Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain, AZ – Review


Recently renovated, quiet retreat that’s good for conferences or golf weekends.


Quick Summary

  • 23 miles north of Tucson, 106 miles southeast of Phoenix
  • Secluded and quiet. Perfect for a couples getaway, small conference, or an intimate wedding.
  • With 300 days of sunshine a year, rain isn’t likely to impact your vacation.
  • Well-trained staff, clean and well-maintained interiors and grounds.
Adult pool at Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain
The serenity of the adult pool at Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain

Who is it for?

The Ritz-Carlton Dove Valley is only a 30 minute drive from downtown Tucson, but it sits at the very outskirts of suburban north Tucson and it’s long winding driveway makes it feel secluded and isolated. It is perfect for a quiet getaway, a chance to recharge, or a social event where you want to spend some quality time with your guests instead of being distracted by the noise of a city or a crowded beach.

Dove Valley exudes a calm, peaceful, quiet vibe. Their carefully crafted spaces invite you to focus on yourself or your friends in private without feeling confined. To illustrate this, we had dinner at Cayton’s Burger Bistro located at The Golf Club. At the same time, there was a wedding reception in an adjacent outdoor space. While this might normally have presented a noise challenge, the outdoor spaces were thoughtfully designed so that the space could be shared without being bothered by noise of their celebration.

Along with the relaxed atmosphere is a distinct lack of exciting entertainment. The resort is somewhat remote, so the amenities on the resort are all you have to work with. However, there is plenty to keep you active for a few days. If you are a golfer, you will be delighted by the Jack Nicklaus designed 27-hole course. Those who love the outdoors can enjoy the miles of hiking trails that surround the resort. Spa lovers can partake in treatments at The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Dove Mountain which has been ranked as the #3 spa in North America by Condé Nast Magazine. The adult pool is quiet and lovely with in-pool lounge chairs and an adjacent hot tub. The kid’s pool is thoughtfully placed downhill a bit from the adult pool and features the longest waterslide of any of the Ritz properties.

panorama of dusk from ritz-carlton
Dusk is a special time in the desert

Why go there?

Go to the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain to relax, unwind, and recharge. If your company is having a conference there, it is worth attending. If you need to get away from a brutally cold winter for a while, this is the place for you. It is restorative to sip a cool tropical drink by the pool and be genuinely warm for a few days. The golf courses are beautiful, challenging, and well-maintained. If you have tweens or teens to entertain, or you’re the type that wants to party all day and into the late night, this might not be quite as satisfying for you. This property caters to conferences and golfers, so if pampering and exquisite luxury is a priority for you, we’d recommend looking elsewhere.

When to go?

Personally, we’d say October to May. Summer temperatures average 100 degrees F (38 C). That is too hot to be fun, and downright dangerous if you are not adequately prepared. However, with an average of 300 days of sunshine a year, you can feel pretty confident that your vacation isn’t going to get rained out, so happy times on the golf course or at the pool are almost guaranteed.

ritz-carlton dove mountain
Nestled in the valley

What is so great about it?

The grounds and buildings had been renovated in 2018 and were exceedingly well maintained. Everything in our room was clean, new, and fully functional. We are very good about finding some fault in the grounds or buildings, but must commend Dove Mountain for keeping things in very good order.

Needs Improvement & Buyer Beware

Consistent training is paramount with a brand that focuses so heavily on top-notch service. While we didn’t experience any outright gaffes, it was clear that there were staff who were better trained at the art of being “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Ritz-Carlton” than others. Our check-in was a little rough as our desk agent was new and uninformed. She was good enough to direct us to one of the more experienced bellmen who was able to answer our questions. In another instance, when we asked to borrow a wine bottle opener from the bartender, we were politely denied and asked to call room service for one. We did so, and the bottle opener was delivered after a couple of calls, but we are unaccustomed to being denied such a trivial request.

We were unable to enjoy the renowned spa at Dove Mountain as there was a wedding party that had the entire place booked up on the day that we wanted to go. This was disheartening and no amount of pressing the receptionist helped.

This highlights one real opportunity for improvement that we’ve encountered across other Ritz-Carlton properties — they tend to prioritize the needs of big groups over the needs of individual guests. Look, we get it. Big groups are the bread-and-butter of resort properties and when they require certain spaces and amenities, the resort has to move the individual guests around a bit to accommodate. Ritz-Carlton actually does this fairly well.

What they could do to really improve the experience for the individual guests that are not part of those larger groups is to advise them and accommodate them proactively. If the front desk agent had advised us that there was a wedding party at the hotel and roughly sketched out where the bulk of them would be each day, it would have helped us be more strategic in how we spent our time. In this case, could have booked our spa appointments on a different day. We’ve encountered such large group challenges at Ritz-Carltons in Tenerife and Grand Cayman as well.

Our experience at Dove Mountain was predominantly lovely. We love the Ritz-Carlton brand and desperately want them to meet their full potential at every property around the globe. As such, we actively develop relationships with the managers at every location we visit and communicate our issues and suggestions to them. We must commend them for always being very receptive and willing to correct any shortcomings.

Must do

  • Sunset cocktails at Cayton’s Burger Bistro
  • Relaxing on the in-pool loungers
  • Early morning hike in the hills surrounding the resort, followed by breakfast at Core Kitchen & Wine Bar
  • Rooms on the ground floor at the rear of the property have gas-fired fireplaces. This is a really nice touch and allows for one to stay warm a little longer when the desert air cools after dark.

Eat this

The onion rings at Cayton’s Burger Bistro were perfect. Fried in clean oil with a light crispy exterior and tender flavorful interior, these rings were perfectly seasoned and a perfect counterpoint to the sweet and delightfully tart house margaritas.

Breakfast a la carte at Core Kitchen & Wine Bar. Hearty, delicious, and reasonably priced (for a Ritz). We enjoyed a lovely breakfast out on the patio after a brisk morning hike on the trails surrounding the property and it was just perfect.

african tortise at Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain
Dove Mountain’s resident African tortoise, “Wamba”

What you should know that nobody else will tell you…

Ask if there are going to be any large groups there at the same time. Keep asking as your trip date approaches. If there are going to be big groups there, find out what their rough itinerary is going to be and plan your trip accordingly. If there is going to be a big reception at one of the restaurants, book your reservation on a different night. If the spa is going to be booked heavily, (very popular for weddings) book your service in advance or on an alternate day. These resorts are generally big enough to accommodate the large groups and individual guests simultaneously, but a little advanced planning can ensure that you don’t miss out on any amazing experiences.

We struggled a bit with seating at the restaurants. We are unsure what algorithm the hostess was using to seat us, but more often than not we felt stuffed in a corner rather than optimally placed for ambiance and views of the sunset. Our advice would be to advocate for where you want to sit with the hostess first, so that you do not have to move later.

Bring water with you everywhere and dress in layers. The desert is unbelievably dry and you will dehydrate faster than you think possible. Also, the temperature drops precipitously after sunset, so bring a sweater or light jacket along in the evenings.

Cabañas are only available at the kid’s pool. Lounge chairs and umbrellas at the adult pool are in good supply.

Notable Staff

Henry was our server at the pool for a couple of days. Henry displayed the level of service and grace that the Ritz-Carlton seeks to instill in its “Ladies and Gentlemen.” He was attentive without being intrusive, polished without acting pretentious. Seek him out when you go; you won’t be disappointed.

 

Bon voyage and safe travels!

A&K

 

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