by Susan Derby
Palm Springs and the surrounding desert cities offer a good many resorts, and many tend to fall under two different umbrellas: hip places popular with adults, and fun spots popular with families. Omni Rancho Las Palmas is a very polished, expansive property that falls into the latter category.
Originally Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa, the resort was acquired by Omni Resorts & Hotels in 2013, and received renovations to its 444 rooms and 22 luxury suites.
While there are guests sans children and adult groups, a comparison of the resort’s Splashtopia water park area followed by a glimpse of the onsite adults-only pool will tell you that families, far and away, comprise the majority population at this Rancho Mirage property.
Most kids do flips when they see what’s to be had just steps from their room. Splashtopia features waterslides and a “lazy river” with a current that carries floaters along, again and again. The sizeable Splash Pool is abuzz with activity plus movies alongside it in the summertime. Even the onsite golf course and spa keep the kid-kind in mind in their services.
But adults will be comfortable, too. The waterslides and lazy river keep many of us big-kids-at-heart smiling and relaxed. The onsite and nearby dining options are good, and, well, for those of us who can work in time to indulge, there’s a spa, a golf course and tennis courts.
The resort has changed much since 1951, when the property served guests as the Desert Air Hotel. It wasn’t until the mid-1970s that the resort and the Rancho Las Palmas Country Club opened, with — in true Palm Springs style — celebrities such as Cary Grant, Roy Rogers and Bob Hope in attendance at the groundbreaking.
Our Editor Loves
- Water park and pool
- Comfortable family rooms
- Live music evenings
- Theme Park
- Water Parks
- Water Sports
- Connecting Rooms
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
It's all about location here -- that is the main factor that distinguishes blocks of rooms from one another and affects the rate you'll pay. If you leave it to your kid(s) to choose, you will no doubt end up in a poolside room, which surrounds Splashtopia. We stayed in one of these ground-floor units, just several steps from the lazy river, and it was fun to be able to exit our French door, walk through a nearby gate, and plunge straight onto an inner tube. The disadvantage is that your patio won't feel anything close to private during the day. But since Splashtopia closes at 6 p.m., your evening is bound to be quieter (though the main pool area doesn't close until later in the night).
The Lakeview Rooms offer views of the pleasant 5th and 6th fairways at the property's center. The Plaza rooms, because of their close proximity to the adult-only Tranquility Pool and the resort spa, are probably the ones that families with rowdy members might want to avoid. The Vista rooms, on the northern and eastern edges of the property, are the least expensive rooms, followed by the Plaza, Lakeview and then Poolside rooms.
If you're going to go with a Poolside room, I'd try to avoid the 2600 block of rooms, which is smack-dab in front of the Splash Pool and could, especially in summer and during spring break, be potentially the noisiest block.
All standard rooms are basically similar inside and equipped with one king bed or two double beds. Rooms with a king bed also have a pullout sofa, making it possible to sleep four people. Or, if you also request a rollaway bed ($35 per night and only available for king-bed rooms), you could fit five people. Pack-n'-Plays are available at no charge, and there are a limited number of connecting rooms (call in your reservation for connecting rooms). Ground-floor units open onto a patio and second-floor rooms have a balcony.
Inside your room, you'll find a phone with voicemail, high-speed Internet access (included in the $32 resort fee, which also includes self parking), a large flat-screen TV with cable/satellite, bathrobes, iron and ironing board, hair dryer, mini-fridge, and an in-room safe. The spacious bathrooms include a tub with shower, a vanity table and Spa Las Palmas bath products.
We found our room very comfortable, and were pleased with everything, all in all. Our one unvoiced complaint was the readily available in-room snacks like cookies and gummy bears within reaching distance for my small child, who understood the appeal of these items yet not the hefty price tag the consumption of such items would bring.
Besides the standard rooms, a variety of suites are available, ranging in size from 848 to 1,616 square feet. With separate living room and dining areas, the suite options can be nice for families.
Bellmen at this property are overly aggressive and do not respect guests wishes. If a guest indicates that want to carry their own luggage and to please note touch said luggage, that should be respected. Instead the bellman aggressively insisted indicating "it's his job". NO means NO.
It was a nice place and kids had fun. Just giving it 2 stars because be aware of all the sneaky hidden fees. This sort of thing really sits wrong w me. The hotel brags about giving you a special group rate and rooms are supposed to be 20$ or so discounted but then when you check out there are so many hidden fees, the room ends up being way more than you anticipated when booking. (Even a 20$ per night “group rate fee” wth??
I understand a resort fee sometimes, but jeez after having a look at my bill (which they didn’t send me btw - I had to call and request it when I saw my credit card statement) they added on at least 50$ a night extra in hidden fees.
I just want you to know what to expect so you don’t get surprised. Also, this kind of sneaky marketing is a pet peeve. I’d rather know and pay more upfront than the dishonesty of hidden fees.
Though the resort is very family-focused and there is plenty for kids to do, no drop-off children's programs are offered. No onsite childcare is available, though the concierge can recommend local babysitters upon request.
Waterpark, Pools & Jacuzzi
The star resort attraction is Splashtopia, a mini-waterpark with two 100-foot waterslides, a 425-foot lazy river, a cliff-side Jacuzzi, a sandy beach and a water-play area with fountains and sprinklers. It's many a kids' dream to be able to wake up so close to such a fun-filled zone.
Kids must be 42" to ride the waterslides alone. They slide down on their backs or feet first and land in a 3-1/2' pool at slides' bottom, so they should also be able to swim comfortably.
But even for kids who don't quite make the height limit, there are good times to be had in Splashtopia. Floating on inner tubes along the lazy river, which can get crowded, may end up taking up a good chunk of the day. On the river, kids under 42" must be accompanied by an adult. Splashtopia is generally open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday through Saturday; however, hours may extend a little in the summer and shorten some in winter.
Next to Splashtopia is the large Splash Pool, surrounded by deck chairs aplenty and a row of reservable cabanas (with misters). The pool ranges in depth from three-and-a-half feet to just four feet. A small, separate Jacuzzi is a few-feet away from the pool. This gated pool area is open daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. year-round.
For adults who can catch a moment away, the adults-only Tranquility Pool is an altogether different scene, where quiet prevails in a pool surrounded by deck chairs. Even more tranquil though, is the Spa Pool, which can be used only by Spa Las Palmas guests.
Pools are maintained, either by heating or cooling, at a temperature of around 85 degrees.
The 20,000 square-foot Spa Las Palmas offers an extensive menu of delicious offerings, including massages, scrubs, facials, detoxifying "mud rituals," and salon services (hair, nails, and make-up). A teen facial is available to teens 16 years of age and older, but anyone under 18 years old must be accompanied by an adult and leave the spa premises immediately after her treatment concludes. In the salon, moms receiving a manicure may want to bring their daughter along for a "teeny manicure."
A 27-hole golf course lies adjacent to the resort. Lessons are available for kids and adults. Kids 12 and younger accompanying a paying adult play for half-price in the morning and for free in the afternoon. Call to reserve lessons and tee times.
Small shops are scattered around the property. The lobby-side Las Palmas Boutique has, among its wares, swimsuits, gift items, magazines, and snacks. The Swim Shop outside of the Splash Pool offers floaties, swim toys, sunscreen and ice cream. At the spa, apparel and beauty-and-wellness products are available, and the Golf Pro Shop and Tennis Shop at the Rancho Las Palmas Country Club offer accessories of interest to aficionados of both sports.
Other Area Attractions
In Rancho Mirage, the Children's Discovery Museum of the Desert is a creativity-rich play and exploration zone, with all kinds of fun and educational hands-on exhibits. Kids can rock-climb on a wall, navigate a rope maze, play dress-up in "Grandma's Attic," and much more.
A stellar area attraction is the Living Desert, which is less than a 10-minute drive from the resort. It's home to many animals, and the site of a rescue and treatment facility and desert botanical gardens. We greatly enjoyed seeing a jaguar, a mountain lion, bobcats, zebras and more, and my daughter particularly loved riding atop a bighorn sheep on the Endangered Species Carousel and petting goats in a corral.
In Palm Springs, less than a half-hour drive from the resort, are a number of attractions, including museums, hiking trails.
Omni Rancho Las Palmas offers plenty of eatery options both casual and finer dining.
Open for all three meals, bluEmber is the resort's signature restaurant, and here, you can count on a very nice meal, accompanied by good service. The spacious interior has a classy feel, and thus, perhaps is more appropriate for adults and older kids (though high chairs and booster seats are available). The outdoor patio, where there is live music at least a few nights a week, is more relaxed, and was a better fit for little ones. Seafood, pastas, steaks and more are offered. Breakfast options include Belgian waffles, cinnamon swirl french toast and omelets.
Across from bluEmber is this small cafe, where you can go for a Peet's coffee fuel-up in the morning, as well as breads, pastries and instant oatmeal. Lunchtime counter offerings include brick-oven pizzas, burgers and chicken wings, and once the kids discover that ice cream is served here, you may well find yourself a frequent customer.
Open for lunch only, you can order from Splash Grill from a server poolside, or from the bar outside the pool gate. A selection of burgers, sandwiches and salads are on offer, for a little more than you'd pay by walking yourself over to the bluEmber. The kids' menu includes grilled cheese, chicken tenders and PB&J.
This spot offers American cuisine, like burgers and pizza, where you can sip cocktails and cheer on your favorite sports teams. Kids are welcome at this family-friendly restaurant.
In-room dining is available for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
The annual Sliders Cup Competition running Thursdays through Saturdays from mid-June through Memorial Day weekend, from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., is a chance for kids and adults to race down the Splashtopia waterslides; age divisions are up to 10 years, 11-14, 15-19 and 20 & up. The quickest slider of the day in each age group wins a free smoothie, and then the grand prize winner in each group at summer's end receives a voucher for a two-night stay with daily breakfast for two (no pressure, kids!).
Throughout the summer, every Thursday and Saturday evening, beginning at sundown, a family-friendly film screens at the Splash Pool, so you can watch while floating.
On the bluEmber's patio, live music plays many evenings from 6 p.m. onward. Between October and April or May, the music is on five nights per week; during the summer, it usually plays three or four nights weekly. Here, you'll find adults enjoying a drink next to their exhausted kids, slumping in the cushioned chairs and zoning out to the tunes.
The Art of Smart Timing
The resort is open, and attracts guests year-round. The high season in Palm Springs generally starts in October and goes through April or May -- in short, it ends before it gets too blazing hot.
However, summer, despite the potentially very hot temperatures, is still a very busy time for the resort, which seems to draw families looking for a water-filled vacation during kids' summer vacation. Spring -- particularly during spring break -- is very busy.
For the fewest crowds, plan your Omni Rancho Las Palmas trip between November and February. The pool is heated at that time, and, though it's winter, you're still likely to enjoy sunny days with average highs in the 70's.
Rancho Mirage is about 120-miles east of Los Angeles. The resort is on Bob Hope Drive, and accessed quickly from an exit off of Interstate 10. Highway 111, is what most visitors will use to access other desert cities nearby, like downtown Palm Springs, which is about 12-miles northwest via Hwy. 111. The Palms Springs International Airport (PSP; 3400 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs, (760-318-3800) is 10-miles northwest of the resort.
Rancho Las Palmas does not provide airport transportation. Desert Valley Shuttles is one door-to-door shuttle service available, and Palm Springs Airport Taxi provides cab service in all of Coachella Valley.
For Mom and Dad
If either parent, or both parents, can get away for a spell, the adult-only Tranquility Pool is a very lovely option at this resort. Be sure to spend a few minutes near the Splash Pool en route, though, so that you fully appreciate how different (so quiet, so serene!) this pool minus children really is.
Adjacent to the resort is the Rancho Las Palmas Country Club, with a 27-hole golf course and a complex with 25 tennis courts (eight of which are lit in the evenings). Golf and tennis lessons can be scheduled, and a fitness center with treadmills, exercise bikes, weights and more sits next to Palms Cafe.
If you can fit in a date-night out, there are numerous options in the desert cities, including fine dining to more casual eateries, cinemas, and live-music bars and other venues.