A vacation! Finally!! Honestly, this mini desert vaca couldn’t come soon enough for me! I’ve had a serious case of wanderlust as things slowly start to open up again. The first place on my long list of 2021 road trips? None other than the mid-century oasis that is Palm Springs, California!
Now I will admit, I’ve had my eye on this colorful hotspot (pun semi-intended) for a long time now. (Really ever since I joined IG in 2013 and started seeing slews of tantalizingly aesthetic photos from this fab locale light up my feed on the daily…) So, to me, this trip felt like a finally-realized dream.
For a little bit of background on what motivated us to finally check this trip off our list, my in-laws decided to do a month-long road trip tour of the Wild West (AKA from Colorado to New Mexico to Arizona and finally to SoCal) and they stopped off for a few days in the desert before heading to their final destination to see us in San Diego. Initially, we had planned to drive out and meet them for the day, but when my father-in-law suggested staying the night and offered to help us get a hotel room, my mind immediately went to the hotel that has haunted my insta-dreams all these years: The Saguaro Hotel.
The Saguaro is situated right off of S Sunrise Way in the heart of Palm Springs. It kind of snuck up on us! Among average shopping centers and some residential areas, I didn’t expect to see this monument of colorfulness rising up to greet us.
As soon as we pulled up, I knew this was going to be one of my favorite places we’ve ever stayed! The colors were so bright and happy, and the offbeat accents in the lobby (like rainbow stained glass and colorful patios!) immediately satisfied my years-long wondering if this place would live up to its insta-fame.
A Lot of Baggage
Rewind to a couple days before our trip. As you can imagine, a fashion-holic like me had A LOT and I do mean A LOT of pent-up photo-ops from like 8 years of drooling over PS, so I began packing two days in advance. I styled and laid out 14 avante-garde outfits fit for the rainbow palace in which we’d be staying, and then spent a good few hours musing about how I’d fit it all into three suitcases and a few reusable grocery bags. (While also questioning my sanity at bringing so many outfits for a trip that would last less than 24 hours…)
Well, long story short: it all fit! With a little input from my IG community on how to optimally pack a ton of clothes (thank you to those who suggested garment bags and a portable clothing rack, ya’ll were lifesavers!), I managed to pack everything down to the sunglasses without too much issue!
At around 3:00pm on Thursday afternoon, we were finally ready to head up to my parents’ house to stay the night, drop off Princess E, squeeze in a hair appointment at my stylist, and head out to Palm Springs on Friday evening for our 4pm check in at The Saguaro!
Let the Countdown Begin
On Friday morning, I enjoyed my day off from work while the hubby got in a few more hours at his, and I started by going to the salon for a much-overdue hair cut and color. I hadn’t had a haircut in general, much less a color session, since September 2020 due to an ever-changing schedule and fluctuating state regulations, and I was dying to get back in the chair and change things up a bit.
My appointment was at 11am, but due to the complex balayage/highlight method we decided on plus the trimming of brand new bangs, I didn’t get back to my parents’ house till a little after 2. But boy, was it worth it…
I haven’t been blonde since I was a freshman in college, and I wasn’t too sure about going back, but let me tell you, I’m so happy I did! ever since we came back to California, I’ve felt lighter and happier as a person, and I felt that going for a blended blonde look would really reflect my new outlook on life and this new chapter we’ve chosen. Plus, the 70s inspired bangs were something I’ve been wanting to try for a while, but have never had the confidence to try until now! (Keep an eye out for a new blog post coming soon on my hair journey for more!)
14 Outfits in 21 Hours
Around 3pm on Friday, we were finally on the road to PS! It took us about an hour and a half to get to our first photo destination due to a lot of freeway slowdowns (for my SoCal readers, you won’t be surprised here!). First up on our list of photoshoot locations was the windmill farm off of the 10 Freeway!
It was a little difficult to find, but the spot we chose was slightly down the road from the map point above. We pulled off the road at a small billboard sign and it ended up being a great spot for some cool captures!
It turns out that there was another location on the way to The Saguaro that would’ve allowed for a different perspective of the windmills, but we were on a pretty tight schedule and it was honestly kind of scary to get as close as we did to them, so we decided to save the second spot for another time!
After about 20 minutes or so, our first outfit of the day was done and we were ready to check in, grab some dinner, and get to the rest of them!
The Saguaro Hotel
Rainbow. Colors. Everywhere.
Walking into this hotel was everything I’d been dreaming about. The receptionists were very friendly, and the whole place had a Coachella vibe that felt like stepping into the feed of an IG super-influencer. Everything was expertly curated, from the seating vignettes to the check in counter, and the neon cacti to the Barbie doll art display. It really did feel like being on a styled photoshoot set! (Plus there was an ADORABLE pup named Queso at the front desk! Dog-friendly hotels are always a plus in my book!)
Alllll the colorfullness….
The Hotel of My Dreams
After we got our keys, we jumped back in the car for a short drive around the parking lot for the entrance closest to our room. Located at the bottom of a bright green tower speckled with colorful stained glass portals was the side entrance we used for pretty much our whole visit. The elevator was tucked just inside, so we didn’t have far to go with our massive collection of bags (a plus), and it was just as cute as the outside of the building! Orange paneling and purple carpet made the tiny lift cheery and the perfect spot for a photo op as we found out later that night!
We were on the second floor, and walking to our room was equal parts psychedelic and intriguing! Each door was painted a different color, along with the trim around it, so it became a sort of scavenger hunt for our room coupled with guessing which color we’d get as we went along!
We finally arrived at room 206. I have to admit, I was slightly disappointed at first to find that our door was red (which admittedly has never been one of my favorite colors), but it actually ended up being perfect for us and the outfits I’d planned!
Everything in the hotel was kept very clean. Some spots (like the elevator and a few patches or carpet in the hall) showed a bit of wear, but overall, it seemed like the whole place was well-maintained! We had opted for a King size bed room with a pool view, and while the interior of the room was kept sparse and cleanly decorated, the view certainly was not!
At this point, it was almost 6, so we threw down the bags and headed downstairs to the hotel’s main restaurant, El Jefe, for dinner.
It was a little confusing at first, as the usual indoor entrance to El Jefe was no longer being used due to Covid-19 dining policies, and the patio that appeared to be connected to the restaurant on the outer perimeter of the hotel was vacant too. After checking with the front desk, we were directed to the courtyard near the pool where some tables had been stylishly arranged on a small patch of turf. There wasn’t a host stand or anyone managing the seating area, so the hubby peeked inside to ask a group of servers, who directed us to sit anywhere we wanted that was open.
We chose a high table with barstools that matched the same charming color scheme of the rest of the rainbow palace, and scanned the QR coded menu tags on the table with our smartphones. The menu had a lot of yummy-looking Mexican dishes, from guacamole to a variety of tacos, and was moderately priced at about $15-$16 per plate of 3 mini tacos and $10 for guacamole and chips.
We each ordered the fish tacos and shared an order of guacamole, finishing our meal with an order of the vegan churros with chocolate sauce. The food was really good overall, but at a bit of a steep price (which we did expect given the location and ambiance of the hotel).
Let the Games Begin!
Okay, here’s where we talk about fashion.
After dinner, we rushed back to the room to get a jump on the remaining 13 looks left to shoot before check-out the next morning at noon.
Since it was already dark out, we opted to shoot looks that would easily go with the inside of the room. The first thing we did (which was the best thing!) was set up the portable clothing rack I had purchased from Target specially for the trip! Priced at only $15, this helping hand was packed into a box small enough to take up minimal room in our trunk and was easy to assemble in a few minutes! It made unpacking a breeze because we could just take the garment bags of clothes straight out of the suitcase and hang them out in the open so I could easily see what we had yet to photograph! (Yes the hotel did have a small closet, which could have worked just as well, but it was easier to keep track of things where I could see them and I was afraid that I would leave something behind if I had tucked it away in the closet!)
The next several hours from about 7-10pm were full of outfit changes, rigging up the few lighting options we had (since we didn’t bring my ring light), and getting some of the coolest photos I’ve ever gotten!
Shooting indoors at night was a bit of a challenge, but I ultimately didn’t mind the low lighting as it gave the photos a sort of atmospheric look that I had a ton of fun playing with in editing!
My top tips for nighttime/low light shoots:
- Play into the nighttime vibe by positioning a soft light source directly on you (like a desk or bedside lamp!)
- Leave the flash off for a dreamy, slightly blurred effect at longer shutter speeds
- Try to stay as still as possible, but embrace a little blur
- Experiment with different locations, like the bathroom or elevator, for that editorial look
By the time 10 rolled around, both of us were completely beat and ready for bed! The bed and pillows were so comfy, and we quickly fell fast asleep.
A Hectic Morning + Time to Relax
The next morning, as a habit from working nearly every day, both of us were up and off before 7am: me to get ready and the hubby to pick up breakfast from the local Starbucks.
Our first looks of the day were shot on the balcony of our room. The next were in front of the colorful stained glass windows in the stairwell. Following that, we went to the outside walkways around the perimeter of the hotel, the parking lot, the side of the building, and an outside pink door. Every place we discovered was perfect and full of eye-popping color!
Shop all my looks here!
Surprisingly enough, despite the plethora of outfits, everything went pretty quickly and smoothly! By 10:30, we were ready to head down to the pool for a little well-earned R&R.
Because of pandemic protocols, we had had to make a reservation to access the pool when we had checked in the night before, but since we got there so close to the time when the pool would close for its midday cleaning, we were admitted without a reservation check. The hot tubs weren’t open, but it was already pushing 85 degrees even early in the morning, so a quick dip in the icy cold pool was very welcome after an already long day of photos!
The view from the pool was incredible, with the gorgeous mountains and flawless blue sky rising up to greet us as birds chirped in the tall palms that ringed the pool. We decided to splurge and got a couple of virgin Pina Coladas to toast our successful whirlwind vacation (virgin because we still had a long day ahead of us and didn’t feel like drinking before noon)!
The bar also has a totally insta-worthy wall that we used for a few photos! Pro Tip- if you’re looking for better lighting and a bit more privacy for pictures, head around the side of the bar building and stand in the planter!
Goodbye for Now
After a little relaxation, we had a lot of packing left to do before checking out and meeting the in-laws for lunch, so we got to it. It actually went pretty quickly thanks to the garment bags, and before we knew it, we were saying goodbye to our rainbow palace.
The rest of the day was spent exploring downtown PS, lunching at The Sandwich Spot (location below!), and spending time with the fam.
On our way home, we squeezed in one last photo op at one of my favorite spots to stop at: The Cabazon Dinosaurs! A popular tourist spot that can get quite busy, this will forever be one of those roadside attractions that never seems to get old! Every time we’re in the area, I always ask my hubby to stop and snap a few pics. It’s so fun to see, and they even gave the dinosaurs a Valentine’s Day glow up!
Here’s a few of my favorite pics over the past year from the Cabazon Dinosaurs!
The Vacation Verdict
While this trip was a totally crazy undertaking in such a short amount of time, it was totally worth it! After all, who couldn’t use a bit of spontaneity after so many months of being stuck at home?
Overall, the hotel was beautiful, and such a fun spot for anyone looking for a little color therapy! It was clean, cute, and well-maintained! It was only a little confusing due to lack of staff direction on pandemic-related guidance at the restaurant and pool, but everyone who worked there was super friendly and laid back. The only thing we didn’t get to experience that we wish we had were the hammocks by the pool. There weren’t too many of them and, since there were already a few people lounging in them, we thought it’d be better to save them for next time. Here’s another tip: make sure to get there early if you want to stake your claim at the pool or hammocks; they can fill up quickly!
If a visit to The Saguaro in Palm Springs is the vaca for you, here’s a little know before you go:
We’re planning a lot more road trips this year, so stay tuned for lots more travel guides to come! Where should we go next?!