Back to the Future: A First Look at the Hotel Paseo in Palm Desert, California
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To The Point
Instead of clinging to the 1950s and 1960s like much of the rest of Palm Springs, the Hotel Paseo offers the onetime Hollywood playland a path to a reinvigorated future. Pros: The hotel has an excellent location, aesthetic and food. Cons: You’ll need a little extra money for the room and a car to get anywhere more than five miles away.
The hotly anticipated Hotel Paseo, a part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, made its debut in Palm Desert in mid-March, ramping up the California-cool vibe in a corner of the Coachella Valley generally not big on buzz. Relaxed luxury with nods to mid-century modern design and its embrace of local artists are already making this the spot to beat for your Palm Springs Weekend 2.0.
As I’d been chasing SoCal sun all winter, I had the chance to visit the 150-room property and try its new restaurant AC3, already a hot spot for locals in the know.
With rates starting around $299 a night, the Hotel Paseo was not the least expensive lodging option in the area, but I daresay it was the most interesting, and probably the best. While I didn’t stay overnight at the hotel, on the day of my inspection, a king room was going for $303 per night. Using Marriott Rewards points, a room in the same category would have cost 35,000 points. If you’re short on Marriott points, remember that you can transfer SPG points to Marriott at a 1:3 ratio, meaning one night at this property would require 12,000 Starpoints.
Palm Desert borders the “other desert cities” of Rancho Mirage on one side and Indian Wells on the other. The closest airport is Palm Springs International (PSP), about a 25-minute drive to the hotel.
The Hotel Paseo was footsteps from Palm Desert’s El Paseo, the city’s loose equivalent of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills (El Paseo is longer), as it’s chock full of art galleries and upscale stores. It was directly across the street from The Gardens on El Paseo, a small open-air mall anchored by a Saks Fifth Avenue and a variety of shops and restaurants. It was definitely helpful to have a car in these parts, but the hotel did have a courtesy shuttle to take guests anywhere within a five-mile radius at no extra charge.
Entrance and Lobby
The entrance to the Hotel Paseo was via Larkspur Lane, just off El Paseo. Two tall palm trees pierced a porte cochère whose sloping roof evoked that mid-century modern look.
The hotel’s restaurant, AC3, had a separate entrance to the left of the main one (more on the food in a minute).
With its white Calacatta marble floors, chic Natuzzi leather sofas and eclectic selection of art, such as a swimsuit-clad mannequin “diving” into a painting of a swimming pool, the lobby was stylish but also generated the low-key vibe of a posh desert home. The check-in area was correspondingly discreet.
The hotel encouraged guests to “find their path,” be it through soaking up some of the artwork …
… regrouping in the lobby before hitting the shops of El Paseo …
… or chilling out with a cup of Starbucks coffee or game of tabletop shuffleboard in the lobby cafe.
One of the things that struck me immediately about the guest rooms was the same thing that hit me in the lobby: a deliberate absence of earth tones. And mercifully, I might add. The desert is quite literally full of sand, and seeing browns and taupes in so many Palm Springs area hotels has always seemed like a bit of a cop-out to me.
But the Paseo banishes the beige in favor of soft grays, white and light blue, as in the king room I saw: cooling and understated, with minimalist contemporary art accents.
Rooms featured small private balconies, many with mountain views.
Bathrooms were well-lit and had barn-style doors and plenty of counter space.
Most of the bathrooms had “spa-inspired” walk-in showers like this one, but a few guest rooms next to the spa (opening in April) had freestanding bathtubs.
Food and Beverage
AC3 Restaurant + Bar, which was accessible via a corridor from the lobby as well as having its own entrance, was packing them in even before the hotel officially opened on March 12, the result of a collaboration between two celebrated restaurants in Palm Springs, Copley’s on Palm Canyon and Trio.
While the bright contemporary art struck me first, it was the globally on-point New American cooking of young executive chef Brandon Testi that packed the real punch. If this neck of the woods has a reputation for bland dining (it does), Testi was undoing that dish by dish.
Bright colors prevailed, and the U-shaped bar was the space’s center of energy.
I tucked into my friend’s crispy Brussels sprouts with smoked-jalapeño vinaigrette, pomegranate seeds and Cotija cheese before moving on to the AC3 burger: With Kobe beef, “melted” onions and smoked cheddar on a brioche bun, it was a winner. My friend’s Berkshire pork schnitzel was quite delicious too.
Desserts ran the gamut from traditional (for example, a freshly baked chocolate-chip cookie with vanilla-bean ice cream and ice-cold milk) to a citrus icebox tart with graham-cracker crust, yuzu cream, sweetened basil seeds and basil ice cream.
Patio dining was an option that could be exercised virtually every day in the warm desert climate.
The swimming pool and hot tub occupied one section of the hotel’s “backyard lawn,” and there was also a trio of poolside cabanas and a bar called Lemondrop. A small putting green and area for cornhole played to the low-key vibe of this stretch of the Coachella Valley.
A restored 1950 Airstream was permanently parked there, and guests could even stay in it. (Because of logistical issues, those arrangements had to be made directly at the hotel at this time.)
The gym was bright and spacious, with back-lit floor-to-ceiling images of scenery in Baja California.
As a longtime seasonal resident of the Palm Springs area — my grandmother used to run several hotel gift shops — I’ve seen many hotels here come and go, and what I like about the Hotel Paseo is its compact, suburban-resort feel. The location is great, and you needn’t rely on a car. Instead of clinging to the mid-century modern aesthetic, the place is on a more future-focused path, as evidenced by its art and decor, and it’s a refreshing change. The AC3 restaurant is shaping up to be one of the best around, and service was friendly and attentive. Bottom line: I can’t think of a better, or for that matter cooler, place to stay in Palm Desert right now.
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