SD › Where to Stay in Palm Springs
Updated: October 23, 2020
Best Areas to Stay in Palm Springs
Palm Springs is known for pampering visitors in style with its numerous high-end spas, luxurious accommodations, gorgeous golf courses, and top-notch restaurants.
The Desert, as Southern Californians refer to the Coachella Valley, includes towns along Highway 111 from Palm Springs to Indio. The valley also includes towns such as Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, La Quinta, Indian Wells, and Desert Hot Springs. Palm Springs is the most famous of the desert cities which are all surrounded by golf courses, tennis clubs, and palm trees, and are hard to beat as winter getaways. It has also been long equated with Spring Break and as a Hollywood celebrity hideaway.
Located about 110 miles from Los Angeles and 135 miles from San Diego, the most convenient way to get to Palm Springs is by car. If you are flying, Palm Springs has an International airport (PSP) located a few miles from downtown that serves a variety of American and Canadian destinations with many direct flights. Another option if you are flying is Ontario Airport (ONT), located about 70 miles from Palm Springs, which has a wider range of flight options and very often, cheaper flights.
The desert is sprawling and because of this, a car (or Uber or another car service) is a necessity. For example, Palm Springs to Palm Desert is about 15 miles, but the drive can take 30 minutes on Highway 111. The valley extends for approximately 45 miles (72 km) in Riverside County, southeast from the San Bernardino Mountains to the saltwater Salton Sea, the largest lake in California.
Palm Springs is the first desert city you’ll come to as you drive east on the 10 Freeway and exit onto Highway 111. Heading south, you will then find Cathedral City followed by Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta, and Indio. Desert Hot Springs is located about 11 miles north of Palm Springs.
The city has been a top celebrity and movie star hideaway for decades. Its popularity with movie stars began during the 1930s and has never ended. Through the 1980s, the desert was known as more of a ‘second home’ location. Today, many people live in Palm Springs and its neighboring communities year-round.
Palm Springs is famous for its mid-century modern architecture as well as its arts and cultural scene. It is also a popular retirement destination as well as a winter snowbird destination, especially for Canadians. During the winter months (November to March), the city’s population triples.
It is a very LGBTQ-friendly destination for both full-time residents and vacationers. About 50% of its residents over 55 identify as LGBT. Palm Springs is home to one of the world’s largest lesbian events: the Dinah Shore Weekend and golf tournament that is held here in April every year. Palm Springs Pride is another popular event that takes place every November.
At the other end of the desert are the popular annual music festivals: Coachella and Stagecoach (both happen in April). Another huge event is the annual Indian Wells BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament that happens in March.
There are a variety of accommodations throughout Palm Springs and the desert ranging from kitschy motels and historic hotels to mega-resorts. While the desert caters to a high-end clientele, hotels can be found at all price levels. Visitors should also keep in mind that resorts get very crowded during all holiday weekends, Spring Break, and during most festivals, especially Coachella.
The weather in the desert cities is mostly mild in winter with average highs in the low to mid-70°F and lows of up to mid-40°F. March and April see highs in the mid-80s. May is when the temperature really begins to rise with an average high of 95°F. For most of June through September, you’ll find temperatures in the triple digits, which can jump into the 120s. October sees an average high of 91°F and November drops to an average high of 79°F. Winter is the rainiest season in Palm Springs, but it only brings a few days of rain each month on average.
The best hotels are not focused in one neighborhood and it’s easy to find great accommodations ranging from budget to luxury throughout the desert.
Best Places to Stay in Palm Springs & Neighboring Cities
- Best Hotels in Downtown Palm Springs
Kimpton Rowan Hotel • The Colony
- Best Luxury Resorts in Desert Cities
The Parker Palm Springs • The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage • La Quinta Resort & Club (A Waldorf Astoria Resort)
- Best Historic Hotels in Palm Springs
Colony Palms Hotel • Ingleside Inn • Del Marcos Hotel (Adults Only)
- Best Boutique Hotels in Palm Springs
Dive Palm Springs • La Maison Hotel • Hotel California • Ace Hotel & Swim Club
- Best Family Hotels in the Desert
Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa • Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa
- Best Cheap Hotels in Palm Springs
Triada Palm Springs, Autograph Collection • The Palm Springs Hotel
- Best Romantic Hotels in Palm Springs & Desert Cities
Two Bunch Palms Desert Hot Springs • The Chateau at Lake La Quinta • The Parker Palm Springs
Best Areas in Palm Springs for…
- Best Neighborhood in Palm Springs to Stay for First Timers: Downtown
If it’s your first time visiting Palm Springs, the main thing to know is that the touristy part of the city is small. Most hotels are scattered on or near Palm Canyon or Indian Canyon (these two streets run parallel to each other in downtown Palm Springs). Highway 111 turns into Palm Canyon as you head into town from the 10 Freeway. Once you enter downtown, Palm Canyon is where you’ll find most of the shops, galleries, restaurants, and attractions. The heart of Downtown Palm Springs is walkable and at most a short car ride.
- Best Neighborhood in Palm Springs & the Desert for Sightseeing: Downtown
When it comes to sightseeing, Palm Springs is more about an overall experience than specific sites. While there is great shopping and dining in Palm Springs and its neighborhoods, many people head to the desert to play tennis or golf, or to lounge poolside. Because of the long history of celebrities calling Palm Springs their home away from home, there are some great walking and bus tours featuring movie stars past and present. The Palm Springs Historical Society offers a variety of tours that focus on Show Biz Legends, Frank Sinatra’s Neighborhood, the Rat Pack Playground, and many more that all start from downtown. Other tours worth taking are the ones focused on the mid-century modern architecture that Palm Springs is famous for.
- Best Neighborhoods in Palm Springs & the Desert for Nightlife: Downtown and Palm Desert
You can find clubs, trendy bars, and casinos throughout Palm Springs and scattered along Highway 111. Nightlife can range from drag queen performances at Toucans Tiki Lounge to local bands at watering holes in Palm Desert like The Hood, Schmidy’s, and The Red Barn. The Amigo Room at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club is always a sure bet for quirky nighttime fun such as bingo, stand-up comics, and arts and crafts lessons. If you want to dance the night away, head to Copa Nightclub Palm Springs. If you want to experience the glamor of old Hollywood history, head to the Casablanca Lounge at Melvyn’s for live music featuring the songs of Frank Sinatra, Paul Anka, and Mel Torme. With a large retiree crowd, happy hour is very popular and can be found daily at most restaurants. There are also quite a few restaurants that offer a late-night happy hour as well.
- Best Neighborhood in Palm Springs & the Desert for Food and Restaurants: Palm Springs and Throughout
Palm Springs is a mix of old school establishments, trendy hipster hangouts, and high-end cuisine. Palm Springs is also a town that loves happy hour and you can find it at just about every restaurant in town. Some popular spots in Palm Springs for happy hour are Bootlegger Tiki’s, Lulu California Bistro, Trio, and Kaiser Grill (Palm Springs and Palm Desert). Further east, Jackalope Ranch in Indio and Eureka in Indian Wells are worth a visit. If you want to experience the Golden Age of Hollywood, some of the timeless and long-standing retro-style restaurants that shouldn’t be missed are Lord Fletcher’s, Mr. Lyons Steakhouse, Melvyn’s, and the local favorite, Sherman’s Deli & Bakery. Another don’t-miss experience in Palm Springs is Tyler’s for its famous burgers, hot dogs, and malts. Las Casuelas Terraza is a must if you like Mexican food. For a great breakfast, head to Cheeky’s for trendy dishes and outrageous Bloody Marys or to Elmer’s for the best dining experience in the desert. For a boozy brunch, head to Chi Chi’s at the Avalon Hotel, Norma’s at the Parker Palm Springs, or Le Vallauris for a fancy old-school brunch on their gorgeous tree-canopied patio.
- Best Neighborhoods in Palm Springs & the Desert for Families: Rancho Mirage or Palm Desert Resorts
Palm Springs has several fun things for families including the Palm Springs Air Museum and, of course, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway which is the World’s Largest Rotating Tramcar. East of Palm Springs are the towns of Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, and Indian Wells, where you’ll find many of the higher-end family-friendly resorts. Almost every hotel in the desert has a pool, which is always fun for kids and families, but the Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa in Rancho Mirage kicks it up a notch with its Splashtopia water park which includes a 450-foot lazy river, 2-acre water playground, cliffside jacuzzi, and two speedy 100-feet waterslides. The JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa in Palm Desert is another great choice with five pools, miniature golf, a boat ride that goes around the resort, and daily fun activities for kids. The Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa in Indian Wells is another family-friendly resort option with a pool, sandy beach, waterfall, as well as s’mores nightly at the firepits. Palm Desert is also home to the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. Between Palm Springs and Palm Desert, you’ll find the Children’s Discovery Museum in Rancho Mirage. This is a great place to visit on a rare rainy day or a hot afternoon.
- Most Romantic Neighborhood in Palm Springs & the Desert: Palm Springs
For old school charm and the quintessential desert experience, Palm Springs is the perfect choice for a romantic getaway. For generations, Hollywood stars and others “in the know” have headed to Palm Springs for quality R&R. Many boutique hotels offer seriously romantic experiences like the Moorish inspired Korakia Pensione with only 28 rooms and surrounded by lush gardens of olive and palm trees, decorative mosaics, fountains, and waterfalls. The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn is only open from September to May and is luxurious as well as romantic. Driving down East Palm Canyon Drive, you might easily cruise by the enormous white wall that surrounds the Parker Palm Springs property and its modest signage, without realizing you passed one of the most unique, hip, and sought-after hotel and spa experiences in the desert. Two Bunch Palms in Desert Hot Springs is another great choice. This is an adults-only resort on 77 mountain-view acres at what was originally Al Capone’s desert hideaway.
- Best Neighborhood in Palm Springs & the Desert for a Local Vibe: Throughout
A lot of homes and residential areas throughout the desert are behind gates and don’t have neighborhood bars and cafés. For the most part, head to favorite hangouts such as coffee shops, restaurants, and bars. Sit at the bar and chat with the patrons. Those who flock to Palm Springs and the other desert cities are by and large a friendly bunch. If you head to the bar at Billy Reeds or for dinner at Blue Coyote Grill or John Henry’s, you are guaranteed to meet locals.
- Best Neighborhoods in Palm Springs for Walking: Palm Canyon in Downtown & Indian Canyons
Palm Canyon, the main shopping street in Palm Springs is the most popular place to explore on foot. There is a wide range of restaurants, shops, coffee shops, and specialty stores. If you want to get out in nature, The Indian Canyons are just 5 miles south of the Tahquitz Visitor Center, and the reserve is home to a lengthy network of trails, with 2 major trailheads.
- Best Neighborhoods in Palm Springs & the Desert for Shopping: Downtown Palm Springs & El Paseo
Palm Canyon in Palm Springs is a street lined with shops and includes everything from new plush specialty shops and mom and pop stores. One of the most fun things to do if you are in town on a Thursday evening is to go to the Palm Springs VillageFest, which is a street fair featuring arts, crafts, food, and entertainment. Palm Desert has The Shops on El Paseo, which is a desert version of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and where you will find the most high-end shopping experience in the Desert.
- Safest Areas of Palm Springs & the Desert
The neighborhoods of Indian Canyons, The Mesa, Vista Las Palmas, Las Palmas, The Movie Colony, The Tennis Club, and Twin Palms are a few of the very nice neighborhoods. Downtown is safe, but as with any busy tourist destination, keep an extra eye on your valuables when exploring.
- Unsafe Areas of in Palm Springs & the Desert
Regarding safety, there are some spotty areas of North Palm Springs, sections of Cathedral City, and most of Desert Hot Springs.
The 6 Best Places to Stay in the Desert for Tourists
1. Palm Springs
If you are looking for the quintessential desert experience, Palm Springs is the best choice. Stroll along Palm Canyon Blvd, take the aerial tram to the top of Mt. San Jacinto State Park, and explore the Indian Canyon hiking trails. Or simply enjoy the best the desert has to offer with its gorgeous golf courses and sparkling pools. Palm Springs is also the closest desert city to Joshua Tree National Park. The park is a popular day trip where you’ll find rugged rock formations, stark desert landscapes, and the region’s twisty Joshua trees.
One of the nine cities of the Coachella Valley, Rancho Mirage sits between Cathedral City and Palm Desert. The city is known for its resort hotels and has the nickname “playground of presidents” because of the numerous United States Presidents who have visited, including Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, and Barack Obama. Rancho Mirage is great if you want to unplug and relax, but there are also a few things outside the resorts worth a visit such as the tour of Sunnylands historic estate. For families, there is the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert.
3. Palm Desert
Palm Desert is famous for its upscale shopping street of El Paseo which features designer boutiques, restaurants, and art galleries. Additionally, there are large malls and shopping areas in the neighborhood. You’ll also find great family-friendly resorts, several country clubs, beautiful golf courses, and The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens, all just about 15 miles south of Palm Springs. One of the favorite local activities is to visit the Saturday Street Fair at College of the Desert. It’s more of a swap meet than a street fair where you’ll find everything from collectibles to knock-offs and artisanal creations.
4. La Quinta
La Quinta is located between Indian Wells and Indio at the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains and is locally known as “the gem of the desert”. If you’re looking for a relaxing getaway, La Quinta’s picturesque Old Town has plenty of options for fun things to do. The town is best known for its world-class golf courses and is ranked among the country’s top tennis resorts. It is also a great place to stargaze. The stars are especially bright near Old Town La Quinta because of the city’s limited use of street lights and because it sits on the east end of the Coachella Valley.
5. Indian Wells
Indian Wells lies between the cities of Palm Desert and La Quinta and is most famous for hosting the sixth-largest tennis tournament in the world: the annual Indian Wells BNP Paribas Open that happens in March. Beyond the world-class golf courses, including the Par-72 Celebrity Course at the Indian Wells Golf Resort, you’ll find top-rated tennis facilities and resort pools and cabanas worthy of a full day of lounging. A fun, delicious, and odd nearby day trip is Shields Date Gardens. Located in Indio, Shields Date Gardens is a restaurant, date field, and museum. The desert is famous for date shakes and here you’ll find one of the original shake counters (dating to the 1960s). You can also sample different types of dates in their shop or explore the 17-acre date grove and botanical garden which showcases 23 hand-crafted statues that depict the life of Christ.
- Best Hotels: Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa • Miramonte Indian Wells Resort & Spa, Curio Collection by Hilton
- Best Cheap/Moderate Hotel: Indian Wells Resort Hotel
Nine miles from Palm Springs is the town of Desert Hot Springs. It is home to some of the purest hot and cold mineral springs in the world because of an underground aquifer beneath the city. Many boutique hotels feature their own mineral pools and spas, including the luxurious and romantic Two Bunch Palms, an adults-only resort on 77 mountain-view acres at what was originally Al Capone’s desert hideaway.
Airbnbs in Palm Spring
I’m not very familiar with Airbnb rentals in the Palm Springs area. For most visitors, I think a hotel is the better choice. But I can vouch for this house (pictured above), walking distance from downtown Palm Springs.
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