WRITTEN BY Rachael Medina
Rachael Medina is the staff writer and content manager for California.com. She was born and raised just outside the Mojave Desert in Southern California and moved to the redwood forests of Humboldt C…See full bio
If the cool weather is starting to take hold in your neck of the woods and bringing you down, have no fear—summer temperatures are still alive and well in California’s desert towns. The dry terrain features a plethora of drought-resistant plants such as succulents and sagebrush, providing an entirely different view of the state than the one you’d see driving along the Pacific Coast Highway.
Indeed, the inland regions seem to defy everything you traditionally think of when you hear California. The beaches are replaced by desert hot springs, the cool ocean breezes are substituted by the strong Santa Ana winds, and the tall palm trees give way to prickly Joshua trees—culminating in a landscape that feels like a whole new world.
Though it may be hard to believe, the sunsets out here in the stark wilderness far exceed those over the Pacific. The arid, sandy desert feels even more reminiscent of summer nights than white sandy shores, and the hot sun rays excite your senses in a way the best California beach towns simply cannot. So, if you already miss the summer weather, head to these desert hotels and pretend the season is still in full swing.
For full-on luxury—and for one of the best experiences in Palm Springs—look no further than the Avalon Hotel and Bungalows. Complete with a gourmet restaurant, three pools (yes, three!), a spa, and adorable rooms and bungalows, the pet-friendly resort leaves guests wanting for nothing. Everything your heart desires is at your fingertips: Enter a friendly croquet competition, play a round or two of cornhole, and lounge on a daybed by the hot tub before walking two blocks to downtown Palm Springs.
In the morning, sip fruit-infused water by the fire pits, take a dip in the cabana-encompassed Presidio pool, and participate in a weekend yoga or guided meditation before grabbing a (very Californian) bite to eat at Chi Chi restaurant. Order the “Chi Chi Quiles” for a filling dish of crispy tater tots topped with mole rojo, avocado, cage-free eggs, radishes, pickled onions, cotija cheese, and crema. Or, go for the legendary avocado toast featuring rustic sourdough bread piled high with smashed avocado, sunny-side-up eggs, harissa, fried garlic, pickled shallots, and fresh herbs.
After breakfast, stop by the spa to treat yourself like a Hollywood starlet, and then settle in for a relaxing massage and a manicure before getting a blowout at the salon. Once you indulge in all the hotel amenities, you may never want to leave this Palm Springs destination.
The three Joshua Tree Houses technically aren’t hotels, but they are among the best places to host an Airbnb—which is exactly how you can book your stay at these magical homes. The husband-and-wife design team behind these properties knows exactly how to make you feel at home in the desert.
Choose between The Joshua Tree House, which is close to town and sleeps six, and the two remote lodges—Casita and Hacienda—which are situated about 20 miles from the west entrance to Joshua Tree National Park and each sleep four. Regardless of which property fits your needs, you are sure to get a space that is as photogenic as it is functional. All the homes allow you to become fully immersed in the landscape in a way that a traditional desert hotel may not allow. Soak in the hot tubs, lounge in the hammocks, and enjoy the stunning scenery as you dine at the rustic table out on the patio.
If you crave a slightly more traditional hotel, Mojave Sands is an excellent choice. Of course, it has its quirks, but that’s the fun of this five-room “eco-chic Moroccan desert refuge” with native (and largely drought-resistant) landscaping. I mean, where else can you find a motel where the windows, doors, gates, and several of the furniture pieces were designed and built on-site?
Take advantage of the outdoor barbecue, massive dining table under the desert sky, tiled walk-in showers, record players with assorted vinyl, and custom-made floating walnut bed frames as you appreciate your desert escapade. Stay in one of the three classic rooms featuring all of the essentials, or upgrade to one of the two suites for a king-sized bed and fully equipped kitchen—but no matter what you do, bring your pup along for the fun.
Pioneertown celebrates California’s desert history, but Rimrock Ranch helps the region stay at the forefront of modern desert-hotel design. Stay at the Hatch House on a 36-acre ranch just outside of Joshua Tree National Park, or choose between the four cabins, the lodge, and the Airstream for even more adventures.
Capture the high-desert sunsets, cool off in the summer plunge pool, go on a hike, and head to the observation deck to get a better look at the surrounding scenery. You’ll soon see that this desert retreat is the perfect place to relax and reset for the fall season.
Whether you’re more interested in watching meteor showers, eating s’mores by the fire, or dancing under the stars, this old-timey film-set destination is here to entertain your wildest movie-star fantasies. Take a look around at the native plant groves, locally designed furniture, and carefully curated interiors—it will soon become incredibly clear that the owners live the California lifestyle where the possibilities are as endless as the views.
Though you won’t exactly be “roughing it” out here, the remote location and absence of technology at Pioneertown allow you to recenter and recharge. Full of wonder and wildflowers, this part of the Golden State holds a special kind of magic in its dirt and dust that you will never forget.
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