Desert Getaway: The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain

The main pool at The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain in Arizona

I recently stayed in a unique resort that allowed me to explore Arizona’s Sonoran Desert while never straying far from a pool, spa or cocktail.

The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain is 90 minutes from Phoenix, 30 minutes outside Tucson, and in the middle of saguaro-cactus nowhere. But for couples looking to utterly escape their usual grinds, it’s relaxing, surprisingly educational and pretty darn romantic.

Oh, yes…and there are s’mores. While I don’t often gravitate to deserts as a traveler, I was intrigued by the concept of such an isolated luxury resort. Having come all the way out here, I ended up spending a truly delightful 2 1/2 days here catching up with my friend Kara of The Vacation Gals.

It didn’t take us long to figure out that this unique place is ideal for all sorts of vacations: destination weddings, family trips, spa weekends and second/third/fourth honeymoons. We were surrounded by folks doing all of the above.

The resort does a great job of connecting its guests to the surrounding landscape. Dove Mountain was a sacred site to the Hohokam tribe of Native Americans who all but disappeared from the area circa 1450; both mountain and tribe are now honored here with a small museum of artifacts and a daily Sunset Ceremony.

The latter was a stirringly spiritual way to welcome each evening, with a golden-hour blush of rosy sun on the mountain’s red rocks, the trill of a handmade flute, and the recitation of Hohokam history and blessings by a tribal ancestor.

The Sunset Ceremony, performed fireside each evening on the front patio

Each morning, Kara and I got up a little early and took desert hikes before the sun really picked up steam. (Definitely pack hats and sunscreen for a visit here, and know that shade umbrellas, cold water and air conditioning are in plentiful supply.) We tackled a few challenging hills, twists and turns on the well-cleared paths, spying small lizards, roadrunners and late-season wildflowers amongst the rocks, saguaros and sagebrush.

If you want to learn a little more about the lay of the land, you can head out into the desert on a 4×4 adventure, tag along with a group for a guided morning stroll, or book a private Native American Petroglyph Walk for two with a snarky naturalist who’s like an American version of the Crocodile Hunter.

And by the way, yeah — I said petroglyphs: there are a big handful of ’em right in the backyard, visible through handy little pinhole ‘scopes. Also for your viewing pleasure, there’s a big terrarium exhibit set up in the lobby each day, full of desert creatures like snakes and tarantulas. You can either lean in and learn…or give the creepy-crawlies a wide berth.

My pal Kara and I hiked along the resort's desert paths each morning

I preferred to engage with the food and wine at the restaurant’s signature restaurant, CORE Kitchen & Wine Bar. The poolside grill and the offerings at Ignite weren’t particularly thrilling or creative, but CORE knocked my socks off. Breakfast was all about light, fresh burritos (big enough to split if you’re not ravenous), Peet’s Coffee and inventive fruit-smoothie combinations out on the shaded back patio, while dinner was a downright sexy affair.

Pre-meal, I loved the temperature-controlled room o’ wine, as well as the charming and knowledgeable barkeep with a heavy pouring hand. There are lots of South Australian wines to try here, as well as an Arizona offering or two. (And yes, there are wineries in Arizona. Who knew?)

The dining room is all about soft-glow lighting, with warm red fabrics and dark wood, and the food is artfully arranged and pretty darn delicious across the board; it’s worth it to keep yourself a little hungry in the afternoon in order to splurge on a big dinner. Standout dishes are the pan-seared quail; the pork tenderloin with onion chutney; and the (decidedly non-local) grilled cilantro Gulf shrimp with avocado and grapefruit.

Dinner at the CORE Kitchen and Wine Bar is a sexy affair

If dinner indoors doesn’t feel special enough for your particular occasion, you can book dinner in the pool. The Turquesa Latin Grill offers a three-course “Under the Stars” menu where you kick off your shoes and wade up to your seats at a candlelit table. Sounds both romantic and like a fancy excuse to wear flip-flops to dinner.

For dessert, go for a little s’mores action. Ask at the front desk about purchasing a s’mores kit ($25 US) that’ll last you at least two nights, then head out back to the clay fireplaces, have a seat on blankets beneath the stars, and toast yourselves a tasty treat. Afterwards, if you want to see more of the night sky, look into booking a stargazing tour.

The S'Mores Kit, inside and out

And while you can go golf yourselves silly at the clubhouse and then lounge on plush couches over mesquite barbecue, I’d vote for whiling your afternoons away at the spa.

There’s a swanky private pool out back where you can loll in spacious cabanas or splurge on a shatter-proof bottle of Champagne, and the treatments here use desert-y ingredients like aloe, sage and indigo. I was buffed sparkly clean and soft by the Desert Morning Dew ($175 US, 75 minutes) and would love to try their Mentoring Massage for Two treatment ($225 US, 75 minutes), where a massage therapist shows you how to rub each other down, then sends you home with a wink and some aromatherapy oil.

Yours truly lounging at Dove Mountain's spa pool

I found the service here warm and friendly, largely administered by twenty-somethings who proved to be fast-thinking and professional. Decor is a soothing blend of modern furniture and Southwestern fabrics, and rooms with mountain views allow you balcony seats each evening for the Sunset Ceremony.

A big fluffy bed tricked out with a little bit o' the Southwest

Final verdict? If you or your partner have never been to the Arizona desert or have already fallen in love with it, I’d definitely recommend Dove Mountain for a unique and restful weekend escape.

View of Dove Mountain at golden hour from my 6th floor room

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My ride from the Phoenix airport, Premier Executive Suite, dinner at CORE and spa treatment were provided by
The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain
, but all opinions and observations are my own.

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Comments

  1. Hey! It’s been a while since I’ve been on TWT. Like the pink!

    Great write-up.

    I need a massage.

  2. You and me both, sister. You and me both. 😉

  3. Great review…few things in life are better than a weekend at Ritz Carlton…

  4. Thank you, D.J.! And as for a Ritz-Carlton weekend, whoowhee — I hear you.

  5. very beautifull!

  6. Totally agree with you! The Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain is a fantastic weekend escape.

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