Villa Royale is as charming as they come. Provenance and Lightning Bar spent two years revamping this 38-room, three-and-a-half acre tract, which hides behind a towering wall of ficus two blocks off Palm Canyon Drive in the historic Tahquitz River Estates. Built in the classic Spanish Revival style, the sprawling compound includes nearly a dozen one-story structures laid out like an old multi-family hacienda. There are fountained courtyards, three swimming pools and infinite nooks and crannies for relaxing. The original architecture remains unspoiled: stuccoed walls, red tile roofs, brick sidewalks and Saltillo tiles. The entire estate is gloriously shrouded with bougainvillea, giant birds of paradise, fragrant jacarandas and palm trees as old as the property itself.
Perhaps relevant trivia: Provenance’s founder and chairman is Gordon Sondland, a name that might ring a bell. He’s the former US Ambassador to the EU who became a pivotal witness in the 45th president’s first impeachment trial.
If there’s one unifying thread that ties together Provenance’s wildly divergent portfolio of hotels, it’s their impressive art collections. For Villa Royale, the new owner’s commissioned more than 50 original works by artists Juan Casas and Sara Radovanovich, among others, which imbue the historic property with light-hearted, pop-culture iconography. My particular favorites are Casas’ playful portrayals of the late actors William Powell and Montgomery Clift, plus a Ray-Ban-clad JFK. At the entrance, just beyond the 1960s Oldsmobile permanently parked the curb, guests are greeted by a “Welcome to Paradise” mural by Sagent Staygold, a tattoo artist and muralist from Maui.
Service throughout is incredibly kind and helpful, although I sometimes find it tricky to differentiate staff from guests. Everyone looks the same: like they’re on their way to the pool.
Service throughout is incredibly kind and helpful, although I sometimes find it tricky to differentiate staff from guests. Everyone looks the same: like they’re on their way to the pool. The low-key attitude here is incredibly appealing, especially when compared with other nearby hotels that court a more robust party scene. You’ll need to leave the kids at home for this one. Villa Royale is strictly adults-only: 21 and up. Smoking is forbidden, too. You may bring the dog, though. I brought my partner for a quick romantic escape.
We checked into the Continental Suite, the hotel’s version of a honeymoon suite, which includes a large living room (with fireplace) and dining room furnished in flawless midcentury style. It comes with a fully stocked bar and a bluetooth Marshall speaker. It’s a big corner unit with a gated private yard and hot tub. Although Villa Royale is decidedly not five stars in the traditional sense, this suite (and I can only imagine the entire hotel) is extremely comfortable. There is no television in the living room and no phone in the suite at all. The front desk communicates primarily by text message.
Despite the grand scale of the suite, the bathroom proves unusually tiny. There’s barely enough shelf space around the single vanity for a toothbrush and comb. Even more baffling, the towels are tightly rationed — one per person per day — which seems odd for a premier suite.
On a couple of instances we forgot to lock the gate, and before we knew it other guests had strolled in to have a look around only to find us splashing in the hot tub half-naked. I guess they didn’t notice the very obvious “PRIVATE” sign on the gate.
The onsite restaurant, Del Rey, does not have a street-side entrance. It is hidden discreetly inside the compound behind the main pool, which makes it feel like a private club for hotel guests (although it’s not). Del Rey features a tapas-style menu inspired by Spain: grilled octopus, short rib empanadas, dates stuffed with Spanish blue cheese, mussels with Bilbao chorizo, grilled lamb chops with a salad inspired by gazpacho, all excellent. The cocktails are especially good, too. Like the hotel itself, Del Rey is strictly adults-only, 21 and up. (See also Part 2: A Closer Look at Del Rey, Palm Springs)
Bottom Line: Although Villa Royale is not 5-star quality, it is rather fabulous. I could easily hole up here again for a few days without ever leaving the confines of the estate. Highly recommended.
Rates from about $250 (or $220 in summer); 1620 S. Indian Trail, Palm Springs, CA, 760-327-2314, villaroyale.com