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Haven in the Desert: The Inns at El Rancho Merlita

Posted by on May 30, 2012

First, watch this video.

Now, let me assure you that yes, it is just like that.

The Inns at El Rancho Merlita in Tucson are tucked neatly away in a neighborhood on the outskirts of the city and, once you drive up the driveway that wends through the desert and through the lovely gates, peace and quiet envelops you. Pretty soon, you find that the history of this gem of a bed and breakfast location is just as fascinating as the peacefulness.

In the 1950’s when Tucson was a quiet, small town in the middle of the desert, Merle Norman, the cosmetics queen, bought a big tract of land off an old cattle trail. She then commissioned her brother to design a wonderful 1950’s ranch house that would be low and sprawling so it would stay cool in the desert heat and would have brick walls and a red tile roof, huge picture windows displaying the gorgeous views of both the desert and the mountains that surround Tucson. A long verandah would stretch across the front of the house and overlook a huge lawn and a beautiful swimming pool. He designed it exactly like that. And that is just what you see when you pull in through the ornate, iron gates. For years, Merle Norman enjoyed the estate, entertaining family, friends and many of the employees of the cosmetics empire. In 2004 Diana  Kuhel Osborne acquired the property and, keeping the feel and design of the place, transformed it into a Bed and Breakfast location.

There are actually two inns on the property; the Ranch House Inn and the Arroyo House Inn. The Arroyo House inn is the estate’s original guest house and has four rooms and suites, each with unique decor and luxury accommodations and amenities. All the rooms include luxurious linens, robes & slippers, lovely bath products, wifi and direct access to the outside patios.

The Arroyo Inn. Photo courtesy of the Inns at El Rancho Merlita.

I think we would have been very happy to stay in either location but we were thrilled to be staying in the Ranch House Inn in the Spanish Colonial room.

Map of the Ranch House Inn, courtesy of the Inns at El Rancho Merlita.

When we walked into the room, we were very impressed with the gorgeous furnishings, obviously influenced by Spain’s colonial influence on Arizona. The huge bathroom and equally huge tub were wonderful – and there even candles on the tub to light for a full, relaxing experience! After staying in hotels without much room, a large walk-in closet where we could actually place both suitcases open on the floor was a novel experience. Check out our quite fabulous room.

After we had settled in and been welcomed by Pattie Bell, the friendly innkeeper, we decided to stroll around the house and grounds. When we drove in through onto the expansive property, we had marveled at how lovely the Ranch House Inn was from the front.

Gates to the property.


Huge front yard.


Front Door.

We were really surprised to find that the property had a pool as this is kind of unusual for a bed and breakfast, but this was the original pool Merle Norman had built and used for years. It was lovely.

Wall around the pool.


I spent an afternoon out here and it was just as wonderful as it appears.


Merle Norman’s signature out by the pool.


From the front yard and the pool, we headed around the verandah to the lovely and cool terrace area which was right near our room.

I love the sound of a fountain and this was just a few steps from our door.


We might possibly have dozed off here in the shade in these comfy lounge chairs.


The back yard of the inn is completely different from the front and has been maintained in a natural desert state. In fact, we were startled to come home one night and find a few javelinas milling around in the yard near our door. They made a frantic break for it before we could snap any pictures.

Here’s a view of our room from the back yard. It had a door that accessed a nice patio area.


Gorgeous grounds.

There is a lovely walking path back there that leads to a building where they have massages and yoga classes and there is also an intriguing labyrinth made of stones.

The labyrinth.


The inside of the Ranch House Inn is just as lovely as the rest of the property. It truly seems like a home and you are welcome to relax in the comfortable living room, with its Western theme.

Beautiful room!


Really comfy furniture.

There is also a study with more very comfortable furniture and a tv, although there are also tv’s in the rooms.

Great place to relax and watch a movie!

One of the great things about staying at a Bed and Breakfast is the breakfast part and the Inns at El Rancho Merlita were no exception – the breakfasts were wonderful! They also kindly had freshly baked cookies in the dining area every afternoon which we greatly enjoyed!

The dining area was great for meeting new people!

The view from the breakfast table every morning was also a highlight. Although you can’t see them, there were hummingbirds out there flitting around the beautiful flowers.

What a wonderful view!

We had wonderful, gourmet food every morning. A perfect baked apple!

We stayed at the Inns at El Rancho Merlita towards the end of our two-week trip to Arizona and it was such a nice place to just relax. We did go to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum one day but, other than that, we just relaxed and read out on the cool verandah or by the pool It was blissfully quiet. And we were in the perfect place to just sit and enjoy every single moment all that blissful quiet.

Full disclosure: Our stay was provided by The Inns at El Rancho Merlita, but as always, I will share my honest opinion about any travel experiences I have.

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3 Responses to Haven in the Desert: The Inns at El Rancho Merlita

  1. Mark Wiens

    Looks like a great place Jan! Growing up some of my years in Arizona, I have a real appreciation for desert scenery and landscape – it looks beautiful!
    Mark Wiens recently posted..Gwangjang Market – An Overwhelming Bounty of Ambrosial Korean Food!

  2. Ayngelina

    Looks wonderful, I love places that have yoga classes.
    Ayngelina recently posted..Food Friday: Where to eat in Hana?

  3. Tamika D.

    WOW! This vacay spot looks VERY relaxing. Glad to see that y’all had a fab time. I wouldn’t want to leave that room. I’ve never stayed in the desert, but I know it’s peaceful. Great photos!!
    Tamika D. recently posted..Book Love: A Rare Titanic Family

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