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Cool hangouts next to the pool

With meals, massages and music, hotel cabanas are so hot, you'll need reservations.

July 10, 2005|Jane Engle | Times Staff Writer

Hotel guests are going bananas for cabanas.

Most often poolside but sometimes near a restaurant, the tented retreats may be simple table-and-chair affairs or decadent outdoor dens equipped with plush sofas, flat-screen TVs, sound systems, refrigerators, misters and more.

The most elaborate are staffed with butlers. Nearly all of them are a far cry from the drab dictionary definition of a cabana: "a small shelter used as a bathhouse at a beach or pool" (as per Webster's New World College Dictionary).

Changing into your swimsuit? You probably did that in your hotel room. Instead, you'll likely be lounging, sipping cocktails, dining, viewing DVDs or even getting a massage in a hotel's cabana.

Some cabanas are free, if you get out on the deck early enough. More typically, though, they command $75 to hundreds of dollars a day. The Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas rents one for $1,000 per day.

Despite the cost, cabanas are hot, hot, hot.

"The cabanas fill up every single weekend," said Rio spokeswoman Heather Robbins. She suggests you reserve a week in advance to get one.

"People really love them," said Cesar Corado, a spa receptionist at the Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa, about 20 minutes west of Palm Springs. "They offer a nice retreat from the heat."

Corado also advised week-ahead reservations for the resort's 16 cabanas, which rent for $75 to $150 per day.

Los Angeles-based Kor Hotel Group has installed cabanas at most of its nine boutique hotels, including the Viceroy Santa Monica, Viceroy Palm Springs, the Avalon in Beverly Hills and the recently refurbished Sheraton Gateway Hotel Los Angeles Airport.

"We have a lot of entertainment people who rent them," said Kor spokeswoman Jennifer Dowd. "It's a very creative, inspiring environment that takes you out of the city."

And let's not forget the snob appeal. "People have a real sense of being special when they're in a cabana," Dowd said. "It's very regal, very exclusive."

At Kor's hotels, cabanas typically rent for $100 and more daily, although some are free on a first-come, first-served basis. This month, the Viceroy Santa Monica is set to launch a chef's cabana that can seat six or more. For $150 (food only) or $225 (food with wine) per person, you'll get a seven-course catered meal.

At the St. Regis Resort, Monarch Beach, in Dana Point, poolside cabanas, renting for $200 per day, include a virtual office, with fax machine, cordless phone and Internet access.

In Las Vegas, many resorts have cabanas. At the Palms, they start at $150 per day and come with TVs, couches, a safe and more; there's even a two-story model. The Bellagio's 52 cabanas go for $300 per day and up; some have phones, computer plug-ins and music systems.

Cabanas are big back East too, especially in Miami's trendy South Beach district. The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach, for instance, charges $200 to $815 a day for tented retreats. The top price buys a day bed, lunch for two, two 50-minute massages, a manicure and more.

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