Find soothing simplicity at this newly opened oasis, which is marked by nothing more than a sign with two birds on it. Behind a wall and a barnlike foyer that shields it from the road, creating a tranquil escape, a restored motel is now crossed with something akin to a farm retreat. It was built in 1951 by B-level MGM actor Don Castle, an actor from the Andy Hardy films who called it Castle's Red Barn and operated it as one of Palm Springs' first celeb retreats. A 1955 Sports Illustrated fashion feature shot here depicted a model dressed in whites and coquettishly pretending to play on one of the paddle-tennis courts that long ago was claimed by a widening of Palm Canyon. After seven years, Castle sold the inn, produced Lassie on TV, and died of a drug overdose at age 47. In time, the Red Barn became the salubrious El Rancho motel, which some locals snickeringly called "El Rauncho," but the premises, if not the tennis courts, have been lovingly and handsomely reclaimed as the worthy sojourn spot it was six decades ago.

Rooms feel like mini California lodges exposed beam ceilings, cool hand-poured concrete floors, stonework, tubs fashioned from rehabbed horse troughs, and a pleasing lack of TVs or phones (but not a lack of AC). That atmosphere, along with moderate prices, make for a romantic choice for those who would like some style without a scene or a huge bill. In the center, a misty courtyard with a long saltwater pool and—although there are only 20 rooms to serve—a bar where classic drinks such as Bloody Marys steadily flow. An adorable choice for those with modest means but high expectations—and you get to know a piece of Palm Springs' luscious pop culture history.