Hotel Spotlight

Escape to a Moroccan Oasis in the Heart of the California Desert

by California Chaney
Entrance All photos courtesy of Sands Hotel & Spa.

Sands Hotel & Spa
Indian Wells, California
Stylish, $$ (From $229)

While it would have been an obvious choice to transform a former 1950s motel in the Palm Desert into a temple of mid-century nostalgia, Brit-hip designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard found his renovation inspiration in another desert on the other side of the globe: the Sahara. He decked out Sands Hotel & Spa with bright ceramic textiles, gilded flourishes, and a dusty rose pink exterior that is evocative of the Sahara allure. Royal palms, agave, and other sun-scorched greenery pave the hotel's private pathways, including one to a serene Moroccan-inspired spa filled with daybeds and cozy lounging nooks. The swinging pool scene and playful Pink Cabana restaurant check the boxes of an ideal desert weekend for a couple or for friends, while sophisticated guest rooms, also dressed in Cali-meets-Marrakech fashion, are designed with privacy and relaxation in mind. The small hotel proudly bills itself as the only boutique option in the Palm Desert, which is otherwise full of much larger resorts.

Hotel exterior.
Junior suite bedroom.
What Palm Springs dreams are made of.
Suites include outdoor seating areas and soaking tubs.
Junior suite.
Deluxe room.

At a Glance

The Vibe: Sleek desert boho living.

Standout Detail: Easily the global design touches — candles, poufs, textiles, mosaics, and more — that delight the senses at every turn.

This Place Is Perfect For: Young (and young at heart) travelers who want an Instagram-ready desert escape.

Rooms: 46 rooms, including a bi-level Presidential Suite, highlight the hotel's Moroccan-driven splendor, with vibrant textiles, black-and-white tiled floors, and flamboyant bedspreads atop luxurious linens. Superior and Deluxe rooms on the second floor have outdoor patios with mosaic water fountains — and great views of the San Jacinto Mountains. If a splurge is on the agenda, book the Junior suite for the outdoor soaking tub and cozy living area that seems custom-built for stargazing. The rooms on the ground floor have private terraces and open directly onto the pool. In-room amenities include Acqua di Parma bath products, smart TVs, and mini bars stocked with locally beloved Our/Los Angeles vodka and vintage crystal stemware.

On Site: A serene olive tree and agave-lined garden walkway leads to the spa, with a trio of treatment rooms. The relaxing and detoxifying treatments look to North Africa for inspiration and using natural, local ingredients for scrubs and body wraps. The outdoor pool is flanked by striped daybeds and cabanas. A fleet of attendants dressed in preppy pink polos and white shorts will tend to the poolside cocktails, snacks, and SPF deliveries.

Food + Drink: The Pink Cabana nods lovingly to the California racquet clubs of the 1950s and '60s, with wicker seating and punchy flamingo pink and palm tree decor. Chef Jason Niederkorn — a protégé of Jeremiah Tower, who, along with Alice Waters and Wolfgang Puck, pioneered California cooking — marries the two deserts with an all-day menu of sharable mezze platters and sandwiches piled with local produce. Cocktail enthusiasts should try Pool Thyme Mimosa (prosecco, local citrus, and thyme) and Perroquet Pastis, made with Moroccan mint tea.

The Pink Cabana.
Left: Mezze platter at The Pink Cabana. Right: Spa lounge.
Cap off your day with a night swim.
Lobby lounge.

What to Do Nearby

The sunny city of Indian Wells is famous for its sprawling resorts, manicured golf courses, and racquet clubs with strong daytime cocktails. If a day at the country club fits your bill, hit the courts at Deep Canyon Tennis Club or book a tee time at JW Marriott Golf Club. If shopping is your cardio, the Rodeo Drive of the desert, El Paseo Shopping District is located twenty minutes from the hotel with well air-conditioned restaurants along the way. After hours, head next door to The Nest, a still-swinging Rat Pack-era haunt with live music every night. Palm Springs, with all its mid-century attractions, is twenty minutes away.

Click here for our complete guide to Palm Springs, Palm Desert, and the Coachella Valley — and don't miss the prehistoric beasts and prankster sheep in Borrego Springs.