15 things to know about staying at The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage near Palm Springs
Palm Springs is having a moment.
With travelers seeking outdoor, socially-distant vacations, this desert city — located just three hours from Los Angeles by car — fits the bill perfectly, with it’s world-renowned golf courses, plethora of hiking trails and nearby hot spring offering something for everyone.
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Marriott loyalists and those looking to splurge might consider staying at The Ritz-Carlton, located just outside the downtown area in Rancho Mirage.
Before you pull the trigger, however, you might want to read this review. After all, not all Ritz-Carltons are created equally.
The setting is picturesque
The hotel’s location built right into the desert hills is perhaps its greatest asset. After ascending for one mile on Frank Sinatra Drive, you’ll find yourself 500 feet above the Coachella Valley, with fantastic views to boot.
The property feels like an oasis within an oasis. There’s virtually no vehicular traffic, and aside from the occasional plane, it’s remarkably quiet.
There’s an assortment of hiking trails just steps from reception, and the hotel provides a map with the top recommendations. I also used the curated Guides in Apple Maps to get a sense of some of the top things to do in the area.
Sunrise, with rays streaming out from the other side of the valley, was the most magical part of our stay.
It’s physically beautiful...
The resort’s grounds are perfectly manicured.
As you enter the driveway lined with palm trees, your eyes will be drawn to the vibrant colors of the plants.
Since the hotel is built into the hillside, nearly every room has a view of either the valley or the nearby mountains.
...but could use an overhaul
However, looks can be deceiving.
While the property itself is gorgeous, the interior, especially the guest rooms and hallways, could use a facelift.
The hotel is going for a rustic-chic vibe, and it accomplishes that in many of the public spaces, including the lobby, spa and State Fare restaurant.
But once you get to the guest room corridors, things change.
The hallways are dimly lit.
The low ceiling in the rooms and the worn wood quickly reminded me that the property was last renovated in 2014. It felt dated.
The standard rooms are small
We stayed in a desert-view king-bedded room overlooking the adult pool, great lawn and Coachella Valley.
Though the room was advertised as 450 square feet, it felt significantly more cramped.
The bathroom was just as you entered. It featured a single vanity and private toilet, along with a walk-in shower and bathtub combo. Note that the water pressure wasn’t great.
Toiletries were provided by Asprey, a Ritz-Carlton brand standard.
The hallway connecting the bathroom and bedroom was where you’ll find the narrow, rectangular closet. Many of the closet’s shelves were chipped.
The bedroom itself didn’t fit much more than a (supremely comfortable) king bed and a single chair.
The TV, desk and dresser were all built into the wall opposite the bed. Like the closet, parts of the countertop were chipped as well.
This is also where you’ll find a Nespresso machine, as well as an empty mini fridge.
The highlight of the room was the balcony. It wasn’t massive, but it was the perfect spot to enjoy the sunrise.
It’s not cheap
Rates at the resort vary significantly based on the season. In the summer when the mercury rises past the 100-degree Fahrenheit mark, you’ll find rooms starting at $259.
Rates in the more temperate weather of April, however, are hovering at $599, or more.
The Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage is a Category 7 property in the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program. Free nights range from 50,000 points for off-peak dates, 60,000 points during standard periods and climb to 70,000 points during the busiest weeks. If you do want to redeem points for a stay here and need to top off your balance of Bonvoy points, consider applying for the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card, which is currently offering a welcome bonus of 95,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership.
TPG values Bonvoy points at 0.84 cents each, so you’ll want to crunch the numbers before redeeming an award.
Note that there's a daily $40 resort fee, which includes fitness classes, guided hikes, an afternoon candy bar, golf bag storage and more.
Overnight parking is $32 before tax.
Additionally, Marriott Bonvoy elite benefits at Ritz-Carlton properties are limited. You won’t receive a free breakfast.
Having the right card unlocks free perks
If you’re looking for a VIP experience, you should consider booking through the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) program, accessible to certain premium cardmembers, including those who hold The Platinum Card® from American Express.
By booking through FHR, we received a daily $70 breakfast credit, early check-in, 4 p.m. guaranteed late checkout, a $100 resort credit and a one-category room upgrade.
Best of all, the Amex rate was the exact same as if we’d booked directly through Marriott.
Related: Is the Amex Platinum worth the annual fee?
There are two pools
The resort has two pools on property; one for adults only and one family pool for everyone to use. The adults’ pool is reserved for those 18 years or older. It was much quieter than the main resort pool.
Both pools had plenty of chaise loungers. There were a few cabanas available for rent at the larger family pool, but they remained unused during our stay.
The resort’s (small) Jacuzzi was closed due to local county regulations.
It’s got a massive spa complex
The two-story spa complex has plenty to offer for those looking for R&R.
There are 16 treatment rooms located on the upper level. 50-minute massages start at $175, roughly on par with other luxury resorts.
However, the spa’s public areas, including plunge pools and relaxation rooms, were closed due to the pandemic.
The gym is located on the first floor of the spa. Reservations weren't required, but capacity was capped at 10 guests per hour.
It featured multiple Technogym-branded ellipticals and treadmills. Spin bikes were located both in a separate multipurpose room and on the outdoor patio.
There were a variety of weight machines and free weights spread throughout the facility as well.
Go elsewhere for golf, tennis
Two of the most popular things to do in Palm Springs aren’t available at the hotel. There are no golf courses or tennis courts at the Ritz.
Guests looking to golf or play tennis are referred to offsite locations, including the Ritz’s sister property, the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa.
Relaxation is in order
You’ll find plenty of space to unwind throughout the resort.
The great lawn, located next to the adult pool, has multiple rows of loungers and umbrellas, perfect for an afternoon nap or reading session.
There’s an outdoor fire pit overlooking the valley, which was the ideal place to enjoy the sunset.
There was a covered patio next to the main restaurant, with plenty of high-top seating and a variety of couches, too.
The food was high-quality
The resort has two restaurants.
State Fare Kitchen and Lounge is the main all-day restaurant, located just past the lobby. It features a variety of socially distanced indoor and outdoor seating.
Seating at the bar area was limited due to the pandemic.
State Fare offers a California-themed seasonal menu. I didn’t eat dinner at the resort (more on that below), but the breakfast selection was tasty.
I enjoyed the signature avocado toast ($22), vanilla waffle ($21) and seasonal fruit platter ($18).
But one restaurant is closed
Due to the pandemic, the resort’s signature restaurant — The Edge Steakhouse — was closed.
The Edge is located just on the perimeter of the property, overlooking the valley and nearby mountains.
Note that this white-tablecloth restaurant doesn't (currently) have a patio for outdoor dining.
Pack your patience
With an accelerated vaccine rollout, more people are starting to travel again. And when you’re ready to hit the road, you might want to pack your patience.
The resort was quite full during our mid-March stay — and it showed.
Many pool chairs were taken by midday, and the gym was often at or near its capacity cap.
Worst of all, there was a significant queue for the restaurant during peak times. We were quoted a 45-minute wait for breakfast on our first morning.
When we arrived on the first night, we inquired about eating dinner at the resort. Tables were only available at 9 p.m., and the front-desk agent recommended we order room service instead. (We ended up eating in town.)
Lesson learned. If you want to eat dinner at the hotel, make a reservation well in advance. (Reservations aren’t accepted for breakfast.)
The Club Level lounge is closed
Many Ritz-Carlton hotels and resorts offer an exclusive Club Level, and the Rancho Mirage property is on that list. For now, however, the club is closed due to the pandemic. Note that top-tier Bonvoy elites don’t get complimentary access to the exclusive club lounge.
Related: Here's why Ritz-Carlton club level rooms remain so exclusive
If you choose to stay here, you should arrive with appropriate expectations.
Is the Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage the nicest property in the brand’s portfolio? No way.
While the public areas are nice, the rooms could use a refresh. Additionally, the dining options are limited, and waiting 45 minutes for breakfast didn’t feel particularly five-star. Plus, without golf or tennis on the property, many travelers will prefer staying elsewhere.
But, if you arrive with the right expectations, you’ll enjoy your vacation, especially if you spend your time appreciating the picturesque setting from one of the resort’s many relaxation areas.
All photos by Zach Griff/The Points Guy