Long before Palm Springs became an incorporated city in 1938 and a second home to movie stars and industry elite, who brought with them the glitz and glamour of the era, it was populated by the Cahuilla Indians. They were likely drawn to this desert oasis because the land sits over a natural aquifer that provides fresh water — and now makes all those golf courses green. Today, the Greater Palm Springs Area, which is made up of nine cities, draws visitors for its sunny weather, midcentury-modern architecture, swanky nightlife and prolific opportunities for tennis, golf and hiking. I make a point of visiting every couple of years, and I never fail to enjoy myself. This time, my traveling companion and I returned to pay incognito visits to three very different hotels.
Sensei Porcupine Creek
Located in Rancho Mirage, 11 miles from downtown Palm Springs, Sensei Porcupine Creek is Zen incarnate and the newest star of the region. Set on Larry Ellison’s former estate nestled under the Santa Rosa Mountains, this 230-acre wellness resort defied every (already high) expectation. It is private and peaceful, with a staff that truly care about the guests. When I inquired about a nearby nature trail, I wasn’t pointed in its direction; I was delivered there via golf cart. When I lost my cell phone, it seemed as if the entire staff dropped everything to help me look for it. And upon leaving, I found that they’d washed our rental car. From start to finish, our stay was near perfection.
Prior to arrival, a Sensei guide called to walk us through our itinerary. He arranged tennis lessons, custom massages and a gym appointment in the fitness pavilion. If “move, nourish and rest” is the Sensei Way, we were well on the path. A week later, we entered the private gates and drove past a picture-perfect golf course. Magenta bougainvillea, palm trees and impressively large sculptures, including pieces by Robert Indiana and Yoshitomo Nara, dotted the grounds. The property is a desert version of Ellison’s Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort, in Hawaii, and that’s a very good thing indeed (this resort is not managed by Four Seasons, however).