In the heart of Palm Springs, Colony Palms channels the best of a desert escape in one special place. Tantalising visitors since the 1930s, the historic hotel warms winter-weary travellers, with serene gardens that thrive in the desert sun. The property maintains its vintage Southern California charm, decorating rooms in mosaic tiles and vivid Moroccan-inspired patterns. By day, cool off from the powerful rays by the saltwater pool, itself a destination, set beside the Purple Palm restaurant for creative California cuisine. For a break from the scene, succumb to spa treatments that source local botanicals for scrubs, massages and hydrating facials.
Noon, but late check-out can be arranged for a $100 fee. Earliest check-in, 4pm.
Double rooms from £181.87 ($228), including tax at 14.695 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional resort fee of $45.88 per room per night on check-out.
Rates do not breakfast, which is available a la carte at the Purple Palm each day.
Pedal off on one of the hotel’s free cruiser bicycles to explore Palm Springs.
At the hotel
Spa, gardens, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: Minibar, flatscreen TV, robes and CO Bigelow bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Each of the rooms has vibrant art inspired by Indian wedding blankets.The Winner's Circle Suite, on the top floor of the main building, is a bright space with a claw-foot tub, mountain views and a pool-facing balcony. The suite is named for Seabiscuit, a famous race horse owned by past owners of the hotel.
The adults-only heated saltwater pool is flanked by sunloungers and romantic private cabanas, with prime views of snow-capped mountains.
With six treatment rooms, the spa offers massages, scrubs and facials inspired by desert botanicals, including a salt scrub made with locally grown dates. Couples massages can be arranged in the garden.
Oversized sunglasses will match the hotel’s silver-screen swagger. Leave room for treasures from the city’s renowned vintage and antiques shops.
The common areas, including the lobby, pool, restaurant and spa, are wheelchair accessible, along with rooms 10, 21 and 25, and Casita 2.
Nab a table on the patio by the pool, which is dramatically lit for Cali-cool dinners.
Punchy prints will match the social media-ready design.
Purple Palm, open daily from breakfast through dinner, is popular all day for its bold flavours, beautiful design and poolside setting. The inventive international menu includes ceviche, Japanese crab fritters, duck dumplings and a 12-hour pork shank with truffle. The space is decorated with vibrant patterned wallpaper, Spanish tile flooring and circular mediaeval-inspired chandeliers.
The restaurant has a bar with an array of refreshing cocktails, like the Purple Gang with vodka, muddled grapes, lemon and a red wine float. There are also house-aged cocktails made with whiskey and mezcal.
Breakfast is served from 8am to 11am, lunch from 11:30am to 3pm, and dinner from 5 to 9pm (or 10pm on Friday and Saturday).
The full restaurant menu is available for delivery.
Colony Palms is in the heart of Palm Springs, on bustling Indian Canyon Drive.
Palm Springs International Airport is a five-minute drive away. Direct flights are available from New York (Alaska Airlines, JetBlue) and Chicago (United Airlines), along with all major West Coast cities. The flight from Los Angeles is a brisk 55 minutes.
The Palm Springs Amtrak station is a 10-minute drive from the hotel (www.amtrak.com). Direct service is available to Los Angeles three times a week and takes two and a half hours, and there are connecting trains from San Diego.
The drive from Los Angeles to Palm Springs is one of the most iconic routes on the West Coast, and a rite of passage for many Californians. A car is an excellent way to explore the desert, and a must for anyone planning to hike Joshua Tree National Park. Parking at the hotel is free, and most destinations have sizable parking lots. Traffic in Palm Springs can get congested on weekends, so plan to set off on foot to explore the area right around the hotel on beautiful weekend days.
Worth getting out of bed for
The Colony Palms pool is worth a full day. After all, Palm Springs is legendary for its restorative desert heat, and there are few better places to enjoy it than on a sunlounger by the 65-foot saltwater pool, facing the nearby mountains.
Reverse the view with a trip on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. The massive rotating tram car rises up the mountainside along a two-and-a-half-mile track, for panoramic views of the valley. There are two restaurants atop the cliff, along with a gift shop and hiking trails. There are numerous hiking options in the area, including Joshua Tree National Park, home to the strangely craggy Joshua trees and assorted desert animals. The visitors’ centre is a 45-minute drive northeast of the hotel. The hotel can also arrange for jeep tours of Joshua Tree and the famed San Andreas Fault Line, or a high-speed race around the track of the BMW Performance Driving School, in nearby Thermal.
Palm Springs itself is a regional destination for mid-century-modern furniture and vintage clothes, with some of the best shops near the hotel, on North Palm Canyon Drive. The Frippery has tropical-themed vintage attire for men and women, including billowing kaftans and luxury purses. Popular furniture store A La Mod is packed with vintage cocktail carts, swivel chairs and other furniture to channel mid-century style.
For refreshing food on a hot evening, head to the ultra-popular Rooster and the Pig for Vietnamese-inspired fare, including spring rolls, lettuce wraps and tangy green-papaya salad. Copley’s, in what was once Cary Grant’s guest house, is popular for alfresco dinners of wood-fired dishes, like steaks, chops and seared scallops with basmati rice.
There’s nearly always a line to get into Cheeky's, open only for breakfast and lunch. The menu includes Mexican-inspired breakfast dishes, and popular corn pancakes. Don't miss the flight of bacon, with flavors that change regularly, but can include spicy jalapeño bacon and sweetly smoky fruit-rubbed bacon in addition to the classic.
Fuel up on caffeine at Koffi, a popular local shop, where beans are roasted in-house for espresso drinks and iced and frozen coffees to bust the midday heat. Many years ago, Palm Springs was packed with palm trees, yielding most of the country's dates. Grab a taste of the bounty at Shields Date Garden (look for the sign, on a shield, held by a massive pointing knight), in nearby Indio. The retro café and gardens are home to a gift shop and a tiny theatre showing a video about dates. Stop for breakfast or lunch, and be sure to try a date shake, which tastes surprisingly like chocolate.
Channel the retro side of Palm Springs with tiki cocktails at Bootlegger Tiki, in the space that once housed the famous Don the Beachcomber restaurant. There are plenty of potent drinks, including punch bowls, a house mai tai, and a few strong enough to come with a two-drink limit. Pair them with a small assortment of flavoured popcorns: say, sriracha or pepper-asagio.
Palm Springs is a popular weekend destination for us Angelenos but, if not played right, it can often feel like an extension of LA rather than an escape from it. Fortunately, there are hotels like the Colony Palms whose scale, service and discretion remind you why this oasis became so popular in the first place.
Back in the day, as is proudly documented, this hotel hosted ‘Hollywood’s elite, mobsters, athletes, producers, gamblers and politicians’. But if any of these characters shared the dates of our weekend stay then they were quite the polite poolside mates… In fact, the entire vibe of Colony Palms is one that puts you at ease from the moment of arrival to the time of checkout, no matter who you are.
The main property is one that is well organized and efficient with landscaping strategically planned to maximize privacy. There are many calm corners and private lounges for reading, sunbathing and napping, but we (and what appeared to be most of the other guests) opted for the prime poolside seats.
With comfortable chairs and generous bar service, the pool makes for the perfect slow weekend setting (but do note children are allowed on property and will do as kids do when a pool is present). Naturally, these seats fill up quickly, so don’t lag too long on your morning mimosa. Depending on what time of the year you go, you can also enjoy swims late into the night which is pretty spectacular beneath a clear evening sky.
Our room, in all its Thirties architectural glory, was a little shy on natural light but it did translate to an exceptionally quiet room, perfect for long slumbers.
Just as any good weekend warriors would, Mr Smith and I decided to indulge in a few treatments from the spa. The hotel, we found out, is the site of the very first health spa in Palm Springs and the services didn’t disappoint. There are only six treatment rooms and a limited, talented staff, so it’s definitely best to reserve in advance. Fortunately, the team was flexible and worked us into their schedule for some late afternoon unwinding.
The charm continues at the restaurant, Purple Palm. After playing the game of seeing how many wallpaper patterns we could count (we still haven’t come to an agreement on the total), we settled into a surprisingly eclectic menu that delivered on many fronts. In particular, the pork belly dumplings and casarecce pasta impressed. (To continue the theme, this is another popular spot for locals and guests alike so plan accordingly).
The hotel grounds feel private and secluded, but you’re far from isolated. We found ourselves within walking distance of a handful of restaurants we’ve wanted to try, and enjoyed walking our dogs through the adjacent residential neighborhoods at night.
Yes, dogs. Colony Palms is not only one of the rare places you can take your pets, but they really look after them, too. Ours had beds and bowls set up in the room when we arrived and, down by the pool, bar staff made sure their bowls were filled with fresh cold water.
Like we said, here, you’re put at ease from the moment of arrival to the time of checkout, no matter who you are. Or what species you are, for that matter.