Back in the 1940s and 1950s, Palm Springs was the place to holiday. Hollywood studio contracts demanded that the likes of Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Sammy Davis Jr., Kirk Douglas and George Hamilton were never more than two hours from LA should they be needed on set, and the perfect celebrity bolt hole that is Palm Springs was, well, sprung.
Courtesy of The Korakia Hotel
Attracted by the legendary aura of the Rat Pack, this architecturally sublime desert oasis has emanated an air of glamour ever since. It's no surprise that locals refer to the place as 'Paradise Valley' given the stunning surroundings, glitzy hotspots, huge number of celeb visitors and all-pervasive laidback attitude. Snow-capped mountains loom over the mix of beautiful Spanish and mid-century Modernist buildings set amongst golf courses, the desert pierced by the bright blue of the endless swimming pools and the brilliant greens, pinks, reds and whites of the impeccably manicured gardens. The luxury of simply being here in this gorgeous place where the sun always shines, art is all around and everyone walks around grinning at their own good fortune is, quite frankly, addictive and the huge increase in visitors over the last couple of years is testament to that.
There is accommodation to suit every budget, style and sexuality (Palm Springs is well known for its gay friendliness) and with so many fabulously cool hotels to choose from you could do a lot worse than book a couple of nights in different properties to really experience all that this particular paradise has to offer. The Korakia is a truly romantic retreat, modelled on a Mediterranean pensione, nestled right up against the feet of the San Jacinto mountains at the back of town. It's the most chilled out place I've ever been and so stunningly beautiful that I wasn't at all surprised to learn that Annie Leibovitz and Mario Testino both held recent photo shoots here.
The main building, off the urn and mosaic-covered table filled courtyard where breakfasts such as heuvos rancheros and French toast with berries are served daily to guests, is blindingly white, Moroccan style and covered in pink and white bougainvillea. Black and white striped cushions on wrought iron sunloungers look dramatic and classy next to the white walls, dusky pink Spanish floor tiles and the piercing blue pools (there are two, one of which came third in a 'sexiest swimming pools in America' contest). Waterfalls and hummingbirds provide the soundtrack when you're lounging outside on a day bed in front of the fire pit, and the mountain rises up dramatically right behind the hotel's stone wall. Artists come simply to paint these views – there were two working away by the pool when I was there. The charming staff pad around delivering fresh fruit platters to those on the day beds and lay out incredibly sweet mint tea, ginger biscuits and pistachios in the late afternoons.
Courtesy of The Korakia Hotel
The star gazing is second to none, the atmosphere low key and reflective but friendly and open. It's quiet and secluded and although it's far too hot to want to spend much time inside, when you do bed down for the night in one of the 29 individually decorated rooms, some of these are suites or self-catering studios, I guarantee you'll have the best night's sleep of your life. Robert Downey Jr is a regular visitor, as are Cameron Diaz and Reese Witherspoon. Even a couple of nights here will leave you so damn relaxed that you'll never want to leave.
The Horizon Hotel, slightly out of town, just down the road from the uber cool Ace Hotel & Swim Club, is in a different mould but no less exciting a place to see and be seen. It was designed and built by famed Modernist architect William F. Cody for Hollywood mogul Jack Wrather and his actress wife Bonita Granville as the perfect desert retreat in 1952. You won't be able to take your eyes off the low-slung white buildings with their flat black roofs, contrasting with the grey paved walkway, brightness of the green lawn and turquoise pool. The clean lines of the architecture and dazzling colours stand out brilliantly against the dusty desert red of the surrounding mountains, meaning that this particular stomping ground of the rich and famous will be burnt onto your mind's eye long after you've departed. Each of the beautifully-appointed minimalist-style 22 rooms has its own patio and outside shower, but thanks to some very clever design work whilst you are washing your hair and surveying the scenery no one is surveying you.
Courtesy of The Horizon Hotel
This is a Modernist resort paradise with gorgeous, kind staff who will attend to your every whim and leave breakfast on your patio table at a time of your choice. Best of all, in my opinion, is that this place is strictly adults only. Yep, unless your kids are over 21 you'll have to leave them at home, which makes for a very civilised, relaxed atmosphere, perfect for a secluded getaway. Hal, the general manager, oversaw the recent, careful restoration of the buildings that followed Cody's original blueprints and is a fount of knowledge about Modernism, the Rat Pack and everything Palm Springs. He not only makes fabulous dinner recommendations (Copley's in town was the best, situated on Cary Grant's old estate it serves wonderful steaks and seafood) but is also a great conversationalist if you're lucky enough to catch him by the pool.
This is a modern boutique hotel with everything you'd expect in 2011, such as fine linens, plasma televisions, wireless internet, continental breakfasts and free parking, but it's also a piece of history and I can't recommend the experience highly enough. Although they couldn't be more different, both properties are typical of this hippest of hip desert outposts, and if you choose to stay a few nights at each you will get the perfect flavour of both the Spanish and Modernist living styles which PS is famed for. If you feel like kicking back, enjoying some seriously stunning scenery, beating hot sun, great restaurant and bars and general bonhomie then you just can't beat Palm Springs. Enjoy!
Courtesy of The Horizon Hotel
By: Sara Lawrence