Peaceful Desert Retreat: A Review of the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa
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To The Point
Our stay at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa exceeded expectations. Pros: Spectacular facilities, a gorgeous location and eligible for Hyatt free night certificates. Cons: Wasted space in room and minor service failures, though they were quickly corrected.
For many travelers, Easter weekend means time at home with the family, but for me, it translated into an opportunity to head out west from my home state of Florida (thanks my daughter’s Catholic school and the five-day weekend it gave us). This also gave me a chance to check out the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa, just outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, a property that had long intrigued me.
Spoiler alert: Our stay surpassed just about all of my expectations.
As a Category 3 property in the World of Hyatt program now, award stays at Tamaya cost 12,000 points per night (or 6,000 points plus half of the standard paid rate). You could also spend extra points for a standard suite (20,000 points per night) or a premium suite (24,000 points per night). However, the best booking option is likely to use the free-night certificates offered on the World of Hyatt Credit Card and the old Hyatt credit card (which I have, though it’s no longer available to new applicants). These are only valid at Category 1 to 4 properties, and with revenue rates at Tamaya typically starting at $200 with taxes and fees, this can be a terrific way to cover either card’s annual fee in one fell swoop.
I had originally booked a two-night stay in separate reservations prior to the March category changes: the first using my free-night certificate in a standard room and the second by redeeming 24,000 points for a junior suite, the property’s standard suite for redemption purposes. My hope was that the property would allow us to enjoy both nights in the junior suite, but that became a moot point. A couple of months before arrival, I happened to notice that revenue rates for an executive suite (the property’s premium suite) had dropped to just $205.48 per night.
Even with the $34 daily resort fee (which wound up mysteriously missing from my bill at checkout) and the additional occupancy taxes, this was an easy decision, allowing me to save my Hyatt points for a more valuable redemption.
As a World of Hyatt Discoverist member, I earned 5.5 points per dollar spent during my time on-property, and since it was my second stay of the quarter, I was able to earn an additional 1,000-point bonus per night through the program’s second-quarter promotion. In all, I took home 7,750 points for my room charges, spa treatments and on-property dining, worth $131.75, based on TPG’s most recent valuations.
I chose to pay for the stay with my old Hyatt credit card, which offered me 3 Hyatt points per dollar spent. Under normal circumstances, I would’ve used my Chase Sapphire Reserve card to earn 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent, which could then be transferred at a 1:1 rate to Hyatt or saved for another valuable redemption. However, I was targeted for a Chase offer of 15% off by using my Hyatt card (up to $38 in total), so this added discount tipped the scales in favor of the the Hyatt card.
The Hyatt Regency Tamaya is just off Interstate 25 between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Though it’s only about a 20-minute drive from Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ), we had spent the night before our arrival in Santa Fe, so it took us roughly 50 minutes to make the drive to the property.
After turning off the interstate and passing the Santa Ana Casino, we hung a right and started the drive onto the reserve. The resort was on 79,000 acres of the Santa Ana Pueblo, a local community that traces its roots back to the 16th century.
As we drove down the winding road, there was no sign of the resort itself save for a sign at the main entrance.
Even when it came into view, it still wasn’t obvious, as the exterior blended nicely with the surroundings.
As we pulled up, I was struck by the seemingly modest scale of the resort. Our initial impression of the hotel was that it occupied a single floor, yet this idea was dispelled once we stepped inside and got the full feel of the property.
I pulled the rental car up to the front and was immediately greeted by a friendly parking valet. I asked about parking and was told that valet was $18 a day but that complimentary self-parking was available just behind the building to the left. Naturally I opted for the latter.
As soon as we stepped through the main door, we were met by an incredible sight: the vaulted ceilings of the main lobby and the spectacular view of the Sandia Mountains through the floor-to-ceiling windows.
This wound up being a familiar sight for us, as our room provided the same view. Nevertheless, for this Floridian, it never got old.
The front desk was directly to the left of the main entrance, consisting of three individual desks angled slightly to make the check-in experience feel a bit more personal. The middle one was designated for World of Hyatt elite members but wasn’t staffed when we arrived, so we waited a few minutes while the other two agents finished helping guests.
Once it was our turn, we were quickly helped by the friendly agent, who thanked me for my (Discoverist) loyalty and informed us that we had been assigned a fantastic ground-level suite. I must admit that this made me a bit nervous, as “fantastic” and “ground-level” generally aren’t used together in hotel parlance, but I took him at his word (and wound up being glad I did).
He quickly reviewed my elite benefits and pointed out that our room had two complimentary bottles of water that would be replenished daily. We were also offered a welcome drink before departing for our room, given the choice between a local margarita and a nonalcoholic fruit punch.
The ice-cold margarita hit the spot after the sun-baked drive south from Santa Fe, though my daughter turned down the fruit punch in a momentary fit of defiance.
The lobby and main common areas of the resort were actually on the third floor of the property, with the majority of the accommodations past the lobby and either down a flight of stairs or an elevator. We were assigned Room 1133 (the “Mesquite Suite”), on the ground floor of the Turquoise Building. While I’m usually not a fan of ground-floor accommodations, this east-facing room was a notable exception, as it afforded spectacular views of the Sandia Mountains and the barren yet beautiful landscape of the resort’s walking trails.
The door swung open to reveal a wide entryway and a glimpse of the living room.
To the immediate right was a small closet that included the in-room safe and a box with a partial set of linens for the sofa bed, though a quick call to the front desk had a housekeeper there with a full set to make up the bed for my daughter to nap.
To the left was a small wet bar with a sink, coffeemaker and expansive counter space.
Hidden inside the cabinet underneath the coffeemaker was a small refrigerator.
There was also an elevated bar at the cutout leading into the rest of the room, though it strangely didn’t include any barstools and thus functioned more as a storage area during our stay.
On the right-hand side of the entryway was a small alcove set back into the wall, adorned with a local piece of art.
While this area could’ve been used for luggage storage, the distance from the bedroom made this impractical.
The room then immediately opened up into a spacious living room, complete with a sofa bed, wall-mounted TV and two armchairs.
The sofa bed was the best we had ever encountered in our four years of traveling with our daughter, as the mattress was ingeniously folded into the sofa without being crushed, and it felt much closer to memory foam than the usual spring-loaded (read: uncomfortable) style.
The living room also included the first set of sliding glass doors leading out to a concrete patio complete with two chairs and a small table and the first glimpse of the view we were to enjoy for the next two days.
The TV facing the sofa bed was mounted on a half-wall that partially separated the room from the bedroom, which included an odd diagonal on one side and, frustratingly, didn’t offer complete separation between the rooms.
Around the other side of the partition was the king bed against a rust-colored accent wall and wood-grain headboard.
The end table on the right included the phone and stationery.
The other end table included the alarm clock.
One of my biggest pet peeves in hotel rooms, especially ones that are new or recently renovated, is a lack of power outlets. We typically travel with three Kindles, two iPhones and two computers, and it’s frustrating to crawl under desks or unplug lights just to stay charged up. This room did a phenomenal job at addressing this 21st-century issue, as the outlets by the bed and throughout the room consisted of two standard and two USB outlets.
Opposite the bed was another flat-screen TV mounted on the wall, and to the left was a rustic-looking table that functioned as a desk.
This is also where we found literature about the resort and activities to accompany the detailed calendar of events we were provided at check-in.
To the left of the bedroom was a hallway leading to the bathroom, complete with a full-size mirror.
The closet to the right was quite spacious and included two robes along with his-and-hers slippers.
The bathroom was one of the more disappointing aspects of the room, as it was relatively small and basic. The single sink was straight ahead, offering relatively limited counter space for our various toiletries.
To the left was the toilet.
Above it was a set of shelves with extra supplies.
The shower was on the other side of the sink and would’ve been hit-or-miss for passing the TPG shower test.
While it was just a simple tub, we did appreciate the built-in handheld that made bathtime for Evy much easier.
The bath products provided by the resort were from Pharmacopia and were entirely cruelty-free and vegan, including organic aloe vera.
It’s also worth noting that there were doors in both the living room …
… and the bedroom that led to the connecting (standard) rooms on either side of the suite.
This would make for a terrific setup for larger families visiting the resort.
However, my favorite part of the room was the large concrete patio, accessible through dated sliding glass doors in both the living room and the bedroom. I loved sitting out there with a cup of coffee in the morning or glass of wine in the evening, taking in the majestic silence of the landscape. (It’s also where the Easter Bunny left a basket for my daughter on Easter morning.)
While a few families and other guests walked by periodically en route to other parts of the resort, and the road was used by the van transport to and from the stables, we never felt like they were intruding on our space.
Food and Beverage
The resort had five dining options right on the property, though one (the Santa Ana Cafe) was closed for renovations during our stay. It did open its doors for Easter brunch to accommodate the demand, but it wasn’t slated to open for regular dining until June 10, 2019.
As a result, the main restaurant during our stay was Corn Maiden, which was offering a modified menu for all meals while Santa Ana Cafe was closed. We elected to eat dinner there the first night and had a terrific meal. We started with the crispy green chile strips served with a chipotle-boursin sauce for dipping, and the combination of spices was delectable.
My wife’s vegetable-heavy cavatappi peperonata was also fantastic, though I was partial to my chicken and grits made with honey from right on the property.
The more casual, pub-like dining option was the Rio Grande Lounge, just off the central common area of the property. Open daily from 4pm to 12am, it served a variety of craft cocktails (be sure to try the signature Green Chile-Rita) and bar food with a Southwest twist. Our nachos topped with brisket were half consumed before I even thought about taking a picture.
For grab-and-go dining, the property offered the Trading Post, a small market right across from the Rio Grande Lounge. We picked up a quick breakfast here on our first morning, as our daughter was heading to the kids club on property, and we didn’t want a long, drawn-out meal to delay her enjoyment there. In addition to refrigerated beverages and nonperishable snacks, the Trading Post also offered a variety of hot beverages along with breakfast burritos, salads and sandwiches.
While the poolside Plaza Grill was closed during our stay (it’s only open seasonally), we did take the opportunity to sample the Atush Bar & Grille up at Twin Warriors Golf Course, a short walk from the main lobby. This was about as casual as you could get, but my green chile-cheddar quesadilla with chicken was quite tasty.
Enjoying the open-air patio overlooking the golf course and surrounding areas was even better.
We made our way back to Corn Maiden for Easter Sunday brunch, an incredible (yet pricey) proposition. The buffet was expansive, including a multitude of hot dishes, made-to-order omelets and a chilled seafood bar.
I also enjoyed the pasta station, though the delicious chipotle alfredo sauce was anything but healthy.
I didn’t save any room for dessert, though the selection was impressive.
Adults were $70, and children ages 6 to 12 were $35, though kids 5 and under were free, so we didn’t have to pay for Evy. This price didn’t include alcoholic drinks. Based on the hotel’s website, it appears that these buffets are repeated on major holidays, as I saw it advertised again for Mother’s Day.
Whether you’re looking for a relaxing or fun-filled stay at Tamaya, you’re in luck, as the on-property amenities are as varied as they come. However, unlike other resorts that sometimes don’t effectively advertise things to do, we found plenty of resources to keep us informed.
At check-in, we were given a large, 11-by-17 copy of the Tamaya Times. This weekly “newspaper” included full details of what was happening across the resort, including times, prices and locations. Many of these were also highlighted on a flat-screen TV with a rotating display across from the check-in desk.
We then had the Spring 2019 edition of the Discover Tamaya newsletter waiting for us in our room with even more information. Finally, there was a separate flyer with all of the Easter activities going on.
Needless to say, it was a wealth of information. One of the hardest things we had to do was pick from the array of options, but fortunately we had already planned one before arrival: a horseback ride through the desert landscape down to the Rio Grande.
Just a short drive from the main resort were the Stables at Tamaya, a dual-purpose facility that functions as a horse rehab as well as a guided tour operator using rescued and rehabilitated horses. Tours departed twice a day, normally at 8:30am and 5pm, though during our stay these were shifted to 10am and 2pm due to the sunrise and sunset times. Rides were $75 per person or $99 for a private tour.
My wife and I opted for the group tour but were still able to grab a beautiful shot of just the two of us at the edge of the Rio Grande.
I’d highly recommend booking these in advance, as one of the two times on our preferred day was already full when we called three weeks before our stay.
These rides were limited to children age 7 and older, so our daughter wasn’t eligible. As a result, we checked her into Camp Tamaya, the on-property kids club. We called a few weeks in advance to reserve a spot (we were told reservations were required at least 24 hours in advance) and were given options from 9am to 9pm ranging from $45 to $80. The full day (9am to 4pm for $80) included lunch.
Since our daughter has come to love these things, we enrolled her for the full day, and she had a wonderful time. The club itself wasn’t massive but had a good selection of options for kids of all ages.
Evy wound up being the only kid there, but that didn’t stop her from enjoying it all, including a breadmaking class and egg-and-spoon race (part of the Easter festivities).
My wife and I naturally weren’t going to let a full kid-free day go to waste, so in addition to the horseback ride, we had booked spa treatments shortly after arriving at the resort. The Tamaya Mist was just off the main driveway of the hotel, with both an exterior and interior entrance.
The facilities were outstanding, split into male-only and female-only, clothing-optional sections for pre- and post-treatment care. The male side included an outdoor, walled soaking pool.
The door to the left in the above picture was the steam room, while the one on the right was the sauna, which I enjoyed for several minutes before retreating to the relaxation room, where I was to wait for my therapist.
The loungers were quite comfortable, and I enjoyed fruit-flavored water and red chile chocolate as I waited.
We had both booked the spa’s Spirit Path treatment, an 80-minute package that included an exfoliating massage with locally sourced blue corn flour, a body wrap and a hot-oil scalp massage. Even though it wasn’t billed as a couple’s treatment, we requested and were placed into a single room side by side, allowing us to enjoy the incredible treatment together.
Next to the spa was the fitness center, which was quite spacious and featured an array of free weights, machines and cardio equipment and was rarely occupied during our time there.
There were complimentary bikes available for guests to use, with the equipment checkout near the entrance to Camp Tamaya. This service was included as part of the daily resort fee and even included toddler chairs, though we ran out of time to take advantage of it.
There were three pools on the property, though only two were open during our stay. All three were heated, allowing them to be used in all kinds of weather. The Kiva pool was circular and enclosed within a solid wall for both privacy and wind mitigation.
The larger Plaza pool was larger and more open, including the seasonal Plaza Grill for poolside drinks and food (though it was closed during our stay).
The Plaza pool also featured a multistory water slide that was a big hit with the other kids we saw during our stay.
The U-shaped, adults-only Oxbow pool was at the northern end of the resort grounds but wasn’t open.
Besides these physical amenities, the resort had a diverse set of Srai Wi (translation: “my children”) cultural activities going on every day. Some of these required no additional money (included as part of the $34 daily resort fee), while others had a small fee. Most also required reservations, so there was a bit of advance planning needed, but that was a small price to pay for the sheer variety of offerings.
Everything was detailed in the Tamaya Times handed out at check-in, including a full description of each along with a weekly schedule (check out a PDF sample here). This made it easy for us to select which ones were most intriguing, though, by my estimation, it would take a stay of at least two weeks to do them all. We only had the chance to try a couple during our two-night stay, including making s’mores by the fire pit.
The Easter holiday provided even more things for families to do, including egg and cookie decorating, movie times and a full egg hunt on Easter Sunday at noon. My daughter was (naturally) incredibly excited for the hunt, and the vistas were slightly different than what she would’ve enjoyed at home in Florida.
The festivities also included an appearance by the Easter Bunny.
And if everything happening right at the resort weren’t enough to keep you occupied, you could stroll just up the road to play a round of golf at Twin Warriors Golf Club or utilize the complimentary transportation to Santa Ana Golf Club. This shuttle service would also take you to the Santa Ana Star Casino as well as the local train station to ride the New Mexico Rail Runner up to Santa Fe for the day.
Bottom line: You’d be hard-pressed to be bored during your stay.
We came into our stay at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa with relatively high expectations, as the property looked gorgeous, and it seemed to have an incredibly diverse set of amenities. Despite this high bar, our stay was even better than we hoped. There were a couple of minor service failures, like missing sheets for the sofa bed upon arrival and the complimentary water bottles not being replenished daily, but these were always quickly addressed.
Whether you’re planning a getaway with your spouse or significant other or looking for a family-friendly retreat, I highly recommend looking at New Mexico and including the Hyatt Regency Tamaya on your short list of possible hotels.
Featured photo courtesy of Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa. All other photos by the author.
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