On the edge of Palm Springs, just two hours from LA, this is a palm-fringed desert escape with citrus groves and secret little courtyards and coves. Lying in the shadow of the Santa Rosa mountain range, this hotel was a favourite haunt of the movie crowd from the 1920s onwards; Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Katharine Hepburn and others came to recuperate in the desert heat, hide out or party the weekends away. Recently and ravishingly renovated (millions of dollars have been spent), the Spanish-colonial aesthetic is evocatively Southern Californian with a fresh, modern lustre.
The whitewashed, red-roofed bungalows – single- or two-storey and named after saints – surround sun-soaked courtyards with swimming pools, where you can take in the scene over green-apple Daiquiris. Most have private terraces, sunken baths and fireplaces in the bedrooms (super comforting) as well as thoughtful touches such as Egyptian cotton sheets and iPod docks with pre-loaded playlists. Aside from venturing into the glitz and excitement of Palm Springs, there’s little reason to leave the place, with its endless tennis courts, golf courses, croquet lawn, a well-equipped gym, seven restaurants (because nothing is ever small in this part of the world) and, of course, a destination spa and beauty salon.
The lavish spa packs in everything, with 35 indoor and outdoor treatment rooms where guests can take in the scents and views of the honeysuckle – and bougainvillaea-fringed gardens as they treat their mind, body and aching muscles to all manner of marine-based jets, grape-seed body polishes and hot-stone massages. The 90-minute HydraFacial. a non-invasive skin-resurfacing treatment, delivers instant results using ultrasound and galvanic currents to push serums into skin. It works on multiple levels, detoxing, nourishing and rehydrating by whisking away dead skin, smoothing fine lines and deep-cleansing pores, giving skin a silky smooth, dewy glow. It’s this sort of treatment that has earned the place such a loyal local following.
Retro fans will love Morgan’s in the Desert, the hotel’s signature bistro -its clubby vibe and surf-and-turf menu (charred ahi-tuna steak with fennel salad, braised short ribs with cauliflower puree), sizzles with Mad Men-style sophistication. Slink into a booth and sample a proper Martini (the bar also does great tangerine-and-grapefruit Mojitos). Come night, retreat to the terrace, where the tiki torches cast long shadows, surrounded by stars and the silence of the mountains. Spellbinding.