Santiago Source: Courtesy of Santiago

Creating Extraordinary Gay Getaways in Palm Springs


Every detail counts at the Twin Palms, Descanso and Santiago resorts.

Imagine a group chat in which three handsome gay gentlemen swap pics of techniques to make a roll of toilet paper seem welcoming:

  • You can fold the front end into a tidy little triangle.
  • You can leave the whole roll in its outer wrapper, leaving no doubt that it's brand new.
  • There's even the full on origami option; transforming that first sheet into a soon to be fertilized rose.

    Make no mistake; while this is certainly among the more trivial topics they've covered, Charles Zalapeski, Kent Taylor, and Adam Robinson, the general managers of the Santiago, Descanso and Twin Palms resorts in Palm Springs, are sticklers for detail when it comes to top-notch hospitality, beginning with stylish, immaculately-maintained rooms and grounds.

    At their boutique gay men's clothing-optional properties, part of Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels, these three amigos do everything they can to provide guests with a vacation experience that exceeds expectations.

    And their group chat is real.

    It's put to especially good use four times a year when – underwritten by the resorts' owners – each of the three GMs spends a weekend at a gay-friendly boutique hotel elsewhere in the country, sharing written and photographic notes about elements of service, amenities, and accommodations that inspire them and might add to the excellence of their home properties.

    "We listen to our guests very carefully, too," says Taylor who oversaw the Santiago for eight years before personally training Zalapeski for that job and then taking the helm of the Descanso when it opened in 2021. "Small things can make a big difference in someone's experience. And we pride ourselves on building loyalty and having our guests come back year after year."

    "One of our first guests at the Descanso mentioned that he wished his room had dimmer switches. That made perfect sense to me. So, the rooms have dimmer switches now. When I heard several guys mention that they wished they could access their streaming services, we swapped the televisions in the rooms to Smart TVs."

    Source: Courtesy Descanso

    A Welcoming Community

    Perhaps the most special aspect of a stay at any of these properties is the friendly community vibe these GMs help cultivate.

    "One of the things that really helps create a sense of community is the fact that we serve complimentary breakfast and lunch every day," says Twin Palms' Robinson. "So, a lot of our guests hang out around the pool from the time they get up into the afternoon."

    At all three properties, a substantial continental breakfast is served at a poolside canteen where orders are taken for casual salad and sandwich lunches brought in from a rotating selection of local restaurants.

    "We go out of our way to make sure everyone is comfortable and is having a good time," says Zalapeski of the Santiago, which, at 24 rooms, is the largest of the three properties. "We spend time talking to all of our guests and getting to know a little bit about them. If they haven't been here before, we can introduce them to some regulars.

    "At Palm Springs Pride, which is in November, the guys in three of our rooms were here for their 25th year in a row. It's like a homecoming when they get here. And it gets better all the time. The owners never stop investing in improvements. This year, we replaced some of the concrete decking with great-looking stone paving."

    Santiago, Descanso and Twin Palms are all clothing-optional, and all draw couples and singles of wide-ranging ages.

    "I think there's something about being naked that lets guys shake off some of the inhibitions about striking up a conversation," says Robinson. "Everything's out there already! I've noticed that people of different generations seem much more comfortable meeting and talking to each other around our pools than they might at a bar or a club."

    Twin Palms Resort
    Source: Courtesy Twin Palms Resort

    Cultivating Gay Spaces

    While Palm Springs has long been a welcoming destination for gay vacationers and is still home to nearly a dozen specialty LGBTQ+ hotels and resorts, several queer-owned and operated properties shut down during the pandemic. And around the country, queer bars, clubs and other community spaces have struggled to stay afloat.

    The opening of the Descanso in 2021 and Twin Palms in 2022 represent a welcome reinforcement of Palm Springs' reputation as an LGBTQ+ capitol, and a reminder of queer peoples' need to have special getaways to spend carefree time among themselves, recharging their batteries and feeling comfortable in their fabulous naked skin.

    To learn more about all of Palm Springs' boutique resorts and make reservations for your own gay getaway, visit

    by Jim Gladstone

    Jim Gladstone is a San Francisco-based writer and creative strategist.

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