Airbnb vs. hotels – Which is really better?

Cover: Airbnb in Boulder, Colorado
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Now that Airbnb has moved beyond finding a place to crash in someone’s spare bedroom (sure, you can still do that, but a large inventory of entire homes or apartments are also available), it has become a more mainstream lodging option for both vacationing and business travelers.
Airbnb website Airbnb website

With houses and condos ranging from simple to luxury, Airbnb, and other home rental services, provide a great option for individuals, couples, and families seeking more than a standard hotel room stay.

The phenomenal growth of Airbnb

Despite the hype that has surrounded Airbnb since they entered and took over the short-term rental market, the concept of renting someone’s home for a short-term stay is nothing new.

We began renting houses and apartments through the VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner) not long after it was formed in 1996. From ski condos in Aspen to a large house overlooking Orient Bay in St. Martin, we typically found a VRBO rental more convenient for stays longer than a couple of days.

Numerous other alternative accommodations providers entered the space along the way and, as acquisitions were beginning to shape the market, two guys in San Francisco who needed rent money decided to rent out air mattresses on their floor in 2007. It worked, so they built a website to match hosts with renters. They picked up another founder and some VC and investor money along the way, and by 2014, Airbnb had a $10 billion valuation. Impressive.

Airbnb founders Airbnb founders

During the same period of time, we had migrated back to staying in hotels. We’d never tried out Airbnb, so when we recently spent a week in Boulder, Colorado, we decided to give it a spin.

Airbnb by the numbers Airbnb by the numbers Source: Airbnb website

Our Boulder Airbnb experience

The Airbnb website offers three accommodation types: Entire home/apt, a private room or a shared room. While Airbnb’s roots may be with the shared experience, we tend to value privacy quite a bit and immediately hit the entire home/apt. We were only a few days out from our desired stay dates, but quite a few interesting selections were available.

Browsing for Boulder Airbnb accommodations Browsing for Boulder Airbnb accommodations

One that caught our eye was a well-decorated and obviously well cared for townhouse in Boulder that was walking distance to Pearl Street and rented for $212 per night for our desired four nights (prices vary by booking dates). A quick comparison of hotel rates put it around the same price as a room at the Westin in Westminster, which is about 20 minutes away, or a standard room at the Best Western Plus or the Basecamp, which are both in Boulder.

However, the recently renovated townhouse provided a much-improved living space versus the hotel rooms, with two bedrooms, a full kitchen, 1 1/2 baths, a patio downstairs, an upstairs deck, and a good-sized living room. For a four-night stay, the extra space was undoubtedly a plus. Finally, we wanted to stay within Boulder and the hotel choices in the city are limited and generally more expensive.

The photos were plentiful and good, the description was detailed and, while the “house rules” were somewhat lengthy, we felt they represented a quality standard set by the owner and we viewed that as a good thing. It also had a 5-star rating by over 90 past visitors.

AirBNB Boulder townhouse kitchen Airbnb Boulder townhouse kitchen Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

On our arrival date, the owner and our host, Sandy, met us at the townhouse and gave us an overview of the property. The townhouse was exactly as depicted on the Airbnb website and located in a quiet area near a park and hiking trails.

The entire home was spotless. The kitchen had stainless appliances, high-quality cookware, and dish ware, and was fully stocked, including an assortment of coffee and teas.

Airbnb Boulder townhouse living area Airbnb Boulder townhouse living area Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The living area was comfortable and good size, with a couch, a couple of chairs, a flat panel TV, and access to a patio facing a wooded open space.

Airbnb Boulder townhouse bedroom Airbnb Boulder townhouse bedroom Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Upstairs were two bedrooms and an awesome spa-like shower. One of the bedrooms had a balcony and in the bathroom, a cabinet contained “Just in case you forgot something” essentials, ranging from shampoo to toothpaste and more. Our host, Sandy, manages the townhouse extremely professionally and overall our stay was a very good value.

Airbnb Boulder townhouse Airbnb Boulder townhouse “Just in case you forgot something” stash Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

So, which is better? Renting a place on Airbnb or going with the tried and true hotel room?

Just as there are great hotels and horrible ones, there are great Airbnb rentals and others that have resulted in some horror stories. We had a friend traveling in Europe that drove to his Airbnb, looked at it, and never got out of his car, opting to sleep in his vehicle versus even go inside.

We’ve had similar reactions to hotels over the years – especially with photos that may have been enhanced beyond recognition or appear to be of another property or you arrive and discover the neighborhood is on the iffy side.

Which is where reviews are incredibly helpful. Just like hotel reviews, Airbnb reviews are a critical part of the vetting process. A property with numerous reviews praising the host and verifying the accuracy of the listing sets your mind at ease when you hit the book it button.

But, back to the initial question – which is better, an Airbnb or a hotel? Assuming both the Airbnb and the hotel are equal in quality and location, it gets down to needs, desires, and preferences.

The pros of Airbnb

Space. Specifically speaking of renting an entire house or condo, an Airbnb property almost always is more spacious than staying at a hotel – even with a suite. The exception to this is an extended stay hotel or say, a Hyatt House, which generally is apartment-like in most locations.

Kitchen. Even if you are staying somewhere for a few days, it can be nice to warm up the previous night’s dinner’s leftovers in a microwave or oven and to eat from real plates and with silverware versus the plastic takeaway variety. For longer stays, having the option to prepare a meal at home can save time and is a nice break from eating in a restaurant every meal.

Laundry. While the rental described above did not have a washer and dryer, many do. Following our stay with Sandy, we rented another Airbnb and it was great to do the laundry throughout our stay so we didn’t return home with loads of dirty clothes.

Privacy. While the level of privacy obviously differs by location, overall, staying in an Airbnb condo or private home allows for more privacy than found in a hotel.

Live like a local. As most Airbnbs are located in residential areas, a stay provides more of an experience of what life is like in the community.

Price – especially for a group. If two hotel rooms are needed and the group is willing to share the common areas, the price of a two bedroom Airbnb is almost always going to be less than two comparable quality hotel rooms.

The pros of a hotel

Predictability. Sure locations vary somewhat, but a hotel chain is fairly predictable. Within the brand, hotel styles may vary, but the level that can be expected is normally the same and, with a large chain, the description, photos, and amenities described are usually somewhat accurate.

Amenities and services. If you like to visit the spa, take a dip in the pool, head to the bar for a nightcap, or dine in a restaurant without venturing out, a hotel definitely has the advantage for extra services provided.

Less coordination and interaction. There’s a social aspect to Airbnb not present at a hotel – which some love and others may find bothersome. With a hotel, you head to the desk, give them a credit card, get your key and move on to your room. Checking in at an Airbnb typically requires meeting the owner at a specific time to have them explain the property, its rules, and its quirks. It requires coordination with your schedule and interaction with the host.

The cons of an Airbnb

House rules. Each owner sets the rules for their property – some are lengthy, some are brief. Examples include not wearing shoes on the carpet, taking the trash out before you leave, and no parties. The rules are present in the listing before you book, so make sure they are something you can adhere to before renting.

Short stays may not be possible. Most owners have minimum stays of two or three days. Given the entire home must be cleaned after each guest and there isn’t a staff of maids roaming from room to room, it is understandable why owners set minimum stay requirements. Additionally, the meeting and rules process is a bit cumbersome for one night.

Deposits. Some of the listings we considered – and didn’t rent – required security deposits. While it is understandable that an owner wants to protect their property, requiring a high deposit for short stay is also risky for the renter. For example, a nice, not stunning, house in Boulder required a $2000 deposit for a three-night stay where the rent was about $200 per night. What if the owner turned out to be a jerk and makes a claim against the deposit for no reason? Yes, Airbnb mediates, but that’s quite a bit of risk and hassle for a stay – and not one you have at a hotel.

Cleaning and administrative fees. In addition to the nightly rent, most owners charge a cleaning fee, which typically ranges from $100-$250. Obviously, the shorter the stay the more this adds to the per night rate. Additionally, Airbnb charges an administrative or service fee. The amount of the fee is displayed before the reservation is confirmed. According to Airbnb… “guest service fees are typically 6-12% but can be higher or lower depending on the specifics of the reservation. The higher the subtotal, the lower the percentage so you can save money when booking large reservations.”

Staying in someone’s home can be a bit weird. While some Airbnbs are run solely for rental purposes, like Sandy’s described above, most are homes, where the owners live. Their art, décor, photographs, and smells may permeate throughout.

The cons of a hotel

Lack of personality. It goes hand in hand with the first pro listed for the hotel, predictability. With consistency comes an element of routine, cookie cutter and a lack of personality.

No community immersion. If you want to truly understand a community, you have to experience the culture – not pass through it on a walking tour or drive by it on a sightseeing bus. Granted, not everyone needs or wants to really understand a place in-depth. But, if you do, it is difficult to do so while staying in a hotel.


Disclosure: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Hotel Contessa from the River Walk, San Antonio, Texas

Hotel Contessa San Antonio: Contemporary décor & Texas charm create a fabulous River Walk experience

Cover: Hotel Contessa on the River Walk, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Steps from San Antonio’s River Walk, the four-diamond Hotel Contessa is a chic all-suite hotel that successfully mixes contemporary décor with Texas charm to create an upscale, relaxed experience.

Brick walls and eclectic decor at Hotel Contessa on the River Walk
Brick walls and eclectic decor at Hotel Contessa on the River Walk
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Built around a soaring atrium, the lobby overlooks the beautiful bar area with palm trees, a water feature, abundant seating and serene views of the River Walk.

Cork Bar at Hotel Contessa on the River Walk
Cork Bar at Hotel Contessa on the River Walk
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While we’ve stayed in many great hotels around the world, it is the staff that makes a stay memorable and the Hotel Contessa staff was exceptional. From the moment we arrived and throughout our entire stay, everyone we met at the hotel was friendly, helpful and welcoming – which truly made our visit special.

Checking in at Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Checking in at Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Suites

Living area in suite at Hotel Contessa
Living area in suite at Hotel Contessa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We were excited to visit this cool hotel when they asked us to pay them a visit in San Antonio. Hotel Contessa is an all-suite hotel, with 265 fashionable suites that deliver a loft-like feel.

The eclectic décor, vibrant accents, contemporary artwork, exposed cement columns and brick lined walls interject a sense of happiness into the space. A relaxing spot to retreat from the River Walk crowds, the living area features a large couch, coffee table, a flat-screen TV and a desk with one of the best power supplies we’ve found.

Living area in suite Hotel Contessa on the River Walk
Living area in suite Hotel Contessa on the River Walk
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We instantly put the high-top table and chairs to use as we enjoyed a glass of wine and the afternoon indulgences of a cheese and fruit plate and dessert selection sent by the hotel soon after our arrival!

Afternoon indulgences at Hotel Contessa
Afternoon indulgences at Hotel Contessa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A granite counter area with a mini-fridge, coffee maker, large laptop safe and snack basket separates the living area and bedroom.

Floor-to-ceiling windows with views of downtown San Antonio and/or the River Walk (ours had both) serve as a backdrop to the bedroom. Interesting textiles, a bright throw pillo, and clever lamps pop against the crisp white linens of the king size bed. Two robes in the closet and a second flat screen TV round out the bedroom comforts.

Suite bedroom at Hotel Contessa
Bedroom in our suite at Hotel Contessa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The bath has a shower/tub combo, granite counter, a make-up mirror, hair dryer and Zero Percent toiletries by Gilchrist & Soames, which I really liked. With a fresh scent, they have no sulfates, parabens, artificial colors or other bad-for-you ingredients.

Bath in suite at Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Bath in suite at Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Even though the hotel is located on the River Walk, it was remarkably quiet. To use the real estate saying, it all comes down to location, location, location. Hotel Contessa is situated on a very quiet (and exceptionally beautiful) section of the River Walk and the result – a peaceful spot to retreat and relax.

River Walk behind the Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
River Walk behind the Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The hotel

Time to head down and check out the rest of the hotel.

Atrium at Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Atrium at Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

I like atriums and the openness and natural light they provide. Combined with the contemporary styling at Hotel Contessa, the atrium creates a comfortable, modern-day courtyard where people continuously gathered.

Atrium gathering area at Hotel Contessa on the River Walk
Atrium gathering area at Hotel Contessa on the River Walk, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The contemporary styling and cool vibe is carried throughout with interesting accents, art and lighting.

Hotel Contessa decor, San Antonio, Texas
Hotel Contessa decor, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The lobby level overlooks the open area surrounding the bar and restaurant, creating an inviting meeting place for guests.

Cork Bar, Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Cork Bar, Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The wall of glass brings the River Walk experience inside, where couples can find a quiet spot for two or large groups can gather around larger tables or relax in one of the plentiful couch seating areas. For those preferring the outdoors, a large patio sits just off the River Walk.

Casual seating at Cork Bar, Hotel Contessa on the River Walk
Casual seating at Cork Bar, Hotel Contessa on the River Walk
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Dining and libations

Cork Bar

Bar at Cork Bar, Hotel Contessa on the River Walk
Bar at Cork Bar, Hotel Contessa on the River Walk
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Combine Cork Bar’s great selection of wines, beers and handcrafted cocktails and its prime location on the River Walk, and it’s pretty obvious why Hotel Contessa’s watering hole is a hotspot for locals and visitors alike.

Then, we met master mixologist Hector and things got really interesting! Hector simply asked our liquor of choice, which of course was vodka, and offered up one of his award-winning creations – the Cavender Martini.

A beautiful blend of Cinco Vodka, rosé sparkling wine, a bit of St. Germain and a few accents, the Cavender is a perfectly balanced cocktail – not too sweet, crisp, pretty look at, and exceptionally tasty!

Master Mixologist Hector Vargas
Master Mixologist Hector Vargas, Hotel Contessa on the River Walk
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Las Ramblas Restaurant

Hotel Contessa restaurant, Las Ramblas, San Antonio, Texas
Hotel Contessa restaurant, Las Ramblas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Taking full of advantage of Hotel Contessa’s prime location, Las Ramblas offers breakfast, lunch and dinner with scenic River Walk views.

Las Ramblas Restaurant on the River Walk, Hotel Contessa
Las Ramblas Restaurant on the River Walk, Hotel Contessa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A perfect place to start the day, Las Ramblas offers an a la carte menu or breakfast buffet with a huge spread of hot and cold selections. Standouts – the fruit was incredibly fresh, the pancakes were spectacular, and our server was friendly and helpful, answering our questions as we sought some local input as we planned our day of adventures.

Breakfast buffet at Las Ramblas, Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Breakfast buffet at Las Ramblas, Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We headed back to Las Ramblas in the evening for dinner on the patio. The evening menu includes innovative dishes created with fresh, local ingredients.

Dinner on the patio at Las Ramblas, San Antonio, Texas
Dinner on the patio at Las Ramblas, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We started with shrimp and grits, which was spectacular and the sauce was amazing. Next up, our main courses. I had the grouper, which was prepared with an English pea succotash, sweet Corn, heirloom tomatoes, and topped with a prawn – it was divine! Greg opted for the salmon, which was accompanied with a ratatouille, shaved radish, arugula and a smoked almond pesto butter. It was prepared to perfection and mouth-watering delicious.

Dinner at Las Ramblas, Hotel Contessa
Dinner at Las Ramblas, Hotel Contessa
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We still had part of the amazing chocolate cake and cheesecake from our room delivery in the mini-fridge, so we opted to skip desert and finish off our sweet delicacies a little later.

Las Ramblas patio, Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Las Ramblas patio, Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Glass art at Hotel Contessa on the River Walk
Glass art at Las Ramblas at Hotel Contessa on the River Walk
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Amenities

Heated rooftop pool

Hot tub and rooftop pool at Hotel Contessa
Hot tub and rooftop pool at Hotel Contessa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With sweeping downtown San Antonio views, the rooftop pool and hot tub are a perfect spot to take a dip in the heated waters or simply relax and enjoy their tranquil perch above the city.

Ample comfortable seating surrounds the pool, which is open from 6AM to 11PM, and should the urge for a beverage or bite occur while poolside, guests can order room service delivered directly to the pool.

Pool at Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Pool at Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Fitness center

Fitness center, Hotel Contessa
Fitness center, Hotel Contessa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Also located on the top floor of the hotel, the well-equipped 24 hour fitness center has everything needed for an inspirational workout including cardio and strength equipment, free weights and amazing views of downtown San Antonio.

Woodhouse Day Spa

The Spa at Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
The Spa at Hotel Contessa, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Taking time out for a bit of rejuvenation and recharging is only an elevator ride away at the full-service Woodhouse Day Spa.

Treatment room at Woodhouse Day Spa, Hotel Contessa
Treatment room at Woodhouse Day Spa, Hotel Contessa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Offering massages, body treatments and skin care services, the Woodhouse Day Spa adds a bit of pampering to your visit, whether visiting for business or pleasure. Chatting with someone on the rental car bus that had also stayed at Hotel Contessa while on business, he raved about his massage at the spa and what a great value it was.

Woodhouse Day Spa lounge room at Hotel Contessa
Woodhouse Day Spa lounge room at Hotel Contessa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Nearby on the River Walk

Hotel Contessa in the heart of the River Walk
Hotel Contessa in the heart of the River Walk
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While the majority of the River Walk, and all it has to offer, is within walking distance of Hotel Contessa, several top San Antonio attractions are mere steps from the hotel.

Marriage Island

Marriage Island behind Hotel Contessa
Marriage Island behind Hotel Contessa on the River Walk
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A 100 year old cypress tree is situated between Hotel Contessa and the river and, over time, the tree’s roots have formed a small island, which has become known as Marriage Island. A popular destination for wedding ceremonies, it is also a beautiful spot to sit and read or watch the River Walk activity.

Briscoe Western Art Museum

Briscoe Western Art Museum, Covered wagon, San Antonio, Texas
Briscoe Western Art Museum, Covered wagon, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Briscoe Museum is located next door to Hotel Contessa. Named in honor of the late Texas Governor, Dolph Briscoe, Jr., the Briscoe houses a wide variety of American Western art and artifacts.

La Villita Historic Arts Village

La Villita, San Antonio, Texas
La Villita, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Originally settled 300 years ago as one of the city’s first neighborhoods, La Villita was transformed into a historical arts district in 1939. Today, La Villita is home to shops, art galleries, restaurants, statues, and beautiful walkways and plazas.

Rio San Antonio River Cruises

Rio San Antonio River Cruises, San Antonio, Texas
Rio San Antonio River Cruises, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One of the best ways to experience the River Walk is on a scenic cruise along the river. Along the way, you learn facts and historical information from the guides, while enjoying incredible views of the beautiful city of San Antonio.

River Walk, San Antonio, Texas
River Walk, San Antonio, Texas
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Top 5 things we loved about Hotel Contessa

1. Stellar Staff. In a time when many hotels have standardized to a near robotic state, the Hotel Contessa staff, while incredibly efficient, still takes the time to treat guests like guests, with a true focus on hospitality. Everyone we met seemed very proud of their hotel and their city – which is really cool.

2. Unbeatable Location. The hotel is located in a quiet section of the River Walk, just steps away from the shops, restaurants, bars and attractions. We rented a car – and never drove it once. We walked around the River Walk and took a hop-on, hop-off bus to get to further locations around San Antonio.

3. Inviting design. Hotel Contessa is a super cool boutique hotel with clever décor that warmly welcomes visitors into upscale luxury that is doesn’t take itself too seriously. It works.

4. Fabulous food and drinks. Cork Bar is fun and lively and Las Ramblas has one of the best dining locations on the River Walk. But, it really comes down to delivering on the food and drink and everything we sampled was top notch and the best we had while in San Antonio.

5. Spacious accommodations. We love rooms with space to work, have a glass of wine or watch TV, without requiring sitting on the bed while doing so. Hotel Contessa goes way beyond with a comfortable one bedroom apartment-size suite.

 


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Hotel Contessa San Antonio for hosting us as their guest. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Hotel Contessa entrance
Hotel Contessa San Antonio entrance
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Isle of Capri at sunset, JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona

JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa Phoenix: Delightful indulgences in an idyllic setting

Cover: Isle of Capri at sunset, JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


When it’s time to relax and recharge, JW Marriott Desert Ridge in Phoenix delivers the ultimate resort and spa experience.

Combining approachable luxury and an idyllic setting, delightful indulgences and stunning views await around each corner of the resort’s 316 acres.

Great area at JW Marriott Phoenix, Arizona
Great area at JW Marriott Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With unparalleled hospitality, four acres of sparkling pools and waterways, two championship golf courses, an amazing array of family activities, an award-winning spa, and fabulous restaurants, the resort is a perfect destination for those looking for adventure, relaxation – or both.

JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The rooms

Guest room at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Guest room at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Always a fan of JW Marriott hotels, we were especially looking forward to visiting the resort during spring training, which is always an exciting time in Phoenix. So, when invited, we booked flights and were on our way to enjoy some relaxation and baseball.

Checking into our beautiful room overlooking the Isle of Capri, we resisted the urge to just fall into the beautiful bed with its crisp white linens, loads of fluffy pillows, and a comfy duvet. A loveseat and an overstuffed chair provided plenty of space to both relax and get a bit of work done. A desk, flat-panel TV, mini-fridge and large safe rounded out the room’s amenities.

Guest room, JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort, Phoenix, Arizona
Guest room, JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A large, free-standing shower, soaking tub, and large vanity, along with bathrobes, stacks of thick towels and Aromatherapy Associates toiletries, created a relaxing, well-designed bath environment.

Guest room bath, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort, Phoenix, Arizona
Guest room bath, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The resort

Fire, water, earth, sky, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Fire, water, earth, sky signs at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Set against the backdrop of the McDowell Mountains and the Sonoran Desert, JW Marriott embraces the resort’s peaceful, natural setting with a creative blend of design that reflects the elements of fire, water, earth, and sky.

Sky

Sunrise by the fire pit at JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Sunrise by the fire pit at JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sunrises in Arizona are phenomenal.

Ironically, the only time we set an alarm clock is when we are traveling – for early morning flights and sunrises. When visiting the resort – set the alarm at least one of the days, stop off at Starbucks for a coffee or tea, find a spot by one of the many fire pits at Desert Ridge, and simply enjoy the majestic rising of the sun.

Stroll by the water, JW Marriott, Phoenix, Arizona
Stroll by the water at sunrise, JW Marriott, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Earth

Sage Court, JW Marriott Phoenix, Arizona
Sage Court, JW Marriott, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Colorful gardens, vibrant landscaping and the natural beauty of the arid Arizona landscape unify to create an exceptional environment that soothes the senses at Desert Ridge.

An area not to be missed – the beautiful desert botanical garden – an ideal spot for relaxing amongst the trees, plants, and cacti native to Arizona.

Desert botanical garden, JW Marriott Phoenix , Arizona
Desert botanical garden, JW Marriott Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One of our favorite activities while at the resort was the Chef’s garden tour. Located near the spa, the garden produces some of the fruits and vegetables served at the Spa Bistro and contributes the herbs for Revive Spa’s signature product line. One of the resort’s horticulturists, Candace, gave us a tour of the gardens, which was both educational and tasty, with fruit and vegetable samples as we went. Nasturtium tastes remarkably like wasabi – who knew? And the creosote bush, it smells like rain. Such a fun morning and tours are available to all hotel guests.

Chef's garden at JW Marriott Desert Ridge
Chef’s garden at JW Marriott Desert Ridge
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Water

Relaxing by the pools at JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Relaxing by the pools at JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Water is abundant at this oasis in the desert.

Four acres of sparkling pools and waterways wind their way through the resort, providing guests countless opportunities to bask in the gorgeous Arizona sun alongside cooling waters.

Lazy river at Desert Ridge Resort, Phoenix, Arizona
Lazy river at Desert Ridge Resort, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Everyone enjoys a plunge into the lazy river for a tranquil, relaxing time floating along through the courtyard and the kids delight in slip-sliding down the serpentine water slide.

Waterslide, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa
Waterslide, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Natural water features are also abundant throughout. From the incredibly beautiful lake near the golf course to the meandering streams and falls, the soothing sound of water provides a relaxing background to life at the resort.

Rolling streams at JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Rolling streams at JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Fire

Meeting new friends at the fire pits, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Meeting new friends at the fire pits, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Fire pits are abundant at Desert Ridge and provide a wonderful place to end the day and meet new friends.

After dinner at Stonegrill, we brought our bottle of Twenty6 Pinot over to enjoy under the incredible Phoenix stars and were soon joined by four new friends from an old spot – Dallas! As one of our new acquaintances later said, “New friends are wonderful, especially when discovered in such a beautiful atmosphere.”

I couldn’t have said it better.

The restaurants and bars

stonegrill

Stonegrill, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
stonegrill, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We enjoyed dinner at stonegrill the first night we arrived and it set the tone for our entire stay. The food was superb, the service was stellar, and the atmosphere was comfortable and inviting.

We started with lemon drop martinis and calamari, then moved on to our main courses of salmon and shrimp and grits – yep, the south ventured to the southwest in a delicious transition. We loved it! Seriously good food in a relaxed, upscale environment.

Twenty6

Twenty6, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Twenty6, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Twenty6 lounge is located in the center of the hotel overlooking the expanse of the pools and terraces, and features hand-crafted cocktails, wines, beers, and other beverages, and a selection of tasty small plates.

So, the obvious question about Twenty6 is – why is it called Twenty6? Desert Ridge was the 26th JW Marriott and, hence, they have christened their bar and casual restaurant with the title of Twenty6.

While the signature prickly pear margarita is an absolute must, Twenty6 also has a very cool beverage endeavor underway.

Prickly pear margarita, JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Prickly pear margaritas, JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Desert Ridge has partnered with a local brewery in Flagstaff to create the Twenty6 ale and with the renowned Paul Hobbs Wines from Sonoma County to deliver the Twenty6 chardonnay, pinot noir, and cabernet.

We had both the pinot and the cab – absolutely delightful wines and such a very cool program celebrating their unique part of the JW Marriott brand.

Twenty6 wines at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Twenty6 wines at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In addition to the lively interior of Twenty6, the terrace provides a fabulous vantage point to experience the vibrancy of Desert Ridge.

Sharing a bottle of wine on the Twenty6 patio late afternoon on a Sunday while watching the resort in full swing, it was as if experiencing a modern day version of Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

Music from Roy’s Aloha Hour filled the air as children played games on the lawn, couples quietly shared conversations, people strolled in from the pools, and large groups laughed and conversed around the fire pits – a colorful blend of guests and activities sharing and enjoying their day.

Revive Spa Bistro

Revive Spa Bistro, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort, Phoenix, Arizona
Revive Spa Bistro, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Revive Spa Bistro hits the spot for a healthy, organic breakfast or lunch. After touring the Chef’s garden, we stopped by for smoothies, a salad and a sandwich for lunch on the the patio near the pool. The food was fresh and delicious and the atmosphere was tranquil.

Meritage Steakhouse at Wildfire Golf Club

Meritage Steakhouse, JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Meritage Steakhouse, JW Marriott Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located at Wildfire Golf Club, Meritage Steakhouse specializes in steaks, fresh seafood and fine wines with a country-club like atmosphere. Open for lunch or dinner, Meritage also has an outdoor patio that overlooks the botanical garden and ballroom lawn areas.

Roy’s Pacific Rim

Roy's Pacific Rim, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Roy’s Pacific Rim, JW Marriott Phoenix Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Well-known for their Hawaiian fusion cuisine, Roy’s outdoor patio is the place to be early evening for Aloha Hour specials and live music. On into the evening, Roy’s delivers dishes crafted from fresh local ingredients with signature cocktails and fine wines.

Just a Splash Bar & Grill

Salads, sandwiches, burgers and a full bar conveniently located poolside.

Starbucks

Starbucks at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Starbucks at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Always fans of a hotel with a Starbucks, we stopped by frequently to grab a beverage or snack and would sit on the patio viewing the botanical garden and watching the golfers come and go at Wildfire Golf Club.

We waited in line one morning for our chai lattes next to pro golfers, Cheyenne Woods and Sadena Parks, who’d pulled in for a breakfast on their way to the links. Both would be playing the following week in the fifth edition of the JTBC Founders Cup, an LPGA event held each March at the resort.

Cheyenne Woods and Sadena Parks at Wildfire Golf Club, JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Cheyenne Woods and Sadena Parks at Wildfire Golf Club, JW Marriott Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Revive Spa

Pool at Revive Spa, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort in Phoenix, Arizona
Pool at Revive Spa, JW Marriott Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

When it’s time to relax, it’s time to head to Revive Spa for a bit of pampering.

The 28,000 square foot spa includes 41 treatment rooms, private locker rooms, showers, steam rooms, a sauna, a fitness center, the spa bistro, and a full-service salon – making it easy to schedule a full day of relaxation and rejuvenation at Revive.

Salon at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Salon at the JW Marriott Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

However, even if you can only fit an hour or two in, check out the pedicures. I opted for the Gingerita pedicure and it was heavenly!

While sipping white ambrosia and coconut tea with honey pearls, my pedicure began with an exfoliating watermelon-basil vodka infused sugar scrub, followed by a warm citrus cilantro vitamin soak with grapeseed and olive fruit oils. Next up, a silky ginger body milk application, and finally, a finish of red polish. Spectacular!

Pedicure at Revive spa, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Pedicure with Leah at Revive spa, JW Marriott Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Wildfire Golf Club

Wildfire Golf Club at JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Wildfire Golf Club at JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Home to two 18-hole championship golf courses designed by Arnold Palmer and Nick Faldo, Wildfire Golf Club also offers a chipping green, two putting greens, a driving range, golf carts with GPS, Meritage restaurant, and a spectacular pro shop.

Wildfire Golf Club pro shop, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Wildfire Golf Club pro shop, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The 18 hole, 7,145 yard Palmer course winds around the resort and through the picturesque Sonoran desert, featuring expansive fairways and average green sizes of 7,000 square feet.

Wildfire Golf Club, Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Wildfire Golf Club, Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The 6,846 yard Faldo course, meanders over 174 acres with large greens, multiple tee boxes, and features 108 sand bunkers.

Wildfire Golf Club green at JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Wildfire Golf Club green at JW Marriott Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The practice facilities at Wildfire include an all-grass driving range, and putting & chipping greens and bunkers.

Driving range, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Driving range, JW Marriott Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Tennis Center

Tennis courts at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Tennis courts at JW Marriott Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

If swinging a racquet is more your game, the Tennis Center offers eight lighted tennis courts and a full-service pro shop. Group and one-on-one instruction is available.

Additionally, bikes can be rented at the tennis shop.

Bike rentals at the tennis pro shop, JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix, Arizona
Bike rentals at the Tennis Center pro shop, JW Marriott Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Fitness centers

Fitness Center, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Fitness Center, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Spa & Resort, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Desert Ridge has two fitness centers, with the primary center located near the pool courtyard and lazy river and the second at Revive Spa. Both fitness centers include cardio equipment and free weights, with the spa fitness center also offering fitness classes for an additional fee.

Shopping

Retail shops at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Retail shops at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Spa & Resort, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For those that think shopping is a form of cardio, the retail shops at Desert Ridge have a great selection of offerings ranging from forgotten necessities to local artisan creations, to clothing and much more (including a great selection of Moleskins, of which several now call my backpack home).

Top 5 things we loved about JW Marriott Desert Ridge

Wildlife, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix,
Wildlife, JW Marriott Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
  1. A culture of hospitality. Desert Ridge has a friendly, helpful staff that make you feel truly welcome – and that is something considering the size of the resort. Special thanks to Joshua, Candace, Owen, Leah, Karyn and the entire Desert Ridge team who made our stay so awesome!
  2. Fabulous location woven into the natural beauty of the desert. It’s easy to forget you’re so close to the city when at Desert Ridge, with its amazing mountain and desert views. Yet, when you want to get to an attraction or event in Phoenix, it is just minutes away.
  3. A resort fee that provides tons of value. The daily resort fee includes self parking, use of the Revive Spa fitness center, a complimentary dinner appetizer per entree purchased (2 per room max), unlimited balls and use of clubs on the driving range at Wildfire Golf Club, free golf bag storage, complimentary use of the tennis facilities and use of four racquets, and a free two hour bike rental for up to four bikes.
  4. A resort for golfers and non-golfers. While golfers can enjoy two championship golf courses, there are so many activities at the resort that non-golfers can fill their days with adventures or relaxation, never giving thought to fairways and greens.
  5. Superb dining and drinking options. The food at all the restaurants was delicious and fresh and the creative Twenty6 beverage programs added a fun, local spin while delivering high-quality wines and beers.

Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to JW Marriott Desert Ridge Phoenix for hosting us as their guest. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Sunrise at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Sunrise at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California

Vintner’s Inn Santa Rosa: A luxury Sonoma wine country hotel

Cover: Vintner’s Inn Santa Rosa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Quietly tucked away amongst the vineyards just off the 101, Vintner’s Inn in Santa Rosa treats guests to a luxurious and relaxing wine country retreat when visiting Sonoma.

Vintner's Inn Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A four-diamond luxury hotel owned by Don and Rhonda Carano of Ferrari-Carano Vineyards, the wine country inn exudes casual elegance.

Our Vintner’s Inn stay was in conjunction with the Rodney Strong Master Blender experience, one of our all-time most enjoyable adventures, with fabulous wine, amazing food, vineyard visits led by the winery’s viticulturist, sessions with Rodney Strong’s winemakers to learn about the winemaking process, a blending seminar led by Rodney Strong’s head winemaker, and luxurious accommodations at Vintner’s Inn.

Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The rooms

Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California
Upstairs fireplace room at Vintner’s Inn Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As we opened the door to our upstairs fireplace room, sunlight flooded into the warm, inviting spot we would call home during our time in Sonoma wine country.

With a big Cal King bed outfitted with a featherbed and down bedding, two overstuffed chairs, an electric fireplace, flat screen TV, desk, a small refrigerator, and a complimentary half bottle of wine, the spacious room was a delightful haven.

French doors led to the balcony with a table and chairs that overlooked the gardens – and prompted me to pop a bottle of wine into the fridge for late afternoon enjoyment.

Vintner's Inn Upstairs fireplace room, Santa Rosa, California
Vintner’s Inn Upstairs fireplace room, Santa Rosa, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Luxuriously appointed upstairs fireplace room at Vintner's Inn in Santa Rosa
Luxuriously appointed upstairs fireplace room at Vintner’s Inn in Santa Rosa
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The large bathroom with a vanity separated from the shower and tub was furnished with white fluffy towels, olive oil themed toiletries and bathrobes.

Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The hotel

Fountain at Vintner's Inn, Sonoma County, California
Fountain at Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Arriving early afternoon, we had plenty of time to explore the hotel before dinner.

The 44 rooms and suites at Vintner’s Inn are set in three buildings encircling a fountain and connected by brick pathways.

Walking paths at Vintner's Inn Santa Rosa
Walking paths at Vintner’s Inn Santa Rosa
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Such a beautiful Sonoma afternoon behooved a stroll, so we set out on the two-mile hiking and jogging path that winds through the 92 acres of vineyards.

Along the way, we met up with some local residents, who seemed to be enjoying the gorgeous weather as much as we were.

Goats along Vintner's Inn hiking and jogging path
Goats along Vintner’s Inn hiking and jogging path
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Vintner's Inn vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Arriving back at the hotel, we stopped by the Bocce ball court – a beautiful area with an assortment of tables and chairs under towering redwoods.

Bocce ball court at Vintner's Inn, Sonoma County, California
Bocce ball court at Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Quiet enclaves are scattered about the lavishly landscaped gardens and courtyards, perfect for sharing a glass of wine, stories from the day, and plans for the next.

Vintner's Inn, Santa Rosa, California
Vintner’s Inn, Santa Rosa, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For those that don’t believe a day of wine tasting is a form of exercise, a fitness center is located near the edge of the vineyards, along side a hot tub and lounge chairs.

Vintner's Inn workout room
Vintner’s Inn fitness room
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Vintner's Inn hot tub and lounge chairs
Vintner’s Inn hot tub and lounge chairs
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Arriving back at our room, the wine was chilled, the doors of the balcony were open, and it was time to enjoy a bottle of Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay. Cheers!

Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay on the balcony at Vintner's Inn
Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay on the balcony at Vintner’s Inn
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The restaurants and bar

John Ash & Co at Vintner's Inn, Sonoma County, California
John Ash & Co at Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

John Ash & Co. and the Front Room Bar & Lounge

When we lived in Santa Rosa briefly a few years back, we’d become frequent patrons of John Ash & Co. and the Front Room Bar & Lounge. It quickly became our go-to-spot for happy hours, birthdays, holidays – any excuse is a good one to head to John Ash.

Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A showcase of the best of Northern California cuisine, John Ash & Co. prepares fresh, local, creative food in a gorgeous setting.

From appetizers in the Front Room (the rosemary nuts and fish tacos are amazing) to dining excellence at John Ash & Co., the restaurant delivers some of the best food found in Sonoma County.

Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience dinner at John Ash & Co., Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience dinner at John Ash & Co., Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After an amazing evening at John Ash, only made more enjoyable by dining with the Rodney Strong team including winemaker, Justin Seidenfeld, we walked back to our room admiring how pretty the grounds at Vintner’s Inn look in the evening.

Vintner's Inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Vintner’s Inn Café

Vintner's Inn lobby, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn lobby, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After enjoying our morning coffee from the coffee service, which is available in each of the hotel buildings every morning, we headed over to the hotel’s main building for breakfast.

A great place to have a coffee or tea, read, or spend time with friends, the lobby has multiple seating areas in a cozy environment.

Lobby of the Vintner's Inn
Lobby of the Vintner’s Inn
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Vintner's inn, Santa Rosa, California
Vintner’s Inn, Santa Rosa, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Various items are available for sale in the lobby, such as hats, cookbooks, and the estate’s award-winning olive oil.

Vintner's Inn Estate Olive Oil
Vintner’s Inn Estate Olive Oil
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Also located in the lobby is the Vintner’s Inn Café, which serves breakfast weekdays and brunch on the weekend.

Vintners Inn Café
Vintner’s Inn Café
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Diners can enjoy a wide variety of breakfast specialties and beverages to start their day in the cheerful indoor dining room or on the heated terrace overlooking the gardens.

Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Getting there

Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Vintner’s Inn is located in Santa Rosa, California. From the 101, take the River Road exit and head west to Barnes Road. Turn left on Barnes Road and Vintner’s Inn is on the left.

Vintner's Inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Vintner’s Inn, Santa Rosa

Vintner's Inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Location: 4350 Barnes Rd, Santa Rosa, CA 95403

Design: Italian architecture set in Northern California wine country

Rooms: With the exception of service animals, pets are not allowed.

Toiletries: CALI from Italy

Additional services and amenities: On-site Event Center with private banquet rooms and full-service banquet kitchen that can accommodate small groups, meetings with up to 300 participants, and receptions of up to 500 guests.

Vintner's Inn Event Center
Vintner’s Inn Event Center
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

WiFi: Free in lobby and public areas, for a fee in rooms

John Ash & Co. at Vintner's Inn
John Ash & Co. at Vintner’s Inn
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Restaurants & bars: John Ash & Co., Front Room Bar & Lounge, Vintner’s Inn Café

Parking: Free


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Rodney Strong Vineyards for hosting us as their guest for the Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience. The content & opinions expressed in our Vintner’s Inn Santa Rosa review are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Kim Hull at Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California
Kim Hull at Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
JW Marriott Starr Pass in the morning light, Tucson, Arizona

JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort: An oasis of luxury in the desert

Cover: JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Overlooking miles and miles of massive saguaro cacti, JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort welcomes visitors to a beautiful resort filled with luxurious comforts, creating a unique dichotomy in the Sonoran Desert.

JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort entrance, Tucson, Arizona
JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort entrance, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The vivid green golf course dotted with white carts and brightly dressed players winds through the arid landscape of majestic plants and fauna.

Golfing at JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort in Tucson
Golfing at JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort in Tucson
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The azure blue waters of the pools and the lazy river sparkle against the rugged Arizona countryside.

JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort pool, Tucson, Arizona
JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort pool, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Tranquilly perched on a hill above the city, the resort offers stunning panoramic skyline views of bustling Tucson.

Sunrise on the morning hike at Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Sunrise on the morning hike at Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

An oasis of luxury in the middle of the desert, JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort is truly a destination resort, with three nine-hole golf courses, countless non-golfing activities, an array of dining options, a full-service spa, and a helpful, friendly staff – all in an upscale, relaxed atmosphere. Thank you to JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson for hosting us as their guest.

JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort in the morning light, Tucson, Arizona
JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort in the morning light, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The rooms

Living area, Executive Suite, JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Living area, Executive Suite, JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We’d never been to Tucson before this trip, so we gladly accepted the invitation to stay at such a gorgeous resort and explore the beautiful Tucson area – both which far exceeded our expectations. During our visit to Starr Pass, we enjoyed a luxurious executive suite with a long balcony overlooking the golf course and stunning western mountain views.

View of Starr Pass Golf Club from our balcony
View of Starr Pass Golf Club from our balcony 
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Upon entering the room we were greeted with a welcome note and an assortment of delectable chocolates and cookies. What a sweet arrival!

A sweet welcome treat from Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
A sweet welcome treat from Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our 900 square feet/81 square meters of relaxing bliss included a huge living area with a couch, chairs, desk and a large flat panel TV.

The large bedroom featured a king size bed with a comfy pillow-top mattress and duvet, an oversized chair and ottoman, and another flat panel TV. Both rooms accessed the balcony seating, which included four chairs and two tables.

Bedroom in Executive Suite at JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort in Tucson, Arizona
Bedroom in Executive Suite at JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort in Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The marble bathroom included a separate bathtub and shower enclosure, stacks of big fluffy white towels and divinely fragranced Aromatherapy Associates toiletries. The room also had large closets, three robes, a coffee and tea maker, a mini-fridge, an iron and ironing board, and a large safe.

JW Marriott Starr Pass Executive Suite bath, Tucson, Arizona
Starr Pass Executive Suite bath, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The resort

Salud Terrace, JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Salud Terrace, JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Having stayed at JW Marriott hotels and resorts around the world, we knew that Starr Pass would deliver the exceptional service and quality for which the brand is known, but Starr Pass also included some surprises, adding their own unique flavor to the visit.

The gorgeous, expansive lobby has comfortable nooks for small groups, larger ones, and couples to share moments from the day or for those seeking a little solitude for reading or catching up on email.

JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort lobby, Tucson, Arizona
JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort lobby, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Staying hydrated in the desert is crucial and Starr Pass has multiple flavors of water to make sure you do so – plain, spicy (there are jalapeños in there!), citrus and soothing melon.

Spicy, citrus and melon waters, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Spicy, citrus and melon waters, JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A sprawling resort brimming with activities, Starr Pass offers something for everyone in a relaxed, casual atmosphere.

Starr Pass Resort pool, Tucson, Arizona
Starr Pass Resort pool, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The huge terraces outside Salud, one of Starr Pass’ restaurants and bars, are the gathering point for the hotel from the beginning of the day to end.

While the early bird may get the worm, the early risers at Starr Pass truly get the treat each morning in the form a majestic sunrise.

Sunrise by the fire pit at JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Sunrise by the fire pit at JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After grabbing a beverage from the Starbucks just inside, a spot near one of the fire pits is the place to be for a time of tranquility and beauty before the day’s adventures begin. As the darkness disappears, the Arizona sky transforms into a vast array of oranges, reds, golds, pinks, and purples.

Sunrise on the terrace at Starr Pass Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Sunrise on the terrace at Starr Pass Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For those wanting to start their activities while experiencing the sunrise, Starr Pass also offers a guided hike each morning on trails that begin just outside the front door of the resort.

Morning sunrise hike

Sonoran Desert sunrise, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Sonoran Desert sunrise, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A trek through the beautiful Sonoran desert as the morning sky comes to life is an amazing way to start the day.

Greg Hull on Sunrise hike at JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Greg Hull on Sunrise hike at JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Winding through the Tucson Mountain District in the crisp morning air, the one hour hike is an easy trek against the backdrop of the brilliant morning colors.

The guides are great – taking the time to explain the Saguaro cacti, the native plants, and the animals that reside in the region. A not-to-be missed activity – so the night before when you are contemplating setting the alarm – do it!

Learning about the saguaro cactus on the morning hike at Starr Pass
Learning about the saguaro cactus on the morning hike at Starr Pass
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Following a morning of desert adventure, the hike arrives back at the resort just in time for the Mitakuye Oyasin morning ritual.

Mitakuye Oyasin morning ritual

Mitakuye Oyasin morning ritual, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Mitakuye Oyasin morning ritual, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One of the key elements of enjoying travel is gaining an appreciation for the culture of the area visited.

Tuscon’s unique and rich cultural fabric is woven from a blend of the Hispanic, Old West and Native American traditions that have been passed down through the generations. Starr Pass celebrates this history each morning, inviting guests to participate in the Mitakuye Oyasin morning ritual.

An interconnected world, Mitakuye Oyasin morning ritual, JW Marriott Tucson
An interconnected world, Mitakuye Oyasin morning ritual, JW Marriott Tucson
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As the sun begins to warm the day, the traditional Native American ceremony pays tribute to the world view of interconnectedness.

Sage prayer tie, Mitakuye Oyasin morning ritual, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Sage prayer tie, Mitakuye Oyasin morning ritual, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With words of wisdom, the playing of the Native American flute, burning of a sage prayer tie and receiving of the eagle feather blessing, the ceremony is a beautiful time for reflection and connection for all.

Kim Hull, burning of a sage prayer tie, JW Marriott Starr Pass in Tucson
Kim Hull, burning of a sage prayer tie, JW Marriott Starr Pass in Tucson
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Activities, activities and more activities

Flowers on hike at Starr Pass
Flowers on hike at Starr Pass
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The only challenge with regard to activities at Starr Pass is how to fit them all into your stay.

For those that didn’t set their alarm for the sunrise hike, multiple trails leave from the front of the hotel (remember water and sunscreen – the Arizona sun is very strong mid-day). Trails can be used for hiking or mountain biking and when out in the desert, be sure to keep an eye out for rattlesnakes and javelina, which look like wild pigs, but are actually members of the peccary family.

Hiking trails, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Hiking trails, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

If lounging poolside or splashing about is more what you have in mind, Starr Pass has a multi-level outdoor pool, the Starr Canyon lazy river, and the Monsoon Falls waterslide. All are heated and towel service is provided.

The fitness center is located at the Hashani Spa, with a wide variety of cardio equipment, free weights, and a lap pool.

JW Marriott Starr Pass resort fitness center, Tucson, Arizona
JW Marriott Starr Pass resort fitness center, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Speaking of spas, the Hashani Spa offers a full range of services, including massages, wraps, and other rejuvenating treatments.

Hashani Spa, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Hashani Spa, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The shops at Starr Pass go way beyond bottles of water and some aspirin. Items range from local artisan wares to clothing to cycling kits.

Starr Pass Resort shops, Tucson, Arizona
Starr Pass Resort shops, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

And, last but certainly not least, is the renowned Starr Pass Golf Club.

Golfing at Starr Pass

Starr Canyon lazy river, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Starr Pass Golf Club
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

72 holes across three courses deliver a lush golfing paradise for those with a penchant for swinging a club.

Starr Pass Golf Club, Tucson, Arizona
Starr Pass Golf Club, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Arnold Palmer designed Rattler Course (3,490 yards/par 36) is considered the most challenging of the three and offers stunning views and the exceptionally challenging 5th hole. The Roadrunner Course (3,241 yards/par 35), which is closest to the resort, offers ambitious holes, impressive elevation changes, and more gorgeous views. The Coyote Course (3,512 yards/apr 36), is more tranquil, surrounded by natural beauty and is frequently visited by wildlife.

A good spot for more shopping for golfers and non-golfers alike, the Starr Pass Golf Club pro shop has a great assortment of clothing and accessories.

Pro shop at Star Pass Golf Club, Tucson, Arizona
Pro shop at Star Pass Golf Club, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Be sure and download the Starr Pass Golf Club app, where you can book a tee time, get the weather forecast, keep score, and even connect with Starr Pass on Facebook and Twitter within the app.

Arriba, Abajo, al Centro, al Dentro, Salud!

Arriba, Abajo at JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Arriba, Abajo at JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Each evening as the sun winds down for the day, Starr Pass guests gather on the Salud terrace for a tequila toast and the nightly telling of the legend of Arriba, Abajo.

Toast to the legend of Arriba, Abajo at JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Toast to the legend of Arriba, Abajo at JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The story is one of love and one of tequila, of which Salud has over 150 artisan varieties, with the fable ending with a toast – “Arriba, Abajo, al Centro, a Dentro, Salud!” (Up, down, out and in). I won’t spoil the story – so you have to visit to learn the legend and enjoy one of the infused tequilas. Salud!

The restaurants

Signature Grill bar at Starr Pass Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Signature Grill bar at Starr Pass Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We had the opportunity to try most of the Starr Pass restaurants while visiting. Casual & comfortable, each restaurant offered fresh, modern dishes and outstanding service. We loved them – so much so that we never left the resort, visiting some of the restaurants multiple times because they were so tasty!

Here’s a day’s worth of favorites…

Breakfast at Starbucks

We love hotels that have Starbucks. We are usually up early to catch the sunrise and we don’t typically eat a large breakfast, so having the ability to grab a chai tea and a muffin fits our routine perfectly.

Starbucks at JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Starbucks at JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For those looking for something more substantial – Signature Grill serves breakfast specialties both a la carte and on a buffet.

Breakfast buffet at Signature Grill at Starr Pass Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Breakfast buffet at Signature Grill at Starr Pass Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Lunch… and dinner at Signature Grill

Dining on the patio in the evening at Signature Grill combines stunning starlit views as Tucson twinkles in the distance with outstanding cocktails and cuisine.

Night view from Signature Grill, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Night view from Signature Grill, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Starting off the evening with lemon drop martinis, we then progressed through salads (try the Knife & Fork salad – it’s seriously good), and on to expertly prepared main courses of Ahi Tuna and Salmon. Both were splendid! After dinner, we lingered, savoring our wine next to one of the patio fire pits before retiring for the evening.

Lemon drop martini, Signature Grill, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Lemon drop martinis, Signature Grill, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The next day we were back at Signature for lunch at the bar (which is really cool) for the incredibly delicious vegetarian enchiladas.

Appetizers and drinks at Salud

Salud at the JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Salud at the JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The de facto meeting place for the hotel, Salud, is lively all day long both inside and out on the terraces.

Cantina-style cuisine, signature cocktails, and the 150+ tequilas are the specialties. The open faced quesadillas are killer and the nachos looked fabulous as well.

Salud Terraces at Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Salud Terraces at Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Dinner at Primo

Primo, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Primo, JW Marriott Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

James Beard award-winning chef, Melissa Kelly, serves up local, fresh and modern cuisine at Primo – it even says it on the door – and I couldn’t think of a better description. Farm to table fresh, with many of the ingredients grown at the resort.

Primo bar at Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Primo bar at Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Having enjoyed appetizers at Salud a bit earlier, we headed straight into main courses of scallops and bass. So good and creative!

Whether you dine at one or all of the Starr Pass restaurants, the artfully crafted cuisine and fabulous service will be a culinary experience you won’t forget.

Primo dining room, JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Primo dining room, JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Top 5 things we loved about JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort

Tucson Mountain District, Tucson, Arizona
Tucson Mountain District, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
  1. Stellar staff. The staff was friendly, helpful, and went above and beyond to get it right, without intruding.
  2. Stunning location. I love how it’s as if someone delicately picked up a luxurious, grand resort and oh so carefully placed it in the middle of the natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert.
  3. A celebration of the local culture. The unique activities – the guided sunrise hike, the morning ritual, and the tequila tasting – all highlighted the pride in the local culture and surroundings.
  4. Great dining options. The food was stellar, with multiple restaurants and options, so we didn’t have to get the car out once.
  5. Not stuffy. The atmosphere is upscale, casual without the pretense and stuffiness found in many high-end resorts. Visitors can simply relax and enjoy their time at Starr Pass.
Starr Pass resort pools, Tucson, Arizona
Starr Pass resort pools, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclosure & Disclaimer: Special thanks to JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson for hosting us as their guest. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Kim Hull at JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Kim Hull at JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort, Tucson, Arizona
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media
Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort pools, Curacao

Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort Curacao: A pleasantly unexpected diversion

Cover: Santa Barbara Beach &Golf Resort pools, Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


While island hopping in the Caribbean, we found ourselves in Aruba with an extra day before we were due in Bonaire. So, we did the logical thing – we decided to go to Curaçao!

Colorful buildings of Willemstad, Curaçao
Colorful buildings of Willemstad, Curaçao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With that, I kicked into overdrive finding all the spots we needed to cover in the 24 hours we’d be on the ground on our first visit back to Curaçao in over a decade. Following a quick 35-minute flight from Aruba that landed mid-day, our plan was to head to the hotel we’d found, drop the bags, and set out on a whirlwind visit to the island.

Arriving at the gate of the resort, we looked at each other and said, “Wow, this place is nice.” A change of plans was in the air.

Pools at Santa Barbara Beach Resort, Curacao
Pools at Santa Barbara Beach Resort, Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort Curacao

Fountains, Santa Barbara Beach Resort
Fountains, Santa Barbara Beach Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located on the southeast side of Curaçao, Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort Curacao is a fabulous resort with a great staff, a beautiful sprawling hotel, a spa, seven restaurants & bars, a golf course, a long private beach, three pools, a fitness center, two marinas, a dive and water sports center, and hiking trails.

White sand beach at Santa Barbara Beach Resort Curacao
White sand beach at Santa Barbara Beach Resort Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull , Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With 350 rooms and suites, there are numerous room options. In addition to standard room plans, the resort also offers various levels of inclusive plans including a bed and breakfast option, a plan that includes all meals and beverages, an activity plan that includes water sports, tennis and the kids’ club, and one that combines the meal and the activity plan.

Santa Barbara Resort lobby in Curacao
Santa Barbara Resort lobby in Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The rooms and suites

Guest room, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Guest room, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our room was a standard, garden view room. Decorated in upscale Caribbean with wood accents, the room was spacious and quiet, with a large, private balcony overlooking the garden.

The bath was modern, with plenty of towels and locally-sourced shampoo & conditioners supplemented with The Spa Collection toiletries. The room also had large closets, a large safe, a hair dryer, a coffee maker and plush bathrobes.

Guest room bath, Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort, Curacao
Guest room bath, Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort: The resort

Mango daiquiris at Splash pool bar, Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort, Curacao
Mango daiquiris at Splash pool bar, Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We did end up dropping our bags as soon as we checked in, but instead of roaming around the island, we headed straight out to the Splash pool bar, ordered a couple of mango daiquiris and some fish tacos, and lounged by the pool.

Santa Barbara Beach Resort pools, Curacao
Santa Barbara Beach Resort pools, Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With two large main pools and a third in the exclusive Sea Traditions area of the resort, there was plenty of space to relax and enjoy a Caribbean afternoon in the sun.

Pools at the Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Pools at the Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The beach

Standup paddle boarding in the beach lagoon, Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort in Curacao
Standup paddle boarding in the beach lagoon, Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort in Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Just steps from the Santa Barbara’s white-sand beach, we eventually vacated our poolside oasis and ventured out for a stroll along the water’s edge.

Wildlife at Santa Barbara Resort in Curacao
Wildlife at Santa Barbara Resort in Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our journey took us along the long private beach that borders the resort’s lagoon. Set against the natural backdrop of Curacao, the lagoon’s crystal clear waters are a tranquil spot for swimming or perhaps some standup paddle boarding.

Relaxing on the beach at Santa Barbara Beach Resort, Curacao
Relaxing on the beach at Santa Barbara Beach Resort, Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Finding a lounge chair and shady spot under an umbrella, we lingered, watching the sailboats and yachts pass and occasionally taking a dip in the warm Caribbean waters.

Marina activity at Santa Barbara Plantation, Curacao
Marina activity at Santa Barbara Plantation, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The marinas

The Marinas at Santa Barbara Plantation, Curacao
The Marinas at Santa Barbara Plantation, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The boat traffic captured our attention, so we decided to take a walk down the long, floating pier toward the marina.

The resort is actually home to two marinas, Barbara Beach Marina and Seru Boca Marina, enabling watercraft up to 180 feet to dock in the same waters where the Spanish Armada set down anchor years ago when they first discovered Curacao.

Marina, Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort, Curacao
Marina, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As the afternoon wound to an end, we headed back to our room to get ready for dinner and, upon reaching our room, we found a surprise welcome greeting from the hotel!

Welcome surprise from Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Welcome surprise from Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After devouring the sweet treat, we made our way to the lobby – a beautifully designed, open-air great room with magnificent views looking out over the property.

Lobby seating, Santa Barbara Beach Resort in Curacao
Lobby seating, Santa Barbara Beach Resort in Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We grabbed a couple of chairs, watched the sun disappear for the day, and then our thoughts turned to dinner and drinks.

Sunset, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Sunset, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The restaurants, bars, and cafés

Santa Barbara has several dining options on the property…

Splash Bar & Grill – near the pool, serving drinks and casual fare throughout the day and evening

Splash Bar and Grill, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Splash Bar and Grill, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Jun’s Sushi Bar – located in the great room, offering specialty cocktails and fresh sushi in a casual atmosphere

Shore – Caribbean fine dining with stunning views

Shore Restaurant, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Shore Restaurant, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Medi – a popular spot open for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Medi, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Medi, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Medi Veranda, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Medi Veranda, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We selected Medi for the evening and dined on the veranda, where we enjoyed a vast selection of buffet offerings.

The following morning, we had a lovely cappuccino and croissant at Bella Italia, which operates a small store and restaurant on site at the property.

Cappuccino at Bella Italia, Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort, Curacao
Cappuccino at Bella Italia, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Things to do at Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara has countless things to do, from aquatic adventures to hitting the links on one of the best courses in the Caribbean.

Water sports

Ocean kayaking, Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort, Curacao
Ocean kayaking, Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and snorkeling equipment can be rented at the Beach Activity Center near Splash Bar & Grill. Scuba diving and boating excursions with an outside tour operator can also be arranged at the hotel.

Watersports, Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort, Curacao
Watersports, Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Tennis

Santa Barbara’s Tafelberg Tennis Center features four Hydrogrid® clay courts which are automatically irrigated by an underground system. Court are available for play throughout the day and into the night, with lighted courts available for those who prefer to get their game in during cooler times of day.

Walking, hiking, jogging & biking trails

Stroll the walking paths of Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort, Curacao
Stroll the walking paths of Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort, Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With its sprawling design, there are plenty of walking paths throughout the resort, from oceanside walkways to strolls amidst the resort’s gorgeous landscaping.

Oceanside walking paths, Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort, Curacao
Oceanside walking paths, Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For those seeking a bit more adventure, Santa Barbara Plantation includes 2,000 acres of natural landscape beckoning to be roamed, with rock formations, caves, caverns, and incredible plants and flowers. Guided hikes provide the opportunity to learn more about the plantation and Curacao’s rich history or trail maps are available on the Santa Barbara website for those seeking some peaceful solitude.

Bikes are available for rent at the resort for use on the trails.

Bike rentals at Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort, Curacao
Bike rentals at Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Fitness center

Keeping up with your gym routine is a snap at the Santa Barbara, whose 24 hour fitness center has a wide selection of cardio equipment, free weights and other fitness equipment.

Fitness center, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Fitness center, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Atabei Spa

Atabei Spa, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Atabei Spa, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A tranquil day at the spa is a peaceful escape and time of rejuvenation. The Atebi Spa at the Santa Barbara offers a full menu of treatments, including massages, facials, and body wraps.

Rugged coastline area, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Rugged coastline area, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Old Quarry Golf Course

Santa Barbara Golf Resort's Old Quarry Golf Course
Santa Barbara Golf Resort’s Old Quarry Golf Course
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Designed by Pete Dye, Santa Barbara’s Old Quarry Golf Course delivers 18 holes of golfing paradise that has earned the distinction of being named one of Golf Week’s best courses in the Caribbean and Mexico.

18th hole, Old Quarry Golf Course, Santa Barbara Golf Resort, Curacao
18th hole, Old Quarry Golf Course, Santa Barbara Golf Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Named after the Santa Barbara plantation’s 19th-century limestone quarry, the par 72 golf course meanders through the rugged terrain, winding its way from the sea, through the hills and valleys near Tafelberg Mountain, and back to the Spanish Water Bay.

Santa Barbara Golf Resort's Old Quarry Golf Course in Curacao
Santa Barbara Golf Resort’s Old Quarry Golf Course in Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Santa Barbara Golf Resort's Old Quarry Golf Course Pro Shop
Santa Barbara Golf Resort’s Old Quarry Golf Course Pro Shop
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Tee times can be arranged at the Old Quarry Pro Shop, which also offers equipment rentals, lessons and has a great selection of golfing attire – worth a visit for golfers and non-golfers alike.

Old Quarry Golf Course at Santa Barbara Golf Resort, Curacao
Old Quarry Golf Course at Santa Barbara Golf Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Old Quarry Golf Course pro shop, Curaçao
Old Quarry Golf Course pro shop, Curaçao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Exploring Willemstad

Willemstad, Curaçao - awash in color
Willemstad, Curaçao – awash in color
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Curaçao sign, Willemstad
Curaçao sign, Willemstad
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We stopped by the charming capital of Curaçao, Willemstad, on the way to the airport.

Whether visiting for a morning or a full day, Willemstad’s markets, winding streets, narrow passageways and charming neighborhoods are fun to explore and a delight to photograph.

Willemstad, Curaçao colorful buildings
Willemstad, Curaçao colorful buildings
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Known for its brightly colored buildings that line the harbor, Willemstad’s two districts of Punda and Otrobanda are separated by the Sint Anna Bay, with the beautiful Queen Juliana Bridge spanning the bay and connecting Punda on the east side and Otrobanda on the west.

Queen Juliana Bridge, Willemstad, Curaçao
Queen Juliana Bridge, Willemstad, Curaçao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Getting to Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort

Lobby area, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Lobby area, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort is located at the Santa Barbara Plantation, Porta Blancu, Nieuwpoort about 40 minutes from the Curaçao airport.

Consider taking a shuttle, which can be arranged from the hotel website and is available 24 hours a day / 7 days a week. We rented a car and only used it getting to and from the airport, with only our stop in Willemstad.

Should you want to venture out during your stay for a day, cars can be rented at the hotel.

Beach lagoon, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Beach lagoon, Santa Barbara Resort, Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort and the island of Curaçao – Wow! We love you!

We loved our, albeit brief, time at Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort. The resort was beautiful, the food was delicious, and the staff at the Santa Barbara were exceptionally nice and helpful, from the restaurants to the bars to the pro shop.

 

“Curacao, Wow, We love you” sign
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We must agree with the sign that sits on the opposite side of the harbor across from the beach at Santa Barbara – “Curaçao. Wow! We love you.”

Evening at Santa Barbara Resort in Curacao
Evening at Santa Barbara Resort in Curacao
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The content & opinions expressed in our Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort Curacao review are entirely our own.We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California

A relaxing retreat at Chaminade Resort & Spa in Santa Cruz

Cover: Room at Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Nestled amidst towering Redwood and Eucalyptus trees, the Chaminade Resort and Spa sits atop a mountain overlooking the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
View of Monterey Bay from Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As we drove up the tree-lined road to the resort, we anticipated a rustic lodge – the typical upscale resort in the woods with dark woods and lots of leather furniture. Boy, were we wrong.

Drive into Chaminade
Drive into Chaminade 
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The rooms & suites

Entrance of Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz, California
Entrance of Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Spanish mission style resort is spread across 300 acres, with 156 rooms and suites in 11 buildings, and has recently undergone a huge renovation. Arriving at the door of our junior suite in building 11, a smile crossed our faces as we were greeted with a room number plate created from dominos.

Room number plate at Chaminade
Room number plate at Chaminade
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Opening the door…warm colors and an eclectic sense of playfulness filled the room – so appropriate for a community well-known for its vibrant lifestyle.

Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Junior suite, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The clever, bohemian decor ranged from a cabinet styled like an antique refrigerator that housed the mini-fridge to the measuring stick inspired coat rack. But the pièce de résistance was the headboard – an abacus!

Headboard, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Headboard, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Coat rack, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Coat rack, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Each item in the spacious room seemed to have been carefully selected for both form and function. Underneath the coat rack was a bench with built-in cubbies – perfect for storing backpacks and shoes, as well as providing extra seating.

Jr Suite, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Jr Suite, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

No matchy-matchy nightstands here. Each side of the bed had different tables – both with a cool factor, plenty of built-in power, and bright red lighting accents.

In one corner, an oversized leather chair with a stylish reading lamp and a laptop table provided a comfortable spot for catching up on email or watch the huge flat panel TV. On the opposite side of the room, a nook with a sectional couch & rustic coffee table was the perfect place for enjoying a glass of wine.

Sitting area, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Sitting area, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The bath was sleek with a clean, fresh feel, natural wood accent pieces, BeeKind – Gilchrist & Soames toiletries, and fluffy white towels.

Bath, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Bath, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Industrial-inspired shelving, drawers, and racks in an alcove outside the bath provide plenty of storage and a full-length mirror turns it into a great dressing area. An oversized safe, bathrobe, hair dryer and coffee/tea maker rounded out the amenities.

Dressing area, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Dressing area, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our first-floor room had a private patio overlooking the forest – a tranquil spot to relax and enjoy nature.

View from patio, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
View from patio, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The resort

Walking paths
Walking paths
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Paths meander throughout the resort, leading from each of the guest room buildings to the main building, spa, pool and other amenities. We thoroughly enjoyed the short strolls to dine in the main building, but for those not desiring to do so, the hotel has a van to shuttle guests back and forth.

Each morning, we headed over to the main building where coffee was available in the lobby. Numerous seating areas are scattered throughout the main building, from small intimate tables for two to larger sections for groups.

Lobby seating area, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Lobby seating area, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After coffee, we’d wander out to the back of the resort to watch the day come to life and take in those stunning views of the Santa Cruz hillside and Monterey Bay in the distance.

Fountain at Chaminade Resort
Fountain at Chaminade Resort
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Sunrise over the Monterey Bay
Sunrise over the Monterey Bay
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Things to do

With a wide variety of activities available throughout the resort, it’s easy to understand why Chaminade is well-known as a great getaway spot. Guests can choose between hiking trails, a spa, a heated outdoor pool, hot tubs, tennis courts, a volleyball court, and a great fitness center to create their own special retreat.

3 miles of private hiking trails

Greg Hull hiking the blue trail
Greg Hull hiking the blue trail
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Chaminade has three hiking trails on the resort’s 200+ acres: the short half-mile green loop near the main building, the 1 1/4 mile red trail or the 1 3/4 mile blue trail, which was our selection. The hiking trail map can be downloaded on the Chaminade’s website and one is provided at check-in as well.

The red and blue trails wind through soaring Eucalyptus & Redwood trees, a babbling stream, miles of lush greenery and past the Lindwood Lodge where Judge Curtis Lindley built a summer home in the early 1900s on the property.

Lindwood Lodge, Hiking trails at Chaminade
Lindwood Lodge, Hiking trails at Chaminade
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Fitness center

Chaminade's Fitness center
Chaminade’s Fitness center
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

There’s no excuse for missing a workout at Chaminade. The fitness center is large, with a great selection of top of the line equipment and machines including treadmills, ellipticals, stair machines, and bikes. If group sessions are more your style, yoga, Zumba, Pilates, or circuit training classes are offered most mornings and some evenings.

Spa at Chaminade

Spa at Chaminade, Santa Cruz, California
Spa at Chaminade, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

No retreat is complete without a visit to the spa and Chaminade’s is 1,700 square feet of luxury and serenity.

Treatment room, Spa at Chaminade, Santa Cruz, California
Treatment room, Spa at Chaminade, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Alluring aromas, tranquil sounds, and beautiful artwork await at The Spa at Chaminade – which definitely is a splurge-worthy way to relax and recharge the senses and deserves a spot on your retreat agenda.

Featuring handmade, all organic products, The Spa at Chaminade offers a full menu of innovative services administered in rooms named after essential oils like Jasmine, Rosemary, Sage. Following treatments, spa guests are invited to relax on the private spa patio next to the koi pond overlooking the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Koi pond, Spa at Chaminade, Santa Cruz, California
Koi pond, Spa at Chaminade, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Tennis anyone?

Tennis courts, Chaminade Resort
Tennis courts, Chaminade Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Chaminade has four lighted tennis courts and equipment is available by loan at the fitness center.

Swimming pools and hot tubs

Swimming pool, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Swimming pool, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Whether you want to soak up some California sun or go for a swim, Chaminade’s heated 50-foot outdoor pool and hot tub are available daily from 7am to 11pm. For a special day at the pool, cabanas and poolside food and beverages are also available seasonally.

Dining & beverages

Linwood’s Bar & Grill, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Linwood’s Bar & Grill, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While at Chaminade Resort & Spa, we had drinks and appetizers at the bar, dined at Linwood’s Bar & Grill, attended a special event, and experienced Sunday brunch at the Sunset Restaurant – and the food and the service were spectacular.

Linwood’s Bar & Grill

With a menu featuring local, seasonal fare, Linwood’s Bar & Grill is a casual meeting place popular with hotel guests and locals alike. At the bar, the sautéed prawns stole the show, accompanied by a mean lemon drop martini. For the main course, the scallops were seared to perfection and the grilled eggplant in a fig reduction was sublime.

Linwood’s Bar & Grill, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Linwood’s Bar & Grill, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Chaminade special events

Patrón Tequila tasting party, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Patrón Tequila tasting party, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Throughout the year, Chaminade hosts special food & beverage events ranging from their popular Farm to Table Wine dinners in the summer, to holiday dinners, to events featuring a specific beverage like… tequila!

We were fortunate to make the Patrón Tequila tasting party while visiting, where Chaminade unveiled their own bespoke barrel (about 27 cases) of aged Patron tequila unique to the resort.  The Reposado had been aged for 9 months in a Hungarian Oak barrel and was featured throughout the event in specialty cocktail flights.

Patrón Tequila tasting party, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Patrón Tequila tasting party, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sunday brunch at Sunset Restaurant

Sunday Brunch bubbles in Santa Cruz at Chaminade
Sunday Brunch bubbles in Santa Cruz at Chaminade
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Always a fan of a Sunday that begins with bubbles, the Chaminade Sunday brunch is an indulgence extraordinaire.

As with Linwood’s, Sunday brunch at Sunset Restaurant was once again a blend of locals and guests, which is always a good indication of great food and service.

Sunday brunch in Santa Cruz at Chaminade
Sunday brunch in Santa Cruz at Chaminade
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Chaminade Sunday brunch
Chaminade Sunday brunch
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The food was superb and plentiful doesn’t quite describe the multitude of offerings. Raviolis smoked salmon, eggs Benedict, a carving station, custom omelets, waffles, an array of vegetables – and the list goes on, and on, and on.

My personal favorites – the raviolis in an arrabbiata sauce and the stuffed french toast. Oh my – heavenly.

Bubbly & mimosa at Chaminade in Santa Cruz
Bubbly & mimosa at Chaminade in Santa Cruz
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Sunday Brunch at Chaminade in Santa Cruz
Sunday Brunch at Chaminade in Santa Cruz
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The top 5 things we loved most about Chaminade

  1. The staff at Chaminade was exceptional – helpful and friendly from morning to night, throughout every area of the hotel.
  2. The guest rooms are large, well-appointed, creative, and functional with plenty of seating room.
  3. The food is outstanding and the Sunday brunch was one of the best we’ve experienced.
  4. The on-site, private hiking trails are beautiful and convenient.
  5. The resort reflects Santa Cruz’ casual charm in a beautiful, tranquil setting – the atmosphere is upscale, yet comfortable.

Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Chaminade Resort & Spa for hosting us as their guest. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media