Top Californian desert escapes

If you are seeking some serious self-indulgence in the Californian desert, then look no further. California’s desert resorts know how to do luxury. With dramatic backdrops, from the towering mountains and manicured lawns of the Joshua Tree National Park to the harsh environment of Death Valley, relaxation comes with the territory in the heat of the Californian Desert. Your only dilemma … lavish opulence or sleek and modern?

La Quinta Resort & Club, a Waldorf Astoria property which opened in 1926, welcomes you with flower-filled courtyards, red-tiled casitas and the unbeatable backdrop of the Santa Rosa Mountains. And then there’s the huge choice of amenities and facilities – including world-class golf. Play on one of five championship courses there; or why choose? Play them all! This includes The Quarry at La Quinta and the legendary PGA West Golf Club & Resort which are outstanding courses designed by legendary players such as Tom Fazio, Greg Norman and Jack Nicklaus. There is also tennis, an award winning spa and great hiking available.

The Death Valley National Park is a place of “ests” — lowest point in the Western Hemisphere (Badwater, 282 feet below sea level), and the highest temperature ever recorded in America (estimate at 56.6º C, in 1913). Become oriented with excellent ranger-led hikes, and for a touch of luxury, visit (or book a stay at) Furnace Creek, a posh resort at 214 feet below sea level.

The Inn at Furnace Creek is where swaying palms, cool tile walkways and a spring-fed pool add to the atmosphere of peace and luxury. Situated in a lush oasis surrounded by the vast and arid desert of Death Valley National Park, this resort is just 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas and 275 miles northeast of Los Angeles. The Furnace Creek Resort shares the facilities of The Inn and is more geared towards families and the outdoors, and not quite as luxurious.

Then of course there is Palm Springs! Would you like to relax in private outdoor treatment cabanas at Estrella Spa in Viceroy Palm Springs Resort? Or dip into a Watsu pool heated to your body temperature at Spa Terre in the Riviera Palm Springs? Or, switch off from the rest of the world with a soak in natural, hot-spring mineral spas in Desert Hot Springs?  The choice is yours.

At The Willows historic Palm Springs inn, once a millionaire’s private retreat and a Hollywood favourite for nearly a century, you will find lovely terraced gardens. Today, this Mediterranean villa has been meticulously restored to its original 1930s elegance with Mahogany-beamed ceilings and natural-stone fireplaces accented by modern amenities.

Sparrows Lodge has been fabulously restored and you will discover vaulted ceilings, beautiful stone detail, and a signature feature – the bathtubs are actually restored horse troughs! This is an intimate desert hideaway with a little hacienda flair…an oasis where no luxury is spared, offering the personal attention of a country inn, it is Palm Springs’ only ranch-style boutique hotel.

Or lavish in one of the 25 suites at the adults only 5* L’Horizon Resort & Spa. A beautifully renovted example of the mid century modern architecture that Palm Springs is famous for. Indulge yourself in one of the treatments available at the resort’s Le Spa which has 4 treatment rooms and offers a variety of treatment therapies. There is also 24 hour room service, a fabulous restaurant where you can eat al fesco under the stars, a swimming pool, and some of the suites have private courtyards and even outdoor showers.

There’s all-out luxury too, as if the others weren’t enough!  At the Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage, settle into a suite with contemporary furnishings and mountain views, play a round of golf and then enjoy a body treatment featuring desert herbs and minerals. Elegantly enveloped within the Santa Rosa Mountain range, The Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage is located on a 650-foot bluff (high cliff) overlooking world-famous Palm Springs and the picturesque Coachella Valley. This luxurious hotel boasts 244 guest rooms with 16 suites including spacious and private spa suites and is thoughtfully-designed to complement its desert mountain location by featuring natural elements of stone, wood and fire which reflect the local landscape, hues and regional surroundings.  Absolute Bliss.

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Borrego Springs in the Anza-Borrego State Park, part of the Sonoran desert, which is officially THE hottest place on earth, and also one of the few designated dark zones in the world, making it a fabulous place to stargaze, as there is NO un-natural light. There are also some fabulous statues to be found scattered around the desert.

A stay La Casa del Zorro (Home of the Fox), a fabulous resort with a mix of deluxe rooms in small clusters around swimming pools, or individual 2,3 and 4 bedroom casitas some with their own private pools and hot tubs. The facilities within the resort are excellent with lots of sports facilities and a spa available, as well as its very own star gazing arena and a wonderful restaurant.

Also in Borrego Springs you can find the quirky Palm Canyon Resort where you can stay in a themed Trailer or one of its comfortable guest rooms set in an old wild west style resort.

There is also the dessert style adults only Borrego Valley in which although not classed as a luxury property, gets fabulous reviews.

With plenty on offer, do not discount the Californian desert for your next luxury escape.

Kim Robertson is Director at Your Way (Travel) Ltd.

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Comments (1)

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  1. I used to live in Joshua Tree and made frequent trips to Palm Springs. This is a great guide! Also, Borrego Springs is amazing. I would definitely recommend going there if you are in the Sonoran Desert.

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