As we made our way onto the land that Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain calls home, I couldn’t help but notice the enormous cactus all around us even at night fall; they almost glowed in the dark they stood so tall. It was if the property had a vast number of natural kings watching over it but in the form of primitive green fauna humans call cactus.
I’m not new to Arizona or having cactus in my midst. In fact, I lived in this beautiful state for a stint in high school and have been back to Arizona countless times for both business and pleasure and yet, somehow the cactus that lie 40 or so minutes from Tucson’s airport were older, more grandiose and I’d argue, even more elegant.
It was these creatures of the desert that greeted me in the night as we pulled into Dove Mountain. Our driver talked the whole way without taking a breadth, clearly proud of his home turf and everything that it stood for.
Like many 5 star properties, apples in a bowl and complimentary bottled water greeted us and a bellman I was too tired to remember the name of five minutes after we left the lobby never mind a week later. Outside, a massive fire pit was sizzling and the fire created an almost illuminous effect. Despite the dry hot night air that exceeded 95 degrees according to my phone, I still wanted to sit around it.
After dropping our bags off, we opted for a walk instead – there’s nothing like getting lost on a sprawling property when you first arrive and at night, it’s even more interesting. I never take a map, which was a huge mistake at Sedona’s Enchantment Resort earlier this year, but this resort, while large enough to give you plenty of food and activity options, felt a little more intimate – perhaps manageable is the right word.
We easily found the two pools which we could see from the outdoor lobby fire pit – the lights in the blue pools glowed in the distance making it easy to navigate your way to regardless of the time of day. Plenty of towels were piled into a rack as we made our way into the pool area and a couple snuggled on a hammock near the main pool. Nearby was a table tennis table and my mind quickly went back in time to childhood when I aggressively attempted to win game after game with all of male cousins.
We headed down to the lower pool which also housed the infamous water slide on the grounds and ducked our feet in and located the hot tub I knew had my name on it at some juncture the following day. It was calling my name even before we left the airport.
Alas, we had arrived in the desert and I couldn’t wait to hangout in the dry desert heat for a few days. Truth be told, the mattress was beyond perfect when our heads finally hit those glorious goose down pillows.
Each morning, you can opt to have room service and take in breakfast on your patio which either has a pool or canyon view (or a little bit of both), or head down to Ignite Restaurant on the ground floor where you can sit outside or in the cooler air conditioned main room. Here, you have a wide range of options, from a cold buffet which has a variety of cold meats, eggs and cheese to a hot buffet, where you can get your typical omelet, pancakes, sausage and bacon. Oh glorious day! I was looking forward to testing out the main lobby restaurant for lunch so had a taste of their smoked turkey and a large pot of Earl Gray tea and I was ready to greet the day.
AND, greet the day we did, starting at the main pool, which is largely where families hang out given the size and close vicinity to the water slide. That said, I saw plenty of couples relaxing in the lounge chairs scattered around the pool and a few that were placed in a very shallow area of the pool, a perfect choice for a sub 100 degree day, which were the temperatures we had during our stay. The hottest day reached around 111 apparently and yet because the humidity was low, we even managed to take in a desert walk towards the end of the day.
Rooms, Suites & Casitas
In addition to traditional hotel rooms and suites, they offer Casitas, which are perfect for families. They can comfortably accommodate four adults and come with a king bed, a crib or rollaway bed if needed, a connecting room and a queen sleeper sofa, all upon request. You can get them with canyon views which you’ll want to take full advantage of since the overlooks are gorgeous in the morning and at dusk.
The bathrooms are luxurious as always, with full marble bathrooms, a separate shower with a Rainforest shower head, oversized soaking tubs, and a vanity room. They’re also very spacious, another great reason it makes for a fabulous family stay option. At 1,133 square feet, everyone can have their own privacy. They also have lush 100% goose down and non-allergenic foam pillows which we found incredibly comfy.
Below, one of the suites:
Standard rooms, all with various views (pool, canyon and so on).
I absolutely fell in love with their luxurious spacious bathrooms with the deep soaking tubs.
The lobby area is also very inviting. As you walk towards the elevators, you’ll be greeted by three massive pieces of Tamarind Wood, which is apparently from Java. They’re majestic, impressive and beautiful, one of many find touches that add a natural flavor to the resort.
Below is a broad view of the oh so modern and yet elegant lobby.
Just outside the main lobby area, you can lounge around in comfortable chairs taking in the fresh air or keeping cosy around the fire on cooler nights. (we were there in August, so didn’t quite need the fire pit although it added to the romantic ambiance nevertheless).
The pools are where we spent most of our time and there’s a few to choose from and of course, one of them has a fun water slide that is well worth experiencing regardless of how old you are. We took full advantage of it, returning for more of it after every pool dunk at the end.
Below, the luxurious spa pool.
There’s a cascading waterfall flowing into the hot tub at the spa pool – it’s bliss and provides such a relief to sore muscles and tendons.
Outside, you can relax on one of their numerous outdoor double beds where you can be protected from the sun’s rays while you catch up on a magazine or good novel. The spa itself is worth going to, whether it be for the spa pool and facilities or to experience one of their treatments.
When we weren’t taking in the oh so fun water slide, we got some peace and quiet at the spa pool and then had a few treatments, which can be done inside or out (for massages). Take a look at our spa write up, which goes into detail about the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain’s spa and fitness offerings.
Imagine Native American-inspired treatments, indigenous design, fireplace, spa dining, a fitness center, fitness classes, a salon, water features and therapies, the spa serenity pool pictured above, a tanning island, day beds, cabanas and of course, scrumptious mixed drinks by the pool.
A Ritz Carlton wouldn’t be what it is without a selection of fine dining options — they always do and their restaurants never disappoint. Given that you’re in the middle of the desert, we drank a lot of water but as evening rolls around and it’s still warm (but not humid), it’s a perfect time for a glass of cold white wine or a summery cocktail.
On-site, they have several restaurants and cafe’s to choose from, ranging from more casual like the Turquesa Latin Grill and Cayton’s Burger Bistro where you can dine outside to more formal options like Ignite, where you can also get sushi every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 5 to 9 pm. They also have scrumptious sake and Japanese beer to accompany any of your sushi rolls or sashimi options.
Ignite is a great place to take in the resort during the day as it is set against the backdrop of the stunning Wild Burro Canyon. They also serve smoky and peppery gastro-pub fare, hand-crafted signature cocktails and a collection of 120 scotches and whiskeys from around the world. Ignite offers live entertainment on some nights as well.
Ignite Bar dining (above)
We tried a little of each throughout the course of our stay with our last night at the ever so romantic CORE Wine Bar where we sat outside by candlelight – doesn’t it look just about perfect? We left it to the chef and team to do the wine pairings for each of our courses, most of which were heavy on the protein given our recent high protein/low carb diet that we’re doing.
We started with a delicious Humbolt Fog goat cheese paired with a 2012 Dr. Hermanne Riesling. Despite my conscious effort to stay clear of carbs and sugary wines, I couldn’t stop myself from taking a sip or two — it was divine. We then moved onto the Hass Avocado Tartare with asian pear/wasabi, which on-site sommelier Mike West paired with a crisp Argentinian white before we moved onto a Voignier from Columbia Valley with the Crispy Skinned Rainbow Trout, which they served with citrus orzo risotto style with a frisee fennel citrus salad.
The California rock sea bass was divine, which we had with broccoli spigarello, shelling beans and fennel sausage. Since I was craving Chardonnay all night, it was the perfect time to bring the Dutton Goldfield Chardonnay out from Russian River. We stayed with Dutton Goldfield but went with their ever so delicious 2013 Pinot Noir with my favorite dish of the night — the Pork Chop with roasted corn salsa, cotija and tomatillo sauce. Yum!
Other dishes at CORE worth mentioning for those who love their carbs, are the Chiocciole Pasta with mushrooms, spinach, oven-dried vintage wine tomato with micro greens. It can be served with shrimp or scallops if you wish. Other fabulous high protein options included a Pepper Bomb Beef Mignon with sherry mustard jus boursin creamed spinach and hazelnuts (YUM!), a Rib Eye with grilled vegetables and a Roasted Half Chicken with toasted fregola, fig (divine), kale and citrus demi-glace.
The food at each of the restaurants was absolutely delicious, even the ever so simple bar plate they serve of olives and nuts.
You can get healthy lunch options as well and given my experiment with high protein and low carb dishes for eight weeks, a blackened chicken and avocado salad with a boat load of lemon did just the trick — a lovely Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc goes perfectly with it on a sunny afternoon and what’s great is that wine only has around 3 carbs compared to four times that for a beer or more than twice that amount for a Margarita, which I have to admit, I craved on more than one occasion during our visit.
They apparently make an incredible one in the bar, rumor has it…..! The other thing I would have tried had I not been so anti-carbs this trip, was the Avocado Fries.
While we didn’t get any shots of our desserts at CORE Kitchen & Wine Bar because of the candlelit lighting (oh so romantic), it is worth mentioning them. Anthony did the honors of tasting and absolutely fell in love with the Peaches & Cream sundae with peach ice cream, fresh peaces and whipped cream, and the Toffee Cake which is made with dates and vanilla ice cream. Locally, it’s apparently called Sticky Toffee Pudding.
His verdict? Pure heaven. A young girl named Michelle apparently makes homemade ice cream on-site and she was so proud of them that she came out to fill us in on the details.
Their golf course is on another part of the property, easily reachable via a few minute shuttle bus. Golf lovers will be happy to know that it’s not an ordinary golf course, but a 27 hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course to boot. On the grounds, there is also a restaurant and bar where you can dine inside or out.
Breathtaking Hikes Around the Property
Around the property, even if you don’t venture out on one of the hikes you can take with Ranger Ron, you’ll find plenty of natural beauty, flora and fauna. The cactus is stunning and larger than other parts of Arizona, mostly because you’re so far south. They can grow to 100 or more feet tall and of course, there are the small round beautiful ones as well throughout the property.
Sunsets are also quite magical — if you haven’t experienced an Arizona sunset yet, you don’t know what you’re missing!
If you do venture out on your own, be sure to carry a compass and bring plenty of water.
I have to admit, we loved our hike with Ranger Ron — they have various rangers on site to guide you on group and individual private tours. I’d definitely recommend doing this during your stay.
We were in the desert until past dusk when the scorpions and snakes come out; I am thrilled to report that we didn’t see any. Be sure to read my write-up on our hike however, as we did come across a rare Gila Monster, which is an unusual looking lizard of sorts – in the article, you’ll see a snap we took right before the sun went down.
Spiritual Music & Native-American Tradition
Lastly, Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain has a special tradition worth mentioning since it weaves in the true character of the place, its unique location and local culture. Every evening at dusk (around 5:15 pm), you’ll hear the echoes of a Native-American flautist as the spiritual sound of an acoustic flute echos across the desert. It’s beautiful, eerie, reflective and soul-stirring, a historical event that has been going on at Dove Mountain for years. The tradition honors the ancient Hohokam tribe that once inhabited Dove Mountain from 300 B.C. until 1450 A.D., and it’s a great way to reflect upon the day.
Photo credit: Dove Mountain Ritz Carlton (dang….I didn’t bring my zoom lens with me).
Below is a short video snipped to give you an idea of just how special the experience was — we caught his playing every day, once from the desert, on-site in the outdoor lobby area where you can get the best views of him on the hill and from our room balcony, which is where the below video was taken from. Enjoy!
Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain
15000 N Secret Springs Drive
Marana, AZ 85658
Note: We were hosted by the hotel but all opinions expressed are entirely my own.