Caliente Tropics

If you haven’t figured it out yet, your “Set of Drifters” dig tiki culture.  We try to find Polynesian themed restaurants and bars wherever we may travel the planet.  One of our more pleasing finds is the quixotically named Caliente Tropics.  Built in the 1960’s, this original swingers’ hangout found itself back in favor during the 1990’s when tiki lovers from around the world held met up for several “Tiki Oasis” festivals.  Once the party got too big, they moved on. However, Caliente Tropics continued to grow in popularity amongst tiki aficionados, encouraging management to spend beaucoup dollars on a multi-year renovation of the grounds, dining and entertainment areas, as well as the room accommodations.  Luckily, they have not screwed anything up... yet, and each building is still named after a different Polynesian island chain!

A great balance between the old and new tiki aesthetic, Caliente Tropics lays claim to a large kidney shape pool that sits adjacent to a series of private bamboo huts that are utilized for relaxation or massage services.  A hand print and signature of Anna Nicole Smith’s rests nearby, yet that is not the only oddity found amidst the complex grounds.

While visiting in the fall of 2007, we were lucky enough to witness some of the most surreal entertainment ever, courtesy of an older rotund gentleman who played cassettes featuring broadcasts of “American Top 40!”  Thanks to the drunkard’s lively lip-synced commentary, we were able to relive an entire countdown from the summer of 1975 while chowing down on fried spring rolls from the hotel’s charming “Hawaiian Bill's Bar.”

The scenario went something like this:  Double-fisting his Tecate and Coors Light, our beloved Casey Kasem would stand stoically in the shallow end of the pool and, using his empty beer can as a microphone, would start announcing the songs himself.  His trusty ghetto blaster and cooler sat nearby, proudly displaying a sign that read “Summer of 1975!”  Hello Twilight Zone!  By dusk, our trusty radio mangrove had changed his signs, and his cassette tapes, to reflect what else, a countdown from the "Summer of 1985!"  It was all Howard Jones, Paul Hardcastle, and Thompson Twins - completely surreal!

We suppose it should be mentioned that not everyone hanging out poolside in Palm Springs is actually staying at the hotel.  Most locals know that as long as someone is spending money on services, all are welcome to hotel hop and check out another location’s digs.

Speaking of digs, the rooms at the Caliente Tropics are actually quite stylish, complete with granite counters and understated, yet groovy tropical decor enhancements.  We especially appreciated the room’s high quality sheets and lush bath products, both of which helped to make our stay at the Caliente Tropics one we will never forget!

Caliente Tropics - 411 East Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA  92264, (760) 327-1391

Ruby Montana’s Coral Sands Inn

The natural beauty of the desert coupled with impressive Mid-century architecture makes Palm Springs the perfect “Set of Drifters” getaway.  During our most recent visits in 2011, we decided to go all-the-way retro, relaxing our souls and laying our heads at Ruby Montana’s Coral Sands Inn, a fun ‘n frothy property located in the older (and windier) section of town.  (The Stevens Road address is just a hop, skip and a jump from one of Liberace’s former residences in the historic Las Palmas neighborhood - see "sights" for more information..)

Centered around a charming kidney shaped pool (and some pretty impressive palm trees), The Coral Sands features only six guest rooms, but what a lot they are.  Each unit is like a small apartment, eclectically decorated with impeccable vintage items from the 1950’s and beyond.  (The despot could easily be likened to San Luis Obispo’s Madonna Inn, albeit on a much smaller, and thus, more dedicated scale.)  Maven Ruby Montana’s homage to kitsch shines through every electric pink highlight, and it’s this attention to detail that continues to draw fans from all over, particularly Seattle, where Ruby once owned a popular vintage shop!  (A cursory glance through our room’s guestbook featured many an entry from Washington state travelers!)

Aside from the charismatic decor - which includes whimsical pink lights that hang from every eave - what makes Ruby’s ranch style property so unique is the friendliness of its clientele, and of Ms. Montana herself.  Somewhat of a modern-day Jayne Mansfield, with platinum long locks of hair and leopard print sunglasses, Ruby relocated from the Pacific Northwest to sunny California over 10 years ago.  Her dream?  To open a relaxed and welcoming “home away from home” for lovers of vintage Palm Springs and retro decor.  Ruby soon realized that mixing and mingling with travelers from all over the world far outweighed the difficulties of running a hotel almost entirely by herself!

Indeed, many of Ruby Montana’s guests are repeat visitors - and new friends - who come back time and time again to recharge their batteries - and to check out the variety of rooms!  (Suites on the property worth inquiring about include the “Yiddish Cowgirl” and “Howdy Doody Goes to Bali.”)  Upon our arrival in May, we were awarded the “Yippy-Ky-Yo-Ky-Yay” room, a rodeo-themed suite that came equipped with just about everything, including the kitchen sink!  (There was even beer leftover from previous guests awaiting us in the refrigerator.)  While we regretfully stayed only one night during that initial visit, we knew Ruby Montana’s would be the perfect place to gather friends for a multi-day special occasion, particularly considering the well-equipped kitchen and outdoor barbeque had the potential to cut down on dining costs for all involved.

Set of Drifter Doug’s birthday in September provided just such an opportunity.  Somewhat of a “resort takeover,” our extended group occupied four rooms, including the charming “Poodle Room” and the elaborately ornamented “Liberace Suite!”  The two-night stay was absolutely sublime, with both day, and nighttime, hours absorbed poolside while listening to Ruby’s favorite French radio station as well as our own groovy tunes!  (The pool temperature this time of year was absolutely perfect!)

Ever industrious - she’s also quite a popular baker in town - Ruby has told us that her new Spanish “casita” property out back is also ready for “party takeovers.”  You can bet your bottom peso that we will be back at some point to take a look, hopefully sooner rather than later!

Set of Drifters tip:  Make sure you check out the office of the Coral Sands, located conveniently next to the pool.  It doubles as a small vintage store and is full of enough eye candy to keep you occupied for some time.  (We have never seen so many salt-and-pepper shakers assembled in one place!)

Want to take your pet on a holiday?  The Coral Sands Inn is quite pet-friendly.  If so inclined, you can bring your doggy along and let it run around with Ruby’s many rescue Chihuahuas!

Ruby Montana’s Coral Sands Inn - 210 West Stevens Road, Palm Springs, CA  92262, (760) 325-4900

Mojave Resort (Palm Desert)

Palm Springs and its surrounding towns are full of charming little vintage motels, swankier hotel properties, and yes, even luxury resorts that can take you away from it all as you rest your head for the night.  Still, many of the more interesting properties are somewhat hard to find, secluded from the main highway by housing development walls or lush landscaping that means to offer protection from the blazing desert sun.

The Mojave Resort & Spa in Palm Desert is one such hidden gem, a boutique hotel property that was originally built in the 1940’s, but renovated with vibrant color and sumptuous interiors within the last 10 years.  And even though the location is only a hop, skip and a jump away from the famed El Paseo shopping and art gallery district, the enclosed garden (with koi pools, gazebo and pool) offers a sense of complete serenity that could slow down even the most frenzied of workaholics!

While it much too hot to enjoy the pool in the middle of the day when we visited Palm Desert in August of 2007 for a 70th birthday party, we can image that during the high season, this location would be just perfect for a weekend getaway!  The 24 rooms are well-appointed and comfortable, if not a little cramped.

Set of Drifters tip: 
Check out the Mojave’s website for their massage/ spa treatment options and golf packages, if you are into that sort of thing.

Mojave Resort - 73721 Shadow Mountain Drive, Palm Desert, CA  92260, (800) 391-1104

We also recommend:

Colony Palms Hotel - 572 North Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA  92262, (760) 969-1800,