100820 JW Marriott Starr Pass
We came down to JW’s Starr Pass from Phoenix (100+ miles) for a short weekend from Friday evening 20 May to Monday morning. We paid $82 per night with a military discount. We were here once before in October 2007. Since that time we have visited a couple other resorts in Tucson such as the Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa in Sep 08, and Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort in May of this year. We have visited others in Tucson prior to 2007 as well. We have enjoyed the other resorts very well, but without question we both like the Starr Pass much better because of its quiet location, stunning views, superior comfort, resort atmosphere/feel and amenities. When we speak of the location, we are talking about the beautiful desert location and not the city of South Tucson to which it is adjacent and which is older and not so attractive as the parts of Tucson where the other 2 resorts are located. The El Conquistador is in a very beautiful desert location too, but not as good as the Starr Pass.
The layout of the resort is excellent and beautiful. However, if your room is on the other side of the main reception area, then prepare to walk. Our room, 4109, directly across from the life guard station at the top of the pool slide, was just a hair short of 1/3 mile from the parking area. If you use the valet service this is not an issue. We rarely do as we are value oriented it seems unreasonably costly. But if it was ever worthwhile to pay for the valet service, this may be it if you are in the west wing.
The rooms was very nice. Large comfortable bed in which we slept well – which does not always happen in even the nicest resorts because our bed at home is perfect. Nice sitting chair and ottoman, nice table and chairs, though not very comfortable for long periods. Nice sitting area on the balcony. More like standing area if you want to see the view. The 27 inch TV was sub-par, though it did extend out of the cabinet to allow for decent viewing. The bathroom was beautiful and very clean. Besides the TV the only significant criticism is the lack of drawers.
We woke up early on Saturday at 5:30am after a good nights sleep to make it to the free guided hike available every morning at 6am and on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday evenings. It is 1 hour and only about 1 mile at a slow pace while the guide gives you information about the desert and the area. Our guide Randy was great and made our hike very enjoyable and informative. If you have the time, we definitely recommend it. They also have biking tours which we did not have time for. WEAR A HAT AND/OR SUNSCREEN. If it is during the monsoon season like it was for us, bring something to swing at the gnats. They were a slight annoyance when we were not moving. They have some wonderful hiking trails going back in the beautiful desert hills. We recommend taking a hike or two on your own when the spirit moves you. It is just beautiful. If you are not from Tucson and/or not familiar with the wide variety of plants and wildlife here in the Sonoran desert, then this is an absolute must do.
At 7:30am we went down to the Signature Grill for breakfast. Our server was great! We split the Shredded Chicken Omelet with Fresh Vegetables, Egg Whites, Pico de Gallo and Cilantro ($14). It was superb for a “healthy” breakfast. We also split the house made Muesli & Almond Granola Parfait served with seasonal berries ($8). This was also very good, though for us it was a bit of a disappointment. The last time we were here it was only $5, much larger, no muesli but just granola and it had a perfect mix of granola and various nuts/seeds. And when we say perfect, we mean it WAS perfect. At $5 it was an unbelievable bargain considering general resort fare. We don’t mind paying $8 three years later to get the same thing, but we were disappointed to get significantly less in both quality and quantity. Nonetheless, it was still very good. While it is expensive to eat at resorts and we do so sparingly, the beauty, good food and atmosphere (and long trip to do otherwise) make it very worthwhile to enjoy your meals here.
At 11am we went down to the spa for a yoga class. This class and other fitness classes are complimentary if you pay the $15 daily fee for spa use. Considering prices in general at a 5-star resort, it is a bargain. I highly recommend it if you are going to be doing any exercise here or for general relaxation.
We paid the $15 fee and after the info spiel went down stairs to the fitness class room. The whole wall facing the beautiful Sonoran desert is a glass window. The class consisted of myself and my wife who have never done even a minute of Yoga in our lives, and another woman our age. Our instructor Karen was very nice and helpful. She kept the session going at a good pace with good encouragement and assistance. If you have an hour to burn or if you have never done yoga this is an excellent no pressure opportunity.
After the yoga we were too tired/relaxed to do the mini work-out we had intended to do and so after descending down the stairs again to the next level where the gym is, we each headed to the separate men and women’s sauna/shower/whirlpool. The person in the sauna had it so hot that I had to open the door when he left. It is very spacious and very clean. The whirlpool was not very hot at all, but warm enough to relax me – and with excellent jets. The shower area is very beautiful and clean. They have lockers in which you set the combo and then turn the dial. In order to turn it back you have to remember the 4 numbers. If you wear glasses, bring them so you can set the combo. Or you can depend on luck to open it again like I did. My wife said the women’s sauna did not have any sauna controls that she could see. The men’s did for sure. They have quality shampoo, conditioner & body gel in the showers. Each locker has a robe, large towel and 2 regular towels. They also have some sandals in a small bin. There was only 1 pair remaining when I left.
They have iced water and tea in a large central reception sitting/area. The also had a dozen or more large canisters of dried fragrant flowers/plants on a large table by the wall from which you could obtain small amounts to put in a sache that they provide. Very nice touch. The also have a lap pool with salt water which we did not have time to try. The only negative about the spa is that if you are as relaxed and/or tired as we were, you have a couple flights of stairs to ascend before heading towards your room.
After being out and about in Tucson, we returned in the early evening in time for a lightning, thunder and wind show which is the norm during August.
On Sunday morning at 8am, we decided take another hike on our own behind the resort in the Sonoran hills. It was only about 2.25 miles/1 hour+ from our room and back. We took the trail up over the hill. Generally, you do not want to get started any later than 8am during May-Sep or you may be uncomfortably hot before you finish - IF the sun is out. During the monsoons (August down-pours) and again normally in April this area greens up very beautifully.
Very Important Note: IF YOU LIKE KETTLE CORN (and even if you don’t) and IF you are able to get on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, stopping by the Base Exchange for some Kettle Corn is an absolute must do. My wife really likes it, but I have never cared for it much - until last year when we first tried this. Immediately adjacent to exchange entrance is a kiosk where Steve, a very cool and very kind person, sells this special version. He explains that he uses mushroom popcorn which pops up very light and airy as opposed to butterfly popcorn. There is no sugar coating that we can discern, but just a light, sweet and very delicious Kettle Corn flavor. Once I start eating it, I can’t stop. Neither of us have ever tasted better, bar none, not even close. He also sells perfectly cooked nuts too.
On Sunday at 5:30 we went down to the Primo restaurant for happy hour. Cocktails and wine were $5, beer $3 and appetizers $4 off. We ordered the FRITTER DEL GIORNO ($10-4=6) which for the day was corn fritters with quarter inch pieces of shrimp. They came with an Aioli dip which, in this case, was a zesty garlic mayo dip with red peppers. Since I do not eat spicy, I also ordered the straight garlic version. The fritters & aioli’s were excellent. If you are going to eat any bread, hold onto the remaining aioli since you are given much more than you need. We ordered Margherita Pizza for ($15-4=11) which was very decent. It had a couple large patches of mozzarella, but we much prefer grated mozzarella for an even taste as opposed to a pretty look. The crust was delicious dipped in the aioli. The atmosphere was very relaxing sitting by the windows while watching the sun disappear.
After dark we came back down to the central social area to relax and listen to a gentleman play a Spanish guitar while my wife read and I begin typing this review. After an hour of the very beautiful, melodic serenade, we moved outside on the patio in the dark with lighted candles and continued our occupations while overlooking the lights of Tucson. It was beautifully relaxing. At about 10pm we changed into our swimsuits and dipped into the outdoor Jacuzzi in the dark by the edge of the pool area. My wife says the Jacuzzi in the women’s spa was warmer, while I felt this was much warmer than the one in the Men’s spa. After 25-30min we went upstairs, showered, and melted into bed.
At 8am on Monday we both went down to the gym. We both liked their REEBOK weight equipment very much and had a great work out. They had 3 Precore ellipticals (wife’s favorite), 3 recumbent bikes, and 5 or six treadmills all with TV screens and headphone connections. We both used an elliptical and a treadmill. We had minor sound issues with 3 out of 4 of these. We saw a total of only 3 other people in the gym while there. They had water of course and each piece of equipment had a towel placed on it. Like the exercise room, they all faced out towards the beautiful Sonoran desert through huge windows. The also had a large assortment of dumbbells. HOWEVER, the dumbbells went from 2, 3, 5 lbs and then jumped to 10, 12 on up etc. 6 & 8 lb weights are very standard for many women and some men. There were no unfilled slots for weights so they were not missing though we looked anyway because my wife uses 8’s and we could not believe that they could be so fundamentally ignorant as to not have 6 & 8 lb dumbbells.
We checked out just before 11am during which they had to correct 2 errors:
MOVIES: They had an great variety and current selection available. However, they do not warn you that you have 24 hours to watch the movie – which is probably not a frequent occurrence. They immediately and cheerfully corrected it almost before I had even finished explaining what happened.
INTERNET: The internet service runs from 12noon to 12noon. It is not supposed to double charge you if you start at 9:30am like we did and then have to sign in again at 12noon. Though it specifically tells you it is charging you. It did not do that the first day, but it did charge us the 2nd day. Again, they quickly and cheerfully refunded the extra charge without any need to explain further. And by golly they should! I criticize this hotel and every hotel I stay in that gouges on internet service (all resorts). At home we pay a retail price of $65 including tax for T1 access and upon which internet companies make a decent profit. The monthly rate for Starr Pass would be $423.90 based on 30 days times the daily rate of $12.95 + $1.18 tax. Most people, including myself, would call that GOUGING in capital letters. It is offensive and therefore it upsets me every time. Average hotels often include internet for free. Fortunately, my wife hooked us up with an internet free-trial access through our phones on the 2nd day.
They need to improve their website with more detailed information.
Nonetheless, we love this place and we will certainly come down again any chance we get for a weekend or longer.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort & Spa blends seamlessly into its tranquil yet animated mountaintop setting, as natural as the surrounding desert itself. Our resort in Tucson merges surpassing luxury and personal service with ample family-friendly recreation, an incredible array of dining options, three nine-hole desert golf courses, entertaining traditions, free Wi-Fi in the lobby and patio, plus supreme indulgences such as our Hashani Spa. Complementing the natural surroundings, our fabulous array of multi-level swimming pools, waterslides, lazy rivers, and dancing fountains are fun for all ages. With spectacular views, exciting activities for the entire family, and a landscape laced with nature trails throughout for hiking and biking, you'll make memories that will last a lifetime. Immerse yourself in our AAA Four-Diamond resort. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Jw Marriott Starr Pass Hotel Tucson
- Jw Marriott Starr Pass Resort And Spa
- JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa Arizona
- Marriott Starr Pass Hotel
- Marriott Tucson
- Tucson Marriott