Camping at music festivals is always lauded the only way to experience it. Whether it is Bonnaroo, Firefly, or Coachella a huge number of attendees camp. That's nice. Some of us aren't campers. Some of us enjoy unimpeded showers and air-conditioning. Camping at Coachella, while fun, is not the only way to experience Coachella. Plenty of people stay in hotels throughout the area, with Palm Springs being the most popular of the areas. Personally I have stayed in Palm Springs for Coachella '15, '16 and '17. We love Palm Springs and it works for us. I know a lot of people looking into Palm Springs as an option for Coachella, so I wanted to provide a full list of the pros and cons for doing Coachella in Palm Springs. We will begin with the cons of Coachella in Palm Springs.
You Need To Buy The Shuttle Pass – The bus pass is an additional $75 on top of what is already an expensive ticket. Coachella general admission passes retail for $399 so when you add in the shuttle pass you are looking at $474 per pass, which is quite steep. There are a few different shuttle stops in Palm Springs (see below for a map of the shuttle stops), so it's fairly convenient to board one. We personally always board the one in downtown Palm Springs located between the Hilton and the Renaissance.
It’s Far - Obviously the big negative with staying in Palm Springs is how far it is from Coachella. If you drove from Palm Springs to Coachella you are looking at about a 40 minute drive with no traffic. When you are aboard a bus on a day with Coachella traffic it is about an hour - not as bad as you may expect, but still not short. The trip to Coachella never seems that bad, it's always the ride home that is a bit tiring. If you go to Coachella early and leave after a headliner you have been there 12+ hours so you are pretty wiped at the end of the night. The bus going to Coachella is a party, the bus ride home from Coachella is nap time. The bus is always quiet on the way home, so you can definitely take a nap for the ride, but it still would be nice to be able to just walk home. A warning is they do switch which stop is first and which is second in Palm Springs at night: this past year I fell asleep on the shuttle home and was dropped off at the Riviera stop instead of downtown and had to walk 2.5 miles to my hotel (my phone was dead so I couldn't uber).
There Are Some Cheaper Options – There are cheaper options than booking a hotel in Palm Springs. Obviously camping but also renting an AirBNB can be had for cheaper than booking a hotel in Palm Springs. The problem with going the AirBNB route is if the owner cancels on you you’re screwed. Hotels are cheapest in Palm Springs, but other accommodations can be cheaper. The figure above shows our hotel booking for Coachella 2017 at the Palm Mountain Resort, so you can see what we consider a "decent deal" for Palm Springs. I actually don't recommend the hotel, but we usually end up paying around $250 per night. We don't stay at the Motel 6, but we also don't stay at the Waldorf - we look for something good that offers solid value. I think every year in Palm Springs we end up booking a hotel for somewhere between $225 and $270 per night.
Hotel Options – Palm Springs has more hotels than any of the other areas for Coachella as it is a touristy destination. Equally importantly is there are multiple shuttle locations in Palm Springs, so there should be one to accommodate whatever hotel you choose. I personally recommend the downtown area of Palm Springs - you will be able to walk to the centrally located shuttle at the Hilton/Renaisance, there will be plenty nearby, and there are a lot of hotels to choose from. Most of the other areas only have one shuttle stop so getting to that shuttle can be tricky if your hotel isn't on the direct line.
You Can Drink on the Bus – Just stop by the local liquor store and bring your favorite beverage with you for the bus ride. Honestly the bus usually turns into a party and is pretty fun, at least on the way there. I’ve seen everything from 30 packs to full bottles of whiskey, so don't be shy about your alcoholic needs aboard the Coachella shuttle. The staff is always super chill about drinking on the shuttle.
Food Options – My personal favorite part with staying in Palm Springs is the restaurants. It’s really nice to get a big meal in you before heading off to the festival. Obviously they still have food in areas besides Palm Springs, but there’s just a lot of good options in Palm Springs. Check out Pinocchio’s in the Desert brunch with $5 bottomless mimosas.
Cheaper than Other Hotel Options – Like all of the events we track, there is a clear correlation between how close to the event you are and how much you are going to pay (duh). The closer you stay to Coachella, the more expensive the hotels get. I have seen the Super 8 in Indio going for $500+ a night during Coachella's dates. Sure, you get the convenience, but at a certain point the price is just too much. You can usually get cheaper hotels in Palm Springs than the other areas.
Recharging the Batteries - If you have never made it to Palm Springs before it is a great place to just relax and recharge. This is great for Coachella, as you can wake up in the morning and relax by the pool for a couple of hours before heading off to the festival again. It's a nice break from the craziness of the polo fields.
As I mentioned I have done Coachella three straight years and four straight Coachella's (we went twice in 2017) so over the years we have found some good places and some spots to avoid. Here are some of my recommendations for Coachella in Palm Springs.
DO: Pinocchio's In The Desert Brunch
This is an annual tradition for us. Punocchio's offers huge portions and great prices: most meals are between $8-$12 and they offer $5 bottomless mimosas. They aren't stingy with the bubbly either, they will offer you another bottle even after you have paid.
DON'T: Starbucks in Downtown Palm Springs
This place is an absolutele shitshow - I have never seen a Starbucks so crowded than the one in downtown during Coachella weekend. Even ordering ahead I had to wait 20 minutes for my two coffees.
DO: Hilton Palm Springs
If you can get a good deal on the Hilton in Palm Springs for Coachella it's great. Most importantly it is across the street from the shuttle stop, which is super convenient. It's also really close to downtown and their pool area is awesome.
DON'T: Palm Mountain Resort
The fact that this place charges a resort fee is a joke. We did not enjoy our stay here at all - pay $20 more to stay at another property. There was not enough parking for (as guaranteed) hotel guests, the rooms are old, ice machines were broken, and the property in general just isn't that nice.
Good bar/restaurant with a nice rooftop area and plenty of fun bar games. The food won't blow you away, but it's a good spot to get some solid bar grub and a good drink while enjoying all of their bar games and live music.
One other thing to note before I wrap up is to also acknowledge that most of the parties at Coachella occur in Palm Springs. The biggest of Coachella parties, Neon Carnival, doesn't but the vast majority of them do. The biggest pool party is at the Hilton and many of the hotels throughout the area have their own parties. You can see all of the Coachella 2017 parties here and you will notice that 90% of them are in Palm Springs. It's not my scene as I'd rather be at Coachella, but if you want to go to some of the parties during Coachella then staying in Palm Springs makes them a lot more accessible.
It ultimately comes down to if you are OK with the long bus ride home. The bus ride there is usually fun, as you can drink and the busses are extremely efficient. You're also fucking stoked to go to Coachella. That said, it can admittedly be a rough ride home, especially if there’s a long line to get on the bus. If you can deal with the ride home there's a lot of great things about staying in Palm Springs.