The Renaissance Esmeralda Resort and Spa Indian Wells: The Pool’s the Thing

Ask any youngster the most important thing about a hotel, and he or she will tell you, “the pool.”  So imagine the thrill for my four-year-old son when we checked into Renaissance Esmeralda Resort and Spa Indian Wells (, a resort with not one but three heated kid-deep pools, and the bonus of a water fall and a sandy beach.

Located on the outskirts of Palm Springs, nestled into the foot of the Santa Rosa Mountains, Marriott’s Renaissance Esmeralda Resort and Spa knows that pools are the sweet spot for visitors to the desert, especially families, and so the resort has smartly designed the pools with a layout and features that are ideally suited for both children and adults.

Multi-Use and Family Friendly

My first impression was that the property was a convention hotel.  The palatial-sized lobby with an enormous curved staircase and an interior courtyard surrounded by 560 guest rooms was at first a bit intimidating.  I could imagine the place abuzz with name-tag wearing conventioneers networking in the honeycomb of meeting rooms.  But in early fall the lobby was nearly empty, with just a couple dozen guests milling around in the grand foyer – some in business suits, others in bathing suits and cover-ups.

While the hotel’s contemporary and sophisticated décor and ambience and has a decidedly adult appeal, the resort has not forgotten its youngest clientele.  For children, the resort offers a Camp Oasis Kids’ Club, a program of fun, creative and educational activities, from cooking and painting to encounters with desert wildlife, led by a staff of teachers from a prominent local private school. 

Currently, Renaissance Esmeralda Resort and Spa is the only hotel in California to offer the popular family-friendly Nickelodeon Getaway program which includes character breakfasts and special children’s activities. If we had stayed longer, perhaps we would have partaken in the organized events, but with just two and a half days to enjoy or visit, we spent most of our free time in the pools.

Up to Our Necks in Pools, and Loving It

The terrific thing about the pools was that most areas were around three to four feet deep.  My 40-inch son was delighted that he could stand in the water without being out of his depth.  This made water play less worrisome and tiring for everyone, as he could splash around without clinging to us.  The sandy beach was also ideal for smaller kids.  They could make sand castles, dump sand in the water – which nobody seemed to mind, and wade into the shallow end and sit, stand and splash in just a foot of water.  The resort provided folding beach chairs in which parents could lounge half-in, half-out of the water.  It was all the fun of playing at the beach, without the dangerous surf, salty-sticky sea water and sea fleas.

Surprisingly, kids did not play much in the water fall, perhaps because the crashing water was so loud and cooler in temperature than the heated pool water.  In any case, the cascading wall of water added a nice ambiance and beauty to the pool.

The pools were adjacent to the fitness center, which was handy so that parents can take turns watching kids in the water and working out. 

A Buffet with Benefits

Besides the pools, the resort offered many other terrific amenities for families, including family friendly dining at CAVA, the hotel’s California cuisine restaurant. 

As the night air was a little chilly, we opted to sit indoors at CAVA, though the outdoor patio seating by the pool amid a lovely orchid garden looked inviting — for daytime or a warmer night.  At CAVA parents can dine on such specialties Wild Sea Bass, prepared caccitore style with mushroom risotto, or Pork Saltimbocca, pharma ham served with smoked provolone, spoon spinach and sage semi-glace, while kids enjoy a buffet of kid-friendly eats from chicken fingers to pasta, and even prime rib. 

My son’s favorite offering was the chocolate fondue fountain, in which he drenched all sorts of treats from apple slices to pretzel sticks.  The buffet was a lifesaver in helping to avert a dinner-time meltdown by a tired, hungry kid who would not have been happy to sit quietly in a restaurant while waiting to order and be served. 

Our trip was short – just a weekend, so we were not able to experience all the resort’s amenities which earned it a place on Condé Nast Traveler’s 2007 Gold List of “World’s Best Places to Stay” and Travel + Leisure’s “500 Greatest Hotels in the World,” such as a renowned spa, tennis facilities and 36-Holes of Championship Golf.  If you ask my son, the only really important features were the three huge and wondrous pools, making this resort a three-time winner for him.

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