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Photo Credit: Miraval Spa
Balanced on a swaying beam a few stories above the Sonoran Desert, I realize I won’t be able to hang on much longer if I don’t let go. So I put my trust (and body) in the hands of others who need to lift me higher. I’m on Giant’s Ladder at Miraval Resort and Spa in Tucson, trying to reach the top of a 40-foot swinging ladder with a few rungs more than six feet apart. It’s here that I learn to rely on my partner’s — and a stranger’s — strength, and while that lesson isn’t the type I expected from a luxury spa, it’s part of the free-yourself vibe that sets this place apart from other resorts, especially for couples.
A Southwest getaway that’s more desert lush than desert brush, Miraval has attracted the likes of Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi (as well as Oprah, who visited with Gayle). The peaceful, choose-your-own-adventure oasis has amenities galore, but for a pair, the real draw is disconnecting from the world while reconnecting with each other. Here, the haven’s highlights.
-- R. Kurt Osenlund
After our daunting acrobatic feat, my partner and I were ready for some pampering at the spa, where most services are available as duo treatments. Side-by-side hot-stone massages — rediscovered and popularized by Miraval after being forgotten for centuries—relaxed our muscles, but a 100-minute private Take Home Thaisession taught us how to relieve tension and limber up by pressing our body weight against each other.
Inspiring Drum Circles — No, Really
In the evening, we walked to an outdoor drum circle hosted by Native American musician and motivational speaker Tony Redhouse, who’s spent more than 20 years coaching schools, recovery centers, and HIV/AIDS support groups nationwide. Maybe it was the sight of sunset-lit Mount Lemmon, but we were humbled by the sounds echoing through the landscape and even a little inspired by our own heartbeats as we placed a hand on each other’s chests and drummed what we felt. Trying to experience our rhythmic link to each other would have felt like hooey in another setting, but here it was actually cathartic.
Deceptively Lean Cuisine
Incorporating local, seasonal ingredients, the menu at Miraval’s sole restaurant, Cactus Flower, changes regularly, but one constant is executive pastry chef Kim Macy’s excellent desserts, like vanilla bean flan and cinnamon doughnut holes. Surprise bonus: The dishes are actually healthy — though you’d never know from the flavor.
In the desert heat, water’s a must, but if you want a power-packed change of pace, try a smoothie from the juice bar. Protein Plus is loaded with blueberries, banana, agave, stevia, flax, soy, and açai. And if you’re keeping tab, the freshly squeezed Ambrosia juice — pineapple, grapes, orange, and lemon — clocks in at a mere 80 calories.