Historically, Pasadena has been a getaway location for Hollywood luminaries and Los Angeles business tycoons dating back to the early 20th century. Needing a respite from their fast-paced lifestyle, droves of city dwellers sought the quieter atmosphere of their neighbor to the northeast. Another 117 miles farther east, nearly hidden at the bottom of the Santa Rosa Mountains, lies La Quinta Resort & Club, a remote, quiet desert retreat that many in those same circles sought out for solitude.
U.S. presidents have enjoyed this hideaway, as well as TV and film stars, sports figures, and musicians. The hotel has a commodity the stars want: privacy. The La Quinta Hotel, as it was originally named, was Greta Garbo’s favorite place to get away when she wanted to be alone.
A secluded villa where Garbo took refuge from an overwhelming career still stands at the outer edge of the casitas, tennis courts, and swimming pools. Named La Casa, the courtyard offers a meditative portal into an era long gone—its rooms frozen in time, preserved as a museum.
Director Frank Capra spent summers in a casita that bears his name and is memorialized with a plaque and a bench. It is said that he may have penned some of his most notable works in the quaint structure, among them, It Happened One Night.
From 1927 until her retirement from feature directing in 1943, Dorothy Arzner was the only female director working in Hollywood, with a great list of credits attached to her. She has a dwelling, pool, and garden all named for her: A private yet spacious structure, Arzner Villa sits close to Garbo’s La Casa.
La Quinta Resort sits enfolded by the scenic desert landscape, as if the hills stand guard protecting this beautiful oasis. Yet the property is most welcoming to travelers from around the globe. The signature blue doors and shutters have a mystical meaning, the blue symbolizing protection, a custom handed down from the Desert Cahuilla Indians who first settled there.
While La Quinta at large offers a serene, even spiritual refuge from the city bustle, there’s no shortage of activities available at the resort. One may choose to explore the quiet garden-feel of the entire 45 acres through the winding walkways that interlace the grounds. Take a visit to the fitness center to buff up or head to the nearby spa, which offers a full menu of services to relax and rejuvenate.
There are many more physically challenging choices as well: Play a round of golf, tennis, or pickleball (which turned out to be more popular than tennis during our visit). The resort boasts 41 temperature-controlled swimming pools providing the opportunity for a quiet swim if one so desires. There’s also the main pool, a favored destination for many guests.
There are several dining options within the resort grounds; two worth noting are Morgan’s in the Desert and Twenty6. Dinner at the well-established Morgan’s was an exceptional experience. Along with the excellent food and atmosphere, chef Camiel Henning and the staff were warm, providing well-choreographed service. Twenty6—situated within the luxurious courtyard adjacent to the shops—is a popular lunch and dinner spot.
Amid the assortment of quaint shops aligning the walkway is the Marketplace, where guests can purchase out-of-town newspapers to accompany their breakfast pastries, lunchtime sandwiches, and after-dinner desserts.
The natural beauty of La Quinta is enough of a lure to make the two-and-a-half hour drive. The welcoming, peaceful atmosphere is reason to stay awhile. As you explore the scenic neighborhoods in the quiet community, you never know who you might encounter walking a dog, or who you’ll sit next to while sipping your morning coffee or evening glass of wine. Off in the distance, the hills rise above the blue doors, standing guard, protecting La Quinta as they always have, from the rest of the world.
Images: Courtesy La Quinta Resort & Club, a Waldorf Astoria Resort