I Got the Inside Scoop on the Ultra-luxe Desert Resort Where Celebrities Escaped During the Pandemic
Throughout summer 2020, I noticed a number of celebrities posting photos of themselves at what looked like the same resort. One week, it was Hailey and Justin Bieber; the next, it was Kylie and Kendall Jenner.
Of course, no location was tagged, but the images all showed them lounging on the same crisp, white daybeds or posing in front of the same dramatic rock formations. What is this secret celebrity hideaway? I thought to myself.
But I quickly learned it was anything but secret. "Do we have any idea where all of these celebs are staying?" I asked a coworker. Without a second thought, she responded, "Oh, that's Amangiri."
A quick Google search was all it took to understand the allure of Amangiri, especially at a time when wide-open spaces were — and perhaps still are — the most sought-after resort amenity. Located smack in the middle of the Utah desert, the five-star property is almost indistinguishable from the surrounding landscape. Its cement facade blends into the warm tones of the sand and rock formations with the ease of a chameleon. It's also miles from the nearest town or city, making it ultra-secluded.
Fast-forward almost a year from that conversation with my coworker, and I got the opportunity to visit Amangiri myself. Needless to say, my expectations were high — not only for the property and its setting, but also for maintaining social distance, which, even a year later, was key for safe travel. So, did Amangiri live up to its legendary reputation? Here's what my experience was like.
Next-level Social Distancing
The drive to Amangiri alone made it easy to see why high-profile people gravitate to the desert retreat. It's so remote, it seems worlds away from reality. And the level of privacy on the property evokes the same feeling — there were points when I felt like I had the place to myself.
Sure, there were other guests, but the grounds are sprawled over 600 acres, and there are national parks, lakes, and more to explore off-site. On any given day, guests could be found lying by the pool, rock climbing on property, boating on Lake Powell, or simply relaxing in their comfortable rooms.
After we checked in, we made our way to the pool at about 3 p.m. The entire resort was built around one especially impressive rock formation, and it juts up out of the pool as if it knows how special it is. As Travel + Leisure's social media editor, I naturally started snapping photos.
It was only later that I realized how rare it is to be able to take photos of a resort pool in the middle of the day without people in it. At Amangiri, however, I could capture the scene exactly as I saw it, with no one else in my shot.
Endless COVID-friendly Activities
Part of the beauty of Amangiri is that you can have a different adventure every day without ever having to leave the property. Between hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding, and more, the options feel endless. On our second day, our adventure of choice was the newly opened Cave Peak Stairway: a 200-foot-long suspension ladder that hangs 400 feet above the ground — the longest of its kind in the Northern Hemisphere.
If the thought of traversing such an attraction makes you shudder, you're not alone — that was my initial reaction, too. But our guide effortlessly eased my nerves. He explained that not only does he offer tours, but he also helps build the property's climbing installations. He talked us through the process, and shared stories of the history of the property. Before I knew it, my sense of awe overcame my nerves.
There was a rock climb to and from the ladder — and, surprisingly, I thought that was much scarier than the ladder itself. According to our guide, everyone has different reactions: Some have no problem with the climb, but when they arrive at the ladder, they're too scared to cross. For me, once I got through the climb, the ladder was a pure rush.
I'll admit, the fear crept back in when we started our descent, but upon reaching the ground, the sense of accomplishment made it all worth it. After all, it's not every day that you get to cross something off your bucket list before noon.
Food and Dining You Can Feel Good About
That evening, a few hours after we crossed the Cave Peak Stairway, we headed to Amangiri's sister resort, Camp Sarika (a quick five-minute drive away), for the Sunset Trail experience. To my surprise, it wasn't a sunset hike, but something much better.
We were led to a private picnic area in what felt like our very own stretch of the property. Looking around, there was nothing but desert. When the sun started to set behind the mountains, it was as if Mother Nature was giving us a private showing. Waiting for us when we arrived was a spread of cheese, bread, meats, vegetables, dips, and, most importantly, cocktails. We sat nibbling, sipping, and marveling at the landscape around us.
COVID safety isn't the only thing that Amangiri got right in terms of dining. The night before, we had the Spirit of the Journey tasting menu, a celebration of the culinary heritage of the Navajo and other local Native American tribes. With ingredients sourced from Native American co-ops and dishes prepared using techniques originated by the tribes, it was my favorite meal during our stay.
Our waiter, who was Navajo and grew up on a nearby reservation, talked us through the significance of each dish. He told us that as he was growing up, his grandmother used many of the cooking techniques that Amangiri now borrows.
While the Sunset Trail experience was one of my most COVID-safe meals, the Spirit of the Journey menu was certainly one of my most special.
So, did Amangiri meet my expectations? To that, I'll just say, chef's kiss.