Where to Stay in Palm Springs

SD › Best Places to Stay in Palm Springs
Updated: November 7, 2021

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Best places to stay in downtown Palm Springs.

The Kimpton Rowan is the best hotel in downtown Palm Springs and steps to bars, restaurant, and shopping.

Best Areas to Stay in Palm Springs

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. Palm Springs has an International airport (PSP) located a few miles from downtown, with direct flights from many American and Canadian destinations. Another option if you are flying is Ontario Airport (ONT), located about 70 miles west of Palm Springs, which has a wider range of flight options and very often, cheaper flights.

Palm Springs is best known for its numerous luxury boutique hotels and spas, landscaped golf courses, top-notch restaurants, stylish “Desert Modern” architecture – and its legendary dry, desert climate and seemingly endless sunny skies.

Set between the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa mountains and Joshua Tree National Park, Greater Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley actually encompasses nine cities – Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Indio and Coachella – each offering its own cache of experiences and accommodation options. The valley extends for 45 miles from Palm Springs to the Salton Sea, connected by Hwy-111 (known for much of its length as Palm Canyon Drive or Palm Desert Drive), and the faster I-10, which runs parallel about four miles to the north.

Palm Springs began to develop in the early 20th century as a “health resort” for fashionable tourists attracted to the dry climate and hot-springs in the area. Today well-heeled visitors still come for “The Season”, the comfortably warm period between January and April when all the major golf and tennis tournaments are held. In recent decades Palm Springs has also become a major LGBT hotspot, with Dinah Shore Weekend held every April the world’s largest lesbian event, and it’s own major Pride festival in November.

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.

• Palm Springs is primarily the domain of expensive boutique hotels and luxury resorts, but accommodation can be surprisingly affordable in the summer (May–Sept) – assuming you can stand the heat. Alternatively, there are low-priced motel chains strung out along I-10 and Hwy-111, but these are often poor quality.

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

Staying in downtown Palm Springs.

Downtown Palm Springs is walkable, bikeable, and the best area to stay for first time visitors.

Best Areas in Palm Springs & Coachella Valley for…

Hikes in Palm Springs Area.

My favorite outdoor activity in the Palm Springs area is taking the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway in Mt. San Jacinto State Park – and then doing the surrounding hikes.

Best Neighborhood to Stay for First Timers: Downtown Palm Springs
Staying in the heart of Palm Springs makes the most sense for first-time visitors to the Coachella Valley: it’s the biggest, most lively city in the region, with a wide range of accommodation, the best restaurants, and jumping nightlife. It’s also within walking distance or a short drive to some of the valley’s biggest attractions: Palm Springs Art Museum, the hikes and palm-filled gorges of the Indian Canyons, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, Palm Springs Air Museum, and the biggest concentrations of the famed “Desert Modern” architecture.

Most Romantic Neighborhood: Uptown Palm Springs
With its clear desert skies, cocktail bars, spa pools, boutique hotels, and old Hollywood glamour, the Coachella Valley in general is a fabulous place for a romantic getaway, but some neighborhoods stand out. Our favorite is Uptown, home to some of the region’s most luxurious boutiques – discreet hideaways like The Weekend and The Twist are perfect for couples. The main drag, North Palm Canyon Drive, is lined by hip indie shops that are great for browsing, and a host of inventive restaurants and cocktail bars.

Best Neighborhoods for Nightlife: Downtown Palm Springs and Palm Desert
Downtown Palm Springs has the best nightlife in the region, much of it revolving around pool parties and al fresco cocktails, as much as live music and nightclubs. Some of our favorite spots include the pool bar at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club (as well as the hotel’s Amigo Room), the pool scene at Hotel Zoso, and the rooftop pool High Bar at the Kimpton Rowan Hotel. Copa Nightclub is a dependable spot for dance parties, while the Tonga Hut boasts a classic tiki bar. Downtown also has a vibrant LGBT scene anchored by institutions such as Hunters Palm Springs.
The community of Palm Desert comes a close second, with a string of nightspots within stumbling distance on El Paseo and Palm Desert Drive. We like the late-night Desert Fox Bar and cozy Little Bar, which also serves superb food. The Hotel Paseo is the best hotel in the area.

Best Neighborhoods for Food and Restaurants: Downtown Palm Springs and Indio
Downtown Palm Springs is hard to beat again when it comes to eating (though adjacent Uptown features a more innovative line-up of restaurants), with more variety than anywhere else in the Coachella Valley. Along with stalwarts of the scene such as Johannes and Tropicale, there are hip restaurants such as Juniper Table, Rooster And The Pig and Tac/Quila, Copley’s on the former Cary Grant estate, and old Sinatra hangouts such as Johnny Costa’s Ristorante and Melvyn’s.
At the other end of the Coachella Valley, Indio offers a completely different experience, and much cheaper menus: authentic Mexican food is knocked out at Tu Madres Cantina & Grill, and at no-frills taco joints such as El Tranvia in nearby Coachella (1221 6th St), while authentic Chinese food can be found at spots such as CIE Sichuan Cuisine.

Best Neighborhoods for Shopping: Uptown Palm Springs & Palm Desert
Uptown Palm Springs is celebrated for its locally owned and operated businesses, selling everything from mid-century furniture and high fashion, to unique cocktail glasses and specialist books. North Palm Canyon Drive is the main drag: we love the vintage fashion at Iconic Atom, quirky gifts, books and home décor at Just Fabulous, SHAG The Store, dedicated to 1950s pop art-inspired artist Shag (aka Josh Agle), and Trina Turk’s flagship fashion store. Over in Palm Desert, the strip known as El Paseo is another walkable shopping district, with everything from antiques at Maison Felice to jewelry at Leeds & Son.

Safest Areas of Palm Springs & Coachella Valley
The upscale communities of Indian Canyons, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Palm Desert, and Cathedral City are especially safe. Downtown and Uptown Palm Springs are generally safe, but as with any busy tourist destination, keep an extra eye on your valuables when exploring, and take care at night.

Unsafe Areas in Palm Springs & Coachella Valley
Regarding safety, there are some spotty areas of North Palm Springs, sections of Cathedral City, and Desert Hot Springs.

The 7 Best Places to Stay in the Desert for Tourists

Best areas for things to do in Palm Springs.

The entire Palm Springs area is filled with great outdoor activities and attractions.

1. Downtown Palm Springs

Downtown Palm Springs, anchored by Palm Canyon Drive, is the best place to begin any tour of the region, with its boutique hotels, classic restaurants, poolside bars and Desert Modern architecture, whose butterfly rooflines, earthy colors and minimalist bungalows took off here in the 1940s and 1950s. In terms of attractions, highlights include the world-class collection at the Palm Springs Art Museum (psmuseum.org), historic buildings at Village Green Heritage Center and the new Agua Caliente Cultural Museum (www.accmuseum.org), dedicated to the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians (who own much of Palm Springs). A short drive away are the tranquil palm-smothered trails of Indian Canyons, and the World War II exhibits at Palm Springs Air Museum.

2. Uptown Palm Springs

Palm Springs’ Uptown Design District – anchored by North Palm Canyon Drive, roughly between Vista Chino and Alejo Road – lies just north of Downtown, a revitalized neighborhood best known for its indie stores, from vintage fashion to modern home and art furnishings. After sunset the district becomes one of the region’s premier dining strips, led by spots like Eight4Nine, Workshop, and Sandfish Sushi. In the 1920s this area was known as Las Palmas Business District, but from the 1970s many businesses closed, leaving empty buildings and boarded up storefronts. Regeneration began in the late 1990s, with local, independent designers leading the way – Trina Turk opened her fashion boutique here in 2002. Today you can still see classic landmarks such as the Liberace House and Richard Neutra-designed Kaufmann House (both private homes), while one of the region’s biggest attractions, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, is a short drive away.

3. Rancho Mirage

Around 11 miles southeast from Downtown Palm Springs, upscale Rancho Mirage is known as “Playground of the Presidents” thanks to its links with former US leaders (Gerald Ford was a resident, and his wife established the Betty Ford Center here in 1982). It’s best known for its exclusive golf clubs (13 at last count) and luxurious hotels (the Omni has its own 100-foot waterslide), but there are several other attractions worth checking out. Kids will enjoy the hands-on exhibits at the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert, as well as the star-gazing programs at the Observatory next to the Rancho Mirage Library. Historic 1960s estate Sunnylands is usually open for tours, while shoppers can explore the River Mall, arranged around an artificial oasis with fountains and waterfalls.

4. Palm Desert

Three miles east of Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert is another affluent neighborhood, developed since the 1950s with even more golf courses (it’s been dubbed the “World’s Golf Capital”) and posh resorts. There’s more to Palm Desert, however. Since the 1980s it’s also developed as a major commercial and shopping hub thanks to the boutiques on El Paseo, the eminently walkable “Rodeo Drive of the Desert”, as well as malls such as Westfield Palm Desert and Desert Crossing. Palm Desert also boasts an array of tourist attractions that almost matches Palm Springs: the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert, the Santa Rosa & San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Visitor Center and the McCallum Theatre.

5. La Quinta

The neighboring city to the east of Indian Wells is La Quinta, which developed around the exclusive Rancho La Quinta resort in the 1930s. The hotel is still in business and well-worth checking out, even if it’s just for a drink at Morgan’s in the Desert. There’s not much else to the city, though as always golf courses dominate (20 at last count), including lauded PGA West and The Quarry at La Quinta. Feted golf star Arnold Palmer is a local and owns a restaurant here. The restaurant can be found in Old Town, a colonial Spanish themed open-air mall, also home to a weekly farmers’ market (Sundays) and celebrated La Quinta Brewing Co.

6. Indian Wells

Two miles east of Palm Desert, Indian Wells is the richest city in the Coachella Valley, obvious from the abundance of immaculate mansions, pristine lawns and gated communities (and zero chain restaurants). It’s also known for its luxury resorts and golf courses (including the celebrated Indian Wells Golf Resort and Players Course), but also for its high profile events and festivals, notable the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament in March. It also hosts
The prestigious Desert Town Hall Lecture Series each spring, and the Indian Wells Arts Festival in April. Families can check out the genteel Village at Indian Wells mall, and Shots in the Night, a glow-in-the-dark golf experience hosted by Indian Wells Golf Resort.

7. Desert Hot Springs

Located on the north side of I-10, 12 miles north of Downtown Palm Springs, the laid-back city of Desert Hot Springs is best known for its hot and cold mineral springs, much of the water piped direct into local hotels and resorts. Enjoying the high-quality mineral pools and spas in the city’s boutique hotels is the best reason to visit, since there’s otherwise not much to do in terms of sights, or eating and drinking. The main attraction is the whimsical Cabot’s Pueblo Museum, designed like a Hopi pueblo and former home of the “father of Desert Hot Springs”, Cabot Yerxa.

8. Indio

A few miles east of La Quinta lies relatively low-key Indio, which in stark contrast to its neighbors has a distinct agricultural focus (though it still boasts 13 golf courses), especially when it comes to fresh date farms and citrus outlets. The Shields Date Garden Store & Café remains one of its biggest attractions, along with the super-sweet date shakes and other date-related snacks served on site. The Coachella Valley History Museum claims to include the world’s only date palm museum. Foodies also come to Indio for its authentic Mexican food and especially tamales – the Indio International Tamale Festival is held here every December. Indio is best known for hosting the annual Coachella Festival every April, and the Stagecoach Festival one week later at the same venue, the Empire Polo Club. (Book hotels for Coachella months in advance.)

Airbnbs in Palm Spring

Airbnb Homes in downtown Palm Springs

An Airbnb house we rented in Palm Springs.

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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