A revived desert beauty in Palm Springs
244 Rooms / 16 Suites
When The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage made her debut back in 1988 as only the seventh hotel in the formidable chain, she was rightfully lauded as the most stunning resort in the Coachella Valley. Think Madonna and Cher back in their glory days. By 2001, however, she’d lost her way and was sold, rebranded and eventually shuttered. Seven dark years went by before the ol’ gal got a brand-new management team that pumped upward of $500 million in to this 24-acre property that sits on a 650-foot bluff with stunning views of the Coachella Valley. She made her long-delayed grand reopening in May 2014, and the girl is back — and more brilliant than ever.
Let’s call it St. Tropez-meets-Palm Springs: Everything revolves around the sun, outdoor living and beautiful bodies, many wearing colorful Trina Turk resort wear (available in the spa gift shop). Everyone seems to have a glass of Veuve Clicquot in hand, even at the 25,000-square-foot luxury spa (tip: order a bento lunch box before your treatment and then lounge around the spa pool in a luxe bathrobe while noshing on a kale salad and grilled chicken breast). Some Ritz-Carlton properties may have a reputation as being a bit stodgy, but not here. Everything from the glass beakers of candy (M&Ms, Reese’s, Skittles) sitting at the concierge desk to the tail-thumping Labradoodle hotel dog, Maddie, says this is a place for the young (and the young at heart). No wonder certain unnamed rock stars like to stay at this Palm Springs hotel when they play the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
SB Architects, renowned for hotel projects from Miami to Cairo, led the renovation and expansion of The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage and call the look “classic indoor/outdoor desert living.” That’s about right. The first thing you notice upon entering the Ritz are the deep-toned wood eaves providing shade and comfort and the desert plant atrium in the lobby that looks like a museum diorama but is actually just a framed desert landscape with barrel and fencepost cacti as well as agaves and other succulents (ask for a free desert plant guide at the concierge desk).
Rooms feature stone flooring, deep soaking tubs, walk-in showers, and luxurious Frette Italian cotton bed linens. See if you can score one of the ground-level Fire Pit rooms. Private fire pits outside each room are lit each night and their glowing ambiance summons you to sit in a cushy chair and contemplate the universe while staring at the phenomenal desert sky and moon-lit San Jacinto Mountains.
You’ll find three restaurants at the luxury hotel: Air Pool Bar, which serves fresh sushi alfresco; State Fare Bar and Kitchen, a spot that celebrates California cuisine with seasonal dishes and local wines; and The Edge, a steakhouse that turns out prime cuts and excellent classic cocktails. The Edge is destination dining — it’s the place to go for a special occasion. But executive chef Bruno Lopez’s unforgettable dry-aged steaks will make you a repeat diner.
The main activity at The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage is just hanging — mostly at one of the three pools. The adult pool, with its dreamy infinity edge looking out over the Coachella Valley, is very popular so it’s best to stake out a spot early. The family pool is also busy but has higher turnover so it doesn’t take long to get a prime perch. If you want someplace remote and romantic, check out the “Chill Zone” pool. It’s basically a small dip pool for adults with a couple of chairs planted in the water — perfect for cocktails and watching the sunset. Wondering where to take your Instagram selfie? Pose in front of the reflecting pool with the entire Coachella Valley in the background.