Colony Palms Hotel Review
Don’t tell my dog. We went on vacation without him … and it was good. A few weeks ago we headed south to Palm Springs to (A) find some goddamned sunshine and (B) attend a little music festival with a hundred thousand of our closest friends.
By coincidence, our base for the long weekend was amongst the most dog-friendly hotels I’ve ever enjoyed. Palm Springs’s Colony Palms Hotel is a boutique spot so charming and SO dog-friendly that I’d happily drive south for twenty-one hours to enjoy a return visit with my dog. Whether Palm Springs is an easy weekend destination for you, or you’re planning a Pacific Coast road trip with your dog, here’s why Colony Palms needs to be on your short-list…
Colony Palms Hotel: dog-friendly review
Colony Palms Hotel with dogs
Coming from British Columbia, ‘dog-friendly’ means it’s possible to tie your dog to the exterior fence of a restaurant. And you’re grateful for the opportunity. The fact that Palm Springs restaurants have signs that ask “please no pets on tables” tells you that there’s a whole world of difference between ‘dog-friendly’ in BC versus California.
Joining you poolside at a nice hotel? Beyond wildest dreams.
Sleeping beside the hotel bar while you tuck into Happy Hour? Never ever.
So imagine my mind exploding to learn that dog-friendly at Colony Palms Hotel means “dogs please”. While dogs aren’t allowed in the pool, they’re very welcome to join you poolside – whether on your pool-bed, tucked in the shade underneath, or even at the pool bar. That’s astonishing to me.
Given the hotel’s location in Old Palm Springs, I expected little old biddies with dogs in strollers. Instead, guests with dogs were 20/30-something couples enjoying a weekend with their pet – no chihuahuas in tiaras to be seen.
Colony Palms dogs I stalked: During our stay I met* a variety of doodles, a dachshund, some small concoction doggies and a possibly rescued-from-a-Mexican-beach kind of mixy thing who looked very happy with his situation – lording over everyone from the pool’s prime spot, the over-sized daybed. Dibs on an Instagram account called “smug b*stard dogs at nice hotels”.
*By “met”, I of course mean stared at them longingly across the pool like a scheming dognapper.
Colony Palms Hotel pet policy
Pet fee: $100 per stay (up to two dogs).
While Colony Palms’s fine-print says the dog/s should be forty pounds or under, I saw a standard poodle and a full grown labradoodle during our stay, so maybe it’s a flexible policy. Or maybe these dogs had miraculous growth spurts between booking and arrival. Or maybe they were two dogs pushed together. Both the poodle and the labradoodle were quiet to the point of invisibility, which can’t be said for a yappy dachshund. The big vs small dog debate continues…
Exercising your dog at Colony Palms Hotel
Nearby neighbourhoods: As for walking your puppy, definitely plan to get up early. By 10 am it was hot, hot, hot. 7-8 am was a comfortable time of day for a nice walk (ditto for the evenings, with dusk just shy of 8pm in late April). We didn’t walk much, but did explore a few nearby neighbourhoods and met lots of friendly locals/retirees out for their morning exercise. Walking the few blocks from Colony Palms towards the mountains, you’re soon in a quiet neighbourhood with beautiful homes and desert landscaping. At cooler times of day, it would be easy to give your dog a nice meandering walk around this area as you mentally house-hunt.
Joshua Tree with a dog: I’m not sure what off-leash opportunities you’d have for an especially energetic dog, but I expect he would tire more quickly in the heat. Nearby Joshua Tree National Park – for very good reason – only allows leashed dogs in limited areas, though there are likely some locals’ hiking spots with bendier rules. Given the National Park Service’s explanation for their dog rules (rattlesnakes, mountain lions, coyotes and thorny plants) and my dog’s propensity to find a predatory animal anywhere we go … I think a leashed neighbourhood walk or a rousing round of fetch would do nicely. Go Pet Friendly has details on area hiking and the Palm Springs Dog Park.
Colony Palms Hotel review
Colony Palms Hotel check-in
How to make a good first impression: free valet parking, and then offer your arriving guests a glass of rosé. The valet was a great service to use on arrival when you just want to check-in and get changed, but the property is small enough that for the rest of your stay you’ll be happy to park your car yourself (parking is also free).How to make a good first impression: free valet parking, then offer your arriving guests a glass of rosé.Click To Tweet
Colony Palms Hotel rooms and casitas
Fifty-seven rooms are dotted in cottage/bungalow style throughout the beautiful grounds. Ours was a ground floor unit with enormous ceilings, a small patio area outside the front door, and a private walled patio off the bedroom. You wake to sunshine creeping in past the corners of the blackout curtains. Coming from an extra-long BC winter, this was glorious.
Some rooms have soaker tubs, four-poster beds and fireplaces (see some nice photos of the décor). The hotel suggests that dog owners book a private casita (pictured) as it affords you and your dog more outdoor space.
Colony Palms Spa and pool
Is your dog happy to be left on his own for a bit? If you know he’ll be quiet and content, you’re welcome to leave him alone in your room at Colony Palms for a while. No chance would our dog allow us such a field trip, but – if yours would – I can recommend the couples’ massage at the Colony Palms Spa. The treatments are definitely pricey, but it was a fantastic treat for a special occasion and you enjoy a glass of champagne (filled to the absolute brim) in the lounge area afterwards. Did not want to leave.
If you simply want to enjoy the pool in the daytime heat, Colony Palms’s tiled floors and ceiling fan mean your dog will have a nice, cool place for a nap in your room.
If you’re leaving your dog in your room at night, make sure to add your ‘do not disturb’ sign to the door, as housekeeping provides an evening turn-down service.
Not that your dog will have much interest, but Colony Palms’s mini bar situation is insane. Travel bottles? Oh no no. You’re here to enjoy yourself. Find full-sized liquor bottles at reasonable prices, plus a great range of mixers. Best of all … champagne and champagne glasses.
We quickly established a post-festival poolside champagne routine (and kept up the good work to achieve a three-night hat-trick). It was a great way to see the desert’s amazing starry nights.
Is Colony Palms a party hotel?
As a decidedly non-party-person who visited in ‘festival season’, I didn’t think so. When Goop describes somewhere as “having a scene” … I imagine it’s not for me. This wasn’t the case with Colony Palms: during our stay it was a low-key and fairly quiet spot that seemed to work for lots of different groups (barring a 5-minute gay/straight stand-off about – not making this up – the appropriate volume to play Britney Spears).
Our fellow guests were mostly quiet couples, a few parents with sweet small children, a handful of dogs, and some groups of friends. Families with children are gently dissuaded on Colony Palms’s website, but the three small kiddies enjoying the pool during our stay were much quieter and much cuter than the mega decibels Midwesterners smashing the words “Soho House” and “Instagram-Worthy” into every sentence. By rough estimate, there are maybe thirty pool beds around the pool. As with any human interaction, the resulting vibe is probably luck of the draw.
Certainly there were louder voices that from time to time carried across a small and otherwise quiet pool area (ditto the child whose parents inexplicably allowed him to play a video game with the sound on). But it was nothing I couldn’t have drowned out with headphones. Instead, I eavesdropped the hell out of my California weekend. I often lump the entire West Coast into its own sub-culture, but hardcore eavesdropping on LA peeps made clear: that’s a whole other world.
If you want absolute whisper-quiet, perhaps try a mid-week stay when (I’m guessing) you get fewer weekend warriors coming to enjoy themselves.
Colony Palms Hotel pool
Colony Palms’s pool is heated, and you’re welcome to use it or the adjacent Jacuzzi 24 hours a day. The Jacuzzi seemed like an amazing idea for sore legs after standing watching music all day, and there was never another soul around at night.
The pool did get busy in the day, with the ‘best’ spots getting towel-claimed by 8am. The wide shallow steps were a nice spot to sit and cool down without actually swimming (as I held my Kindle in a death-grip, determined not to drop it in the pool). One note – the pool deck is really slippery when wet.
Despite a full hotel, we never saw another soul at the pool late at night – but a nearby seating area with a fireplace (!!!) was popular with a group of friends seriously putting the world to rights (via total mini-bar annihilation)
Colony Palms Hotel restaurant
We ‘discovered’ Colony Palms after reading about its restaurant, Purple Palms. At sunset, clever people had reserved the poolside tables but we were able to eat inside with no reservation. It’s such a beautiful room that this ended up being the better option. We ordered every appetizer/share plate on the menu and just gorged. Crab fritters, beef dumplings, octopus, sourdough and Brussels sprouts might not be a traditional meal … but give it a go.
Colony Palms Hotel gardens
Colony Palms has beautiful gardens, with tons of mature trees and flowers that attract scores of hummingbirds. As mentioned, we stayed here in late April – apparently the hottest time that Palm Springs still draws willing visitors, before it gets really hot through the summer. Given the heat, most dog owners were choosing lounge spots in shadier corners of the garden.
Bring a Kindle or a bag full of books, and lots of cocktail spending money. There are tons of quiet garden corners with rocking chairs/chaises/double Adirondacks. I usually avoid being in the sun, and this was really easy to do whether under pool umbrellas or finding a private spot on the grounds.
Total mystery: A long wall of beautiful cabanas looked like shady perfection, but always had reserved signs. I never saw them in use all weekend, so I’m not sure what it takes to reserve one.
Colony Palms Hotel history
Crazy but true: The hotel’s original owner was a bootlegging mobster reputed to have a brothel in the basement, with later owners including Jack Dempsey and family who owned Seabiscuit. According to The Telegraph, Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe hung out here in the sixties. In 2008, the hotel enjoyed a $17 million renovation …
What’s nearby Colony Palms?
Super popular brunch spot, Cheeky’s, is just around the corner (2 blocks). The restaurant appeared on every Palm Springs destination guide that I read (35 things to do in Palm Springs, The Locals-Only Guide to Palm Springs, and How To Do A Palm Springs Weekend Right), though all mentioned that long wait times would be involved*. After 5 seconds’ consideration, we abandoned that plan and instead ate breakfast poolside at Colony Palms every day. It was superb (‘Fresh Start’ is the exact proportion of yoghurt, fruit and granola, with a hot croissant to negate any holier-than-thou thoughts).
*Ditto King’s Highway Diner at the equally dog-friendly Ace Hotel … I’m sure it’s superb, but breakfast isn’t something I’m physically capable of waiting for. Instead, we hopped back in the car to Colony Palms and kept up the croissant routine.
Whether you arrive at Colony Palms Hotel with your dog or without, this beautiful hotel and its helpful, happy staff mean you’ll leave in a state of total relaxation … and, if you’ve done it right, a chunky bar bill. One final tip you didn’t mean me to tell you? Sangria. Have fun!
If you find that Colony Palms is fully booked for your dates, Hotel Alcazar is right across the street and has amazing reviews, though it doesn’t allow dogs. With a dog, consider the Ace Hotel, the Avalon Hotel and Bungalows or the insanely plush Parker Palm Springs.