Jody Miller visits the Boulders Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona, where a luxury experience awaits among dramatic 12 million-year-old rock formations
photographed by Elyse Glickman, and courtesy Boulders Resort & Spa
Jody Miller is a correspondent for Lucire.
There are historic hotels immersed in a city’s colourful past where history comes alive, and there are resorts where vacationers escape the hectic pace of life to experience luxury and harmony. And then there is the Boulders Resort & Spa, surrounded by dramatic 12 million-year-old rock formations just north of Scottsdale, Arizona in the Sonoran Desert. This certainly qualifies as historical—pre-historical, in fact. Couple that with 1,300 acres of luxury accommodations, two championship golf courses, six restaurants, and a 33,000 ft² spa, and you have an award-winning property as captivating as the Neolithic landscape on which it resides.
The property is a member of Curio Collection by Hilton, an eco-conscious design and operation, which has earned numerous awards and recognitions, including the Urban Land Institute’s Environmental Award of Excellence. In a region rife with upscale resorts, the recently completed multi-million-dollar renovation has made it even more of a stand-out.
Naturally inviting sophistication
As the Boulders is 33 miles from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, the 45-minute drive to Carefree may emit ‘Are we there yet?’ murmurs. However, the trip is well worth it, especially as imposing formations emerge in the distance as if on a lost universe. The immense hand-rubbed wood doors of the main entrance introduce you to an uninterrupted connection to the land that prevails throughout. A glass mosaic skylight and custom fixture illuminate the lobby, while the fireplace, inlaid wood reception desk, and original southwestern art radiate warmth.
After checking in, a golf cart whisks you off to your personal retreat: a 550 ft² casita, 1,100 ft² executive suite, or a one-of-a kind multi-room villa or hacienda up to 3,200 ft². As your driver leads you through windy pathways of saguaro, mesquite and sage intertwined with violet and orange wildflowers, the low-rise adobe structures drift in and out of view. Upon entering, one realizes an angled vertex is noticeably absent except the spacious bathrooms. The rounded corners are characteristic of adobe construction and a salient reminder of the lifestyle on which the property is modeled.
More like a residence than a hotel room, the casitas strike a balance between contemporary design and regional tradition that evoke an earthy refinement. A custom-designed headboard wall with indigenous patterns complement the luxury bedding and striking hand-hewn wood beams. Two sumptuous winged-back leather chairs atop a hand-woven rug face a wood burning fireplace and HDTV with premium channels. A built-in wall banquette with colourful pillows adds a stylish and convenient touch (it’s next to the door—a perfect spot to put on shoes or toss your stuff).
The luxurious, oversized bathrooms will win everyone’s heart. Not the least of which is the combination walk-in closet and dressing room with ample built-ins to ensure packing light is not necessary. Flagstone flooring, free-standing milled vanities, and a pebble-walled glass-enclosed shower are cornerstones of the room’s natural elegance. The Flintstones surely never had it this good!
Perhaps best of all, the private terrace is where the desert comes alive. Revel in the cool morning air amongst the indigenous plants and trees. Oh yes, there are critters here! Come out at night and eavesdrop on the jackrabbits and javelina. Listen for coyotes near and far, or catch a glimpse of the roadrunner said to be on the loose. Of course, you can always enjoy the wildlife festivities behind the sliding screen doors.
The signature Palo Verde restaurant cooks up some of the most boldly flavoured and creative dishes in the region. The fully renovated space, with its hexagon dome ceiling and geometric wooden floors, draws its culinary inspiration from the southwest and places beyond. The soft, neutral colour scheme indoors, and patio with flickering candlelight under a endless sky outdoors, set the stage for impeccable service and delectably innovative cuisine that includes farm-to-table ingredients grown on-premises. The adjacent Discovery Lodge offers spectacular views and awe-inspiring sunsets via floor-to-ceiling windows. Shared appetizers and a premium cocktail selections are on hand while you sink into an oversized leather sofa, plush winged-back chair, or at the bar adorned with hand-painted ceramic tiles and wood pilasters.
It’s tee time
You can hide away in your room all day if you want (and we wouldn’t blame you), but the lure of the desert calls and the Boulders is serious about outdoor activities and adventures.
The two Jay Morrish-designed championship golf courses are praised by pros and aficionados for their difficulty and jagged beauty. World-class golf clinics by PGA- and LPGA-certified instructors draw golf lovers from around the world. There is even a junior clinic for young up-and-comers. While it was under renovation at the time of our visit, the clubhouse will be better than ever with new locker rooms and a revamped Grill Kitchen & Bar.
Recognized by Tennis magazine as one of the country’s top tennis resorts, the Boulders entices enthusiasts with four premier hard courts, three premier cushioned courts and one classic clay court. There is a full schedule of private lessons, clinics and fitness training for all levels, as well as 24-hour stringing and re-gripping service.
And we’re not even done yet. In fact, we are just getting started. When you are among some of the most primeval and beguiling terrain on earth, you have to explore. Guided hiking, rock climbing and moonlight bike rides are just the beginning. How about a hot air balloon ride, ATV or Jeep desert expedition, horseback riding, or stargazing with an astronomer? And don’t forget the half-day excursions to Sedona and the Grand Canyon.
After a day of adventure and sweat, unwind at one of the four pools including the 24-hour main lodge pool with poolside snack and beverage service.
And now, the Spa
The Phoenix–Scottsdale region is famous for its spas. But the Spa at the Boulders is truly special. Beyond the “zen” ambiance, trickling brooks and candlelit alcoves, it is the warm welcome, the professionalism, and the pure sense of relaxation and renewal that will captivate you. The Spa at the Boulders is a comprehensive day spa in the purest sense. Very popular among locals as well as hotel guests, you can, and will, spend the entire day.
The facility’s 33,000 ft² is outfitted with yoga and fitness studios, movement studio and classroom for lectures on all aspects of wellness, and the Spa Café and juice bar with food that’s surprisingly flavourful and substantial. The outdoor garden and orchard are where the property grows its own herbs and greens served in the restaurants as well as the spa’s organic products. Next to the garden is a wooden deck for night-time yoga and an outdoor kitchen and seating for demonstrations and events. An adults-only pool is there, with the ancient rocks at your feet.
Native traditions are an integral aspect of the spa. Next to the pool across a cultivated pathway you find a meditation tipi and brick-laden labyrinth (Path to Tranquillity). If you think this is all too much hocus-pocus, relax. It is never pushy or forced, and you are free to come and go at will. You will find the Walk with Intention surprisingly peaceful and you can reward yourself by swinging on one of the hammocks hanging from the nearby trees.
Inside the spa, the wonder of nature takes centre-stage. The light is all around and everyone is in a great mood. The spacious circular tea lounge is where guests relax before a service, as well as relaxation lounges in the men’s and women’s Niwa (that’s fancy for locker, vanity and wet area). Once inside the Niwa, don’t fret if you keep getting lost or make a wrong turn—so is everyone else and you will always be directed to the right place. There is a spacious S-shaped eucalyptus steam room with contoured benches and cedar wood sauna that is kept at a comfortable temperature. Peek behind the swivelling, snail-shaped walls and you’ll find tropical rain showers and a traditional Japanese bath to complete the purification ritual. There is also a hydrotherapy tub to caress tired muscles and private Watsu water lounge.
A spa rooted in ancient traditions and global techniques, each service is a complete sensory experience of invigorating aromas and organic ingredients, created to awaken, relax, and replenish. Treatments are categorized into three distinct intensions: Desert Zen, Global Shaman and Radiant Oasis. Choose from a vast menu of enticingly exotic and stimulating treatments for body, face, and even the soul. Whichever you choose, you will be guided along the right path. •
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