Over the decades, America’s fascination with Polynesia has inspired tiki bars, tiki apartments, tiki mini-golf, a tiki drive-in, tiki liquor store, tiki tattoo shop and, as you’ll see, tiki motels. (In fact, there’s even whole chapters dedicated to them in The Book of Tiki and Tiki Road Trip.)
Caliente Tropics, originally called The Tropics, opened in Palm Springs in the heyday of tiki in 1964 and was part of Ken Kimes’ motel empire. Included were five tiki-themed motels in California—Indio (Coachella-land), Blythe, Modesto and Rosemead were the other locations. The Oceanic Arts tikis in the parking lot are definitely worth a look.
The resort has had a tumultuous history, going from being a rundown place of somewhat ill repute to hosting the inaugural Tiki Oasis event. Unfortunately, changes in ownership/management have kept it in a state of flux.
The lobby is covered with bamboo, lauhala matting and thatch, plus there’s a few tikis (like this foam Ku carved by Marcus Pizutti), chunky swag lamps and a rock waterfall fountain in the corner.
This Easter Island tiki plaque by Bosko was part of the property’s extensive renovations from about a decade ago.
I liked these little thatched A-frame huts for two out on the lawn. Looks like the perfect place to lounge in some very valuable shade and escape the desert sun for a bit.
Adjacent to that area is the pool. Behind it, the signage is still up for the Reef bar, which opened in 2003, was renamed Hawaiian Bill’s a couple years later, then closed in 2009. (Editor’s Note: The Reef has been reborn, thanks to Rory Snyder — founder of Tiki Caliente and Mod Palm Springs events. This “tropical-themed libation sanctuary” opened in 2017.)
We didn’t stay there, so I can’t speak to the quality of the rooms…
Caliente Tropics Resort
411 E. Palm Canyon Dr.
Palm Springs, CA 92264