Desert Rose

La Quinta is an ideal spot for couples looking for a romantic Palm Springs getaway

By: Kenneth Shapiro

LA QUINTA, Calif. “Honey, turn to the side so I can get a picture of your belly.”

There’s only a very small window of opportunity in any man’s life where he can say these words to his wife. In my case it was when my wife, Julee, was six months pregnant far enough along for her to be showing, but not so far for her to be sick of it already.

It was the perfect time for that question, and also for the two of us to find a sitter for our son, and go off on a romantic weekend getaway before we were once again thrown into joys and stresses of parenthood. And in Southern California there’s just about no place better for a romantic weekend than La Quinta Resort, 19 miles east of Palm Springs.

Built in 1926, the resort has the unmistakable feel of old California, with Spanish-tile floors, adobe walls and wood-beamed ceilings throughout. Despite being spread out on 45 acres, the resort manages to create an intimate and romantic feel thanks to the setup of the casitas, with small groups of rooms often clustered around a swimming pool. (There are over 42 pools and 52 whirlpools on the grounds.)

One of the qualities that makes La Quinta unique is the range of lodging options available. The resort has an astounding 800 guestrooms and suites situated in Spanish-style casitas. Some of the casitas resemble private residences, with multiple bedrooms or suites for families or small groups, others are more like traditional hotel guestrooms, and there’s a range of options in between. Some suites even come with a private swimming pool.

Frank Capra wrote “It Happened One Night,” among other screenplays, in one such casita. (How much more romantic does it get?) And a variety of celebrities, from Bette Davis to Adam Sandler, have been guests here over the years, which is no surprise given the laid-back ambiance and homey, yet classic, accommodations.

Our Southwestern-style guestroom featured ornate ironwork, a wooden four-poster bed, an antique blanket chest, a fireplace although late-spring temperatures were in the 90s and whitewashed walls. The tiled bathroom was huge, with a big bathtub and a separate shower with a seat and dual showerheads. Amenities included everything you would think, including the resort’s own brand of premium bath products. Overall, the room was large, comfortable and air-conditioned enough to tempt us to stay indoors the entire weekend, almost.

With what felt like our own private pool (but was actually shared by a small group of casitas) mere steps from our door, there was good reason to leave our room. In fact, floating lazily under the twilight desert sky, while a warm evening breeze blew, was one of the highlights of the weekend. While the pool provided the main attraction during our stay, Julee did find time to try out the spa as well.

The 23,000-square-foot Spa La Quinta offers indoor and outdoor massage, a fitness center and the Yamaguchi Salon. The spa tries to incorporate ancient treatments of the indigenous Mexican and Native American cultures, and highlights include wraps made with local herbs, yoga and personalized fitness training.

Julee chose the Pregnancy Massage a 50-minute treatment for moms-to-be. The massage utilizes special pillows for added comfort, and in Julee’s case it focused on the areas she found especially in need of care, such as her feet and lower back.

It being a weekend for romance, I had resisted the urge to bring my golf clubs and sneak off to one of the resort’s five courses, including the top-rated PGA West. (The resort also has a lighted tennis club with 23 courts with all three types of surfaces.) Instead, I found my way over to the Plaza Shops a two-story arcade with a variety of retail stores.

For dinner, La Quinta offers several options, including Azur by Le Bernardin, by the same people behind Le Bernardin in New York. We opted instead for the more casual Adobe Grill, which features Mexican cuisine and live Mariachis.

The gazpacho here served chilled in the skin of an avocado was incredible. And as much as I sympathized with Julee’s state, I couldn’t resist trying one of the restaurant’s oversized margaritas.

A walk around the grounds after dinner reinforced the romance of the resort. An amateur stargazer had a telescope set up on the plaza and was happy to share views of (what else!) Venus with passersby.

As an indication of how popular La Quinta is for groups and special events, there was a formal dinner in one banquet room, and when we peeked into a smaller room we caught a bride and groom’s first dance. It was just another reminder of the magic that can be felt throughout the resort.

The next day, at the busy “family pool,” as we watched parents playing with their kids with brightly colored floaties and pool toys out in full force I noticed Julee cradling her bulging belly. Next time we’ll have to go back with our new addition and her big brother.


La Quinta Resort
49-499 Eisenhower Drive,La Quinta, CA 92253
760-564-4111, 800-598-3828

Hits: This charming, classic resort is a throwback to Old California at its best. With 42 pools on the property, you never feel crowded. Starbucks and Krispy Kreme the breakfast of champions on property!

Misses: We arrived in the evening and parking was far from our room, especially lugging our own bags. No hooks for wet towels in the bathroom.

Be Aware: Clients should make reservations for the spa and restaurants well ahead of time and be sure to ask for outside seating at the Adobe Grill.

Plugging In: Rooms have high-speed Internet although I couldn’t get it to work despite the very friendly help of the resort’s on-site expert.

Clientele: Mostly leisure. Popular with families and couples. Meeting and banquet space available.

Rates: From $225 to $3,500, depending on season and type of accommodation.

Commission: 10 percent


Steinbeck Center
Thanks to changes spawned by the attractive and educational National Steinbeck Center, downtown Salinas in central California’s agricultural region is worth a side trip for anyone visiting nearby Monterey or Big Sur.

John Steinbeck, the Pulitzer- and Nobel Prize-winning author of “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Of Mice and Men,” “East of Eden” and other novels, was born in Salinas in 1902, and is buried there. In 1998, a non-profit foundation raised $12 million to build the modernist center in the heart of old-town Salinas.

The center’s focal point is the John Steinbeck Exhibition Hall, featuring seven galleries with interactive exhibits on the author’s life and work. Highlights include the camper-truck Steinbeck used on a road trip with his dog, immortalized in the 1962 book “Travels With Charley.”

The center, which attracts 90,000 visitors a year, is spurring renovation and new construction along Main Street. A parking garage for the center is under construction, to be followed by an adjacent multiplex and a new 14-story hotel. Several restaurants have moved into nearby renovated buildings.

The Steinbeck Center is located at One Main Street, 17 miles east of Monterey. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Admission is $10.95 for adults. Travel-agent commissions and group discounts are available.

831-796-3833, 831-775-4720

Steven Rosen