How to Have a Perfect Family Staycation at Tucson’s Starr Pass Resort

If you’re looking for a fun-filled family vacation (or staycation for all the locals out there!) look no further than the beautiful JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa in Tucson, Arizona! This awesome resort offers something for everyone in the family, from pools and water slides to hiking trails and a golf course. Plus, its location near the heart of town makes it easy to get around. So, pull out those swimsuits and put on your hiking shoes—here are 10 Tips for your perfect family staycation at Tucson’s Starr Pass Resort.

This is not a paid promotion. We are writing this blog because we had fun at during our family staycation at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort in Tucson, AZ. All views and opinions expressed here are our own. All photos are our own and remain the copyright of MPA Project Travels.

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Green grass and blue tent tops around a pool surrounded by a walking path and cactus sit  in front of brown desert mountains. Family staycation at Tucson's Starr Pass Resort MPA Project Travels.

The details

The JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa is located on the Westside of Tucson near Tucson Mountain Park. The resort has a spa, golf course, event space, and several restaurants. A Starbucks and JW Marketplace is also onsite for a quick bite. And perhaps the most important for families traveling with kids and teens, two pools, a lazy river, and a waterslide. They also offer hiking and an evening tequila toast.

We stayed at the JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort in our first ever(!) family staycation over Labor Day weekend. While we each had visited Starr Pass in the past, for events such as conferences, and spa days, this was our first time staying at the resort. I chose the Tucson Westside staycation because I had a free night award that was going to expire, and I was eager to use it before the expiration date.

Something new, and fun, for this family staycation. We did not tell Buddy where we were going. Instead, we asked him to pack an overnight bag and had him guess where we were going on vacation. He was surprised when we did not get on the freeway for a longer road trip. It was a fun guessing game!

After a fun family staycation at Tucson Star Pass Resort, here are our top 10 tips for your prefect vacation!

10 Tips for Perfect Family Staycation at Tucson’s Starr Pass Resort

1. Pack your hiking shoes

If you’re looking to explore the Sonoran Desert during your relaxing resort stay, be sure to bring your hiking shoes!

Tucson Starr Pass Resort located next to Tucson Mountain Park and near Saguaro National Park West. Both places have excellent hiking trails through beautiful cactus forests. A sunrise or sunset hike is a great way to experience the desert.

But, if you don’t want to leave the resort and still want to go hiking, Tucson Starr Pass Resort offers a guided hike each day at 6:30am. It is the perfect way to experience the desert during your vacation.

Unaware of the daily guided hikes, we did not bring our hiking shoes. Since we were there for a staycation, we only brought sandals. Oops! As frequent hikers, we were bummed to miss the opportunity for a hike on Tucson’s Westside. Next time we will bring proper footwear.

2. Go to the pool at sunset

Tucson Starr Pass Resort has two outdoor pools, a lazy river, several hot tubs, and a waterslide. So you’re sure to find something that is perfect for your family. But getting the timing right to avoid the crowds, and the sun, can be tricky. We recommend going swimming at sunset, here’s why.

Why you should go to the pool at sunset

First, there is nothing more beautiful than watching the sun set over the desert landscape. Floating down the Lazy River at sunset is a lovely way to refresh during the evening. The pool and lazy river are open late for a twilight swim under the stars.

Second, the pool is packed during the afternoon! So much so that you need a wristband to enter. However, if you go during sunset, there is no need for a wristband and most of the crowds have left the area to go to dinner.

A large blue swimming pool with one teenage head popping out of the water smiling. Behind is a large multistory beige building and blue tents. Family staycation at Tucson's Starr Pass Resort MPA Project Travels.
Buddy in the Tucson JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort swimming pool at twilight.

Third, and most importantly, it is not as hot and there is less risk of a sunburn and heatstroke if you go at sunset. If you visit during Labor Day, or over the summer when the Arizona resorts offer locals excellent off-season deals, it is hot! And even if you are at the pool, you are still outside in the desert in triple digit heat. The best way to beat the heat and a sunburn is to go swimming at sunset. Then, the sun’s rays are soft, and it is beginning to cool down.

Why you might not want to go to the pool at sunset

However, if you do go to the pool at sunset or later, you will miss out on a few things. For one thing, the waterslide closes around sunset. And the Plunge Poolside Dining and bar closes before sunset as well. So, if you want to go on the waterslide, or have visions of enjoying a pool side cocktail, you might want to get there during the day.

Buddy and I went to the pool at sunset. The crowds had cleared and there were only a handful of people at the lazy river and pool. We swam for two hours before we dried off and enjoyed dinner and music on the patio. For us, it was perfect time to swim. However, if Buddy was a few years younger, he may have wanted to go down the slide. And we would have been there right when it opened!

View of a blue lazy river with and waterslide with a green grass golf course and desert saguaro forests on the mountains in the background. Family staycation at Tucson's Starr Pass Resort MPA Project Travels.
Lazy river at JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort

3. Pack your golf clubs

The Tucson Starr Pass Resort is home to an 18-hole championship golf course. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, you’ll love playing a round or two while enjoying the stunning desert scenery.

Included in the resort fee is a daily unlimited golf for two Starr Pass Golf Club’s Coyote 9-hole course and driving range. However, golf cart and club rentals are not included. So, if you are an avid golfer, come prepared for some fun desert golfing!

Buddy plays golf. Although I do not, I am happy to learn from him. Unfortunately, when we stayed at family staycation at Tucson Starr Pass Resort, we did not bring proper attire for the golf course. (The resort specifies that proper dress is required). So, I did not get a chance to get a golf lesson from Buddy. Next time we will be better prepared!

4. Check the hours for breakfast

If you are looking to indulge in a full breakfast during your family staycation, you might want to wake up early. The restaurants at the Tucson Starr Pass Resort stop serving breakfast around 11am. If you are looking to sleep in late, you may want to make alternate plans for breakfast. Be sure to plan accordingly so you don’t miss out! For the most up to date restaurants hours and menus, visit the website.

During our staycation, we had a late check out, so we decided to sleep in! We meandered downstairs around 11am looking for a place to eat breakfast. Unfortunately, the one restaurant that was serving breakfast during our stay was no longer serving breakfast. Rather than eat a snack at Starbucks, we decided to check out and head to a local diner for a big American breakfast.

A beige wall with a rectangle open window that looks out on green desert mountains and the grass of a golf course. Family staycation at Tucson's Starr Pass Resort MPA Project Travels.
View from our balcony in the afternoon during our staycation

5. Check the hours of the Spa

The Hashani Spa at Tucson Starr Pass Resort is an excellent place to relax. If you are looking for a spa treatment after a day of golfing in the sun, or just to relax and unwind because parenting is hard, we recommend checking out the hours and booking ahead of time. The spa is not open every day and you want to make sure you don’t miss out on self-care during your staycation. Visit the website for the most up-to-date information regarding prices and hours.

I really wanted a massage during my first staycation. However, I did not check the days and times the spa was open prior to booking our stay. That meant that the spa was closed by the time we checked in and it was not open for the remainder of our stay. I was bummed. Next time, I will plan a staycation around the days the spa is open!

6. Respect the desert

Tucson Starr Pass Resort is in the Sonoran Desert, which is home to some amazing plants and animals. But it’s also important to remember that this is their natural habitat, so please be respectful and do not disturb any of the flora or fauna during your stay. 

Also, respect the heat and be mindful of the sun. If you are out by the pool during the day, make sure that you drink enough water, especially if you are drinking alcohol. Sunscreen and electrolytes are always a good idea if you are in the Arizona sun in the hot months.

a green praying mantis on concrete at night. Family staycation at Tucson's Starr Pass Resort MPA Project Travels.

During our staycation, we saw some Sonoran Desert wildlife including a praying mantis, a lizard, a desert rabbit, and a tarantula. The tarantula was walking out from inside the hotel! As fellow desert dwellers, we are not afraid of tarantulas and in general, they will not harm you. However, I can imagine that if you are new to the desert and you see a tarantula walking out of the JW Marriott, that might be disconcerting.

And we did see evidence of possible overconsumption and heat getting the best of pool goers in the afternoon. So, pace yourself when you are poolside in the desert.

7. Bring ear plugs

You’ll find that many families choose Tucson Starr Pass Resort as their go-to vacation spot year after year – and with good reason! The staff is incredibly friendly and always goes above and beyond to make sure guests have a wonderful experience.

But families on vacations or staycations mean young kids. And littles are known to wake up and be loud early in the morning. If you want to sleep in, bring ear plugs or noise canceling headphones.

During our staycation there were a lot of families with kids and teenagers at the resort. And yes, we were woken up early by squeals of joy from toddlers in nearby rooms. Luckily, I had my Sony XM3 earbuds with noise canceling and I was able to go back to sleep. Unluckily, I lost these earbuds somewhere between Tucson Star Pass Resort and my house, so I don’t have them anymore. What a bummer!

8. Attend movie night

A family favorite at Tucson Starr Pass Resort is movie night! During the weekends, on the lawn, the resort shows a movie using an inflatable screen. After dinner, you can head down to the grass, grab a chair, and see a family friendly film. Popcorn and drinks are available for purchase.

White chairs sit facing a large lit up screen against a dark sky. Movie night on the lawn. Family staycation at Tucson's Starr Pass Resort MPA Project Travels.

A different movie plays each day and there is a dry erase board announcing the movies and showtimes in the lobby.

Encanto was the movie that played during our stay. We watched bits of it from the pool. But the pool is far from the screen, so if your kiddos want to see the full movie, you will want to grab a seat.

9. Stay on a Friday or Saturday night

One tip we always recommend is booking your stay for a Friday or Saturday night. That way, you can take advantage of all the resort has to offer over the weekends like family yoga. This is especially true if you are staying over a holiday and the resort is offering special events like a 4th of July watermelon eating contest or lawn games. Staying over the weekend is a good way to make the most out of those resort fees.

A teenage boy with brown hair and glasses wears a white polo shirt and looks out at the desert night sky with a full moon. Boy is in profile. Family staycation at Tucson's Starr Pass Resort MPA Project Travels.
Buddy enjoying the cooler evening air

Because of my work travel schedule, our staycation was over Labor Day weekend on a Sunday night. And we missed most of the resort activities! There was no yoga or family yoga on Monday. And our check in was too late on Sunday to participate in the lawn games, cupcake walk, water balloon toss, or taco truck.

The only event we participated in was the evening tequila toast. Well, I participated in it with Sal. Buddy stayed up in the room doing some last-minute homework. We missed the rubber duck hunt because we slept in. Next time, we will be staying on a Saturday night so that we can enjoy all of the resort experiences.

10. Parking

And the last tip comes from Buddy.

Buddy says, “Do valet parking. Unless you want to walk across the entire complex. Where we stayed, our room, was on the other side from all of the buildings from the parking garage. It was far and we had to do a little bit of walking.”

We hope these tips help you plan the perfect family staycation at Starr Pass Resort! Whether you’re looking to relax by the pool on a staycation or are new to Tucson and want to explore the area, we know you’ll create memories that will last a lifetime.

Where do you like to visit for a staycation or family vacation? Let us know in the comments below!

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7 thoughts on “How to Have a Perfect Family Staycation at Tucson’s Starr Pass Resort

  1. We visited Tucson earlier this year and this is one of the resorts we were considering. I’m glad to read more about it so we can add it to our list for future visits. Sounds like a great spot!

  2. Floating in the lazy pool while watching the sunset sounds like heaven! Thanks so much for sharing, this resort sounds and looks like the perfect option

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