I’ve had plenty getaway experiences, whether they were for pure adventurous fun, to merrily eat and drink all weekend long, a romantic escape on an island or a wellness retreat. For those of you who are keen on a holistic approach to wellness, and therefore your life, keep reading, since this is one of a series of posts we’ll be writing in the coming weeks and months ahead that will be focused on what wellness really means philosophically and in the context of an experience….shall we say, a transformative one. This post focused on a transformative spa experience, et hem, the way every spa experience should be in our opinion.
When you head off to a spa, whether it’s the luxury one at home you splurge on every month or when you’re on vacation, it needs to be more than just luxurious and pampering. Pampering goes without saying, but imagine a whole lotta pampering and service, but surrounded by remote desert tranquility where the environment itself supports your system in a nurturing and balanced way.
You may recall that we had a very integrative experience at the El Conquistador Spa in Puerto Rico recently, which offered yoga outside on the lawn with sweeping views and a series of holistic experiences. We love resorts that think about their spa as a holistic part of a guest’s stay, not just a separate building that offers facials and massages. Meet another such A+ property in an entirely different environment in the great American West. While in Puerto Rico, we were surrounded by ocean breezes, margaritas and infinity pools, at the Ritz Carlton in Dove Mountain, we were surrounded by some of the rawest desert nature you’ll ever encounter in the United States. And, it was absolutely beautiful!
Because it’s dry heat, if you suffer from arthritis or achy joints and pains, your body will love the low humidity in this decadent southern Arizona resort. Roughly a 45 minute drive from Tucson in the south, you’ll soon escape the urban shopping scene and be greeted by some of the largest cactus you’ve ever seen. I lived in Arizona for a stint of my life and have been to Phoenix and Sedona countless times over the years, but have never been so taken away by the size of the cactus that sprawls in all directions.
I think that the nature which surrounds a spa (if not in a city center) is a critical part of your spa experience. The air, the sun or lack of it, the kinds of trees and soils…..all play into what kind of experience you’ll have at the spa, perhaps including what products they’re most inspired by. There’s no doubt spas have used very different products during my treatments in Fiji than they did in Germany or Massachusetts.
If you’re worried about the dry heat, try to relish in it, even if you have dry skin. The Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain property has both a dry sauna and a fairly large steam room — put a little Mexican arginine oil in your hair and wrap it up for the afternoon and coat your skin with some luscious hydrating moisturizers and sip on a cocktail while you wait for a treatment. They have a lovely inside relaxation room with lemon and rosemary infused water and herbal teas or two areas outside — the pool itself which has comfy outdoor beds and cabanas or a smaller same sex area where there’s a hot tub and access to both the steam room and sauna.
A stone’s throw away, you can be hiking around the resort to take in the majestic cactus, many of which are well over 100 years old, and then return to an enclave that is quietly surreal, even when the resort has a lot of family bookings. The lovely thing about the resort is that while it attracts many families, Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain has an adult only outdoor pool behind the natural stone walls of its spa on the opposite side of the property.
So, even for busy mom’s who want to escape to a l’il serenity while they have kids and hubby in tow, the Dove Mountain spa is waiting. You’ll notice at the spa pool, you are surrounded by beautiful and pure nature in every direction — it reminded me a bit of Enchantment Resort and Spa in Sedona, which apparently sits on land that is part of a vortex, believed by many to be a very healing and transformative experience. I have found Arizona to be very soothing in many ways over the years, as evidenced from friends who have fled to its desert land for its healing properties to my grandfather who moved our family to Yuma for a year for the sun and heat following grandmother’s cancer treatments.
Because it’s an adult only pool, you’ll find women here lapping up all the serenity the spa has to offer (I can’t be sure, but it appeared that there was a women’s weekend getaway on-site when we were there), or couples getting quiet time away from their otherwise hectic lives. It’s a place where you can escape reality for awhile, so much so, that you may find yourself leaving that laptop packed in your carry-on luggage. We did!
I have to admit, I loved the outdoor beds — they were private, cushioned and incredibly comfy. There’s nothing more relaxing than sipping a cold ice tea or a Pina Colada on a hot summer day when there’s an inviting pool within a few feet. The other lovely thing about Dove Mountain’s spa pool is that it’s natural salt water, rather than chlorinated water. Even though it wasn’t fresh water, I spotted a little bird taking a quick sip at the poolside edge one afternoon.
They also have a fabulous salt water jacuzzi at the spa pool, which has a cascading waterwall – oh so lovely for the sore muscles and joints. I found it hard to get out of the hot tub on more than one occasion.
Shortly before we left on our trip, I received Tommy Bahama and Sauvage swimsuits and cover-ups, so what a better place to test them out than at a luxurious spa pool, and so I did — I wore a different one each day! I’ve never understood people who only own one swimsuit — it’s like only owning one pair of jeans.
It’s great to have choices. For heartier water play like this one, a Tankini is perfect! I’m a huge fan of both swimsuit brands and happened to notice that the on-site gift shop had a soft pastel rainbow cover-up by Tommy Bahama in the window and my above navy blue Tankini top in a deep rich purple and white.
Below, I’m in a Tommy Bahama vintage map cover-up which has a matching swimsuit that goes with it. I’m soaking up the sun at one of the spa pool outdoor beds where you can relax for the day and read a book.
Below I’m in a Sauvage cover-up, which is well matched with their two piece turquoise spider swim suit as well as any of their chic and sexy all black ones with the gold trim. The spa pool area is incredibly private and very relaxing!
The other thing worth noting is that the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain resort has an extensive Fitness Center on-site, which is larger than most 5 star resort gyms. Equipment includes Cardiovascular & Strength Training which you can do in the gym itself or nearby studio, which they use for classes, including yoga. There’s Elliptical trainers, Stationary bikes, Treadmills, Free weights, Weight training machines, and a Movement Studio. I’ve never understood hotels and resorts who limit when you can use the gym — it should be 24/7 since everyone’s body clock and schedule is different. I was thrilled to learn that they allow access anytime of day with your room key. A huge plus!
Every day, they offer Yoga, Pilates, H.I.I.T., and Zumba. We had a private yoga class while we were there, largely because we wanted the individual treatment. I still have a nagging shoulder and neck issue, so it was great to get personal recommendations on different poses I could do for ones I still find particularly tough, like Downward Dog, which is a staple of nearly every yoga practice.
We also opted for a full body assessment by one of their advanced trainers. It’s not a whole lotta fun learning what your optimal body fat percentage is, but it’s important to know what it is if you’re going to make any vital changes in your diet and exercise regiment. We thought it was a great offering by the Ritz Carlton spa and fitness team.
Part one is measurement in a process called Accu-Measure, which is a way to test your personal body fat. Since the majority of fat on the body is located directly under the skin, a practical way to measure your body fat percentage is skinfold measurement. The Accu-Measure caliper is designed to make this a very simple and accurate procedure that you can perform on yourself.
The trainer took measurements of various parts of my body, including my waist, arms, thighs, hips, bust and so on. We did a variation of “the skin pinch” method — while the trainer did measure various parts of our body, she measured a set number of inches based on a formula and then used a tape measure to capture the data.
Then, you have to squeeze a machine after the fact, which has an input of your weight, height and age.
The next step is SWEAT!! We both had to perform a number of exercises, including push-ups, sit-ups and stretches. OY!! It was great to get a benchmark however…again, useful if you’re watching your diet, what you do for exercise and how often.
I’d recommend doing as much of your swimming and sun worshipping during the first leg of your trip and on the day before you’re slated to leave, book a few back-to-back spa treatments, which will help to relax your muscles and most importantly, re-hydrate your skin.
The entrance to the spa itself is very modern, with clean simple designs throughout the lobby area. The great thing about the above spa pool which I reference again and again because it’s so fabulous, is that there’s a private entrance to it from the spa, making it a quiet escape from the larger outdoor pools on the property which tends to get traffic from a lot of families. (there’s a fabulous water slide btw, which we took advantage of).
Once you’re inside the spa, be prepared to be surprised. It’s relaxing, meditative and nurturing, whether you’re spending time reading a magazine or book after your salt water swim, or whether you’re waiting in the relaxation room for one of their many treatments on offer.
The ambiance is blissfully serene in more ways than one….
I had a lovely facial which was regenerative in nature and included anti-aging oxidants and creams. You can choose to have your treatment in either an indoor or outdoor treatment room, and there’s an over-sized treatment suite for couples and small groups – complete with a private fireplace and courtyard. As noted, the luscious serenity pool terrace where guests are able to view ancient Native American carvings in nearby rocks.
The official name for it is age defense facial, which is the most effective treatment for aging skin: This treatment stimulates collagen production in the skin to strengthen and improve elasticity. It is designed to deliver results that reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots for a dramatically healthier, stronger, and more radiant looking skin. They also have a deep pore cleansing facial and a signature facial as well as one specifically geared to men.
We both had the HOT STONE MASSAGE, a treatment I’ve always been a fan of over the years, but not all spas offer it. Here, they call it a Hohokam Stone Massage, which is based on Native American traditions. Warm (I’d say closer to hot) mineral-rich basalt stones are used to give your body-earth energy.
I love this treatment. The therapist warms your muscles up by placing them in areas where you’re most tight and then using a soothing oil, she works your tightest areas — she was able to go deeper because of the heat. I felt more than just a little revitalized after this treatment — how about renewed? Perhaps transformed is more appropriate.
They offer Reflexology and an Indigo Herbal Poultice which a synergy of warm, steamed herbal poultice used with Royal Thai and traditional massage techniques. This massage channels the healing power of indigo, used traditionally by Native American shamans to treat muscle aches and pains.
Something I wish I had time for, but perhaps on a future visit, is the Detox Body Wrap. This purifying treatment helps remove body toxins and discourages water retention. They start with a detoxifying oil massage which is then followed by an exquisitely warm body wrap which is designed to subtly tighten the skin an detoxify the tissues leaving you with a renewed sense of vitality. BLISS!
On the grounds, within a stone’s throw from the spa and immediately out the wooden door that greets the pool, lies desert – raw, pure desert. It’s peaceful and tranquility at the best, which is an essential and integral aspect to holistic living and healing. We had fun romping around in the glorious hot dry heat, a godsend for anyone from the East Coast who is accustomed to hot sticky humid summer days.
Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain Spa
15000 N Secret Springs Drive
Note: we were hosted by the resort but all opinions expressed are entirely my own.