Scottsdale Rising

Welcome to spa country

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Welcome to spa country

With over 330 days of sunshine every year, Scottsdale, Arizona beckons with its steady, heady heat. During Hollywood’s golden era, Scottsdale was a natural extension to the playground of the stars, drawing the likes of Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, who favoured hotel lounges and poolside parties. Decades later, ‘snowbirds’ – mostly Canadians escaping cold winters – and retirees discovered this nearby paradise with its sunny, semi-arid climate and palm-lined boulevards. Coming full circle, Scottsdale has once again piqued the interest of celebrities, with sightings of Lady Gaga, Beyoncé and Jennifer Aniston frequently reported. The main draw this time? Spas.

This is spa country. The Greater Phoenix area (including Scottsdale) has over 400,000sqft of dedicated spa space. Many of these luxury spas and resorts routinely top every US and international ‘best of’ spa list. Combined with a magnificent food scene and a charming, warm Southwest aesthetic, Scottsdale is becoming a top destination for those seeking serious pampering.

When planning your trip, keep in mind this area is in the Sonoran Desert – it’s hot. Peak season is usually from November through March. But if soaring temperatures don’t bother you, coming in the summer will fetch you a great deal as many resorts reduce prices dramatically during this time. Golf carts are a given at these expansive properties, so you’ll never be out in the open sun longer than you choose to. Bring a bathing suit to your spa treatment and plan on going early and staying late to make the most of the spectacular amenities at these luxurious resorts.

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Located on 65 acres, the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is an enormous property with more luxury amenities than you could possibly experience in a single visit. It’s no wonder that many people make this an annual destination. This AAA Five Diamond resort completed a multi-year long US$60 million renovation that finished in 2016. Not to miss are the two Tournament Players Club golf courses, the five heated outdoor pools (one with waterslides, another with a real sand beach) and La Hacienda, often cited as Scottsdale’s best Mexican restaurant.

Well & Being Spa’s signature body treatment, the hour-long Hacienda Retreat, begins with a yellow corn and lime body polish to exfoliate, followed by a deeply hydrating mask of shea butter with scented lime zest, spearmint and lemon, ending with a massage to help the nutrients and antioxidants permeate into your skin.


Inspired by the Andalusia region in Spain, the Omni Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Montelucia is an intimate, picturesque property dotted with lively fountains and floral walkways. This is where former US President, Barack Obama was based when he visited in February 2009.

The resort’s Joya Spa is modelled after Moroccan hammams, rich in deep, earthy colours and exotic with Moorish flourishes. Treatment rooms feel as if they’re extensions of a plush bedroom lavishly decorated with jewel-toned throws and pillows. Indulge in the 80-minute Arnica and Hot Towel Massage, a deep-tissue massage using essential oils of arnica, sage, lavender and spearmint, to help soothe inflamed, sore muscles. As the massage progresses, a series of hot towels are placed over the treated areas, promoting the extracts’ healing properties.

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Technically located in the town of Carefree, that says it all. Boulders is nestled amongst dramatic, towering boulders dating back 12 million years. The profile is relatively low-level upon arriving, with the golf course across from the main building. But once you wind your way to your casita, the enormous boulders are centre stage. The impact leaves you feeling both humbled, thrilled and exhilaratingly carefree.

Boulders is one of the very few resorts in the US that has a dedicated, private Watsu pool, in which the water offers both resistance and support, making it an incredibly healing environment. This kind of gentle aquatic bodywork is ideal for anyone looking for a safe, intense treatment focused on increasing circulation and flexibility. You are supported by a certified Watsu therapist at all times, being pulled through the water in undulating, organic movements. You’ll get the most out of this treatment if you trust your therapist and completely relax your body.

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If celebrity sightings are on your agenda, Sanctuary on Camelback is your best bet for an encounter. While privacy and discretion are paramount, celebrities like Beyoncé and Jay-Z make no secret about their multiple visits to this resort, including on their honeymoon. With features such as the newly renovated Spa House (a private enclave within Sanctuary), sunset champagne toasts and candlelight turndown service, everybody gets star service.

Sanctuary on Camelback is built right up against its namesake mountain, giving this expansive, contemporary resort a surprisingly cosy and intimate feel. Even the entrance to the Sanctuary Spa feels sheltered, with towering bamboo thickets flanking either side of the walkway leading to the front door. This Asian-inspired spa specialises in treatments such as Sumatra Coconut Body Ritual, Zen Shiatsu and Thai massage. Their half-hour reflexology treatment releases pressure points on the feet, guaranteed to lull you into sleep halfway through your session, while leaving you energised when you awake.


Take a moment to soak in the lavish, palm-lined entrance to the Hyatt Regency at Gainey Ranch as you arrive. Framed by the McDowell Mountains, this is an impressive introduction to this flagship property. As you enter the sweeping three-storey lobby atrium, look beyond the cavernous expanse of restaurants and bars below to get a glimpse of what lies beyond: acres of pools (including a sand beach), a water playground and even a waterway system with authentic Venetian gondolas.

At Spa Avania, book a session in the newly opened Himalayan Salt Room, which is lined (walls, floor and ceiling) with pharmaceutical Grade A salt, which releases negative ions, helping to absorb excess positive ions and refresh the air, leaving you clear-headed and calm. After that, you’ll be in a perfect state to take a dip in their stunning French Celtic mineral pool or try the customised Sacred Nature Facial, featuring beautiful organic skincare from Italy.

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This glamorous property started off as a private home in 1929 and is today a historic US hotel. Members of the Rat Pack, namely Frank Sinatra Jr and Dean Martin were frequent guests, favouring the hotel’s then heart-shaped pool. As a private home, it was enormous and built for entertaining; as a resort, it’s decidedly intimate and private – perfect for anyone looking to truly escape.

The resort’s Alvadora Spa is housed in a separate two-storey building with fantastic views of Camelback Mountain. Their signature treatment, Citrus Ritual, takes place in the purpose-built Acqua Dolce room, featuring heated stone tables and three copper Vichy showerheads hanging over each one. As you lie on the bed, the adjustable showerheads are positioned over different points on the body, stimulating the chakras while you’re thoroughly exfoliated, massaged and moisturised. The treatment ends with two different outdoor showers, a jetted tub and relaxing outdoors.


To better understand the region’s Native American history and culture, the spectacular Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass was designed to represent the Gila River Indian Community heritage. Highlights include Kai, Phoenix’s only AAA Five Diamond and Forbes five-star restaurant, incorporating influences of the Pima and Maricopa tribal cuisine. This is a spectacular experience not to be missed. 

Aji Spa is named after local Aji Mountain, a sacred place where the sharing of traditional Pima and Maricopa practices continue today. The spa offers a dedicated Native American services menu, which includes the 50-minute Thoachta treatment conducted by Pima massage therapist, Belen Stoneman, famed for her gift to facilitate physical and emotional healing. She learnt her craft from her grandparents and now shares her knowledge through this treatment, which combines traditional massage, polarity and ancient Pima healing doctrines.