Spotlight: Palm Springs—Home Away from Home?

Photo: Slim Aarons
The iconic “Poolside Gossip” | Photo: Slim Aarons

There is probably no American city more uniquely suited for renting a private home in order to immerse oneself in the local lifestyle than Palm Springs. Since the 1940s, this desert oasis has served as a top destination where people can experience a home away from home—relaxing beneath a canopy of palm trees and sunshine, against the backdrop of Palm Springs’ majestic mountains and iconic architecture.

Rewind back to the city’s early days and the majority of people you met on the street were part time residents or visiting for the weekend.  Many homeowners were second-home buyers who shared their desert retreats with friends and family, as well as visitors who wanted to rent their properties for a week or two.

Many of the those early part-time residents were names we’ve all heard of—celebrities like Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Cary Grant and Elvis Presley who became inextricably linked with Palm Springs. But this little desert hideaway also drew regular folks who could afford a modest second residence and wanted to experience the magic of a home in Palm Springs.

korakia pensione | Photo: Gary Ashley
Korakia Pensione | Photo: Gary Ashley

Today, Palm Springs offers an eclectic range of accommodations—from boutique hotels like the Cody Inn and Korakia Pensione to large chain hotels like the Hyatt and the Hilton, to the vacation rental home. And each has something unique to offer Palm Springs’ diverse traveler set.

Large hotels provide things like room service and booking flexibility. Boutique hotels offer exquisite design and a unique, curated experience. And rental homes provide all of the privacy and privileges that come only with a private residence.

If you’re traveling with family or a group of friends, nothing beats renting a beautiful home for the ultimate shared experience. Sunbathe in private, prepare a home-cooked feast, or barbecue poolside—you can create whatever experience you desire in a vacation home. And many times, these short term renters love it so much they purchase their own second home in Palm Springs—or move here full time!

"Aloha Palms" | Photo: Lance Gerber
“Aloha Palms” | Photo: Lance Gerber

With nearly 1800 homes available to rent on a short term basis, Palm Springs is home to one of the most vibrant vacation rental home markets in the nation, delivering nearly $6 million in occupancy tax alone—about 5% of the City’s total budget. And tourism ranks second only to retail, which means that the vacation rental industry contributes thousands of jobs and ancillary revenue throughout the Coachella Valley.

However, not everyone is embracing the idea of tourists taking up part time residency in Palm Springs. Some residents feel the increase in rental properties is a threat to their neighborhood’s sanctity and are actively campaigning to ban it outright.

"Poolside Bliss Dining" | Photo: Jaime Kowal
“Poolside Bliss Dining” | Photo: Jaime Kowal

Private citizens pushing back on tourism is nothing new but Palm Springs is feeling the pressure more today than in previous bouts. This is due to the huge tourism renaissance that the city is enjoying, coupled with the advent of online vacation rental booking services such as AirBnB and VRBO.

Can Palm Springs continue its legacy as a second home haven and vacation rental destination and still keep its year-round residents happy?

With the proposed ordinances now under consideration, it’s anyone’s guess. Those against rentals say they create a nuisance and foster “strangerhoods.” Those for rentals posit that they address an underserved niche in the market—the unique visitor who simply wouldn’t book a hotel room for a family retreat or group getaway.

"Amado Feet" | Photo: Jaime Kowal
“Amado Feet” | Photo: Jaime Kowal

The arguments for and against private vacation rental homes are wide ranging, but no one can argue their place in the city’s colorful history. Perhaps a happy medium can be found and residents will find that delicate intersection between progress and preservation, and Palm Springs can remain a destination where diverse accommodations thrive. At the end of the day, don’t we all simply want a place in the sun?

About David J Castello

David J Castello is the Editor-in-Chief and Chief Operating Officer for the Castello Cities Internet Network (,,, etc). His debut novel, The Diary of an Immortal (1945-1959) was published in 2016.

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