Have you ever read a travel story and wondered if the author was getting a free room in exchange for writing such a glowing review? In my new series, “The World’s Best Hotels That Let Me Stay For Free,” you needn’t wonder any longer.
Each story is carefully crafted to reflect that no matter what the experience, I know which side my toast – which often accompanies the (hopefully) included breakfast — is buttered on.
The idea for the series came to me after I got an email from a lovely woman who does public relations for the Hacienda Del Sol, an historic jewel of a ranch-style luxury resort in the foothills north of Tucson, Arizona, which, according to Travel + Leisure magazine, is one of America’s most underrated cities.
“I was meandering through travel blogs as I often do,” the lovely woman said, “and found BobCarriesOn.com. Now I am recovering from a full-on case of giggles after reading about animals on airplanes [including members of certain college fraternities] and telling kids that there is no luggage heaven.
“If you are looking for an excursion close to home [I live in Scottsdale, AZ] but away from the ‘run of the mill,’ please let me know. I would love to have you check in and check out my client, the Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch Resort. Hopefully, you won’t find too much humorous about it.”
An award-winning member of the Historic Hotels of America, the 59-room property, on 34 secluded acres, has a Spanish Colonial style of architecture that gives it the feel of a traditional Mexican village, except that no one is trying to sell you Chiclets, Viagra, or plastic surgery.
Opening in 1929 as an exclusive boarding school, Hacienda Del Sol provided an excellent education for the daughter’s of some of America’s wealthiest families. How excellent is suggested by the school’s 1938 yearbook, in which it is noted that among the gifts graduating seniors left to their younger classmates were “A collection of lipsticks to Betty,” and “a raft of men to Jennnie.”
In 1944, the school was transformed into a guest ranch that proved popular with Hollywood celebrities, among them John Wayne, Clark Gable, Howard Hughes, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Nostalgia buffs can even stay in the same accommodation, the Casita Grande, whose privacy Hepburn and Tracy appreciated when they were hiding out from his wife.
After decades of neglect and disrepair, the Hacienda Del Sol was given a new life in 1995 when it reopened under the ownership and management of a local group of investors who have lovingly upgraded it to a luxury resort, most recently adding 32 rooms, some looking out on that most Southwestern of icons, a golf course.
Resort amenities include two pools (one with a mosaic on the bottom of a presumably drowned cowboy and his horse), a delightfully cozy spa, a riding stable, a fitness center, and a botanical garden, among which are scattered forty works of outdoor art. Ten of the works are by one of the property’s owners, who, it might be helpful to note, is by profession a realtor.
The Hacienda Del Sol’s two dining rooms and award-winning culinary team – along with the new 5,100 square foot Casa Luna Ballroom — make it an ideal venue for all types of events and celebrations, including wedding receptions, occasionally highlighted by having drinks packed in by donkey, which after a few prickly pear margaritas, won’t seem too humorous.
When BobCarriesOn Editor in Chief Bob Payne is not staying at a hotel for free he often pays for it.