Wednesday newsletters always feature a luxury hotel and/or flight review.
Today (April 1, 2015): Review of the The Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain (Arizona, USA).
- Location: Google Maps
- Address: 15000 N Secret Springs Dr, Marana, AZ 85658, USA
- Hotel website: The Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain
- Tip: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso
With an ability to embody the heart and soul of its spectacular Sonoran Desert surroundings, The Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain offers a sanctuary of natural beauty framed against the Tortolita Mountains. As the only resort in Arizona to receive a ‘Forbes 5-Star Hotel’ rating, this luxury resort allows guests to discover how easy it is to be inspired by the land revered by the Hohokam Indian inhabitants of centuries past.
In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube clip and slideshow):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
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PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- The hotel’s best feature is its secluded and spectacular location. The expansive vistas of the Tucson valleys and the omnipresent sights of the surrounding mountains are simply breathtaking.
- The hotel grounds and its wide variety of beautiful cacti are lovely. At night, the smell of burning fire pits fills the fresh desert air, creating a wonderful ambience.
- The pool area is beautiful with two distinct, large pools, both with a view of the main hotel building. The upper pool is more quiet and clearly oriented to adults while the lower pool has water features – including a killer waterside – for kids of all ages.
- If you happen to like hiking, this property will for sure fill your needs. The hotel has in its backyard about 25 miles of hiking trails with varying levels and elevation. You can go out for just 1 hour on flat lands or go out for a day hike on a 1,500 foot elevation. Views are breathtaking everywhere.
- Most of the 209 rooms & suites are located in the main hotel building. All rooms are spacious, come with large closets and massive bathrooms, and are decorated in soothing earth tones with honed marble and limestone. The bath tub is super deep and amazingly relaxing. The beds are sublime: all of the bedding is soft, with a high thread count on everything.
- A short walk (or golf cart ride) from the main building, you find the casita village. Spanish for little house, casita suites are perfect for couples, families and for those guests seeking a little extra privacy and exclusivity in an accommodation.
- There is a Ranger Station in the hotel with native animal species, including snakes, lizards, spiders, and scorpions. If you go at the designated time, a ranger will be there to educate you on the various animals and let you hold them (yep, even the tarantula).
- Stargazing at the resort is amazing (but is only free on Fridays).
- If you’re a golfer, you’re in luck: the Jack Nicklaus’ Signature Design Tucson golf resort at The Golf Club at Dove Mountain is one of the best in Arizona (27 holes).
- There is a nice gym, well stocked with high quality equipment.
- Food at the resort is great (though not exceptional). I loved the casual dining area (Ignite), which is a lovely place to unwind with a drink near a fire pit to the sounds of live music. The Turquesa Grill by the pool is good too. Core (the main restaurant) has an excellent breakfast buffet and dinner is quite nice as well.
- The Ritz Carlton Spa is amazing. Truly amazing. The spa has its own private pool and spacious men and women’s locker rooms with their own jacuzzis. The pool is beautiful, with very comfty loungers, and is located at the base of gorgeous rock mounts. The staff offers food and cocktail service by the pool and you can also enjoy the use of a cabana free of charge.
- The service is impeccable and the staff goes out of their way to make sure your stay is enjoyable. This is the best hotel staff I ever encountered at a USA hotel so far.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
The Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain is my favorite resort in Arizona, because of the wonderful staff, the impeccable service they provide and the spectacular location. Nevertheless, while the resort is highly enjoyable, there are some things you need to know before considering a stay here:
- The location of the resort is fantastic from a scenic perspective, but it’s also in the middle of nowhere, so plan on being about 30 minutes north of Tucson, and about 90 minutes south of Phoenix. For a trip where you plan on staying in the resort to get away from it all and/or to enjoy the desert outdoors, it’s excellent. If you plan on doing a lot of traveling around, you’ll need to factor in the additional time to your plans.
- The Ritz-Carlton brand implies “above-and-beyond” luxury, and to be honest, the overall experience did not feel as exceptionally luxurious or far different of what I’ve experienced at other Arizona luxury properties (staff and location are the best though).
- The architects intended to design the resort in an elegant but understated fashion, embracing its spectacular surroundings. While it is a matter of personal preference, the design was not appealing to me and even felt a little too simple, somewhat reminiscent of a cheaper motel (at least from the outside, not from the inside).
- There is no privacy on the balconies of the rooms in the main building.
- While the loungers at the spa pool are exceptional comfortable, those near the main pool could use some extra cushions.
- The spa pool, which is superior to the other two pools in terms of design and ambiance, is only accessible for free on the day that you have a treatment. Otherwise you have to pay a $25 spa admission fee per day.
- The hotel charges a $50 resort activity package per accommodation per day, which covers overnight valet parking, in-room internet access, 24-hour use of computer and printing services in the business center, daily group fitness classes, recreation activities, access to the golf driving range and putting greens including club rental (golf attire required), use of tennis courts and equipment, use of mountain bikes, a guided morning hike, and evening mixology classes. On top of it, an additional $7.03 tax is added onto the resort fee for every day. This fee is outrageous (and amongst the most expensive in the industry), but if you expect it, then you won’t be shocked. IMHO, since they charge it anyway, it would be better that the hotel adds this fee to the room rate, so that the hotel guests don’t perceive it as an excessive extra charge.
- On Tripadvisor, the hotel advertises that they are pleased to reduce the resort activity package by $21 daily if you choose self-parking instead of valet parking. However, upon check-in, I had to request this reduction myself. The hotel should inform guests upfront at check-in, and not afterward by replying to a Tripadvisor comment (when it’s too late for guests to make use of this reduction).
- While most – like me – are thrilled to spot desert wildlife, some may find it troublesome. Wildlife is present in the area surrounding the resort, and includes tarantulas, various lizards, roadrunners, snakes, javelina, and mountain lions. Only lucky guests will spot one of these creatures during their stay.
- Room rates are very high in peak season. I paid more than $500 for the lowest room category (‘resort room’), which is not worth the splurge. Peak season includes portions of the fall and winter/spring, with March being the busiest month. That said, you can enjoy better rates in the warmer months.
- Location: 8/10
- Design: 7/10
- Rooms: 7/10
- Food: 8/10
- Service: 9/10
- Overall experience: good: 7.8/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS
- Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury resort like The Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain (and receive many free perks).
- Save money: I recommend to book a stay at The Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain via a Virtuoso travel agent, which has the benefit of complimentary VIP perks (e.g. room upgrade, daily breakfast breakfast, $100 USD resort credit, early check in and late check out).
- The resort has 2 clusters of rooms, one in the main building near the pool, and one a short walk away in the casita village. If the pool is important for you, stay in the main building. If you are seeking a little extra privacy and exclusivity in an accommodation.
- The expensive $50 resort activity package can be reduced by $21 daily if you choose self-parking instead of valet parking, but you have to request this upfront at check-in.
- Members of Marriott Rewards with Gold or Platinum status are well treated, with – amongst other benefits – free WiFi, complementary room upgrade (when available), early check-in or late check-out (when available), and free breakfast. You can even book a free night at the resort with your Marriott points. Click here to read my review of the Marriott Rewards program (with pros & cons).
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit Arizona and the Tucson area is November through April, when you’ll sees blue skies with highs in the upper 60s, 70s and low 80s. But whenever you visit, keep in mind this desert city’s seasons are harder to determine. The leaves don’t change colors in fall, nor will flowers blossom in the spring. You will notice differences in temperature, however, particularly in the toasty summers when highs average above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. If you can bear this dry, formidable heat, you’ll be warmly greeted by incredible deals at the best resorts.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain is located 40 minutes from Tucson Airport and 90 minutes from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Both are served by most North American full-service and low-cost airlines, while Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is the only one with a direct overseas connection, with British Airways (click here for a direct link to the airline websites).
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I like the thoroughness of your review. Very nice. One point: you said “The leaves don’t change colors in fall, nor will flowers blossom in the spring”. The spring here, March through April, is riotous with wildflowers, cultivated gardens, and desert cactus blooms of all colors (scarlet, magenta, yellow, orange). You don’t have to go looking for them…they are everywhere!
What’s the best 5 star resort in the area?