In the early 1920s, wealthy San Francisco businessman Walter H. Morgan purchased over 1,000 acres of land from the native Cahuilla Indians in the desert of Southern California. He hired the architect/designer Gordon Kaufman to design 20 Spanish Colonial Revival casitas with fireplaces as a retreat. Each unit was made from hand-formed adobe bricks and locally fired clay roof tiles.
There is a plaque on the lobby wall of the hotel stating that the lobby was made from 100,000 adobe bricks and that the total construction of the resort cost $150,000.
La Quinta translates in English to The Villa. With the two-hour studio rule stating that Hollywood stars were only allowed to vacation two hours from Hollywood, just in case a studio head, director or producer needed a star back at the studio, it became a favorite haunt for Gretta Garbo “to be alone.” Clark Gable pulled up the long driveway to escape the Hollywood scene and have a great time with friends.
One of America’s best screenwriters and directors during the 1930s and ’40s, Frank Capra, loved La Quinta Resort. While winning three Oscars as Best Director, he called La Quinta the “Shangri-La of Screenwriting.”
I’ve been told that he found his creative inspiration staying in the San Anselmo casita. Today, the cottage is named The Capra Suite. It offers the luxurious Waldorf Astoria bedding on a king-size bed, among authentic Spanish-style detailing, a wood-burning fireplace, cozy sitting room and over-size windows. This 450-square-foot villa is an ideal retreat for couples or business travelers.
Many of the historic casitas are surrounded by green lawns, flower gardens or clustered around the 41 pools and hot tubs.
The resort now offers 620 California hacienda-style casitas and newer villas with different floor plans. Some have patios, while others offer pool views.
Staying in the elegant Starlight casita, guests walk up a flight of beautiful Mexican paver-tile stairs to a private patio with a large conversation couch, cocktail table, dining table with four chairs and outdoor fireplace. One can sit out on their private patio, flip on the dazzling blue glass electric fireplace, recline on the couch and count hundreds of stars at night. While the weather is warm, this area is an inviting spot for outdoor sleeping, since there is a locked gate at the patio entrance.
The founder of La Quinta named the resort’s fine dining restaurant Morgan’s in the Desert. It has now become one of the top Open Table reservation destinations, just behind French Laundry.
The Executive chef Jimmy Schmidt offers a themed three-course prix fixe dinner with wine pairing suggestions by Sommelier Lisa Tussing. She is one of the youngest female Level 2 sommeliers and one of the best in the desert. It’s an elegant evening of fine dining in an elite country club atmosphere.
To elevate your vacation, be sure to visit visit the 23,000 sq. ft. luxury La Quinta Spa for a massage, facial, and quiet time. Nearby are 23 tennis courts. You will have to pay extra to play on a regular or clay court.
Bicycles are available to rent by the hour. The staff will give you a 7-mile map as a guide for riding around the city of La Quinta along the Santa Rosa Mountains. Ride on designated bike paths up to La Quinta Cove, explore Old La Quinta (it’s been renovated and not so old now) and stop for a snack or lunch at one of the cafes, before riding back to the La Quinta Resort.
Next time you want to get away from it all, the hidden La Quinta is off of Highway 111 and Eisenhower. It’s a luxurious place to unwind, dine and swim.