If you’ve recently traveled highways in the western United States, you’ve possibly seen the word “Yaamava’” on billboards. To the inland Southern California Serrano tribe, it means “spring,” a time for growth and rebirth. That’s exactly what Yaamava’ Resort & Casino at San Manuel — Highland, California’s newest casino resort — brings to those who want a luxurious stay-and-play experience.
Owned and operated by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, the former San Manuel Casino recently rebranded to the Yaamava’ moniker and unveiled a 17-story hotel tower as part of a $760 million expansion. And more is on the way: Yaamava’ will debut a 2,800-seat entertainment venue for concerts and sporting events this spring.
Since lucky numbers are a sure bet at a casino, here are seven things you won’t want to miss at Yaamava’, which is just 70 minutes from downtown Los Angeles.
Settled into the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains, the Southern California hotel’s metal and glass structure, designed by architecture and design firm Gensler, glows with modernity. The tower is a statement piece with accents that mimic the organic forms of the surrounding land.
Upon entering the lobby, there is a bar and lounge area to the right and a front desk guarded by a verdant living wall to the left. Foliage and water features throughout the lobby inject a sense of nature. The greenery comes from Jerry Bowlen, formerly of MGM Resorts’ Bellagio Conservatory (famous for its elaborate floral art displays), who is the director of horticulture for Yaamava’. With such talent onsite, the resort also boasts a long list of custom services — from rose petals on the bed to floral arrangements for special events.
Adjacent to the front desk, a boutique offers a sweet concierge service providing chocolates from around the world to complement your stay.
The casino opened in 1986 as a bingo hall, but the San Manuel campus never had its own hotel. Yaamava’ aims to fill that void with a top-notch experience. There are 432 guest rooms, including 127 suites and four super luxury suites on the 16th and 17th floors. The latter have high ceilings, a living space, a bar and an oversized terrace.
Wowing with above-and-beyond service and A-class amenities, the hotel draws comparisons to the top resorts in Las Vegas (coincidentally, the tribe is expanding to Vegas; it will reopen Palms Casino Resort in the spring).
The guest room interiors pay homage to the rich heritage of the San Manuel Reservation, including a sublime earthy color palette, open-floor plans and rain showers. Special touches include custom wallpaper by designers Phillip Jeffries and Maya Romanoff and an authentic 1950s Eames lounge chair and ottoman.
The beds, tautly made with Frette linens, are like sleeping in a cloud and the robes are so soft you’ll never want to get dressed. The custom-blended Yaamava’ scent infused in the toiletries carries you away to a calming space.
North-facing rooms overlook the reservation while south-facing rooms have a view of the pool complex, café and bar.
The Rooftop Lounge
The crown jewel of Yaamava’ is its Y Lounge, an exclusive club on the 17th floor with an extensive list of wines and spirits as well as a spacious outdoor bar perfect for watching California’s breathtaking sunsets. Reserved for VIPs, this rooftop bar lets you sip prestige spirits from Versace glassware or light up a cigar amid a panoramic backdrop.
Serrano Spa at Yaamava’ Resort & Casino sets you on a path to wellness. The healing energy of crystals like amethyst, aquamarine, ruby, jade and diamond help guide each wellness journey. If you’re looking for vitality and youth, go with ruby. And if you seek strength and resilience, try diamond. Under each type of stone, the services menu lists facials, massages, scrubs and manicure/pedicure suggestions. All of the treatments can be combined to create a couple’s journey.
At the other end of the spectrum, discover cutting-edge wellness technology such as hypervolt massages, LED light treatments and micro-current facials.
Eschewing the dark and moody vibe found in some spa designs, natural light pours into the eight-treatment-room spa, and everywhere there is a view of the desert, mountains and pool.
Whichever wellness journey you choose, be sure to decompress in the tranquility area and take a dip in the coed water sanctuary beforehand. And just outside the spa, two pools are surrounded by lounge chairs and shaded by trees. Seven cabanas provide another escape from the sun.
Boasting the most slots in the Western United States — more than 6,700 — Yaamava’ celebrates the history of San Manuel Casino with the addition of more opulent high-limit gaming and 40 new tables. The two-level casino features an unprecedented five high-limit gaming lounges with tables up to $25,000. They range from The Enclave with plush seating and a cocktail bar to Lotus 8 Palace with its red and gold hues and Eastern tea selection.
Casino bars run the gamut: Aces brings DJs and bottle service; Deuces is a walk-up casino bar with gaming; and Overlook Bar is adorned with a glass-lily chandelier and offers craft cocktails, house-made sodas, beer and wine, all which can be enjoyed while playing bar-top gaming machines.
A casino resort without a steakhouse is like a craps table without dice. At Yaamava’ there’s The Pines Modern Steakhouse. Originally opened in 2008, the re-envisioned and relocated steakhouse is where you can order a 52-year-old Scotch that costs $3,100 per ounce or precious Japanese snow beef.
The menu is also stacked with other steakhouse superlatives, such as wood-fired, carrot-fed beef and three different cuts of A5 plus Japanese wagyu — the Soya Black wagyu beef from Hokkaido is only available in a handful of U.S. restaurants. And the choice is always yours when it comes to mix-and-match surf and turf options, such as cold-water lobster tail and red king crab legs.
Throughout the space, Testani Design Troupe brings in shades of the San Bernardino Mountains — feathers, wood-clad corridors, flower pressings and a bentwood ceiling with basket weave motif.
Beyond The Pines, there are more than half a dozen other places to eat at Yaamava’, including George Lopez’s Chingon Kitchen — Mexican classics such as tacos and elote are taken from recipes by the comedian’s grandmother — and the all-new Serrano Vista café, which envelops guests from breakfast to dinner in a setting reminiscent of a blooming orange grove.
The Wine and Spirits
For those who love to imbibe, ask to see the menu for Collection 86, the portfolio of prestige wines and spirits, available throughout the luxury resort. No expense has been spared in its curation. Named for the year that the bingo hall opened, the menu came about during the casino’s 30th birthday in 2016, when several executives wished, in retrospect, they had sourced a collection of 30-year scotch to celebrate the milestone. With that idea in mind, they set out to create the ultimate stockpile of coveted sips.
Some of the exclusive offerings include a $5,000 cocktail made with Patrón en Lalique Extra Añejo and 1985 Salon Cuvee “S” Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Brut served in a keepsake Versace crystal glass, a $5,000 wagyu burger and Screaming Eagle cabernet pairing, a $5,000 wagyu trio served with a bottle of 2011 Petrus and a $10,000 rare single-barrel scotch flight — a 50-year-old Balvenie, a 52-year-old Macallan, a 56-year-old Gordon & MacPhail’s Linkwood 1954 and a 1954 Singleton — alongside a set of luxe chocolates from House of Dorchester.