There’s a magical feeling to the mountainous desert landscapes, endless blue skies, and remarkable quality of the light in Scottsdale and Phoenix — something that has brought travelers back here for decades. The area boasts a plethora of high-end resorts and spas, and my husband and I decided to try out three popular ones during our recent trip to Arizona.
Old is new again
I’ve loved the Arizona Biltmore for years, and the iconic property with Frank Lloyd Wright vibes recently re-opened after a massive $70 million renovation that took more than a year. In addition to some fresh dining experiences, the improvements include the massive Spire Bar in the main courtyard and the brand-new Tierra Luna Spa with adjacent outdoor Sol Garden.
The tranquil grounds at the Arizona Biltmore
The spa has a relaxation room with beautiful Wright-inspired and southwestern motifs and offers a selection of teas and snacks. There is also a bright, tranquil outdoor space in which to wait for your therapist. The massage beds here are electrically adjusted, so there was no need for a separate foot bolster. My massage therapist, Olivia, responded deftly to my request for firmer pressure, and the neck and scalp attention at the end was just what my tired body needed.
The outdoor Sol Garden at the Tierra Luna Spa
My husband and I also tried the ritual bath for two. We found that this 30-minute therapy was an intimate, sensual opportunity to connect and relax as a couple. Our bath was in a large private closed-off room, just off the outside waiting area. There’s a large opening above the door, showing a slice of the sky, and giving the room an outdoor feel. We arrived to find that our bath had been prepared with magnesium salts and to the perfect temperature.
Soft, mystical music was playing in the background and a small space heater kept us warm on this unusually cold desert day. Along with the bath, we were given glasses of champagne, a selection of chocolate truffles, some ice water, and cold stones that we could place on each other’s backs or shoulders — the difference in temperature between the smooth stones and the hot bath provided a nice contrast. Five minutes before our session ended, a chime outside our room was rung, letting us know to prepare to head back to the main spa area.
The ritual bath is available for two
The resort’s fitness facility, located adjacent to the spa, features Life Fitness and Hammer Strength equipment, extensive free weights, medicine balls, and kettle bells. There are also garage-like glass doors that can slide up to open; the outdoor space beyond has some additional equipment and is almost reminiscent of a CrossFit area.
The Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North is a fantastic getaway in the northern part of the city. Driving there, I hadn’t realized how much elevation gain we had covered until I walked in the lobby — and was presented with a stunning view of the entire valley spread out before us, as well as dramatic distant peaks. There are 210 rooms and suites at the resort, with adobe-style casitas the norm. There’s a low-density vibe here — you don’t feel at all crowded — and a nice sense of place.
The desert architecture of the Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North
Proof is the resort’s fun, lively three-meal restaurant, which the staff is planning to relaunch in the Fall as a more sophisticated tavern. I was told they’re trying to take the restaurant to the next level with a higher end vibe to the menu — and yet still keep a casual feel to the space.
Proof has a casual dining feel
Here we decided to do a couples’ massage, and my husband was worked on by Carolyn, while Art did his best to get the stress out of my muscles. His style included some Thai influences, which I found invigorating and helped me let the tension flow out of me. Art has been with the resort for more than two decades and has created many of the unique treatments on the menu, including the Golfer’s Massage — which amusingly uses warmed golf balls instead of hot stones. There is also a new Nopal Massage that incorporates prickly pear cactus gel and the cactus paddles themselves (yes, without the thorns, don’t worry!).
The view from the Four Season’s lobby
New this year is the spa’s Desert Bathing ritual, which includes mindfulness exercises and a Zen hike, encouraging guests to disconnect from electronics and focus on the sights and sounds of the stunning desert landscapes. There’s also a Soul & Sound series that’s new. It incorporates yoga at sunset with a sound bath — followed by some al fresco enjoyment of red and white wine.
An in-town retreat
We found the Royal Palms Resort & Spa to be a magical bit of luxury seclusion tucked in the city. Located right near the foot of Camelback Mountain, the Royal Palms comes across like a throwback to earlier glamour days, and yet manages to feel contemporary and fresh. Guests here are serious about poolside relaxing, and the area was bustling during our entire stay. There are multiple nooks and crannies to be found around the resort, many of which feature outdoor fireplaces — and these spots become quite popular socializing areas in the evening hours.
The Royal Palms is a hidden treat
Our suite here was oversized and very comfortable, with a large sitting area, sleeper sofa, and enormous luxury bathroom that featured both a shower and a soaking tub.
The suites are large and comfortable at the Royal Palm
We also loved the resort’s restaurant, T. Cook’s, a beautiful vaulted interior space that features dinner daily as well as brunch. Standouts here include the huevos rancheros, the avocado toast, and the eggy but light French toast. And the Russian chai made for a yummy and boozy dessert drink.
Fine but casual dining at T. Cook’s
The spa at Royal Palms is tucked away toward one corner of the resort, giving it even more of a quiet, hidden vibe. There are both indoor and outdoor relaxation areas; the outdoor featured a nice wood fireplace, while the indoor space was decked out with plush fabrics, relaxing forest greens, and metallic accents. We chose the comfy couches indoor and sampled the complimentary teas and snacks while we awaited our treatment.
There’s plenty on the menu at T. Cook’s
We close the “Mind & Body Renewal” massage, which was described as an aromatic journey that focuses the body’s energy centers. Here, the massage therapist works with you to select the ideal essential oil combinations for your procedure. We were offered Crown & Third Eye, Throat Chakra, Heart Chakra, Solar Plexus, Sacral Chakra, and Root Chakra. Each one’s various healing properties were described, from boosting immunity to promoting emotional balance. I decided to blend the Crown & Third Eye with Root Chakra, and the combination worked well during my massage, which I chose to be more relaxing — an excellent and proper choice to round out a nice long weekend of wellness.
This piece initially ran in print in the Fall 2022 issue of Out Traveler.