Why Scottsdale Is the Spa Capital of the World

Scottsdale-Spa-Hero

Why Scottsdale Is the Spa Capital of the World

August 20, 2018

My four-day Scottsdale spa vacation had a serious itinerary. Trying something I’d never done before—not committing to a single spa but visiting a different one every day, or even two different spas in the same day—it would be the busiest spa vacation of the dozen or so I’d been on. But
I was up for the challenge, especially since
snow was starting to fall in Jackson, Wyoming, where I live, and the Scottsdale weather forecast called for five months of low humidity and high temperatures in the 80s and 90s. (Yes, winter and spring in Scottsdale are that predictable and that perfect.)

Scottsdale and neighboring Paradise Valley are home to dozens of spa resorts that together include more than 1 million square feet of treatment rooms, saunas, steam rooms, and pools. And then there are the area’s day spas, which are so numerous not even the city’s ultra-organized tourism bureau, Experience Scottsdale, can keep count. They’re as ubiquitous as saguaros. Scottsdale has the highest density of spa resorts of anywhere in the country, and the greatest number of spas per capita. And I couldn’t pick just one.

Multiple spas had treatments that interested me. Also, each spa had its own personality. Well & Being Spa at the Fairmont Princess is massive, 44,000 square feet,
and encourages wandering from treatment 
to pool (including a rooftop adults-only
 pool) to sauna to hot tub to waterfall pool 
to exercise class to patio café. Beyoncé and Jay-Z enjoyed the Asian vibe of Sanctuary Spa when they honeymooned at the attached resort more than a decade ago. More recently, the girlfriend who usually accompanies me on spa vacations raved about an hour-long foot treatment (the Sabai Foot Ritual) at Sanctuary and mentioned that the spa’s redesign was almost complete, and that it was very well done. (Since I thought the “old” Sanctuary Spa was pretty perfect, hearing that it was being updated had made me nervous.) “It’s still the most serene spa I’ve ever been to,” my friend reported.

Scottsdale Spa Article

At Four Seasons, the spa is intimate and results-driven
and situated at the base of Pinnacle Peak, which I wanted to hike one morning. North of Scottsdale proper, up in Carefree, 12-million-year-old boulders dramatically dot the landscape around Boulders Spa, and its café serves entrees made with produce grown in the organic garden behind it. Boulders offers rock climbing classes and rappelling adventures on-site. Spa Avania at Hyatt Regency at Gainey Ranch has a Himalayan salt room. Royal Palms’ Alvadora Spa has a citrus grove facial that sounded like exactly what my dull skin needed. Just reading about the juniper cleanse massage at Palo Verde Spa & Apothecary at the new and hip Andaz Scottsdale relaxed my muscles.

Picking just one of these resorts wouldn’t have been Sophie’s Choice, but it certainly wouldn’t have been easy. So I didn’t, and the idea of spa speed dating was born.

I planned an itinerary of body treatments, facials, and massages at eight different spas over four days. Friends accused me of going overboard. I said I was optimizing my opportunities for wellness. Because I am not a golfer—there are more than 30 courses in the Scottsdale area and most of the spas I booked treatments at are part of resorts that also have golf courses—I instead planned time for a hike every morning. There are easily more than a hundred miles of trails of varying difficulty that start right in Scottsdale.

The night of my arrival, it dawned on me that, as much as I had planned, I had not planned meals. Thankfully Bourbon Steak at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess had a table available. I spent the time I wasn’t eating a nine-ounce prime skirt steak topped with creamy blue cheese—so tender no knife was needed to cut it—studying the restaurant menus of the other resorts I’d be visiting. The brunch menu at Proof at Four Seasons included lemon ricotta masa cakes and
a sandwich with five-hour slow cooked pork, blue cheese coleslaw, and house-made pickles. Elements at Sanctuary at Camelback Mountain had a lobster carbonara dinner entrée with an Asian twist, udon noodles instead of spaghetti.
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With the addition of meals—at the Boulders’ spa café it was an omelet with vegetables grown in the spa’s organic garden; at Proof I went for duck pastrami salad—the first two days went better than planned. (Full disclosure: I slept in the first morning rather than go for a hike.) Day one—a Desert Radiance body treatment at the Boulders and a facial at Fairmont’s Well & Being Spa—left me relaxed and my skin more hydrated then it’d been since a trip to the Amazon four years ago. As good as day one was, day two might go down in history as one of the greatest ever days of spa-ing.

That morning, I did get up at sunrise to hike six miles on Pinnacle Peak, the mountain just behind the Four Seasons with a well-maintained trail of middling difficulty that winds through the area’s full catalog of cacti. Brunch was on Proof ’s deck followed by 80 minutes of full-body exfoliation and massage using various products made with cocoa. It was the most scent-ual spa treatment I’d ever gotten. But, because I spent an hour post-cocoa walking the Four Seasons’ grounds
and admiring the blooming cacti, which was not part of my itinerary, I did arrive at Hyatt’s Spa Avania for 30 minutes of halotherapy and a 60-minute facial a few minutes late and not quite as relaxed as someone on a spa vacation should be.

But one of the purported benefits of halotherapy—in which you inhale pure, dry, micronized salt particles—is a reduction in stress (another is an improved immune system). In a private, dedicated room with walls made of thick salt tiles, I reclined on a chaise lounge and, within five minutes, fell into a deep sleep that ended only when an esthetician gently woke me up. The final activity for the day was lobster carbonara with Jay-Z and Beyoncé, or at least at the restaurant attached to the resort where they honeymooned (Sanctuary).

The following day, I popped the bubble of wellness and relaxation the prior days of spa-ing had gifted me by shattering my wrist. While hiking down Camelback Mountain shortly after sunrise and a couple of
hours before my Sabai Foot Ritual, I slipped. The
 day’s treatments were replaced by a visit to the emergency room at Scottsdale’s Osborn Hospital.

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That evening, with no spas to immediately comfort me, I fed my sorrows and distress with a return visit to Elements for dinner (a bacon-wrapped filet) and practiced gratitude that it was a spa vacation on which I had hurt myself.

Day four dawned with my arm throbbing. I briefly wanted the sunrise to acknowledge this unplanned and painful change in my situation and be muted and moody, but, like Scottsdale’s weather all winter and spring, it was reliably, spectacularly perfect. Thankfully, the surrounding mountains were still glowing pink when, instead of seeing this gorgeous sunrise as traitorous, I transitioned: It was proof that life goes on, and also that my life at the moment, despite a club- like cast on one arm, was still pretty amazing. I had broken my arm in between spa treatments, and it would heal, and, in the meantime, Sanctuary had been able to rebook me for its Sabai Foot Treatment without encroaching on my already- scheduled afternoon facial at Joya Spa. As the pink light turned orange, I vowed to never suffer an illness or injury at any time other than when on a spa vacation. I
 also vowed to return to Scottsdale sooner than later for the treatments and relaxation I missed the day prior.

Sanctuary’s Sabai Foot Ritual lived up to my friend’s
review and to its name, which, in Thai, means to relax and be comfortable. As a therapist massaged my feet, shins, and calves with a heated poultice filled with fresh herbs, I both relaxed and got more comfortable. Of course I wasn’t as relaxed and comfortable as I would have been without a freshly broken wrist, but I was much more relaxed and comfortable than I would have been anywhere else, even in my own home. I was also sold on the ideas of 1) Future spa vacations would involve multiple resorts,
and 2) Every future vacation would 
include at least one element of self-care
or wellness, just in case I did something
 stupid again.

Rent This Private Caribbean Enclave in Unexplored Punta Cana

Rent This Private Caribbean Enclave in Unexplored Punta Cana

Fine white sand and warm water are just two of the charming elements travelers encounter when they explore Punta Cana, the easternmost region of the Dominican Republic. And if visitors are looking for both seclusion, beauty and stunning balcony views, their own private Caribbean enclave isn’t far away. 

Three new oceanfront villas were built exclusively for travelers looking to book an extended family reunion, multi-family vacation, or corporate retreat in the privacy of the Punta Cayuco section of the extensive Cap Cana luxury resort. Interested in visiting? Explore the private Caribbean enclave below.

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There's no better place for a sunset swim than Villa Bagua in Punta Cana.

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Open-air floor plans allow guests to soak in the fresh air in the comfort of their home.

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With a private beach in the enclave, you'll never have to see another tourist during your stay.

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High-end appliances and countertops make meal prep in Villa Caona's kitchen a breeze.

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After a day at the beach, relax in one of the villa's oversized tubs or steam in the shower.

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Evenings in Punta Cana have never been more luxurious or breathtaking.

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Comfortable accommodations with great views will make any stay restful.

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With the perfect ocean view, swimming in a private pool has never felt more adventurous.

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There are plenty of dining spaces in the enclave, so guests can choose based on their mood.

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The patio is the perfect lookout for guests who want to soak in the natural beauty.

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Large groups can comfortably stay in the enclave with plenty of beds and bathrooms.

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Rest, recharge, and bask in the beauty of Punta Cana in your own private enclave.

Designed and constructed according to high standards and specific direction, the Villa AnaVilla Bagua, and Villa Caona homes—each with its own pool—share landscaped grounds, a fitness room, a game room, and on-site staff and cooks who stay in separate quarters within the estate. 

The idea behind the enclave was to better enable large groups to enjoy their own private homes with easy proximity to friends and family. And Punta Cana’s easy access (only 3.5 hours by plane from Atlanta’s international airport), tropical beauty, and diversity of available activities make it the perfect choice for this concept.

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On this low-lying stretch of the Dominican Republic, a consistent breeze mitigates the tropical heat, keeping the average year-round temperature in the mid-80s (F). Guests can enjoy the perfect weather while accessing what are arguably considered the Caribbean’s best golf courses, including Punta Espada, the oceanfront Jack Nicklaus-designed stunner that’s a regular stop on the PGA Senior Tour. 

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Offshore, scuba fans and snorkelers can dive into the technicolor magic of the reef while anglers test their mettle on a deep-sea fishing adventure. Kids can head to the protected waters and pristine beach at the Eden Roc Beach Club attached to the five-star resort hotel located just a five-minute golf-cart drive away from the enclave. 

The only one thing missing from this Caribbean paradise? You.

The Four Best Caribbean Beaches in Turks and Caicos​

The Four Best Caribbean Beaches in Turks and Caicos

May 21, 2018

It’s not surprising that travelers love to visit the islands of Turks and Caicos. Crystal blue waters surround white-sand beaches as fine as confectioner’s sugar and seduce visitors into long leisurely strolls. But it’s not just the beaches that are beautiful; the people are too, cultivating a culture of warm hospitality. 

Whether you seek relaxation or ocean adventure, opportunity abounds—above and below the waves—in the Turks and Caicos Islands. But before you plan your next beach trip to one of these four Caribbean beach destinations, be sure to check out the best accommodations in Turks and Caicos in the slideshow below.

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Caya Hico is a stunning beachfront home just 15 minutes from Grace Bay.

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With four bedrooms and four-and-a-half bathrooms, Caya Hico can accommodate up to eight people.

Amanyara, Turks and Caicos, Exterior

The Amanyara Luxury Hotel offers open-air villas that are just steps away from the Caribbean Sea.

Amanyara, Turks and Caicos, Bedroom

Amanyara's villas won Condé Nast's Best of the Best 2015 and Readers’ Choice Award 2016.

Gansevoort Hotel, Turks and Caicos

Gansevoort is a boutique island property known for its minimalist design and luxury amenities.

Gansevoort Hotel, Bedroom, Turks and Caicos

This hotel option is perfect for romantic getaways and beach lovers alike.

Gansevoort Hotel, Pool Night Exterior, Turks and Caicos

Guests will never get bored with two pools and a beach service with complimentary water rentals.

Sommerset on Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos

The Somerset on Grace Bay is another gorgeous rental option in Turks and Caicos.

Sunset Dining, Sommerset on Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos

Romantic sunset dinners and ocean views set the mood to unwind and relax.

Infinity Pool and Beach, Sommerset on Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos

Guests will love the amenities at The Somerset on Grace Bay. The pools, spa, private terraces, and restaurants are second to none.

Grace Bay Beach

Named for Lady Grace Hutchings, who honeymooned on the island in 1892 and reportedly charmed everyone she met, Grace Bay Beach is both the busiest part of the island and its most open and serene. To see the area’s less-frequented gems, visitors will have to rent a car. Twelve-mile-long Grace Bay Beach earns its fame for wide, white stretches that go on and on, but it’s hardly Turks and Caicos’ only option.

Little Water Cay

This beach is home to 2,000+ endangered rock iguanas, many measuring 2 feet long. The horned creatures mostly scurry across rocks while visitors stick to a well-maintained boardwalk, but they make Little Water Cay a must-see. It’s also a five-minute boat ride from Provo’s Leeward Marina.

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North Caicos

A 12-minute flight from Provo or a 25-minute ferry from the Leeward Marina can get you to North Caicos, home to most of the archipelago’s farms. You’ll also find a few thousand pink flamingos, outstanding snorkeling at Three Mary Cays, jaw-dropping Horsestable Beach, and eerie plantation ruins at Wades Green. Just looking to make a day trip? Big Blue Unlimited runs day trips on bikes.

Grand Turk

Scuba divers and snorkelers flock here and cruise ships dock here, but Grand Turk’s charms extend beyond the coast. Founded by Bermudian salt-rakers in 1681, the island’s capital, Cockburn Town, is the archipelago’s historic, political, and administrative center. Weathered colonial buildings and the national museum add to its charm.

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It’s no surprise that this collection of 40 low-lying islands is a beach vacation hot spot when there are so many beautiful options to explore. Wherever travelers decide to dive in, luxury hotels, world class scuba diving, snorkeling, and various other adventures await them in Turks and Caicos.