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.
The vivid green golf course dotted with white carts and brightly dressed players winds through the arid landscape of majestic plants and fauna.
The azure blue waters of the pools and the lazy river sparkle against the rugged Arizona countryside.
Tranquilly perched on a hill above the city, the resort offers stunning panoramic skyline views of bustling Tucson.
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.
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.
Upon entering the room we were greeted with a welcome note and an assortment of delectable chocolates and cookies. What a sweet arrival!
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.
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.
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.
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.
A sprawling resort brimming with activities, Starr Pass offers something for everyone in a relaxed, casual atmosphere.
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.
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.
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
A trek through the beautiful Sonoran desert as the morning sky comes to life is an amazing way to start the day.
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!
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
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.
As the sun begins to warm the day, the traditional Native American ceremony pays tribute to the world view of interconnectedness.
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.
Activities, activities and more activities
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.
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.
Speaking of spas, the Hashani Spa offers a full range of services, including massages, wraps, and other rejuvenating treatments.
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.
And, last but certainly not least, is the renowned Starr Pass Golf Club.
Golfing at Starr Pass
72 holes across three courses deliver a lush golfing paradise for those with a penchant for swinging a club.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
For those looking for something more substantial – Signature Grill serves breakfast specialties both a la carte and on a buffet.
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.
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.
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
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.
Dinner at Primo
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.
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.
Top 5 things we loved about JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Resort
- Stellar staff. The staff was friendly, helpful, and went above and beyond to get it right, without intruding.
- 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.
- 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.
- Great dining options. The food was stellar, with multiple restaurants and options, so we didn’t have to get the car out once.
- 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.
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.