Scottsdale Spas: From Southwestern hideaways to swanky modern boutiques


Scottsdale Spas

 Scottsdale spas run the gamut from Southwestern hideaways to swanky modern boutiques.

If you’ve only been to Scottsdale to golf or shop, you’re missing out on the Sonoran Desert’s abundance of native healing plants and indigenous therapies rooted in Native American tradition. Healing Lifestyles & Spas sent four writers to the area to explore and uncover the healing side of sophisticated Scottsdale.

The Boulders Resort and Golden Door Spa

Carefree, Arizona, (480) 488-9009,


Golf geeks and spa seekers alike make pilgrimages to this Sonoran Desert oasis. Surrounded by towering twelve-million-year-old boulders, The Boulders Resort and Golden Door Spa is a place where rugged terrain and luxury gracefully collide, encouraging calm to eclipse the chaos of normal life as guests ease into a slightly slower pace.

Environment Adobe casitas are expertly sprinkled across the resort’s 1,300 acres of desert and golf courses, creating the illusion that you are only one of few guests enjoying the glorious landscape. Guests aren’t the only ones basking in the sun; you’ll likely find coyote, deer, and jackrabbits scampering across the resort’s cacti-lined manicured paths.

Spa Experience The Golden Door Spa is a world-reknowned refuge for restless minds and mangled muscles. The 33,000-square-foot spa, complete with 24 treatment rooms, movement studio, labyrinth, watsu pools, saunas, steam rooms, and O’furo (traditional Japanese bath), unites a myriad of healing practices including Hopi medicine, Japanese therapies, Shamanic rituals, and modern methods.

Activities Hiking, golfing, spa’ing, yoga, tai chi, Pilates, meditation, and shopping are sure to fill your time with just enough activity to prohibit any thoughts of work from seeping into your head. Other attractions include the El Pedregal Festival Marketplace, which features courtyard concerts in the open-air amphitheater; boutiques filled with hand-crafted artisan gifts, art, and apparel; and the Heard Museum North exhibiting Native American culture.

Healing Tip The Shamanic Chakra Session is unlike any spa treatment you have ever experienced. A resident Shaman takes you outside (weather depending) to a traditional Native American teepee. The space is cleansed of previous energies by burning ceremonial sage. With the use of crystals, feathers, candles, and energy work, your aura is cleansed and depleted chakras are revitalized. It is truly the ultimate healing experience in that it calms the spirit and balances the body and mind. Shamanic Chakra sessions can be so powerful that your perception of life may be altered.

VH Spa for Vitality and Health at Hotel Valley Ho

Scottsdale, Arizona, (480) 248-2000,


Originally a hideaway for stars like Marilyn Monroe, Bing Crosby, and Natalie Wood, the Hotel Valley Ho re-opened last December after an $80 million renovation. In keeping with its cool pedigree, the VH Spa for Vitality and Health offers a swanky alternative to the more extravagant spas in Scottsdale. The May issue of Conda Nast Traveler ranked VH Spa one of the top 55 hot new spas around the world.

Environment Located on Valley Ho’s second floor, the VH Spa makes the most of its expansive windows and pervasive light. White and blue accents create an upbeat vibe, while the breezy 50s tunes bring out the skip in your step. By most spa standards, the changing rooms are skimpy, but the pragmatic Jack LaLanne aesthetic makes it all work.

Spa Experience The treatment menu consists of about a dozen choices, mostly straightforward body work and skincare. One standout is the spa’s Red Flower Hammam full-body treatment, which is based on skincare secrets of the Turkish bathhouse. First you are cleansed with Moroccan mint tea and silt, then scrubbed with coffee, olive pits, and lemons. After a clay wrap, the treatment finishes with a Turkish massage using the curative essences of cardamom, jasmine, bergamot, amber, and clove. By the end, fifty scents have been layered on your skin.

Activities Everything old is new again at the Valley Ho. Trader Vic’s, the iconic restaurant that created the Mai Tai, opened at the hotel this spring, serving Polynesian-inspired hors d’oeuvres and kicky umbrella drinks. And, just as it did when the courtyard pool was the backdrop for star-studded weddings and fashion shows, the Oh Pool pulls you in. This large circular pool is located at the center of the resort, and it acts like an aquatic heartbeat. Its patio features hip outdoor furniture and eight private cabanas, where you can enjoy a poolside massage, pedicure or even a slathering of sunscreen applied by a massage therapist.

Healing Tip Although VH retains a firm foot in the past, it caters to busy modern times with 45-minute massages just for your back, neck, and shoulders. Or, for an energetic twist, try the Quantum Biofeedback. In this treatment, wires around your wrists, ankles, and head transmit electrical impulses from your body to a computer. Then, your therapist tries to bring you into balance by sending complementary electrical impulses back to your body.

The Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain

Paradise Valley, Arizona, (800) 245-2051,



Situated with picturesque views of both Paradise Valley and the legendary Camelback Mountain, the Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain offers guests a unique blend of desert elegance and Zen living.

Environment The Asian-inspired property instantly calms the senses from the moment you walk into the reception area. After checking in, head to the Jade Bar for a cocktail. Then gaze out the floor-to-ceiling windows, which offer sweeping views of the Paradise Valley. For dinner, head to Elements, Sanctuary’s signature restaurant, and request a table on the veranda. Elements highlights organic cuisine on both their regular and lighter fare menus, catering to the health-conscious as well as those “on vacation.”

Spa Experience A visit to the Sanctuary really doesn’t begin until you’ve visited the Sanctuary Spa, featuring cool slate tile, gurgling fountains, and the tranquil Zen Meditation Garden. Each of the fourteen treatment suites opens to the Zen Meditation Garden, common space featuring a reflecting pool, stone pathways, and lush green plants. While still honoring Thai traditions, the Sanctuary’s Thai treatments also incorporate a little of the Western feel-good mentality. Book the Luk Pra Kope therapy “a two-hour Thai experience designed to soothe knotted muscles and calm knotted minds. Your therapist will first soak your feet in a blend of lime and essential oils, then buff them to baby softness using a blend of fine white clay and lime. The massage portion of the treatment is clothed, standard for Thai massage, and incorporates stretching movements, kneading, and assisted yoga postures to awaken the joints, improve mobility, release energy blockages, and deeply massage tired and tight muscles. Finally, using a compress of steamy, organically grown, medicinal herbs, your therapist will press and massage out any lingering tension from your body.

Activities Spend the day lounging by the pool, or if you’re feeling more ambitious, head to the tennis courts for a match. Although the Sanctuary doesn’t have its own golf course, it does have partnerships with various links in the area and will happily arrange a tee time.

Healing Tip Prefer a bit more privacy? Book your treatments in the Sanctum “a private stone-walled retreat often reserved by couples” which features a private deluge shower and vitality pool. Then spend part of the day relaxing under the desert sun by the Sanctuary’s infinity pool.

Agave, The Arizona Spa at The Westin Kierland Resort

Scottsdale, Arizona, (480) 624-1500,


The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa celebrates Arizona’s allure. In fact, state historian Marshall Trimble was tapped to ensure that a “sense of Arizona” permeate everything from the names of the rooms, to the wood, stone, art, and fabrics that decorate the resort. The spa is no exception. Arizona’s twelve species of agave have helped people survive in the desert for thousands of years. So Agave, The Arizona Spa gives a nod to the plant that has offered its fiber for rope, its heart for food, its sap for soap, and, now, its name for this elegant spa.

Environment I walked through a poolside courtyard of citrus trees to get to the stand-alone spa. Donning a robe, I took in the floor-to-ceiling tile photograph of Oak Creek Canyon and sipped yummy agave limeade, the resort’s complimentary beverage, spiked with Agave nectar, an organic sweetener extracted from the plant’s core.

Spa Experience I was led into the Azul room, where I enjoyed Rollerssage, an exclusive treatment co-created by Matthew Murdock, an Agave spa therapist. Murdock fits semi-precious stones each representing a different healing property into an ergonomically designed tool that evenly applies pressure to the body. Depending on the energies you want to address, a variety of stones are available: I chose hematite (for circulation and grounding) and tiger eye (for intuition, optimism, and love).

After my muscles were unknotted, it was time to move on to my mind. Tui’ Na, a 5,000-year-old Chinese medicinal massage, aims to establish a more harmonious flow of Qi. To counteract the stress I was feeling, my therapist, Mary, used a variety of percussive strokes, “to wake the body like an earthquake.” Then she focused on getting me to slow down and breathe. When I commented after the session that I felt both grounded and energized, Mary said, “You got it!” with a smile.

Activities Enjoy hip shopping and outstanding restaurants at the stylish 38-acre fresh-air emporium, Kierland Commons, just across the street. Or try 27 holes at the Kierland Golf Club, where lush fairways are nestled amid desert skies, plants, and wildlife. On site, check out the vibrant Latin restaurant Deseo. Grab a stool at the ceviche bar in front of the exhibition kitchen and graze on sophisticated appetizers and mojitos. You’ll understand why critics call this upbeat eatery the best secret in town.

Healing Tip Before Agave therapists leave you to settle into your treatment room, they invite you to leave your troubles in the Apache burden basket that guards the door. Do it. You’ll feel better.

Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch

Scottsdale, Arizona, (480) 444-1234,


Frequently, when I visit a spa, I request that my spa treatments are scheduled in the evening since they generally leave me groggy and longing for a pillow.  However, this schedule is not always possible and certainly doesn’t take advantage of the spa’s natural ability to tune in with your body clock. Spa Avania at Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa, however, has revolutionized this time conundrum by offering treatments and experiences that truly connect guests with their own body rhythms.

Avania, Greek for tranquility, sets the stage the moment you walk in the door. Melding the warm desert ambiance with distinctively modern Asian elements, the 21,000-square-foot spa is highlighted by a dome-shaped volcanic stone water sculpture, black pebble accents, and a sun-inspired bronze palette. After checking in for your appointment, you’ll be offered a glass of water infused with orange and lemon slices in the morning, mint and ginger at mid-day, and cucumber and honeydew in the evening.

Spa Experience Keeping with the body’s rhythms, each treatment is modified to suit the time of day. For instance, the Aroma Mineral Massage utilizes specific semi-precious gemstones and aromatic oils based on the time of the appointment. During my treatment, my therapist blended Esalen, Thai, and Swedish techniques into a unique stretch and relax massage and incorporated Avania’s morning blend of bergamot and mint, which resulted in a slightly stimulating massage. The resulting feeling more closely resembled the glow and invigoration I feel after doing a series of Sun Salutations than what I experience after an aggressive run. Awake, attentive, yet thoroughly relaxed.

Activities Beyond the spa, golf pros will find their home on one of the three courses at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale. The hotel can also arrange hot air ballooning adventures and shuttles to one of the many Scottsdale shopping venues.

Healing Tip If you have the time, book the Evening Passage Experience, which includes a Relaxing Mineral Wrap, a sixty-minute Avania massage, and a Recover Touch Facial. After a cup of tea from their evening selection, you’ll drift away into a blissful slumber.

The Phoenician

Scottsdale, Arizona, (800) 888-8234,


The Phoenician is fun for the whole family. A Disneyland-esque playground for the kids and decompressing sanctuary for adults, it is seemingly impossible to leave this perfectly appointed sprawling resort without a blissed-out smile on your face.

Environment Upon entering the world of The Phoenician, the desert landscape becomes a backdrop to this impeccably groomed destination resort. Pristine golf greens, sparkling swimming pools, garden tennis courts, a full service spa and fitness facility, an array of restaurants, lounges, and even an ice cream parlor set the stage for a luxury-laden American Southwest experience.

Spa ExperienceThe Centre for Well-Being’s 22,000-square-foot, 2-level spa offers 70 spa services held in 24 treatment rooms, a meditation atrium, a full-service salon, and a fitness and mind/body center for exercise and well-being classes. European, Eastern, and indigenous Southwestern treatments and therapies are fused together to enhance healing and ensure that every guest leaves enlivened.

Activities With 27-holes of award-winning golf greens, a Tennis Garden complete with lighted championship courts on 4 different playing surfaces and an automated practice court, The Centre for Well-Being spa and fitness facility, 9 pools (including the signature serenity mother-of-pearl tiled pool), cascading waterfalls, and eleven restaurants and lounges, not to mention the natural attractions, including hiking and biking, the question isn’t, “will I have enough to do,” it is “will I have enough time to do everything.”

Healing Tip If you want to go deeper than a massage and test the waters of an alternative therapy, you must try Acussage. Your body is calmed and your muscles unmangled with a deep penetrating massage; the treatment is then enhanced with the ancient healing technique of acupuncture. Based on your own body’s needs, your therapist delicately places acupuncture needles in key points along your body, targeting imbalances that can trigger anything from chronic pain to anxiety. With this gentle introduction to acupuncture, coupled with a therapeutic massage, you will experience immediate results and lasting change.

The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

Scottsdale, Arizona, (480) 585-4848,


The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is a perfect place for spa lovers with family members who prefer other pursuits. In the midst of its holiday atmosphere, Willow Stream Spa is an oasis of serenity: all the offerings and attitudes of a destination spa coupled with the activities and amenities of a grand resort. It’s hard to tear yourself away from the well-appointed rooms, suites, and casitas, but there is always something wonderful calling.

Environment With a view of the McDowell Mountains and soothing colors of the desert, the setting is especially lovely from the exclusive spa pool at sunset. Whether walking through a shaded colonnade by the main building, meandering byways, or basking in the sun, Spanish Colonial-influenced architecture, sun-bleached stone and wood make you feel as if you’re at home in an upscale adobe village. I love the combination of cottonwood and palm trees swaying near each other. Plazas and paths accented with fountains and flowers delight the senses from every vantage point. The spacious grounds provide places for joining in the action or retreating quietly with a book.

Spa Experience Willow Stream’s mission is energy renewal. The welcoming atrium signals your journey back to yourself. This soothing space is ideal for a Bento Box Spa Meal; the culinary artworks are delicious little jewels from imaginative executive chef Reed Groban, who oversees the resort’s award-winning Marquis and other restaurants. Travel farther into the spa sanctuary and experience an interpretation of a hidden Grand Canyon space called Havasupai; try the combo treatment named after it for a sacred experience that includes a footbath, tea, exfoliation, herbal bath, aromatherapy wrap with face and scalp acupressure, and a warm oil massage. Take time to unlock your shoulders and neck muscles under the waterfall pool before any of your treatments. The men’s MVP Room makes it comfortable to choose from a multitude of special treatments; they don’t even have to leave their fancy chairs and big screens to experience some of them.

Activities You will never have enough time to do it all: golf on two championship courses, tennis courts, horseback riding at nearby stables, five swimming pools (one like a water park with giant slides), four restaurants plus poolside cafes. You can book personal trainers at the fully fitted Fitness Center, take a guided morning walk, practice yoga (three kinds) or Pilates, join a water aerobics class, or participate in one of their many other fitness offerings.

Healing Tip Four times a year the Seasonal Experiences menu changes, featuring Ayurvedic treatments appropriate to the time; the Total Adjustment experience combines six foot, body, and facial treatments for an intro to this “science of life.” They say the Golf Performance Treatment Massage will improve your game. If you’re there for romance as well as recreation, ask about the Ritual of Two for Couples.

By Karen Werner, Judith Lazarus, Laurel House, and Melissa B. Williams

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