The chicken-and-egg question guests often ask at La Quinta Resort & Club is which came first: the city of La Quinta or the resort? The answer is neither. The Spaniards came first when they created a base in La Quinta along their route to the San Gabriel Mission.
Several centuries later, along came big shot Bay-area businessman Walter Morgan, who chose to build his La Quinta resort pretty much where the Spaniards had their base. It was much later that the city of La Quinta was named for the resort — one of only two cities in the country to be named this way. The other is Beverly Hills, named after the famous Beverly Hills Resort.
The area Morgan chose for his resort is in the foothills of the Santa Rosa Mountains near Palm Springs and, today, La Quinta Resort & Club has become a massive 42-acre collection of casitas, golf courses, swimming pools and tennis courts that, for the first-timer, requires a roadmap to navigate. Charming Spanish architecture and abundant vegetation weave a colorful tapestry against the mountain backdrop, making La Quinta Resort & Club one of the prettiest spa resorts you'll ever see. It's the perfect choice for a California vacation of any length.
Our trip from San Diego to La Quinta was quick and easy using the back route through the parched landscape near Anza, culminating in a 10-mile winding, downgrade taking vehicles about 5,000 feet down to the desert floor where temperatures were nearly 20 degrees hotter than on top of the grade. Any trip to Palm Springs during the spring and summer requires a little pre-planning to manage the heat. You don't just show up and stay on the golf course all day in triple-digit temperatures.
The locals in the Palm Springs area have learned to time outdoor activities so that they're accomplished in the relatively cool mornings. In some cases, afternoon activities will work if you know, for example, your golf course will have shade. One of the La Quinta courses always gets covered in shade from the Santa Rosa Mountains at 3 p.m. each day.
"Managing the weather here is just a matter of keeping hydrated and wearing sunscreen," explained Sara Harper, La Quinta's Director of Marketing Communications. "And the nights here are so unbelievably pleasant."
We hit an unusually hot weekend for spring — it got as high as 108 degrees — but we noticed that the heat really didn't get uncomfortable until early to mid-afternoon. As they say, it's a dry heat in the Palm Springs area, and the 90-degree temps in the morning hours felt downright refreshing.
But there is no question that your time at La Quinta Resort & Club — whatever the time of the year — is bound to involve some serious submerging in one of the resort's 42 swimming pools. No, that's not a typo — La Quinta not only has 42 pools, but 53 hot tub spas. Many of the resort's casitas have their own swimming pools, but other casitas are grouped around one or more mid-size pools where there seemed to be plenty of room to swim and ample deck chairs to accommodate anyone who wanted to lay out in the desert sun.
Our "starlight" casita was a spacious upstairs unit in a two-story building overlooking one of the swimming pools. Floor plans at La Quinta offer more than the usual amount of space — 450 square feet or more — and that, along with the high ceilings, gives a feeling of openness. An incredibly comfortable king bed, hide-a-bed, desk and audio/video entertainment area were in the main room; the bath area was equally comfortable with an over-sized bathtub, walk-in shower stall, double vanities and a separate room for the commode.
Casitas each are decorated with a Southwestern flair. Mexican influenced pottery designs, wrought iron mirror frames and bed treatments with browns, reds and yellows created a fiesta of color in our casita's main room. Outside on the deck were lounge chairs, a table and umbrella to enjoy the outdoors in total privacy.
The casita buildings are connected by a maze of walkways that will keep you reaching for your hotel map. These sidewalks also are a primary thoroughfare for the golf carts and bicycles driven and ridden by resort employees as they spread out all over the vast complex that totals 800 casitas altogether.
Back when Walter Morgan first built the resort in 1926, the resort plan was a bit more modest — only 20 casitas, although he did build the valley's first golf course. La Quinta Resort was created to lure Hollywood stars to the Coachella Valley where they could get away from the studio and relax in privacy — which of course was one reason the whole Palm Springs area eventually turned into a playground for the Hollywood elite.
At La Quinta, the list of Hollywood stars was impressive — such lminaries as Clark Gable, Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Katherine Hepburn, Eddie Cantor and Shirley Temple were regulars. Greta Garbo had a house on the property, and Frank Capra wrote many of his movie scripts in the same La Quinta casita that today has his typewriter and one of his scripts awaiting the lucky guest renting that particular casita.
Hollywood stars still come to La Quinta today because, like many KSL Resorts properties, this resort is laid out in a campus style that allows a celebrity to avoid entering through a main entrance or elevator — the stars just drive right to their casitas, parking a few steps away and then get lost in the resort during their entire stay. This layout also is beneficial for everyday vacationers who don't want to be bothered by convention and other group activities; when conventions are held at La Quinta they are held in areas where regular guests aren't likely to even know they are there.
Sports celebrities, too, are in abundance — especially tennis players. La Quinta tennis pro Mike Casey has relationships with many world-class players who periodically will train at La Quinta. With 23 courts — clay, grass and hard surface — the resort has become popular also for ordinary people who just want to improve their tennis game. Many of the courts are lighted, which means the players can manage the Palm Springs heat by playing at night.
For golfers, La Quinta offers five courses, including three designated as PGA West.
For those of us who just want to relax and enjoy great food, La Quinta — as near as we could tell — fills the bill there, too. We only had time to sample the Adobe Grill — which served scrumptious and authentic Mexican cuisine — but the resort also boasts Morgan's, a premium steakhouse, Azur by Le Bernadin seafood restaurant and the Spa Bistro, offering spa cuisine to make your stay as healthy as it was fun. Actually, including the golf courses, there are seven restaurants at La Quinta.
Another major draw at La Quinta is Spa La Quinta, where guests are offered many treatments borrowed from the area's Native ancestors. One of the top spa resorts in Southern California, this resort puts emphasis on outdoor spa treatments under the desert sky to add to the serenity and relaxation of the experience. Inside the spa facility, you'll also find the Yamaguchi Salon, which is internationally known for cutting and coloring techniques that integrate Asian Feng Shui philosophy into these services. Those who enjoy spa vacations will enjoy La Quinta.
If you're getting the picture that a stay at La Quinta could make your Significant Other very happy, add in the on-site shopping. No need to drive to town to hit the stores — although Palm Desert's ultra-chic downtown shopping district is close by. Just stop in at some of the 11 retail shops on property with famous names like Polo and Tommy Bahama. Uniquely, all of the shops are owned by the resort and not subleased to those retail companies.
La Quinta Resort & Club has come a long way from the time in the 1500's when it was the "fifth stop" on the way to San Gabriel Mission. Today it's the first and only stop for many discriminating guests from around the world.
AT A GLANCE
WHERE: La Quinta Resort & Club is about a half-hour drive southeast of Palm Springs or about 128 miles from Los Angeles. It is one of several fine spa resorts in the Palm Springs area.
WHAT: La Quinta is renowned as a vacation and getaway destination for California residents as well as those visiting from other states and international locations. The combination of activities—and the new popularity of spa vacations—makes La Quinta a popular choice.
WHEN: Year-round, but check for special travel deals and vacation packages during certain times of the year. If you have last minute travel plans, be sure to ask for any special rates. The best deals in the Palm Springs area are during summer months.
WHY: So many activities and so much luxury and quality all in one location — a California vacation spot that appeals to the entire family.
HOW: For more information on La Quinta Resort and Club, phone 1-800-598-3828 or visit www.laquintaresort.com.
RECOMMENDED LODGING: If you're looking for great getaway lodging in the Palm Springs area, be sure to check out the Recommended Lodgings in Palm SpringsOTHER DESTINATIONS: If La Quinta Resort is your kind of California vacation, be sure and check out the California Weekend articles on Palm Springs, Meadowood and Death Valley.