May 22 2008

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Hot places to cool off in Southwest, South Beach

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Palmsprings
By Lena Katz

Though summer is officially "low season" in the desert, people who can stand the triple-digit temperatures can score some great deals on luxe lodgings, golf/spa outings and more.

Located two hours (or less) from Southern California’s four major metropolitan centers, Palm Desert is a perennially popular weekend getaway spot. From Joshua Tree to Palm Springs to ritzy Indian Wells, "the desert," as Californians abbreviate it, offers a myriad of experiences. It all boils down to the same thing though: clean air, pure water and uncrowded streets. Ahh. Sheer bliss.

The J.W. Marriott Desert Springs has always been the preferred summer party spot for mini-moguls, junior execs and the ladies who love them. From the enormous lobby to the nightclub to the sprawling pool area, this resort used to epitomize ’90s style as flashily as an Aaron Spelling starlet … but a recent $35 million facelift gives it a whole new look. The spa is massive and busy. In a very savvy marketing move, the spa directors are going with a fun, high-energy angle instead of an earthy or Zen one. It’s bachelorette party heaven, with a unisex lounge and pool area for maximized mix-n-mingling.

Speaking of the desert, the Scottsdale Fairmont also just reinvented itself, opening the Fairmont Gold "hotel within a hotel" a few months ago. This ever-more-popular concept is basically a variation on the VIP floor; in Scottsdale, the main new attraction apart from the 600-square-foot guest suits is the new Michael Mina steakhouse, BOURBON STEAK. Between the lounge and the three parlors, guests can usually enjoy some sort of off-hours snack, starting with the luxe continental breakfast and ending with late-night hors d’oeuvres.

As summer kicks temperature and humidity way up in Miami, the scene at South Beach hotels becomes all about hot tubs and cool pools. With the exception of Vegas, no city in the US has as much bikini-bunny eye candy … no wonder the beach clubs and poolside bars are so popular. The Delano pool is a legend, and as busy during weekend brunch as one of its weekly VIP-packed parties. But that pales in comparison with the stunning, marina-overlooking free-form pool at the brand new Mondrian Miami. The front of the pool meets the lip of the sea, with the magnificent Mondrian main tower anchoring it at the back.

While there really aren’t any public hot tubs in Miami (this is probably a good thing health-wise, and we shouldn’t question it), the private Jacuzzi suites in some hotels are absolutely worth a summertime splurge. I call the ground-floor, street-facing Jacuzzi lodgings at the Angler’s Hotel the "Exhibitionist Suites" because the main point of booking one is to get up to all kinds of naughty things in plain sight, knowing that voyeurs can come within 5-10 feet of you, but never closer. On a totally different end of the spectrum, the rooftop suites at De Soleil are private as can be, but with fabulous views of the street 10 stories below.

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Lena Katz lives on the Left Coast and writes about tropical islands, beach clubs and food, but her heart belongs to NYC.

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