Months ago, if someone asked me what staying at a “wellness resort” entails, I’d likely have drummed up mental images of multi-hour silent retreats, expensive spa treatments inspired by alternative medicine or advance-level fitness classes full of yogis twisting into pretzel-like poses.
Oh, and smoothies. Lots, and lots, of smoothies.
But during my first visit to such a resort — Civana Wellness Resort & Spa in (aptly named) Carefree, Ariz., north of Scottsdale — I realized that wellness can look different for everybody.
In fact, the team behind the AAA Four Diamond, 144-room property (which opened in December 2018) actively works to distance itself from more traditional wellness resort ideals and high price points.
“The established wellness-immersion resorts target the top 10% of affluent travelers, leaving 90% of the market underserved,” said Kevin Kelly, a founding member of Civana, when the resort was announced in 2017. “Civana will bring a more attainable wellness experience to a larger target market, designed for today’s sophisticated travelers of all ages.”
It’s a company mission that Maja Miller, a wellness consultant and acting programs director at Civana, explained to me as we sat on the hotel's yoga lawn during my two-day stay. Miller, my partner, Nick, and I had just completed a socially distanced sunset "Gratitude Circle" in which we shared reflections about our day and completed a brief guided meditation session.
"[We're] democratizing wellness for the masses," Miller said. "When you create prescriptive wellness, you tend to lose people. Here, we meet guests where they are. It's a choose-your-own wellness adventure."
This "adventure" includes unlimited guest access a to 70-plus complimentary weekly wellness classes and excursions.
We’re democratizing wellness for the masses. When you create prescriptive wellness, you tend to lose people. Here, we meet guests where they are.
Offerings cater to a variety of skill levels; those preferring to move at a slower pace may opt for a morning nature walk, an afternoon restorative stretch and an evening guided meditation, for example, while fitness junkies may fill days with aerial yoga, total body barre and TRX classes.
Honing in on guests’ mental and spiritual growth is also on the docket at Civana, which strives to strike a balance between catering to guests’ physical health and emotional happiness. Meditations, intention-setting ceremonies and sound baths are well-represented on the weekly class schedule, along with nutrition classes (Mindful Mixology, anyone?) and even connection and intimacy workshops for couples.
The surrounding environment also lends itself to a total reset of the mind; I was overcome with an intense sense of relaxation from the moment I set foot on Civana’s sprawling 20-acre campus, which is dotted with 10 varieties of desert cacti (some more than 100 years old) and bright-white buildings. Guestroom decor is minimalist and inviting with a warm, neutral color scheme, and desert tones carry over into public spaces, such as the lobby, Terras restaurant, the award-winning 22,000-square-foot spa and Seed restaurant (for breakfast and lunch). An outdoor pool and Jacuzzi are located in the center of the complex.
Staying at Civana During COVID-19
Because I visited Civana during the COVID-19 pandemic, my experience will likely be different from most. My partner and I are both active and eat a healthful diet (Nick is vegan, and was especially thrilled by the veggie-heavy menu offerings that featured seasonal ingredients at both Seed and Terras). Under pre-pandemic circumstances, we’d be first in line to sign up for as many activities — and spa treatments — as we could fit into the itinerary.
Instead, we followed Miller’s advice and “chose our own adventure” by foregoing reduced-capacity indoor classes in favor of outdoor experiences.
These included making good use of the resort’s tennis and pickleball courts; renting bikes and exploring the town of Carefree at our leisure; soaking achy muscles in the hotel’s Jacuzzi; wandering through the outdoor meditation labyrinth; and joining a small group for socially distanced hikes with a guide at the break of dawn. Although indoor dining was available, we opted for patio dining at both restaurants, or ordered our meals (and our wellness smoothies) to go.
In fact, COVID-19- conscious clients like us will likely be impressed by the health and safety protocols put into place at the resort, which has been operating at reduced capacity since its reopening in September.
Guests have their temperatures checked upon arrival, and Civana has set up numerous hand sanitizer stations throughout the property. A protective seal is placed on guestroom doors after housekeeping has cleaned with an electrostatic spray and hospital-grade disinfectant (so visitors can ensure no one else has entered the room); single-use items are replaced between guests; and multi-use items (such as television remotes) are sealed in plastic wrap. Classes keep social distancing in mind, and face masks must be worn in all public spaces.
Did we feel let down by our pandemic-era wellness resort experience? Not even close — Civana was entirely understanding of our choices, and at the end of our stay, we felt relaxed, rejuvenated and satisfied with what we were able to accomplish safely.
And, of course, it just gives us a reason to book a post-pandemic return.
Civana Wellness Resort & Spa