Think Pink: A First Look at the Sands Hotel & Spa in Indian Wells, California

Apr 13, 2018

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To The Point

The down-valley Sands is a pink confection in the desert. Pros: Southern California style and flourishes at their SoCal-iest. Cons: Hope you like the color pink.

The California desert’s hotel scene continues to bloom as hot openings sprout beyond the confines of downtown Palm Springs, the newest entrant being the Sands Hotel & Spa, which opened in February in Indian Wells. Built back in the 1950s — how mid-century modern is that? — the 46-room hotel got a total reboot with glam interiors by Hollywood designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard: Think pink with a wink to the luxe riads of Morocco.

I walked through the elliptical wooden entrance one hot afternoon in late March to check out the buzz.

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The Sands is located in the heart of the wealthy desert enclave of Indian Wells, between the cities of Palm Desert and La Quinta. In recent years, the BNP Paribas Open put Indian Wells on the map, but you hardly need one to find the Sands, as it’s directly along Highway 111, the main route connecting several Coachella Valley cities.

The location is convenient to upscale shopping on El Paseo in Palm Desert, and the nearest airport is Palm Springs International (PSP). Scenic desert mountains are in the vicinity, but contrary to the name, there are more luxe green golf courses than patches of sand in this upscale desert district.


I spotted the hotel’s desert-rose exterior from busy Highway 111, but the entrance is discreetly situated on the other side of the building. Chill music played at just the right volume by a fountain — I heard “London Swinging” by South Froggies as I entered. Acoustically, at least, this is uncharted territory for this generally staid ‘hood.

The lobby leans toward a maximalist approach, here tempered by Moroccan influences. Overall, it’s a very cool space — it almost feels like you’re entering a modern Rat Pack clubhouse. Black-and-white interpretations of Moroccan tile patterns hint at the luxe touches to come in the guest rooms. When it’s hot out, you can cool off with a glass of iced mint tea as you check in.

The Rooms

Gold palm trees affixed to the guest-room doors are “subtle” reminders that you’re in Southern California — a posh touch indeed.

I toured a deluxe king room, the only one available during my short visit. The room’s aesthetic is a playful revision of classic mid-century design elements that feel fresh and welcoming.

The white mirrored cabinet near the bed conceals a thoughtfully stocked mini bar.

It gets better the closer you look. Jelly beans and pastel-colored cocktails?! Yes please!

The bathroom features more great tile work, both a shower and freestanding stone tub, gold fixtures and toiletries by Acqua di Parma and, not insignificantly, a framed color photograph of Brigitte Bardot in full-on sex-kitten pose.

The hotel’s two levels wrap horseshoe-style around the pool. Upper-floor rooms have balconies, but the those on the ground floor feature sliding glass doors that open on to swanky private terraces — that’s definitely the better bet.

Food and Beverage

The restaurant, called the Pink Cabana, will be open any day now, and will feature a Cal-Mediterranean menu and freshly farmed California produce.


The swimming pool is the center of most any resort in the desert, and the one at the Sands does not disappoint. The main pool is a simple but elegant rectangle that sparkles in the sun. Around the pool are a variety of seating options including individual lounge chairs, slightly shaded day beds and full cabanas. There’s also a jacuzzi — perfect for those cool desert nights.

There’s adequate space between the pool deck and guest rooms, so even when the hotel’s full (it was almost full on the day I visited), it won’t feel too crowded. Just like at any proper resort, you can order from a full menu while poolside.

The spa boasts three treatment rooms and an entrance area that radiates a certain kind of glam. You’ll be very aware that you’re in a spot that’s anything but cookie-cutter corporate. The airy lanterns and sumptuous glass mosaics are hard not to love.

Overall Impression

The Sands Hotel & Spa shows that the “down valley” (as opposed Palm Springs) part of the Coachella Valley has got some serious hotel game, and it’s likely that the distinct look and genteel vibe will win it a cult following. The spa is a gem unto itself, and while the guest rooms invite lingering, the posh pool deck beckons, too, with its luxuriant palm trees and pink daybeds. This is a place to relax and unwind in a stylish setting that looks primed to draw an insider, sun-worshipping crowd.

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