The essence of Arizona desert Zen

12 Treatment Rooms

Sanctuary Spa at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa consistently earns a prestigious Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star rating, and for good reasons. Its privileged position on Camelback Mountain provides panoramic views of the surrounding cactus-dappled desert landscape and Praying Monk spire. The environment is a nature enclave in the middle of Paradise Valley, generously shaded by trees and meticulously landscaped with lush gardens and grassy evergreen hills.

Outdoor treatment rooms add to the bucolic feeling, as Arizona’s birds sing through the sessions and the sound of trickling water can be heard from the outdoor water features.

The Asian-themed spa’s offerings are immense — choose from more than 80 treatments (plus a handful of packages) bound in a glossy color menu book of silky-smooth pages. From its elements-inspired vibe to its parakeet-green bathrobes, Sanctuary Spa’s sophisticated touches lend Zen to this desert oasis.

Our Inspector’s Highlights

• The spa’s Asian-inspired décor sets a serene scene with a reflection pond, abstract wood and metal sculptures representing the elements, feng shui-oriented windows and a Zen meditation garden.

• A courtyard shaded by towering bamboo leads to the fitness center, which features state-of-the-art equipment and a lap pool where Olympic gold medalist Misty Hyman gives swimming lessons.

• Sanctuary’s spa boutique stocks most of the products used in the treatments, including the resort’s exclusive line of Asian Neroli products by Red Flower.

• Aestheticians and massage therapists here are exceptionally skilled. Guests in the relaxation lounge can often be heard praising the sessions they just had.

• Several spa suites are a short stroll from the main facility, but the most luxurious lodging is the Spa House — a 3,500-square-foot, four-bedroom home with its own treatment room, movement studio and private pool.

Things to Know

• Put together a complimentary personal herb pouch on your way out of the Scottsdale spa. There’s a sizeable selection of fragrant flora to choose from, including rosemary, lavender, jasmine and white sage.

• Frequent visitors should consider spa memberships, which offer a bevy of benefits, such as use of resort facilities, a free birthday treatment, plus discounts on boutique items, food and drink at Jade Bar and Elements restaurant, spa services and wellness programs.

• Want to get one of the coveted window-side views of Paradise Valley at Jade Bar after your spa visit? It’s always a “sit wherever you can find a seat” situation at the popular bar, so try to arrive before 5 or after 7 p.m. — anything in between, and you might be standing.

The Treatments

• Treatments fall into seven categories, including aquatic massage in the heated Watsu pool; salon services; specialty treatments like acupuncture and hypnotherapy; and Asian-inspired sessions such as Thai massage, reiki and the Golden Lotus Balancing ritual, which wraps you in a warm cocoon of Japanese and Chinese herbs before an acupressure massage.

• Eight different day packages are available, including the popular relaxation combo of a 60-minute massage (choice of Swedish, motherhood, reflexology or lymphatic) and a 60-minute facial (pick from sanctuary jewel, purifying or wakai). 

• Enhancements abound, including foot massages with aloe and shea butter, sea-serum-based eye treatments and a wild lime hot oil scalp massage — a fragrant anointment worth marinating in for at least several hours (the masseuses say they sometimes leave theirs in for a couple days). It leaves hair feeling luscious and silky.

• The spa menu highlights the Sanctuary Signature Treatments, which incorporate little touches of Paradise Valley into your experience. Try the Sanctuary Luxury Facial, which uses strategically placed precious stones and restorative crystals to promote deep relaxation and release stress.

The Facilities

• Indoor hot tubs have sunny desert sky views that are bright but not blinding, thanks to great design (no glaring reflective spots) and floor-to-ceiling windows with dark, artful tint halfway up the glass walls.

• Locker areas and the relaxation rooms are well tended by staff, but not equipped to handle large groups. They can get crowded, especially on weekends.

• Minds and sinuses can be cleared in the eucalyptus steam room. You won’t regret grabbing one of the iced washcloths from the basket by the door on the way in.

• Treatment rooms at the Paradise Valley spa are accessed via a peaceful outdoor courtyard. The rooms have huge open doors (with closed curtains) to allow you to feel the occasional breeze blowing and listen to the birds chirping.