palmdesert.com
Wildest Greens – wildestgreens.com
Morgan’s in the Desert – morgansinthedesert.com
Essence at Two Bunch Palms – twobunchpalms.com/essence
The Nest – gotothenest.com
State Fare Bar & Kitchen at the Ritz Carlton, Rancho Mirage – ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/california/rancho-mirage