A Calamigos Ranch cottage – an incredibly expensive disappointment

Usually I review books or write about animals and shelters. But I just had an experience that left me feeling taken advantage of and I want to share that so others might be warned. So this is about Calamigos Ranch in Malibu, California. We stayed there for one unforgettable night. Unforgettable because of how incredibly overpriced—and disappointing—our room was. Details below.

Let me say from the start that the rooms at the Calamigos Ranch are waaay out of my price range. Normally, I would never consider spending over $1400 for a one-night hotel stay. Ever.

But I was attending an out-of-town wedding with my daughter and grandson, and while my grandson was invited to part of the wedding, he would be in our hotel room for the other part, so we needed to be close to the event. And that did work out. The room that we ultimately got was very close to the event, and my daughter was able to read a book with him and put him to bed before leaving him with the babysitter and returning to the event. And the wedding was beautiful, the food delicious, and the bride lovely.

However, practically every other part of our stay there was just horribly disappointing.

Calamigos Ranch is very upfront that it’s all about the money. In spite of charging well upwards of a thousand dollars for a room, they proudly proclaim that “every guest is a VIP,” so there is only valet parking and it’s $48 extra each night.

I spent a lot of time on the phone with different people working the front desk to ask about early check-in and to make sure that we would be close to the event. Each conversation ended with me being misled or downright lied to. First, I asked about early check-in and was assured that the person I was talking to had noted that for my room. Yet the next day, when I realized exactly where the wedding was going to be and called to ensure that we were near that site, the early check-in had not been noted on our file. That new person assured me that he would note that we requested early check in. He also assisted me in selecting a room that would be closer to the wedding, and told me that even though there wasn’t much seating inside the actual room (which was an upgrade from the previously booked room with an additional cost), there was a “huge L-shaped couch” outside where my grandson and the babysitter would be able to relax. I asked about photos of the room, but was told the rooms were so new that photos of them were not on the website. When we arrived, I saw that there was no couch on the sparsely furnished concrete, just two chairs.

I’m guessing that pictures of the actual courtyard with the stained concrete and peeling paint wouldn’t be a great selling point. Note the absence of a “huge” L-shaped couch. There is a table for outdoor dining, but alas, you’d have to eat standing up because there are no chairs for the table.

Perhaps there are no pictures of the cottage because they didn’t want to show the closet that looks like it’s been constructed of unfinished plywood. Inside the toilet area, the trim consists of mismatched wood; some appears to have been stained and some is clearly unfinished. Even the window in that tiny cubicle still had a construction sticker they had apparently forgotten to remove.

No bright lights here. Hoping you won’t see all the defects?

The lighting was also disappointing. The one dim light over the sink area that is certainly not designed for putting on makeup is not something that screams “high end” luxury hotel here. And that large mirror over the sink was the only mirror in the room. There was no small magnifying mirror for applying makeup or a full length mirror inside the closet door. Trying to get ready for the event was quite challenging, to say the least.

The large shower with nary a hook, cold water, and no flow.

Another instance where Calamigos Ranch was a poor substitute for even a Holiday Inn was in the shower. Yes, there was a lovely rain shower head and a handheld shower head, but standing shivering for the lengthy time it takes for the water to warm up, and finally feeling relief at having warm water flowing, only to realize it’s just a trickle and it’s not going to warm you up. It takes twice as long to shower because there is almost no water pressure. It’s also impossible to find a place to put your towel because there are no hooks anywhere inside the admittedly huge shower or outside of the shower. You can spread one towel on the floor and put a clean towel on top, which is what we did. Or you can leave the towels across the room on the unfinished wood shelf and traipse across the floor wet and shivering to get it after the shower. Not a pleasant choice and again: really? Also, make sure while you are showering that you don’t use all the shampoo or conditioner or shower gel because in spite of knowing there would be three guests in the room, there was only one small bottle of each provided. And yes, we could have requested more, but we shouldn’t have had to.

As well as big problems like lack of lighting, poor water pressure, and lack of towel hooks, even the hardware in the room was deficient. There seems to be no quality control. The handle for the drawer under the sink was loose, a screw had come undone, and no one had bothered to fix it. The room looked cheaply constructed from the unfinished trim to the cheap-looking wood used for the closets, which to all appearances seemed like unfinished plywood. In a brand new room in an extremely expensive, supposedly-luxury resort, these flaws are inexcusable. Even the trim between the carpet and the marble bathroom area was cheap metal that certainly didn’t present even any pretensions of high class. Of course, nothing at all in the room accomplished that task.

But there’s more.

No clear Malibu skies showing here, just a dirty window.

Here you can see additional evidence of the lack of attention to detail that filled our room. The windows high above the entry, which should have allowed sunshine to stream in early in the morning, were streaked and unsightly.

And the hotel even failed in an amenity that the cheapest of hotels offer — a variety of channels on the television. I called the front desk when I failed at repeated attempts to get something on the television my grandson might like. The remote control showed Disney and Netflix, but there were only sports on the TV. “What do you offer on the TV?” I asked. I was shocked when the response was that there was only the selection of sports programs that was currently streaming. “But we do have Chromecast,” was the unhelpful response. “I have an iPhone,” I replied. “Is there ApplePlay?” No. In retrospect, I realize that perhaps there is a way to use that with an iPhone, but the person I was speaking to didn’t offer to help with that in any way, or even tell me it was possible. So for that price, they don’t include Netflix or Disney or any other entertainment programming. You have to bring your own television programs.

This walkway is definitely more working class than luxury.

Even getting from breakfast back to our room was an adventure as there was a truck blocking the path. They saw us but made no attempt to move or get out of our way. We had to edge around it between the truck and another vehicle and make our way to the path.

While the bed was comfortable, they were no more comfortable than the beds in the AirBnB we had stayed at. And there, we had a really lovely bathroom with actual towel hooks, lots of hot water, huge bottles of organic, natural shampoo and conditioner, attentive hosts, and yes, even a bottle of wine. No $48 fee for valet parking, but attentive hosts who let my grandson meet their dogs. When I pointed out the many shortcomings of our cottage at Calamigos during checkout, and asked if that room was really a $100 upgrade from the room I had first chosen, they offered to refund that additional fee. $100 didn’t even come close to making up for all the amenities that were missing.

Takeaway? Have your wedding there. They do a fabulous job with that. But if you want to stay there, be prepared to spend top dollar for a room that should certainly cost much less. I feel as if I’ve been robbed. $1400.00 a night! Shameful.