Palm Springs is arguably one of the more popular long weekend destinations in California. It's a place I hadn't spent much time, but now I can see why it's a favorite with visitors. There's loads to see, and you can squeeze a full holiday into just three to four days. Palm Springs itself is a vibrant, charming desert oasis packed with colorful boutiques, retro homes, dreamy hotels and delicious restaurants. And if you're looking to add some adventure to the itinerary, there are nearby canyon hikes, mountain trails and daytrip opportunities to Joshua Tree National Park, Salvation Mountain and Pioneertown. I packed almost all of it into my recent visit, and I'm sharing my complete guide to the region below.
HOW MANY DAYS IN PALM SPRINGS?
Length of stay really depends on how much exploring you want to do in the surrounding region. If Palm Springs, Salvation Mountain, Joshua Tree and Indian Canyon are all a part of the itinerary, I suggest a minimum four-night stay to give you three full days in the region.
Inside the most beautiful Cactarium at the Moorten Botanical Garden. Wearing dress from L'Academie.
Cactus of every size, shape and shade of green!
THINGS TO DO IN AND AROND PALM SPRINGS
While Palm Springs isn't quite Morocco, there's a network of hiking trails tucked away in spectacular Indian Canyon that offer up viewpoints that will have you longing for the Sahara Desert. Home to the Agua Caliente Indians centuries ago, Indian Canyon is now a popular trekking destination where you'll find palm groves, oasis viewpoints and waterfalls scatted throughout Palm Canyon, Andreas Canyon, Tahquitz Canyon and Chino Canyon (the five canyons that make up Indian Canyon).
JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
One of the coolest national parks in California, and it's only 90-minutes from Palm Springs. The park is home to completely otherworldly landscapes, loads of rock climbing routes and thousands of the iconic Joshua Trees. My favorite spots to check out include the Hidden Valley Trail, Arch Rock, Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail and the Cholla Cactus Garden.
MOORTEN BOTANICAL GARDEN
A dazzling arboretum that is home to a variety of desert plants, trees and cacti from around the world. And the highlight is the Cactarium, essentially a bright greenhouse filled with hundreds of cacti of every size, shape and shade of green.
PALM SPRINGS AERIAL TRAMWAY
The world's largest rotating tram car takes hikers, bikers and tourists up two and a half miles over Chino Canyon into Mr. San Janito State Park. In a mere 10 minutes, the tramway transports visitors from dry desert landscape to a sub-alpine fores that is home to more than 50 miles of hiking trails.
This historic landmark has all the feels of Westworld, but it's located a mere 20 minutes from Joshua Tree. A dirt road serves as the main drag, lined with wooden shopfronts, as well as hotel, dentistry, barber, bank and mill facades. Free to visit.
It's an eerie, desolate drive out to Slab City, but a journey into the middle of nowhere is the only way to reach Salvation Mountain. This creation by Leonard Knight is a refreshing burst of color that rises up out of the barren landscape. The faux mountain made from adobe clay, tires, telephone polls, paint cans, car parts and more.
Exploring the stunning rocky landscapes of Joshua Tree National Park. Hiking boots are from Target.
Step into the Old West at Pioneertown. Wearing dress from L'Academie.
PLACES TO STAY IN AND AROUND PALM SPRINGS
A favorite photo backdrop amongst Instagrammers for its retro vibes, Hotel California sits in a serene setting at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains. The mission-style hotel is small, charming and beautifully rustic. (424 E Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs)
JOSHUA TREE AIR BNB'S
If Boho chic is more your jam, here is a list of the cutest Airbnb stays in and around Joshua Tree: Habibi House, The Outlaw, Seven Arches, The Gaslight, Heaven's Door, The Rockstar, Whisper Rock Ranch, Casa Kuna, Cielto Lindo Retreat, Mojave Rosa, The Moondance, The Iso House, Joshua Tree Little Jo Cabin, Rock Reach House and Joshua Tree House.
This is the prettiest property in Palm Springs, channeling all kinds of feels from Morocco and the Mediterranean. Two beautifully restored villas make up Korakia Pension. This place books up quickly, especially over weekends and during high season. (257 S Patencio Rd, Palm Springs)
For visitors looking to stay in the heart of Palm Springs, look no further than La Serena Villas. This luxury boutique property is located downtown, a short walk from the shops, restaurants and galleries of Palm Canyon Drive. Rooms are bright, airy and adorned in simple elegance. (339 S Belardo Rd, Palm Springs)
SANDS HOTEL & SPA
Sands Hotel sits outside of Palm Springs in Indian Wells, but this place is a true scene. At first glance, the property looks like a converted two-story motel with rooms that surround a central pool and courtyard, but look a little closer and it feels like a luxurious Moroccan riad. (44-985 Province Way, Indian Wells)
The colorful world of Salvation Mountain.
The palm groves of Indian Canyon remind me so much of a Moroccan desert oasis. Wearing pants from Fortunate One Store.
Searching for dinosaurs in Joshua Tree National Park.
WHERE TO EAT IN PALM SPRINGS
Boho vibes from a rooftop deck over La Serena Villas. The Azucar menu is a mix of Mediterranean and Mexican dishes including dungeness crab stuffed poblano, mesquite dusted swordfish, ahi bruschetta, fresh pita and more. (339 S. Belardo Rd., Palm Springs)
Get your traditional Italian fix at Birba with a variety of pizzas, salads and pastas including pomodoro, pappardelle, tagliatelle and agnolotti. (622 N. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs)
Arguably the most popular restaurant in Palm Springs, Farm serves up fresh, delicious dishes for both brunch and dinner. Brunch options include a variety of crepes, omlettes, brioche french toast, salads, sandwiches and signature cocktails. (6 La Plaza, Palm Springs)
The name says it all. Quench your desert thirst with gourmet shakes, malts and floats from Great Shakes. The menu is filled with loads of unique creations including cookie butter, brownie almond crunch, Oreo mint fudge swirl and so many more. (160 S. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs)
For cute, colorful ice cream in the heart of Palm Springs, stop by Kreem. (170 E. Palm Canyon Dr.)
NORMA'S AT THE PARKER PALM SPRINGS
Another great brunch option, Norma's is located at The Parker. The open-air terrace is a great place to start the day - reservations required for non-hotel guests. (4200 E. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs)
SHOP(PE) | ICE CREAM & SHOP
Another fun ice cream stop - this one is part parlor, part boutique! Shop(pe) is located at the Arrive Hotel, in Palm Springs. (1551 N. Palm Canyon Dr.)
Prehistoric vibes at Arch Rock.
Cholla Cactus Garden.
Photos and edits by myself and Anh-Thi Nguyen.