I’m not certain, but I’d guess that if you mentioned Palm Desert in a conversation anywhere in Southern California, you’d get a few reactions. There’d be a group who’d talk exclusively about Coachella, a massive music festival that takes over part of the desert every year. Another group would probably mention the world-class golf courses. A third might start gushing about the gorgeous resorts, spa getaways and vacation spots located in Indian Wells. They’d all be accurately depicting one of California’s most iconic desert communities.
Founded in 1967, the city of Indian Wells - located in Riverside County - marks the heart of SoCal’s desert resort destinations. City leadership has long spent time ensuring the area boasts the most verdant golf courses, hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails, and of course, stylish boutiques, delicious restaurants, and premier resort properties.
Pre-pandemic, our family of avid travelers often sought out unique retreats for spring breaks, summer vacations and long weekends. In the midst of a more restrictive environment over the past year, we discovered a true silver lining in the abundance of local “stay-cation” destinations so close to home. Short on travel time/driving distance. Long on amenity, attraction, recreation and relaxation.
Among our favorite recent finds? Nestled at the foot of the Santa Rosa Mountains, the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa in Indian Wells is a pristine oasis in the desert valley. Following a recent multi-million dollar renovation, the reimagined resort is a distinctive property with a nod to the hotel’s storied legacy and star-studded history, which is incorporated into its intriguing new look. An early home to Hollywood icons from Bob Hope to the Rat Pack, the resort is a favorite among new and up-and-coming generations of icons.
The property showcases 560 luxurious, oversized guest rooms (including 103 spacious suites) - all with balconies and breathtaking views of the mountains, pool or golf course. Design features start in the stunning multi-story lobby (think grand staircase, indoor fountain and cozy workspaces with views of the surrounding lush Mediterranean-inspired landscaping) and extend throughout the resort to a gorgeous outdoor gathering area, an intimate olive tree grove and what is arguably its crown jewel - the largest pool in the desert - complete with cascading waterfall and sandy beach.
We opted to while away the better part of the day and rented a private cabana – the perfect perch from which watch over the kids as they swam and splashed to their hearts content. The H2O Pool Bar meant that we didn’t need to venture away from the water’s edge for light fare and drinks - and bonus! the umbrellas are equipped with solar panels so you can charge your electronic devices if you don’t want to completely “unplug.”
The resort’s signature restaurant, CAVA, serves up authentic, freshly prepared American cuisine. We dined al fresco on the scenic outdoor terrace with expansive views of the Santa Rosa Mountains. Our kids love room service, so it was a nice opportunity for my husband and I to enjoy an aperitif in The Place Lobby Bar, a lovely open cocktail lounge located in the heart of the property.
Looking for an active vacation? The Renaissance Esmeralda is surrounded by 36 holes of championship level golf. Indian Wells Golf Resort is one of the few properties to have two courses ranked in the Top 25 “Best Municipal Courses in the United States” by Golfweek Magazine. The Celebrity Course & Players Course AKA “Beauty and the Beast” have hosted Golf Channel’s Big Break and the PGA’s Skins Game.
Adventure seekers can head out for hiking or mountain biking on nearby trails while guests like me looking for a more relaxing retreat will head straight to Spa Esmeralda, a 13,000-square-foot full-service spa that combines intimacy, serenity and wellness for guests. The spa features 11 indoor treatment rooms, eight treatment cabanas, one indoor couple’s suite, men’s and women’s steam rooms and relaxation lounges, as well as a garden courtyard with a plunge pool.
Be it a romantic, family, business or leisure trip, the beautifully appointed accommodations are waiting to welcome you back at the end of the day. Top up in the morning with a yummy beverage from Cafe Biscotti and start anew with fresh fare from CAVA, or the H2O Pool Bar, with simple offerings and tasty cocktails. Burn it off, soak it up, and everything in between. There’s something for everyone.
Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa
44400 Indian Wells Lane