Guest contributor *Joeann Fossland finds a true luxury oasis in Death Valley, a resort that couples the historic romance of a vintage hideaway with the pampering amenities of a luxury resort.
The Oasis at Death Valley offers a destination vacation in California that’s off the beaten track, yet it’s one that is accessible and bucket-list worthy: Think luxury in the midst of the starkest and most extreme desert imaginable, a contrast that delights.
Only a couple of hours from Las Vegas or four hours from Los Angeles, in no time, you can arrive at this unusual destination, a luxury oasis in Death Valley National Park.
Driest, hottest, biggest and lowest
Superlatives set this experience apart from a more ordinary upscale location:
- With an annual average rainfall of just 2.4 inches, this is the Driest Place in North America.
- Temperatures here have climbed to 134°, making this the Hottest Place in North America.
- Right in the middle of the Biggest National Park in the Continental US, Death Valley National Park spreads over 3.3 Million Acres.
- If you are yearning to play golf at Lowest Golf Course in the World at 214 ft. below sea level, the 18 hole Furnace Creek Golf Course is the answer!
Two resorts create an oasis in Death Valley
This oasis is comprised of two resorts: The luxurious Inn at Death Valley and, just a little way down the road, the family-oriented Ranch at Death Valley. The Inn will let you escape, relax and unwind for as long as you want. Or bring the whole family and let them enjoy all the activities at The Ranch for an unforgettable family reunion or multi-generational vacation.
A rich and colorful history
This hotel property, originally privately owned, was the headquarters for the 20 Mule Team. In 1927, the Inn was built by the Pacific Borax Company to lure tourists to stop on the train ride west. It quickly became a hideaway for adventurous travelers and the Hollywood elite, such as Marlon Brando, Jimmy Stewart, Bette Davis, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. It has also been the location for many Westerns.
In their wisdom, the Pacific Coast Borax Company and the National Park Service had Death Valley declared a National Monument in 1933 so further development was limited. In 1994, it was designated as a National Park and its size expanded. Fortunately today, we can enjoy the same untrammeled beauty of Death Valley that guests did back then.
The Inn at Death Valley
The Xanterra Travel Collection has just poured $100 million dollars into revitalizing The Oasis at Death Valley. Set against a hill, with most rooms delivering stunning views of the Panamint Mountains, desert vistas, and pristine sand dunes, the AAA four-diamond property has 66 beautifully appointed rooms and 22 brand new casitas.
The Inn has been completely refurbished top to bottom with new Saltillo tile floors and a new lobby, bar, library and dining room. The energy-efficient changes provide pure comfort, regardless of outside temperatures. The date gardens and lush landscaping give the feeling of being in a garden.
The elegant and spacious sleeping rooms have fireplaces, a seating area and state-of-the-art entertainment and Internet connectivity. An outside door opens to a seating area on a stone patio overlooking the vast valley.
We visited ten years ago and were anxious to see and experience the transformation. At that time, it was only open from mid-October to Mother’s Day because of the oppressive heat. The energy-efficient renovations now allow year-round enjoyment. The summers attract many European visitors who delight in the insanely hot summer temperatures! They are checking those superlative items off their bucket lists (and you can too!)
As we walk from our room through the tall palm trees down to the pool, melodic streams bubble beside the pathways. Surprisingly, water is everywhere. Ancient natural spring water sources the newly resurfaced pool and is always 87°. The water flows through, eliminating the need for chemicals or chlorine and then becomes part of the irrigation system.
On a hill below the pool, the patios of the new casitas look out over a beautiful 60,000-square-foot grassy green lawn. The epitome of privacy and luxury, each 600-square-foot casita includes a wet bar, a separate bedroom and a golf cart to navigate the grounds.
Down at The Ranch
The 224-room Ranch at Death Valley, about a mile further down the road, is a less expensive, more casual resort. But there’s plenty going on down there, too: another spring-fed swimming pool, two more tennis courts, horseback riding, jeep rides, and the Borax Museum as well as a General Store. The famous Furnace Creek Golf Course is also located there.
A planned second phase of renovations will focus on further upgrades. All rooms will be remodeled and 80 cottage units are planned with full kitchens and laundry facilities. A classic soda fountain with burgers, shakes and ice cream are a signature piece of this phase, and old-fashioned family activities will be offered to give the kids plenty to do.
Food: Formal or Casual?
Fine dining awaits for breakfast, lunch or dinner at The Inn Dining Room. Regional flavors punctuate the menu, incorporating such tastes as cactus and pomegranates. The blue cheese stuffed dates were exceptional and the date bread was moist and flavorful. A chef’s garden, expanded date groves, and the planting of citrus and pomegranate trees are part of the next renovation phase.
Adjacent to the dining room, The Oasis Lounge is filled with western art, including original paintings and bronze sculptures. In the afternoons and early evening, you can enjoy signature cocktails and a limited small plate menu while watching the sunset.
If you are channeling the movie stars of the last century, you may want to lounge in a cabana and order from The Inn Pool Cafe. The menu features sandwiches, wraps, salads, sides, and, of course, assorted beverages.
For more casual dining at the Ranch, the Ranch 1849 Buffet is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The breakfast menu features entrees, breakfast meats, and a cold selection of baked goods and assorted fruits. At lunch, there’s a make-your-own sandwich station, soup and salad stations, and assorted pizzas. For dinner, you’ll enjoy a full salad bar, a carving station and assorted desserts.
Last Kind Words Saloon has been completely updated to bring the old west alive. Hang out at the bar and enjoy local draught beers or choose from a large selection of wines and whiskeys. If you are hungry, the menu includes everything from a 36-ounce tomahawk ribeye to wild Alaskan salmon to featured game of the day.
The bar and grill fare at 19th Hole at The Furnace Creek Golf Course is perfect after your golf game for burgers and brew.
The Sky: Sunsets and stars
We soaked in the spectacular, psychedelic sunset from our terrace, enjoying drinking down a glass of wine. And soon after the colors faded, the thousands of stars appeared. Death Valley is a Dark Sky Nation Park, making for exceptional star-gazing.
The Inn at Death Valley strikes a perfect balance between the historic romance of a vintage hideaway and the pampering amenities you’d expect from a contemporary luxury resort.
What else is there to do at this oasis in Death Valley?
Do you want to unwind and relax or take advantage of the National Park or both? You have plenty of choices:
- Float in the pool. The tension in your body will dissolve.
- Enjoy one of the cabanas enjoying snacks and drinks from the Inn Pool Cafe, channeling the historic movie stars.
- Beside the pool, the new sauna and Spa offer head to toe pampering.
For the active and adventurous:
- Play on the beautiful tennis courts at the Inn.
- Take advantage of the small fitness center next to the pool.
- There are nearby trails for hiking; if you like rock climbing, you’ll find incredible natural wonders; and the surrounding roads are mostly flat, making bicycling easy and fun.
- Horseback Rides and Jeep Tours are a fun and less strenuous way to see the Park.
- And then, there is golf!
*Joeann Fossland was bitten by the travel bug years ago and has traveled to 30 countries, four continents and dozens of beaches. A baby-boomer and free spirit, she loves exploring the road less traveled. Check out her blog, Joeanns View and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Insta
All photo credits (except for lead photo): Joeann Fossland
Disclosure: The author received a media discount but any opinions expressed in this post are her own.