Built in 1963 and opened in 1964, by Ken Kimes, St., the tropics Hotel was number 38 out of 45 motels Kimes developed in the U.S. Five of the motels were Polynesian styled and the sister properties were located in Indio as well as Modesto, Blythe, and Rosemead. At some point in the early ’60s, 50 condominium units were annexed on Twin Palms Drive (across the street). Those units were spun-off and turned into apartments in 2000, and are no longer part of the Resort.
Our Polynesian personality is reflected not only in the architecture of the Resort, but in the accoutrements as well. Oceanic Arts (in Whittier, California), considered by many tiki-followers to be the “Grand Daddy” of Polynesian pop-culture, designed and manufactured most of the tiki gods and artifacts throughout the Resort. It is primarily these artifacts that are considered to be the most valuable to the Tropics lineage. Oceanic Arts still dominates as a major source for this pop culture niche and, in recent years, has enjoyed a major rebirth in business. They are currently a primary supplier to Disney, worldwide.
In addition to Sambos (coffee shop), The Reef (cocktail lounge), the Congo Room (steakhouse), and the Cellar (basement cocktail lounge for 100), the central building also housed the main lobby. According to locals, the tropics rocked-and-rolled during the ’60s and ’70s. It was frequented by members of the Rat Pack and various professional baseball teams. (Palms Springs was a major training venue.) Elvis and Nancy Sinatra liked to hang out at the pool, and Victor Mature had “his” table in the Congo Room. The tropics was to the south end of Palm Springs, what the Racquet Club had been to the north end – a celebrity hangout.
In the ’80s, as Palm Springs lost its allure, the Resort became an abused relic and a favorite spring break hang-out. It was the scene for parades of cars cruising the parking lot, fence jumping, broken furniture, holes in walls, unruly behavior, illegal activity, and numerous visits courtesy of the Palm Springs Police. At the same time, it became the site of (if not the first) Miss Hawaiian Tropic Pageant and the Reef did a booming business-to the tune of about $250,000 gross, a year.
The Resort changed hands in the late ’80s and continued to slide until 2000. Starting in the ’60s, as a Hyatt Lodge, then becoming a Best Western at its’ peak, then a Days Inn, and eventually a Rodeway Inn, the property was headed for the wrecking ball by the mid-90s. The old tropics was kicked-out of Rodeway Inns, the Palm Springs Visitors Center, and the Palm Springs Desert Resorts Convention and Visitors Authority.
In 2014 the Caliente Tropics Changed Hands once again. Instead of opting for the “commercial chain hotel theme” the current owners embraced the Mid-Century Modern Polynesian flare and began undergoing renovations. After years of not utilizing the restaurant space Sanchos, a Mexican Restaurant and La Fern, a 70’s Inspired vintage bar were introduced in the same location where Sambos pancake house once operated in the mid 80’s. In addition to Sanchos and La Fern, the iconic Reef Tiki Bar was revitalized making it a staple throughout the valley offering a tropical libation sanctuary for tiki fanatics and casual drinkers alike.
Address: 411 E Palm Canyon Dr,
Palm Springs, CA 92264, USA
Phone: +1 760-327-1391