Disclosure: My stay at Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort was hosted. I sought them out after meeting their PR person at a media event and became enamored by her description of the resort, HOWEVER, as always ALL opinions are my own.
There is no shortage of mega-resorts in the Tucson area (and for that matter Phoenix/Scottsdale as well), but I sometimes feel that most of them have very little soul and very little authenticity. They definitely serve a purpose and I don’t mean to belittle anyone who may frequent them, there is a place for everyone in this world. For me (and Mr. Misadventures) that place is the Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort.
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Mr. Misadventures is a Swiss-trained engineer and I am a keen observer (the hubby says I missed my calling and should have been a detective!) so we notice the details. All the details. Details matter and from the moment we stepped foot inside the beautiful adobe archway of the Hacienda del Sol we could tell that details mattered to them as well.
Everywhere you turn there is a photograph in the making. Every component of the gardens, the buildings, the pool, and the rooms have been thought through, even if a guest never notices.
Mr. Misadvenures and I wandered around with mouth agape, like Alice in Wonderland taking in the beautiful desert landscaping, the art and sculptures, and the water elements, all placed in just the right spot. The tiling on the staircases, the strategically placed windows that bring in the natural light into the darkest corners. This place has been designed to embrace its history and its geological location. There is a respect for the elements and a celebration of them as well.
We arrived with little or no plans for the weekend. After a very busy spring and what looks to be a jam-packed summer, we just wanted to get away from our home and relax. When I met the resort’s PR person at an event in Paradise Valley she gushed about the property, its history, its ample photogenic nature, I knew that I must see it for myself. And I must tell you, the reality lived up to the marketing 🙂
Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort started out as an all-girls school in 1930, mainly for wealthy daughters of prominent families. As the United States entered into World War II, it was difficult to find teachers and the school closed in 1941 only to open again as a guest ranch in 1944. But the ranch had already begun evolving and transforming in the late 1930s. After a fire damaged part of the property, Josias Joesler, a Swiss architect who had moved to the Tucson area with his wife in 1927, was commissioned to rebuild parts of the ranch.
Most of Mr. Joesler’s other surviving work is located in the area around the Hacienda del Sol in the Catalina Foothills Estates and the Historic Blennman-Elm neighborhood where his traditional southwestern style of hand-crafted decorative motifs and iron/tin work can still be found. A student of Mr. Joesler, Lewis Hall, an architect known for his Sonoran revival style in the Tucson area, continued the work that Mr. Joesler had begun at the ranch. He designed churches and commercial spaces but loved designing homes. Some of his signature touches include floor-to-ceiling windows, spacious gathering areas, large brick fireplaces, and wood beams. He worked on the Hacienda del Sol until 1948.
As the years progressed, the guest ranch became a popular hideaway for Hollywood personalities such as John Wayne and Clark Gable (perhaps because of the proximity to the Old Tucson Studios?) as well as romantic couples such as Spencer Tracey and Katherine Hepburn (the resort even has a casita dedicated to them). At some point in time, the hotel began to change owners and was lost in time for a bit until a group of Tucson residents took on its restoration. Since that time, the restoration has continued organically, holistically, never sacrificing the spirit of its locale.
The Misadventurers are incredibly discerning when it comes to food. Sorry, not sorry. We’ve lived all over the world. Traveled over the world and have had the luxury of having had really amazing food. That’s not to say that all that food has been in luxury restaurants and hotels. Because that is definitely not true. But when we do stay in a starred property we do have certain expectations and when it comes to the dining at Hacienda del Sol, we were impressed. Mr. Misadventures is even more exigent than I am and he gave everything a thumbs up! That is impressive to see. And to taste.
The main restaurant, The Grill was added in 1997 and is an award-winning spot for Best Grill, Best Brunch, and Best Place to take out-of-town guests. Unless you yourself are that out-of-town guest, like I was for the weekend, in which case you are just lucky! Mr. Misadventures and I enjoyed a lovely smoked salmon breakfast in the Grill taking in the Santa Catalina mountains.
Even if you sit in a seat not facing the mountains you are entertained by the plethora of aviary acrobats taking place outside of the large windows. Everywhere you look the desert landscaping is impeccable, not to say it’s like the crisp and all-to-well-manicured style gardens of some hotels or English gardens, but rather a naturally managed authentically chaotic desert ecosystem. And the amount and variety of birds on property attest to that.
In fact, that is what Mr. Misadventures did our first night. We sat on the terrace of our Catalina room (part of an expansion added in 2015) taking in the sunset, imbibing cold, bubbly Prosecco, snacking on an excellent cheese and fruit plate, and watching the myriad of birds visit the giant saguaro next to our room. We sat there for quite a while. Without devices. Simply appreciating the moment.
There are 2 pools on the resort property and we had the one near our room all to ourselves! It’s a small pool, but strategically placed on the hill with a beautiful view of the Santa Catalina mountains and the sunset is lovely from there as well.
The weather was warm so we slipped outside in sprints in order to photograph as much of the ground details as we could. We just couldn’t help ourselves. In between, we would hop in the pool or escape to our room to cool off, read, and refresh. It was a largely digital-free weekend and the sights and sounds of. wildlife and flora and fauna made an impression on us. There is color and shape and texture everywhere!
We decided to partake in the more casual fare offered by the resort in their Terraza Garden Patio & Lounge rather than The Grill. The restaurant has a lovely patio which is wonderful for winter dining. We chose to eat inside, plus as a bonus, there was live jazz.
Our dinner was exceptional. It is safe to say we have very high standards when it comes to food and since leaving San Francisco we are rarely impressed, but the culinary team behind the food at Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort is talented.
We ordered a fried calamari starter. That was followed up by tacos. Not sophisticated but well thought out and balanced. I had carnitas tacos which will say was not well-plated (the meat should have been left to rest a minute, the grease/fat coming off the meat was not attractive), but the taco itself was delicious. Mr. Misadventures had mahi-mahi tacos which were memorable as the fish was super moist, a rare find when it comes to fish tacos. But the real star of the plate was the beans, or as stated on the menu, borracha (drunken) beans.
The layers of flavor were quite complex and you can tell a lot of love went into them. The meal ended on a high note with a goat milk cheesecake (with a basil graham cracker crust) that was one of the best desserts I’ve ever had. It reminded me of 2 other desserts on my all-star list. A tomato-strawberry- basil dessert from Grand Vefour in Paris Palais Royale and a goat cheesecake from La Ferme Saint Aubin in Paris as well.
We retreated back to our room and back to the quiet for the sunset. Except it wasn’t completely quiet. A lone coyote stepped onto stage also known as the golf course down the canyon and began a solo concert. We don’t know who he or she was calling to but it was impressive.
There was a perpetual smile on our faces the whole weekend. This is the kind of rare paradise that you generally want to keep to yourself. But out of generosity and kindness of my heart, I’m sharing. You’re welcome! The Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort is celebrating their 90th anniversary and have Historic Rooms at $90 – these are the rooms in which the daughters of the Kelloggs (cereal), the Pillsburys (biscuits), the Campbells (soups) slept on the outer edges of the historic courtyard – where the beautiful yellow-walled photos were taken by Mr. Misadventures.
If you want to soak up the nostalgia of one of Hollywood’s greatest couple, try out the Tracy-Hepburn Casita, or for something in between try one of the Catalina rooms which we enjoyed. Whichever room you choose, do it soon as you deserve this in your life!
Oh, and if you like horses they have stables (the daughters of all those rich families kept horses at Hacienda del Sol) and you can go horseback riding! We walked down to the stables to check out the horses but didn’t do a trail (it was 100!).
Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort has received many accolades, but most recently they were rewarded 4-stars by Forbes as a verified luxury resort in the Forbes Travel Guide. So you know it is the good stuff! They are located at 5501 North Hacienda Del Sol Road, Tucson, Arizona 857185501. It is 2 hours from Phoenix. It is the perfect romantic Tucson weekend getaway and I highly recommend it.
Thank you again to the wonderful staff at Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort who allowed me to invite myself over for a weekend staycation. I could not have asked for a more perfect slice of desert heaven than you!
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