Hotel Review: Desert View Suite at Amangiri in Utah
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There are rooms with a view, and then there are rooms with a view. Located in a 600-acre plot of private land situated in the desert landscape of Utah, each of the Amangiri’s Desert View and Mesa View suites peer out onto the impressive rocky landscape. Watching sunrise from bed here was, I must say, simply astounding — something that took this Aman property beyond the realm of just a hotel and into that of a life experience.
Exclusivity comes at cost: When I booked, the Amangiri’s lowest rate per night was $1,800, bringing it in at a minimum of almost $2,200 when taking taxes and fees into account.
The rates only went upward from there, too, as some suites offered private pools. At the top of the tree was the private, four-bedroom Mesa Home, separate from the main property — this was exclusivity above exclusivity and, so I was told, a known retreat for Hollywood stars or Vegas high rollers needing a retreat away from LA or Nevada (no surprise, given that it was over $10k per night).
It all sounds like crazy money, doesn’t it? Well, full disclosure: I was in a privileged position, as I was here on a business trip, meaning my personal credit card and bank account hadn’t borne any of the cost. But even so, when looking at those figures, it did make me — as mere mortal rather than Hollywood A-lister — question the genuine value of splashing so much cash for a single night.
There was no secret club, no miles to be redeemed for accommodation — only the points-on-the-dollar benefit of spending so much cash if you were using a reward-based card, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which gives you 3x on travel.
That rate included almost everything for two: breakfast, lunch and dinner service with all nonalcoholic drinks on the house; pickup service from nearby Page Municipal Airport (PGA) upon request; guided group hikes in the surrounding landscape; fitness classes; and use of the gym, main pool, steam room, sauna and plunge and step pools at no extra cost.
Having spent a day driving through stunning Zion National Park, I arrived at the Amangiri’s private access road, about an hour and 40 minutes away. The road was blocked by a simple mechanical barrier to keep anyone except for guests out of the grounds. After I pressed the buzzer and talked to reception, this barrier was lifted, allowing me to drive the (what seemed like a) mile through the property’s meandering roads before catching a glimpse of the concrete buildings slotted in among the rocky landscape. If I didn’t know the barrier was the access road, I’d have driven right on by; it was as though the Amangiri didn’t want to be found.
It was all part of its appeal to private guests who wanted a true and uninterrupted escape. Don’t try and come here if you’re not a guest, as it’s very much a guests-only property.
My first glimpse of the Amangiri proper showed just how architecturally unusual this property was. Constructed from concrete, it was all angular, a brash set of shapes against the natural rock of its surrounding landscape. The neutral color palette was so at one with the landscape it was almost invisible, a playful juxtaposition that I’m sure was an architect’s dream concept.
Upon arrival, my bags were taken straight to my room, before I even climbed up the grand staircase to the hotel’s outer lobby. This space framed the landscape with its right-angle concrete blocks as if framing nature as a titanic work of art. While gazing outward, I was offered a hot towel and refreshing mint drink.
There was no formal check-in, per se, and certainly no waiting around. I was then welcomed by a private host who led me to my suite, explaining the details of the property on the way.
My host left no stone unturned in the room: She explained the numbers to call to make any request; the etiquette of not wandering into the grounds behind the room, to respect other guests’ privacy; how to operate the private fire pit; and how Utah state law affects alcohol service (there was none in the minibar, because the minibar was complimentary, and state law forbids serving complimentary alcohol). She also showed where everything was located, right down to the giant wooden panels hiding the TV and music system (which, in my case, lay unused throughout my weekend stay — I’m all about nature). Oh, and Wi-Fi was free for all guests.
The room itself was stunning and unusual. (The clay pot on a plinth opposite the toilet kept me company when I was doing my business, which I found amusing.) The architecture was somewhere between prison and paradise. Concrete was an odd material choice, as it lacked aesthetic warmth, but when I sat staring out into the desert wilderness as the sun set, the warm rays colored the architecture and gave it a whole new feel. It was quite the juxtaposition.
What really made the Amangiri was the views: From the king bed, I could have gazed outside for hours, watching rabbits run around in the wilderness.
The bathtub had floor-to-ceiling windows gazing out onto the landscape. I couldn’t help but order a beer from room service (which my host brought almost immediately along with a bowl of wasabi nuts), light the candles, throw in heaps of bath salts and watch the sun set. That kind of experience was beyond what more than 99% of hotels could offer. Sunrise was even more impressive, painting the surrounding rocks shades of orange and amber.
At night, the lighting made the concrete look and feel warmer (it was actually too warm for me, actually, so I had to switch on the air conditioning). By the bed, on the neighboring desk, there was a panel to control the lights to set the mood. If I did need to get up, then there was a second panel on the approach to the vanity and bathroom area, near the hanging his-and-hers robes.
I was focused on the private fire pit, however, which sat outside the rear double doors, flanked by two elongated, cushioned, built-in benches. A colleague and I sat here with a drink late one evening, having lit the fire. It was a pretty feature but added little to no extra warmth — and it can get cold in Utah!
Ready to fold on night one, I hung up the rope outside my front door — the Amangiri’s equivalent of the do-not-disturb sign — walked back through the private courtyard, and slumped into bed. It was dark and easy to get a good night’s sleep.
It all felt pretty comfy … until I rolled over and realized that I wasn’t actually on a king bed but two beds pushed together, Central European-style, with a plump bridge to keep them together. You can’t fool me, though.
Frankly, I was shocked that this property didn’t give me a proper king-size mattresses. (Full king mattresses are available upon request.) First World problems and all that, but it was a disappointment given the price tag. I lay there calculating how much each minute of sleep would cost (it was $1.52 per minute, FYI, so seven hours of shut-eye would’ve been $640) and concluded a mediocre king-size mattress could have been purchased for what a guest would pay for an average night’s shut-eye.
Food and Beverage
Come morning, sleep wasn’t what I was after. There was breakfast, followed by activities and well-earned relaxation to be had. And the Amangiri didn’t disappoint.
Breakfast offered an American menu with a twist: Beef hash was pulled brisket with small potatoes and a perfectly poached egg on top. I watched a colleague eating it with envy, though my eggs Benedict was rather good too. My tea was delivered and poured for me like wine would be in a restaurant. And the orange juice was fresh and packed with zing. (The majority of my other dining was off-site, excluding one outdoor late-night meal with colleagues in which I enjoyed delicious rare steak and local fish.)
Full, satisfied, I decided it was time for a quick dip. The Amangiri had a large outdoor pool facility, with the surrounding rock face making for a striking view. The water was blue, not overly chlorinated, and was open 24 hours a day. There was also an 84-degree Jacuzzi, which I thought almost hot enough to singe hair, but could be made even hotter on request.
Ample sun beds surrounded the pool (singles and doubles), towels and drinks were offered tableside, or you could flag down a staff member from inside the pool. I had much driving to do, so I stuck with iced water.
Activity-wise, I took on a group hike in the surrounding area. Our guide was an encyclopedia of local knowledge, the kind of guy who is one with nature, who lives and breathes his local environment and, by virtue of that, his job. I didn’t need to wear full hiking gear, as it wasn’t strenuous by any means, even if sand and altitude weren’t the perfect combination for unfit lungs following a long-haul flight. If you like history, geology or just being in nature, then this excursion is for you.
A premier feature of the Amangiri was its spa facilities, including pay spa treatments and free-to-use steam, sauna, plunge and step pools. Everything was enclosed in a private area to the rear of the property. Though it officially opened at 9:00am, staff readily accommodated my request to use it at 7:30am so I could catch a morning flight (though the sauna and steam room didn’t have enough time to heat up by the time I tried them at 8:00am).
Of the free-to-use facilities, it was the outdoor step pool that was most impressive. It was banked by giant concrete steps that evoked the Colosseum, and surrounded by the high-reaching rocks, a welcome escape from the marginally busy outdoor pool. (I rarely saw other guests in the 34-room resort.)
I didn’t get any spa treatments myself, but I saw smug-looking colleagues half melting after paying for a hourlong massage. By their accounts, the treatments were top-notch.
I’m a Brit, so late-night drinking is something of a tradition. To me, the Amangiri’s lack of a bar seemed unusual. This was partly to do with it being in Utah, but also partly because the resort really didn’t need one: You sat down at one of the many tables, inside or out, and the staff happily waited upon you.
The problem was that the staff, nice as they all were, seemingly had no idea how to mix a drink. Martini? Miles off the money. Negroni? Way too bitter. I was done after one drink and stuck with the local beer instead (amusingly named Devastator, which never got old when a staff member said, “Your Devastator, sir”).
The surroundings were perfect for cozying up to a beer or tumbler of whiskey, with huge fireplaces positioned throughout the lobby and dining area and to the side of the pool. I loved the smell of burning firewood; it was homey and comforting. The staff kept these fireplaces topped up with logs regularly and upon request. They were so warm they’d even burned an ashen color into the concrete, which added character. Elsewhere, the water features had aged the concrete with greens and blues.
To the Point
Without doubt the Amangiri is one of the world’s premier properties. It’s been described by some as the “best hotel in America.” That’s a bold statement, but I still have a couple of nits to pick: The pushed-together beds were unforgivable at this price point, and the uneven knowledge (about liquor, food and the history of the hotel) and bar service was annoying. All the staff members were lovely, it’s simply that other Aman and first-class properties (Cap Rocat in Spain, for example) opt for a dedicated, almost regimented service, the kind you might expect when spending $2,200 per night.
The setting, surroundings, exclusivity and what’s included are second to none, without doubt. But is it worth saving for? Like I say, the Amangiri is an experience beyond just a hotel stay. The likes of the Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons and others charge heavyweight sums of cash for aged, shabby suites that are far inferior, so I can see why Amangiri is sold out for many weekends at a time.
For me, it’s the out-of-this-world setting and sheer quirkiness that make the Amangiri truly memorable. And how many hotel properties can you say that about?
All images courtesy of the author.
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