Praising Arizona

Finding peace of mind in the state's top spas

By: By Skye Mayring


Canyon Ranch Tucson
While the spirituality health package is still in the works for 2009, Canyon Ranch Tucson is offering Journey: A Woman’s Retreat, for a $500 add-on to a standard seven-night program. Held in the Life Enhancement Center, the package allows women to attend special workshops and fitness classes (Fit Strip exercise class, morning walks) in an intimate group setting. Clients also get a blood test and private consultation with a holistic physician, who analyzes the results.

Joya Spa
For $696 per night, Joya Spa is introducing a Girlfriends Getaway Package that includes any four, 60-minute treatments, a guided hammam bathing ritual, two manicures and pedicures, half-day use of the Terrace Suite, lunch for two at Joya Terrace, breakfast at Prado restaurant and a welcome amenity of two sets of yoga-inspired athletic wear. Clients must purchase at least three nights prior to arrival.

Mii Amo
All three-, four- and seven-night Journey Programs include luxury spa accommodations, three spa meals daily, non-alcoholic beverages and individualized concierge service. Guests have full access to the facilities of Enchantment resort, and leave with a Mii Amo bathrobe, pool tote bag and Mii Amo water bottle. The three-night programs include two 90-minute and four 60-minute treatments and range from $2,178-$6,363 depending on the dates and room type.

Miraval Tucson
Through 2009, Miraval Tucson is offering an Economic Comeback Retreat for corporate groups looking for increased performance, productivity and satisfaction in the workplace. Custom two- to five-night retreats range from $350 to $500 per person, per night.

Sanctuary Spa
Sanctuary’s Spa Harmony Package includes a free third night in a luxurious casita, two 60-minute spa treatments for each person during the stay, spa and dining gratuities, daily breakfast at elements and candlelight turndown. Available through May 16, the package begins at $920 and includes access to the fitness facilities and all daily classes.

The Spa at Camelback Inn
Standard room accommodations, daily breakfast at Rita’s Cafe for two and two, 60-minute spa treatments per day come with Camelback Inn’s Spa Package, priced at $519 per night.

Although it isn’t listed yet on the resort’s Web site, agents can call in with the booking code "NEW" to get the Resort Credit package in celebration of Camelback Inn’s grand reopening. Guests get a $100 credit, which can be redeemed at the spa, as well as rates of $299-$349 per night.

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Click here for a photo tour of InterContinental's new Joya Spa

Centuries ago, Ovid gave the timely recommendation to "take rest" because "a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop." During an economic situation that is fickle at best, rest and relaxation, or a spa getaway in particular, could be the catalyst for prosperity in the new year. And, there’s probably no other U.S. state better equipped to provide relief to stressed-out individuals than Arizona.

"We have a climate that is probably the most consistently visitor friendly," said Jonathan Ellerby of the destination resort Canyon Ranch Tucson. "There is this combination of warmth and starkness that causes people to be more reflective."

The main pool at Mii Amo at Enchantment // (c) Mii Amo
The main pool at Mii Amo at Enchantment

In the dead of winter, when most states face their most severe weather, the Grand Canyon State experiences mild temperatures and clear skies. Contrary to popular belief, summertime can be rather enjoyable, too. While temperatures in some regions peak in the 100s, the state simultaneously experiences its monsoon season. Typically starting in July, thunderstorms put on an incredible, if brief, display of light and sound before disappearing completely into the late afternoon.

In addition to weather, many of the state’s top spa executives cite Native American culture and a mountainous, desert eco-system — great for nature walks, mountain biking, climbing and hiking — as other significant draws for a spa vacation here.

According to the Arizona Office of Tourism, Arizona hosted 35.2 million overnight visitors in 2007, and both Sky Harbor International Airport and Tucson International Airport recorded an increase of passengers last year.

But three cities, in particular, have established themselves as spa-vacation hot spots: Sedona, Paradise Valley and Tucson. Lush Sedona has the advantage of a comfortable 4,500-feet elevation and lays claim to several "vortexes" (areas thought to have a high concentration of spiritual energy). Near Scottsdale, the ritzy residential area of Paradise Valley rests at the foothills of Camelback Mountain and offers visitors proximity to top-notch dining, nightlife and high-end shopping. Artsy Tucson possesses a sort of timeless quality, where cactus gardens and rolling hills serve as a backdrop and a small-town atmosphere permeates.

While the competition is fierce, a handful of resorts in these cities break away from the pack, offering innovative wellness programs, treatments and healthful cuisine that provide guests with peace of mind and, hopefully, a new outlook for the year ahead.

The Journey
You’d be hard pressed to spot Enchantment resort’s destination spa from an aerial view. Nestled in the red rocks of Boynton Canyon, Sedona, Mii Amo uses adobe brick and indigenous stone to harmonize with its surroundings. The Richard Gluckman-designed spa features 14 spa guestrooms and two deluxe spa suites (additional rooms are available at Enchantment), which are a scenic, 20-minute hike from the Kachina Woman rock formation, one of Sedona’s famous vortexes.

Upon arrival, guests are personally greeted curbside, presented with a Hopi, hand-strung necklace and escorted past the exterior of the spa’s crown-jewel, the Crystal Grotto. Each day, guests gather here for meditation, drumming, chanting or to set their intentions for the day, some focusing their gaze on the room’s central quartz crystal.

Mii Amo means "the journey" in the Yuman family of languages, and its voyage was further enhanced this month with a new spa menu, still heavily influenced by Native American traditions, world culture and local ingredients.

Also new this year, was the release of "A Journey of Taste." Mii Amo is known for delectable, low-calorie food, and its first cookbook includes more than 50 of the spa’s most-requested recipes, from blue-corn waffles to buffalo tenderloin with chipotle tomato jus.

As the spa reaches its eighth birthday in 2009, Mii Amo will continue to innovate, offering ahard-to-find treatment known as Bio Aquatic Cranial, which is similar to a cranial-sacral massage but preformed in a watsu pool.

"There is one other spa in the country that is doing that, and they are in Hawaii," commented Chris Bird, general manager of Mii Amo.

Mii Amo takes pride in setting itself apart from competitors in Arizona and, unlike some spas, Mii Amo pays agents commission on the full package.

"We know it is very beneficial for us to use travel agents," said Bird. "I also ask guests to have their agent call me directly when they need to rebook, so that I can help take care of their stay and give them a little better personalized service."

Aging Gracefully
Sandwiched between Scottsdale and Phoenix, the 16-mile stretch of Paradise Valley contains some of the state’s most exclusive and scenic properties. One of the better-known is Camelback Inn, A JW Marriott Resort & Spa. Flanking the property and bordering Mummy Mountain, The Spa at Camelback Inn plays a major role in helping the seasoned resort win Five-Diamond and five-star status year after year.

Canyon Ranch Tucson will offer a spiritual health package next year // (c) Canyon Ranch
Canyon Ranch Tucson will offer a spiritual health package next year

"Part of what sets us apart is that we’re lucky enough to have therapists and employees who have actually been with us for a significant amount of time," remarked Kelli Ziegler, spa director at The Spa at Camelback Inn, which will celebrate its 20th birthday next month. "Therefore, we have a higher level of standards and training, as well as a familiarity with our repeat guests. A brand-new resort wouldn’t have that consistency and experience yet."

Marriott knows that perfectionism has a price: The 32,000-square-foot spa completed a $5 million renovation about five years ago, and Camelback Inn finished a $45 million renovation in October, which included revamping its 300 guestrooms, adding Chef Laurent Tourondel’s BLT Steak restaurant and plenty of smaller, more nuanced touches, such as planting an extensive organic herb garden.

Sprouts, the spa’s cafe, utilizes the new garden to create an imaginative array of handcrafted cocktails and antioxidant elixirs designed by an in-house mixologist. Alongside a Bloody Mary garnished with fresh mozzarella, basil and a grape tomato, the spa’s menu boasts homemade protein bars and a selection of artisan American cheeses. And even though Sprouts stops serving a full menu at 3 p.m., there is no better place on the property to watch the sunset, especially with the spa’s "detox" margarita in hand.

Paradise Valley Blooms
Next door to Camelback Inn lies Joya Spa at the brand-new InterContinental Montelucia Resort & Spa. A little more than a month old, Joya Spa provides Moroccan-inspired skin and body treatments, a modern interpretation of a hammam bath and an exhaustive list of services from henna tattooing to mixed-martial arts training.

Each spa treatment encompasses a series of steps, beginning with a hand-washing ritual in the spa’s outdoor fountain. Soon after, guests are asked to choose one of five stones representing a different intention (love, health, family, wealth or work). Before reaching the treatment room, they can take a moment to look at the ceiling above and admire a recreation of the night sky in Grenada, Spain. After the treatment, guests can experience the warmth of the hammam room and, for an invigorating rush, stand under a 47-degree, five-gallon deluge.

The best way to delve deeper into the Joya experience is by renting one of the five Luxury Suites for the day. The grandest of them, Grand Palace Suite, features a $22,000, king-size mattress, flat-screen television, fully stocked minibar, signature bath service and treatment tables that vibrate in synch with any MP3 player.

Another unique offering is Joya Spa’s four exclusive product lines, which incorporate ingredients such as a rare, night-blooming cactus flower and gem essences, and are available for use throughout the locker rooms.

It’s the Little Things That Count
There are many opportunities for "wow" moments when wandering around Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa in Paradise Valley. When walking to one of the 12 treatment rooms, for instance, guests can trace their eyes up the courtyard’s water feature to Praying Monk, a stunning mountain formation on the north side of Camelback Mountain.

"We built the [layout of the spa] intentionally because of the location of Praying Monk," said Robert Vanze, spa director of Sanctuary Spa. "We want to make sure there is a definite balance of us being here and working with the environment," said Vanze.

The accommodations, too, reflect the interplay between nature and modern architecture. Just a few feet from the spa, the spa casitas and suites feature a more open layout than most of the property’s other guestrooms and incorporate cactus atriums and floor-to-ceiling windows. Additionally, the suites include a lava-rock fireplace and a glass sunroom in its design.

This year, Sanctuary revitalized its spa menu, adding services, such as the Sanctuary Jewel Facial using crystals charged by the Arizona sun and a Massage 101 experience where couples learn basic massage techniques to practice at home.

For December and January, the spa is introducing holiday-inspired indulgences, such as the Pumpkin Almond Body Experience. The body treatment includes a pumpkin-pulp enzyme body wrap, clove-salt scrub and an almond body mask.

"It’s great for both men and women, and it’s very sensual. It almost makes you hungry while you’re having it," said Vanze.

Spa-goers with an appetite will be pleased to know that the resort’s restaurant, elements, now provides spa cuisine and that it recently added edge, a swank, full-service bar that overlooks the main pool and Paradise Valley.

Most people don’t necessarily think of Canyon Ranch Tucson as a spiritual place. Its 80,000-square-foot spa complex, cutting-edge medical services and famed weight-loss programs are typically what has lured guests to this health resort. In recent years, however, Canyon Ranch has emerged as a haven for those looking to connect with their deepest sense of meaning, values and identity.

The view from the pool at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa // (c) Marriott International
The view from the pool at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa

Starting in the new year, Canyon Ranch will offer a spiritual health package — a bundle of spiritual services that focus on growth and tools for wellness — and two, seven-day spirituality intensives taking place at its on-site Life Enhancement Center.

"I don’t know of anywhere in America that has everything from leading-edge spiritual [programs] to extraordinary outdoor sports," said Jonathan Ellerby, spiritual programs director of Canyon Ranch.

One thing that Canyon Ranch doesn’t offer is excess. There are no salt shakers on any of the resort’s dining tables, albeit guests can request one from an obliging server, and alcoholic beverages are not served or allowed in public areas.

"We realize that, in moderation, certain kinds of alcohol are certainly not harmful, but really all the health statistics show that an overindulgence of alcohol is not good for any health condition," Ellerby clarified. "We’re trying to show people that they can unwind with a walk or a relaxation exercise at the end of the day."

A Simple Transformation
It’s true — Tucson’s leading resorts seem to have an addictive quality. In fact, some people come to the destination resort Miraval Tucson for three days and enjoy it so much that they end up extending their stay for two weeks or, sometimes, an entire month. Perhaps it’s the selection of more than 100 different body, facial and salon treatments or the approximately 150 daily activities and programs that keep guests so engaged.

"Miraval, in general, is about choice," explained Tracey Latkovic, vice president of sales and marketing for Miraval Resorts. "Instead of a prescribed experience or one that is sort of a fluff and buff, we offer a really in-depth program."

Nine experience centers offer everything from a team-building Challenge Course and outdoor Thai massage to a couples’ sexuality, love and intimacy workshop led by Dr. Lana Holstein, one of many experts on staff.

One of these on-staff experts, health guru Dr. Andrew Weil, offers three-day workshops based on his bestselling book, "Healthy Aging: A Lifelong Guide to Your Physical and Spiritual Well-Being."

The all-inclusive destination resort has a knack for taking simple ideas and transforming them into something extraordinary, such as the Equine Experience workshop, which has guests work with horses in order to improve communication in their personal and professional relationships.

"It’s not traditional in terms of going to the stables and having a horseback ride," she said. "We offer programming around the equestrian center that helps people learn about themselves."

Miraval recently introduced another non-traditional program, an Economic Comeback Retreat. The brainstorming retreat includes challenging, team-building physical activities, decision making workshops and lectures — ideal for corporate groups who want to attract prosperity and productivity in the coming year.