November 2012 Conde’ Nast Traveler recently published their list of the Top 25 Resorts in the Southwest. Four Southern Arizona Resorts were included: Ritz-Carlton at Dove Mountain; Loews Ventana Canyon; J.W. Marriott Starr Pass; and the Lodge at Ventana Canyon. Our congratulations to all of them.
As publisher of SouthernArizonaGuide.com, we too make dining & lodging recommendations. But we focus tightly on the Best Southern Arizona Resorts, not the vast Southwest. And our criteria are somewhat different, but not necessarily better.
For our Southern Arizona Lodging reviews, click here.
Ranking The Top 25.
According to this Top 25 list, the Ritz-Carlton at Dove Mountain tied for Numero Uno of the Southwest with Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa in Paradise Valley. Tucson’s Loews Ventana Canyon Resort ranked #13; followed by #14, the J.W. Marriott Starr Pass. Lodge at Ventana Canyon barely made the list at #24. But any resort in the Top 25 is a fine place to stay … if ostentatious luxury, however understated, and feigned adoration is the priority.
Conde’ Nast’s Top 25 ranking is based on their Traveler Magazine readers’ preferences. Conde’ Nast doesn’t explain why Traveler readers have a lock on discriminating taste.
What About Miraval Resort & Spa?
When we checked out the Conde’ Nast website, we found something interesting.
If you go to Traveler’s Gold List of Arizona Hotels & Resorts, you will find one of our finest resorts was left off the Top 25 in the Southwest, but was #4 on Conde’ Nast Gold List: Miraval. How did that happen?
Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain got a score of 92.5, same as Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain. Tucson’s Miraval scored 91.3. Just so you know, #1 on the Gold List, Mii amo at Sedona, got a solid 94.0 and way ahead of Loews Ventana Canyon at 85.3.
It’s all a matter of taste, of course, but on this website, authenticity, uniqueness, and local history & culture matter far more than doting servants, overly-refined understated elegance, and meticulously manicured landscaping. Southern Arizona is a land of harsh contrasts and rugged beauty. What’s the point of staying at a resort that offers nothing more than the same experience you can get at any upscale resort in the world? Booor-ing!
When we travel, Ms.Karen & I want to experience the reality of our destinations and not be separated from the people, their heritage, and their history by the superficial veneer that luxury imposes. We want to be a part of the local culture, not separated by ostentatiousness. Our problem with the Conde’ Nast list is none of the Top 25 are particularly unique, authentic, historical, or even original. If you go to one, you’ll get about the same experience as the others. Been there, done that.
These luxury resorts are all designed to make guests feel important, which is a proven, highly successful strategy for separating the pretentious rich from their money. I have worked with and for dozens of very wealthy individuals. Only one did not suffer terribly from hubris.
Ms. Karen & I have stayed at many exceptional hotels and resorts. Three stand out. The first two are in Egypt;
(1) Winter Palace at Luxor overlooks the Nile and a is short walk to the magnificent Temple of Karnak;
(2) Mena House on the Giza Plateau is easy walking distance to the Great Pyramids. We have a photograph of Ms. Karen teeing off on the 6th fairway with the Pyramid of Khufu in the immediate background. Not sure any resort could match that.
(3) Jerusalem, Hilton. We stayed at the (then) new Hilton (along with President Clinton) where we had an unsurpassed view of the Old City a block away. Absolutely glorious at night. What resort can match that? Clearly our criteria for great lodging are significantly different than the readers of Conde’ Nast Traveler. I didn’t find any of these on Conde’ Nast’s Gold List. But they’re on ours.
When we travel around Southern Arizona, we usually stay at B&B’s. We’re particularly fond of the Simpson Hotel B&B in Duncan. But for the Best Southern Arizona Resorts that are also authentic, unique, and historic, these are three of our Tucson favorites:
- Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch & Spa: Central Tucson
- Tanque Verde Guest Ranch: East Tucson
- White Stallion Guest Ranch: West Tucson
And if you’re in Cochise County, Sunglow Ranch B&B is very special.
For our Southern Arizona Lodging reviews, click on Jim’s Lodging Reviews HERE.