Sedona has one of the most scenic settings of any town in the United States. As we drove north from the Phoenix area toward higher elevations, saguaro-studded hills gave way to rolling desert grasslands. Turning west off Interstate 17, massive red rocks appeared on the horizon. Snow still clung to the north-facing slopes.
Wealthy Sedona nestles among large buttes near Red Rock State Park and has a pleasantly temperate climate due to its 4,350-foot elevation. Pine forests and a strict adobe building code give the place a natural, earthy feel. That is, until you encounter fleets of bright-pink tour Jeeps ferrying some of the 3 million annual visitors who come to the town for the scenic hikes, golf and New Age shops, an influx that can foster something of a theme-park atmosphere. Even so, Sedona’s spectacular setting remains a major draw.
Since there weren’t any newly opened hotels of interest in the area, we took the opportunity to check up on three hotels we’ve reviewed before. El Portal Sedona is a 12-room boutique hotel, hidden in the Tlaquepaque shopping district in central Sedona. Signs asking that dogs refrain from defiling the grounds provided a strange welcome to the property. (I recalled the “dog-friendly hotel” ads on the website.)
We found our way through an empty courtyard to the reception area and dining room, where a hodgepodge of pictures covered the main wall, along with a framed copy of a Hideaway Report from 2004. A depressingly small birdcage stood nearby. A friendly woman approached to ask if we were checking in, and we were promptly escorted to our room across the courtyard. She had some welcome travel tips, but when she reluctantly offered to fetch our luggage from our car, it felt inappropriate for us to accept. We retrieved our bags ourselves.
Our Flat Rock Hickory suite was decorated in a Southwestern style, with a king bed, a spa bath and a walk-in shower. The room was spacious, but there was little attention to detail. Cheap space heaters and colored bath towels did not contribute to an atmosphere of luxury. A private patio attached to our bedroom was sparsely decorated and bordered a dog run. A pooper-scooper and trash can lurked in the shadows just outside our bath. Fortunately, it was time for dinner and we had an excuse to depart.
All trusted sources pointed to Elote Cafe as the best place to eat Mexican food in Sedona. It’s justly popular with both locals and savvy tourists, so it can take up to an hour to get a table. The hostess kindly let us leave once our name was on the list, and we spent 30 minutes taking in more dramatic Sedona views. Our food was well worth the wait: The elote (corn dressed in spicy mayonnaise and cotija cheese) was addictive, and my brisket enchiladas were tender and delicious.
A couple of margaritas put us in the mood to spend a cozy night in, watching a movie. Unfortunately, the bookshelf of DVDs at the inn was disorganized, and we gave up trying to sort through it. Having returned to our room, I tried to console myself with a complimentary cookie, but it was stale. We packed up early the next morning and left.
The friendly owners.
The lack of attention to detail; the cluttered, sometimes seemingly random décor.
If you travel with your dog, this is the place to stay.
I was looking forward to a return visit to Enchantment Resort. After a full day of hiking, we arrived at the 218-room property around dusk, with high expectations. Alas, our first impression was not favorable. Our Casita Guest Room was large, with a king bed, a soaking tub and a separate rainfall shower, but the uninspiring décor was reminiscent of a chain hotel. After unpacking, I tried to look up our itinerary on my phone, but the Wi-Fi was not working and there was no cell phone service. (Enchantment is located 9 miles to the west of Sedona.) We decided to walk over to the hotel’s casual Tii Gavo restaurant. I was hoping for something simple and delicious, but it was one of the worst meals I’ve had in quite a while. Our nachos were covered in a ridiculous amount of sour cream, the salad was unremarkable, and the french fries were undercooked.
We turned in after dinner, regretting our room choice. (Reserve a Casita Junior Suite or better.) However, in the morning light, we were reminded why many visitors love this resort. The red adobe exteriors of the buildings are much more inviting than the interiors and integrate well with the stunning box canyon that surrounds the property. Guests also have access to the expansive Mii amo spa, an impressive pool, tennis courts and golf at the scenic Seven Canyons course.
Even with its flaws, Enchantment Resort remains one of the best places to stay in Sedona, and on a hot day, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but beside its dramatic pool. Ultimately, however, this is a place distinguished by its amenities and magical setting rather than its food and service.
The stunning location; the numerous amenities, including a dramatic swimming pool and an expansive destination spa.
The service and room décor lack the personal touch and character of many smaller hotels.
Guests have access to the Seven Canyons golf course, as well as the huge Mii amo spa.
Underwhelmed by our experiences in Sedona thus far, I changed our plans to stay one more night, at L’Auberge de Sedona, a former Hideaway Report recommendation near the center of town. The name is a bit misleading, since nothing about the resort feels remotely French. The 62 cottages and 21 guest rooms are set along Oak Creek. When we arrived, the night was cold and the creek roaring with snowmelt, but our welcome was warm. The thoughtful staff offered us hot apple cider.
Our Vista Cottage had more character than our accommodations at either Enchantment or El Portal, and the room had been recently remodeled. It included a king bed and a large closet, plus an impressive bath that came with a double vanity, a soaking tub, an indoor-outdoor shower, heated floors and L’Occitane toiletries. The living room’s fireplace was small, but the sublime view of red rocks from the porch made the indoor seating area an afterthought.
In the morning, we walked around the hotel gardens, which were still bare in early spring. Even so, they gave the impression that they would look lovely later in the season. Unfortunately, some of the guest rooms’ exteriors appeared slightly worn, the swimming pool is small, and the rooms on the far side of the property lack privacy. L’Auberge de Sedona certainly isn’t perfect, but it delivers the fundamentals of welcoming service and comfortable accommodations.
Cozy, well-appointed rooms; the dramatic view from our Vista Cottage.
The pool is small; the brown paint on the cabins wasn’t flattering in winter.
The hotel’s Cress on Oak Creek restaurant is a fine place to eat in central Sedona, even if you are not a hotel guest.
Although we had an enjoyable visit to Sedona, all three hotels were less impressive than we expected. Perhaps they lack sufficient incentive to improve, as the stupendous scenery here will always keep people coming back.