Review: The Boulders (Curio – Hilton)

Filed Under: Hilton, Hotels

Last weekend my wife and I stayed the night at The Boulders in Carefree, AZ to celebrate our ninth anniversary.

The property has a special place in our hearts because it’s where we were married. We’ve done a few anniversary dinners at the Boulders, but this is the first time since our wedding that we’ve stayed the night.


We booked the room using a free weekend night from the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card (no longer available). Rates are surprisingly reasonable right now ($199 for some nights). I think the cheaper rates are related to the construction that will finish in the next few weeks.

Given the cheaper rates, this probably wasn’t the best use of the award. But, the free night was expiring and our anniversary seemed like a good excuse to use it.

Checking In Online

The bulk of the rooms at The Boulders are 550 sq ft casitas that are grouped into two clusters – north and south. Some units are two stories while others are stand alone so you don’t have to worry about anyone above or below you. Because the rooms are so spread out, golf carts are available to take you anywhere you want to go on property.

The day before our arrival, I received an email inviting me to check in online. Normally I ignore these check-in invitations because I find them to be a waste of time. Given how dispersed the rooms are and my preference for a single unit, I went ahead and checked in this time.

I told them what time we expected to arrive and used the map to select casita 207 which is a stand alone unit in the north cluster of casitas.

The_Boulders - Check In 2

The_Boulders - Choose Room

The_Boulders - Check In

Arriving At The Resort

After dropping off the dogs and kids, we made it to the resort around 8pm. When you turn into the main entrance, you’re greeted by a guard house. The staff put a parking pass on our dash and gave us directions to the main lodge.

The_Boulders - Entrance

The_Boulders - Map

As I mentioned previously, the main lodge is finishing up a renovation. Some fences near the main entrance obscure the construction from view. Note: it was so dark when we arrived, I went back and took some photos in the morning.

The_Boulders - Lodge

The_Boulders - Lodge Entrance

The_Boulders - Construction

The_Boulders - Construction 2

I love the doors to the main entrance of the lodge.

The_Boulders - Door

The resort is now a Hilton Curio Collection Hotel but I did notice some Waldorf Astoria branding on towels, robes and other signage that is still being phased out.

The_Boulders - Curio Sign

We parked and made it into the main lodge where there was a brief wait to get our room keys. The desk agent welcomed us and acknowledged my Hilton Gold status (from the Reserve card).

We asked about breakfast options and were given a voucher for any breakfast entree along with coffee and a drink. The check-in agent said we could use the voucher for in-room dining. It wasn’t clear if this was the typical policy or an exception because the voucher said it was to be used in the Spa Cafe or The Grill.

The Casita

The casita was pretty much identical to the one we’d stayed in 9 years prior.

As you enter, there is a seating area and wet bar. The TV is mounted above the fireplace and there are two comfortable leather chairs.

The_Boulders - Seating Area 2

The_Boulders - Seating Area

The_Boulders - Wet Bar

In addition to two bottles of water, there was a lovely fruit and chocolate treat waiting for us along with a note wishing us a happy anniversary.

The_Boulders - Anniversary Gift

The_Boulders - Anniversary Note

The chocolate and fruit were a very nice gesture and tasted great.

Nothing separates the seating area from the king sized bed. I actually prefer this open concept when we don’t need a quiet sleeping area for the kids.

The_Boulders - Bed

The_Boulders - Bed 2

And as much as I complain about never having accessible outlets, I thought the one between the pictures above the bed was odd. But, I’m guessing it’s there in case they decide to mount a TV above the bed.

The_Boulders - Odd Outlet

The bed was comfortable and I really liked the extra long pillows. They were not overly stuffed like some hotel pillows.

The floor throughout the casita is stone, which was rough in spots and also cold. I’m surprised they don’t offer slippers. Or maybe they do and I just didn’t see them.

A key chain LED flashlight was left for us on one of the nightstands. It is very dark around the grounds at night. So this came in handy while walking to and from our casita.

The_Boulders - Flash Light Keychain

Later in the evening, I attempted to start a fire. They provide firewood, matches and a fire starter. As you can see below, the fire starter was burning fairly well but the logs never really took off. We’ve had an unusual amount of rain lately due to El Niño. So, I’m guessing the firewood was stored outside and wasn’t dry enough.

The_Boulders - Fireplace

I was amused to read the warning about desert wildlife. We knew it was accurate because we had some interesting wedding crashers at our ceremony.

The_Boulders - Wildlife Warning



The bathroom was off the bedroom of the casita.

The_Boulders - Bathroom2

The_Boulders - Bathroom

It was large with a separate tub and shower. The shower had strong water pressure. The temperature controls were good but my wife who likes showers scalding hot thought the temperature could be a little hotter.

The_Boulders - Bathroom 4

The most quirky feature of the bathroom was the slope of the shower floor. The drain side had to be at least two inches lower than the door side. I’m sure this was done to mitigate any flooding, which we remember being an issue from our wedding stay.

The toiletries were from Olive Branch Botanicals.

The_Boulders - Toiletries

The water closet was next to the shower.

The_Boulders - Bathroom 3

The large closet was off to the left as you entered the bathroom.

The_Boulders - Closet

Dinner At The Spotted Donkey

When we checked in the desk agent confirmed the restaurant where we had our reception was permanently closed. As part of the renovation, they are converting it into a ballroom.

It was a beautiful space with fantastic views of the boulder pile. So, I’m sure it will make an amazing ballroom.

I’m disappointed we won’t be able to have any other anniversary dinners there. But, I know they’ve struggled since the recession to make a restaurant work in the space. So, I can’t say I’m very surprised.

The Boulders - Latilla The Boulders - Latilla View

Instead of Latilla, we decided to eat at the Mexican restaurant in the nearby shopping complex El Pedregal.

We called for a golf cart to drive us over. Gerard arrived promptly and offered a blanket to keep us warm on the drive.

He asked what brought us to The Boulders and we talked about our anniversary. Gerard gave us a warm and sincere congratulations. And when we arrived at The Spotted Donkey, he escorted us to the restaurant entrance.

The_Boulders - Spotted Donkey Menu

He must have informed the staff it was our anniversary because our server congratulated us and brought chips, dip and guacamole on the house. I really enjoyed the chorizo and black bean dip (closest to the candle in the picture below).

The_Boulders - Chips Dip Guac

We ordered prickly pear frozen margaritas, which were great.

The_Boulders - Prickly Pear Margarita

And my wife had the steak fajitas while I had the shrimp tacos. We both enjoyed our entrees.

The_Boulders - Steak Fajitas

The_Boulders - Shrimp Tacos

Finally, the server also brought us chocolate cake to say happy anniversary. We were so stuffed we could only manage a few bites (and it appears I forgot to take a picture).

On the way out, we had the hostess call the resort for a ride back. A few minutes later a shuttle arrived, which brought us back to our room.

Room Service Breakfast

Room service begins serving breakfast at 6:30am. We ordered around 7:45 and our food arrived 20 or 25 minutes later.

The Boulders - Room Service Breakfast Menu 2

The Boulders - Room Service Breakfast Menu 3

The Boulders - Room Service Breakfast Menu

My wife ordered the two egg breakfast (which I didn’t get a picture of). And I had the eggs benedict, which I really enjoyed.

The_Boulders - Eggs Benedict Room Service

Neither of us are coffee drinkers. So, we each had a glass of fresh orange juice and water with our meal.

At checkout we had to ask for the room service breakfast to be taken off of our bill. But, it only took a moment and they wound up also removing the delivery fee, tax and tip, which was supposed to be our responsibility according to the voucher.

Walking Around The Grounds

I can’t explain why, but the grounds at The Boulders are one of my happy places.

I grew up as a desert rat and this is exactly the beautiful desert landscape that I missed when we moved to Seattle after college. In fact, it was a trip to the Boulders to iron out details for our wedding where my wife and I turned to each other and said we needed to get back home sooner than later.

So, when I woke up in the morning, I went out for a walk to take in the beautiful views.

The_Boulders - Grounds 3  The_Boulders - Duck Pond

The_Boulders - Barrel Cactus Fruit

The_Boulders - Chess

The_Boulders - Grounds

The_Boulders - Grounds 2

The_Boulders - Grounds 4

The_Boulders - Grounds 5

The_Boulders - Grounds 6

The_Boulders - Grounds 8

Back in 2010, The Boulders ran a contest to name some of their iconic cacti. This one right off of the 6th tee box is named the Bogey Bandit. Hopefully you can see the golf balls currently residing in the cactus which are proof of how appropriate the name is.

The_Boulders - Grounds Bogey Bandit

Bottom Line

My wife and I had a terrific stay at The Boulders. It was great reliving so many wonderful memories from our wedding. And we had an opportunity to reflect on how much has changed in the last nine years. We’re already talking about going back again next year (since our anniversary trip to the Maldives will be a little earlier in the year to accommodate our work schedules).

  1. Nice hotel report Mike. Is it just me, or does it look like the Flintstones could live there? I used to find Hilton’s online check in pretty useless until this last trip to Europe. I did use the online check in and snagged a unique room at the DoubleTree in Amsterdam that was huge because it was so oddly shaped and had a great view I also used the online check in for my rooms in Paris. Both times, the desk clerk said my upgrade was secured because I checked in early using the App. Might have been a sales pitch, but I was happy anyway.
    So now, unless its a cookie cutter Hampton, I think I will start using it.

  2. This is one of my favorite golf courses in the country. My brother-in-law and I play it every time when we go to scottsdale. I have wanted to stay here, but it has never worked out. Thanks for the review – maybe we will stay here next time.

  3. Im H Diamond for 10 years now and Ive never heard of Curio. I assume its to compete with cooler brands like W and Andaz?

  4. Another desert rat here! Phoenix born and raised, currently living in Australia. I lived in Carefree in the late 80s and early 90s. Thanks for this great look at a beautiful place.

  5. Thanks @Mark F, I agree the online check-in can be valuable depending on the property. Think the important part is having an accurate floor plan or map of the property so we’re empowered to make the best choices. Also, think it will be more valuable as Hilton adopts their Digital Key and you can skip the front desk completely.

  6. @Chris G – You’re right that the golf course is amazing – and that’s coming from a non-golfer. Highly recommend staying out there if you can make it work.

  7. @cahbf – Think it’s more along the lines of Luxury Collection for SPG. Unique or Boutique properties where fitting the other Hilton brand standards might be difficult or prohibitive. That said, Matt summed up the confusion related to hotel branding really well in his post (link below). So you’re guess is as good as mine as to what makes a “Curio” property.

  8. @wwk5d: Hopefully MIKE…

    @Mike: A former desert rat here, going all the way back to the mid-60s. Used to dove hunt at Shea/Scottsdale Road — try that now!

    Have always loved the Boulders — it was a great “staycation” for us long before that entered the lexicon — wasn’t that far away from our home in Snotsdale but great “wilderness”, great golf and, at least 20 years ago, really incredible Sunday brunches…

    Thanks for the memories, even tho nostalgia ain’t what it used to be!

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