Dispatch from Arizona: Looking Westward

There’s something very refreshing about a resort that does its own thing. Westward Look Resort, nestled into the foothills of the stunning Santa Catalina mountains above sun-baked Tucson, is not part of any chain or hotel management company, and you get the feeling that they have made the most of not

The striking landscape and vegetation at Westward Look.

The desert gallery.

having to bend to market research or answer to a far-off corporate HQ. Westward Look is proudly independent, and the results are sometimes quaint, sometimes quirky, sometimes fabulous, and always interesting. A few examples: In the main building, an adobe-style homestead built in 1912, there is a small desert gallery that houses things found on the property, including snake, coyote and Gila Monster skulls and snake skins that you can touch. It feels like the private collection of some friend who has gotten a little carried away with their interest in desert flora and fauna. The head of the groundskeeping team has been on staff for an amazing 23 years, and he tends to an honest-to-goodness chef’s garden, where grapes and tomatoes and red cabbage are harvested and served up in the hotel’s restaurants. He has also created his own micro-climate, using heat absorbed by nearby rocks, which radiates all night, and humidity from one of the swimming pools to grow what could be the only avocado tree in town. The layout is different than most—dozens of small buildings spread out across 80 desert acres. While some may not love the sometimes longish walk to reach the main buildings, the spread-out nature of Westward Look, which includes meticulously tended desert vegetation (Saguaro cacti, prickly pear and the like) gives you a true Southwest experience, while a fleet of golf carts—some mini-buses for shuttling guests and staff, some outfitted with compartments to keep room service hot or cool—buzz about the property 24/7 like an earnest group of worker bees. And the staff truly added personal touches. There was Michael, a bellman who seemed be perpetually on shift, and was always eager to strike up a friendly conversation. And, perhaps it was because I’m a writer on assignment, but everyone there—and I mean everyone, from desk staff to bellmen and valet drivers and waiters and spa staff—knew my name. I would routinely walk up to someone I had never seen before in my life, and they would say, “Oh, hi Mr. Johnson, how are you enjoying your stay? What can I do for you?” Maybe they were passing along word of mouth descriptions, or perhaps they had a picture of me up in the staff room, I honestly don’t know. But it was nice. Oh, and they have a night vision goggles tour that doesn’t seem to serve any purpose beyond the fact that someone thought it might be cool. (It is). I like it.

—Tim, CF‘s contributing editor

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