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Here’s Why You Should Visit This Luxe Gay Swimsuit-Optional Resort

Here’s Why You Should Visit This Luxe Gay Swimsuit-Optional Resort

Descanso Resort – My First Experience at a Gay Men’s Clothing-Optional Resort

Descanso Resort in Palm Springs is the luxe desert destination perfect for shedding your inhibitions along with your clothes.

When the opportunity arose to visit the men’s clothing-optional Descanso Resort in Palm Springs this summer, my boyfriend and I jumped at the chance.

The upscale resort just received a Travelers’ Choice Best of the Best Award for 2023 from TripAdvisor less than two years ago after it had opened its doors. It was the second time the resort has been honored by TripAdvisor. In January the resort was selected by the site’s users as the Best Specialty Hotel for men.

Descanso Resort proved to be a delightful destination based on its quiet location and expert design of interior and exterior spaces alone, but the allure of a men’s clothing-optional resort is the opportunity to strip, swim, lounge poolside, and mingle with other naked gay men – and here Descanso did not disappoint either.

Descanso Resort \u2013 My First Experience at a Gay Men\u2019s Only Clothing Optional ResortPHOTO BY JOHN ELLIS

As a product of public education and military locker rooms and showers from a bygone era, I was not unfamiliar or uncomfortable with some form of group public nudity while my younger boyfriend had no such history. Experiencing a clothing-optional lifestyle was something we had discussed not infrequently in the past, however, and as we are invariably in some form of undress whenever together in private, we figured why not try the clothing-optional experience with other gay men at an award-winning boutique resort in neighboring Palm Springs?

The resort is tucked away in the North Palms Springs neighborhood, hidden behind a heavy gate itself framed by a columned façade resembling an ivy-covered Greco-Roman temple.

Upon our arrival, Descanso Resort General Manager Kent Taylor gave us a quick tour of the cozy resort. Taylor tells us they promote the property as "bathing suit optional pool" but says he ultimately just wants "people to be comfortable" with themselves and others while at the resort.

He also explains Descanso strives to be more than just another resort regardless of whether the guests are gay or clothed.

“It is my feeling that travelers, in general, are much more sophisticated and expect a more elevated hotel experience these days, especially within the gay community,” Taylor continues. “There was a day where just being at a hotel was all you needed and people were happy about it. But I think for today’s traveler that’s just not enough, and you need to create something a little more magical. Our endless goal is to create a beautiful getaway experience, a place where people can truly unplug and relax and find a moment of peace in the crazy world.”

Our quick tour showed Taylor and his amazing staff have succeeded in this goal.

As one of a certain age, the manicured gardens and internal courtyard reminded me of an upscale Melrose Place albeit wonderfully populated by real men casually swimming, lounging, and walking about naked. Previously the Uptown Hotel and before that the East Canyon Hotel & Spa, the resort received a complete makeover from top to bottom in 2021 by the same design team responsible for the nearby men’s clothing-optional Santiago Resort and Twin Palms Resort.

Descanso Resort \u2013 My First Experience at a Gay Men\u2019s Only Clothing Optional ResortPHOTO BY JOHN ELLIS

Descanso’s compact grounds use lush green landscaping to define spaces for the pool, jacuzzi, cantina, and a shaded pergola overlooking it all. The 16 rooms and suites are housed on two levels in two buildings using an L-shaped layout facing the pool. Windows from each room offer views of the pool area and some have expansive views of Mount San Jacinto towering to the west. There’s also an outdoor shower and a separate smoking area where “everything legal to smoke in the state of California” is permitted, Taylor tells us on our welcoming tour.

The off-white interior courtyard and building walls are covered in ivy and green vines, and misters were in full force during our stay when temperatures topped 117 degrees daily. Despite the heat, though, the interior courtyard felt noticeably cooler during the hottest part of the day thanks to the misters and abundant plant life. And the pool always provided an ideal respite when the sun and heat required a cooling dip.

The interior spaces at Descanso feature a relaxed yet chic desert modern theme using bold strokes and patterns of green often set against white backgrounds and accented with equally bold splashes and patterns of blue. Pool towels and staff shirts continue the green theme.

Descanso Resort \u2013 My First Experience at a Gay Men\u2019s Only Clothing Optional ResortPHOTO BY JOHN ELLIS

Our second-floor suite was spacious with a king-sized bed tucked into an alcove that opened to a living area functionally appointed with a desk, chairs, a small coffee table, and one mouth-wateringly chic and comfy green sofa. A large window overlooking the courtyard and mountains beyond came with a shade that could be lowered and raised via remote to ensure privacy. A faux book on the nightstand contained complimentary lube and condoms, and the desk held a welcoming basket filled with fruit, cookies, and other snacks. The bathroom was not overly large but big enough so that it never seemed crowded when in use by me and my boyfriend at the same time. We especially appreciated how the room’s minimal use of furniture made the room feel even more expansive than its footprint, yet we never lacked the surface space to share an extra-large pizza or leftovers the following morning. For those working or surfing or gaming remotely, the resort’s Wi-Fi is as fast as advertised and accessible from everywhere on the property.

Descanso offers a complimentary continental breakfast of fruits, cereal, pastries, and more, and a catered Stay & Splash lunch with a selection of salads and sandwiches for guests. There’s also complimentary coffee, tea, soft drinks, and snacks available 24/7 in the cantina, and a Wine O’Clock Happy Hour on the weekends. We especially enjoyed these services as it meant there was never a need to leave the resort except for dinner, although there are any number of food delivery options in the immediate area.

Descanso Resort \u2013 My First Experience at a Gay Men\u2019s Only Clothing Optional ResortPHOTO BY JOHN ELLIS

To be honest, though, my boyfriend and I didn’t come to Descanso for the free lunch and soft drinks, or even the epic dining downtown. Descanso is, after all, a clothing-optional resort catering to gay men and this was a first-time experience for both of us at such an establishment. Much to my chagrin, however, while I had the past experience with public nudity it was my boyfriend who was naked on our first venture outside our room en route to the pool. I somewhat sheepishly wore a bathrobe. After jumping naked into the pool moments later, however, I remained sans clothing in Descanso’s public spaces for the remainder of our stay. By the end of the night, we were both chuckling at my initial hesitancy. As for skinny dipping, there’s something to be said about the silky smoothness of the water against your naked body, especially when surrounded by other naked gay men.

We spent four wonderful nights at the Descanso Resort – Tuesday through Friday nights – and over the length of our stay learned the vibe differed from mid-week to weekend.

Checking in on a Tuesday afternoon, the mood was California chill. As Kent led us to our room, we passed two single silver daddies lounging poolside under the shade of their respective umbrellas, one quietly conducting business on his cell phone, the other reading from a hardcover book. Both men were casually naked and escaping the afternoon heat with periodic jumps into the pristine pool. By the time we returned to the pool about 30 minutes later, a twink and silver daddy couple wearing delightfully mismatched speedos had joined the group and were lounging side by side. Other guests came and went over the next few hours, everyone mostly keeping to themselves and allowing my boyfriend and me our time alone in the water despite their presence.

Descanso Resort \u2013 My First Experience at a Gay Men\u2019s Only Clothing Optional ResortPHOTO BY HANNES VAN DER MERWE

By Friday night, however, the mood had livened and grown downright frisky and cruisy, pushed along by the self-service Wine O’Clock Happy Hour. The crowd had grown and evolved as well. Added to the mix were younger single men looking to party and have some fun – which they happily did. Unlike on the earlier nights, tonight folks were looking to mingle and connect.

Overall, the crowd during our stay was fun-loving and mixed. Daddies and silver daddies dominated, and several were accompanied by younger twinks. The rest of the crowd appeared to be single men traveling alone and one group of three men looking to party. The overwhelming majority of men chose to be naked poolside, although some remained in their speedos throughout the stay.

And since Descanso is a men’s clothing-optional resort, it must be said there was also a diversity of shapes, shades, sizes, and cuts of male genitalia on display – and, yes, just about everyone was looking. In fact, while both sets of eyes might have been physically located ‘up here’ when saying hello to a fellow guest during our stay, those two sets of eyes were also mutually pointed much lower at least once to acknowledge what was freely on display down there.

All in all, everybody seemed in a good mood and happy to let go and get naked with other like-minded gay men, and it seemed everyone was able to find what they were looking for during their stay, whatever that might have been.

Descanso Resort \u2013 My First Experience at a Gay Men\u2019s Only Clothing Optional ResortPHOTO BY HANNES VAN DER MERWE

While Descanso Resort “is not a sex club” as clearly stated by Taylor during our welcoming tour, the resort also has no cameras in the internal courtyard and the staff leaves the premises by 10 p.m. As far as Taylor is concerned, what happens at Descanso stays at Descanso. Hearing this my boyfriend and I were tempted to slip downstairs after midnight to a hopefully deserted outdoor shower (in the still-triple-digit heat, mind you), but hours swimming in the pool as well as other activities in the privacy of our room resulted in us falling soundly asleep each night without the need for any such outdoor extra-curricular activities. As an aside, we also agreed our indoor romantic episodes were heightened by the presence of dozens of naked gay men just outside our suite’s door.

Our stay at Descanso Resort was bookended, appropriately enough, with two propositions for sexual activity. As we exited the jacuzzi just before midnight on our first night, an executive-type silver daddy politely explained that his slave could only achieve orgasm if he had an audience and asked if we would like to watch the two engage in sex. We declined but felt terrible doing so as we most likely would have accepted if we weren’t at that moment returning to our suite for a romantic interlude ourselves.

Our second proposition came on our last night. A tipsy middle-aged gent – who reminded us of a leathery and tattooed version of Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite – pounced on my boyfriend as he entered the jacuzzi alone while I went for sodas in the cantina. By the time I returned moments later, the relentless man was already standing in the jacuzzi with his overly tanned and leathery member mere inches from the face of my boyfriend, commenting on his “low hangers” and asking for details on his prowess in bed. We politely excused ourselves and returned to our suite, leaving the semi-erect and clearly frustrated man to return to his friends in the pool.

Descanso Resort \u2013 My First Experience at a Gay Men\u2019s Only Clothing Optional ResortThe author works on this story poolside in the predawn hours.PHOTO BY DONALD PADGETT

Despite the liberating experience of going clothing optional amongst other gay men poolside daily, my favorite time at Descanso was early in the morning around 4 a.m. when the rest of the guests were asleep, and I could have the pool, courtyard, and mountains to myself, watching as the rising sun slowly revealed the craggy, pine-covered Mount San Jacinto to the west. The peak is a giant canvas that changes color throughout the day as the sun progresses across the sky. In fact, part of this story was written in bursts of keystrokes from a poolside lounger in the predawn hours, watching the light slowly reveal the geographical barrier separating the desert from the greater Southern California basin.

When the time came for us to depart Descanso Resort, my boyfriend and I had grown so accustomed to walking naked from our room to the cantina for coffee each morning that we feared we might obliviously repeat the act at a non-clothing-optional hotel in the not-too-distant future. We decided the best remedy for the situation was a return to Descanso Resort as soon as possible.

If you’re considering a clothing-optional resort catering to gay men, check out the Descanso Resort. The resort is currently offering a $100 discount on stays of two nights or more now through August. You can learn more at

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Donald Padgett

Managing Editor at OutTraveler. Also write for Out, The Advocate, and Plus magazines.

Managing Editor at OutTraveler. Also write for Out, The Advocate, and Plus magazines.