The postcard-perfect setting of the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa continues to draw guests from around the world seeking to find their #dreamdesert escape.
I hope you’ll take a moment to read the ESCAPE Magazine cover story I wrote back in June, 2007 at the end of this latest review. In the meantime, please permit me to focus on the present–my latest findings on my recent visit to the Sanctuary.
LOVE AT FIRST BITE…All Over Again
I’m happy to discover upon my return to the Sanctuary that nothing has changed, including the ingeniously delicious signature dishes of renowned Food Network celebrity chef and Iron Chef America winner, Sanctuary’s Executive Chef Beau MacMillan. Our evening at Elements brought the memories of my premiere dining experience in 2007 with Chef Beau instantly back to life at first bite! Chef Beau believes, now more than ever, that food should not be overworked, but rather appreciated for its simplicity and natural perfection. This philosophy is evident in Chef Beau MacMillan’s innovative seasonal menus that focus on fresh, local ingredients procured from a network of artisans and organic farmers.
In case you’re looking for ways to justify why it’s ok to savor all of Chef Beau’s award-winning dishes, here are a few action-packed suggestions I derived from serious Arizona recreationists on how you easily burn some calories having a wonderful time in sunny Scotssdale:
SCOTTSDALE FOR FUN SEEKERS
Being in the heart of the rugged Sonoran Desert, Scottsdale is no stranger to adventure. Parks and soaring mountains provide an abundance of thrill-seeking activities. With summer on the horizon, break out your hiking boots and hit the trails.
Although canyoneering may be a new word for your vocabulary, you’ll be talking about your adventure exploring pine forest pools and hidden desert passages with 360 Adventures for years to come. As you journey to the Roosevelt Lake area with your guide, you’ll become immersed in some of the world’s premier canyoneering playgrounds. Whether rappelling 40-80 feet into a canyon pool or descending through beautiful natural gorges, this extreme geology lesson will leave you with the feeling of accomplishment, having experienced an adventure unlike any other.
Why experience the Sonoran Desert in the backseat when you can be sitting in the driver’s seat? Desert Wolf Tours puts the best of desert exploration in your hands, literally. This guided adventure leads you deep into the desert in a Tomcar, originally developed as Israeli Defense vehicles. As you explore, you may even catch a glimpse of some desert natives such as javelinas, coyotes, wild burros and other indigenous creatures. Take it up a notch with a Tomcar sunset tour and you’re sure to witness a breathtaking Arizona sunset. With the help of fully-equipped off-road LED lights, you’ll experience the desert like never before while driving under twinkling stars.
Can’t decide between mountain biking, rafting, hiking or kayaking? Arizona Outback Adventures has you covered by combining two adventurous activities of your choice into one exciting day. Take full advantage of the cool mornings while hiking the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and spend the afternoon kayaking on the Lower Salt River. As you glide down some of the best trails in Scottsdale, your guides will share their knowledge of the local flora and fauna, while providing helpful tips for navigating the terrain. This full-day tour is guaranteed to satisfy your all of your adventure needs.
THE SANCTUARY CONTINUES TO LIVE UP TO ITS NAME
The best part for adventure seekers like me is knowing there’s a cool oasis waiting–your own private cozy casita after all is said and done.
A PLACE TO RELAX THE MIND AND SOOTHE THE SOUL
If your body, albeit youthful, is not quite as young as your robust heart, and you require some muscle soothing after your active day, pampering is at your beck and call through these doors at the intimate setting of the Sanctuary Spa, one of the top destination spas in the U.S. The Sanctuary’s luxurious spa offers a menu of Asian–inspired services in twelve indoor/outdoor treatment rooms. Enhanced by distinctive architecture and a splendid desert setting, the relaxing zen meditation garden, tranquil reflecting pond, and Watsu® pool provide a soothing way to begin or wrap up your Arizona day.
I always like to end every escape on a sweet note. May I recommend you do not leave the Sanctuary without experiencing this totally blissful dessert at Element…how apropos because I did feel very much in my ESCAPESEEKER element. Thank you Chef Beau! Here’s to BLISSFUL, ENDLESS, ESCAPES. And, remember, no matter where you go, #BeTheKindestPersonYouKnow!
After logging 35,000 frequent flier miles in just three months, I needed to find a place where I could plant myself for a weekend where I could rejuvenate both mind and body. Being extremely fatigued, I definitely wasn’t looking for a fitness retreat where I would be treated like GI Jane. I wanted a spa retreat that would combine pampering with a low to moderate fitness routine. And, after consuming airline meals I also wanted to find one with a legendary reputation for fine dining. Tired west coast road warriors looking for restorative solitude have to look no further than the Sanctuary Resort and Spa, located on the north slope of Arizona’s famed Camelback Mountain.
Being raised and spoiled by Southern California’s own beach, ‘Riviera’ desert destinations were never the ones to top my ‘100 places to see before I die’ list! And, who knew that on the edge of Scottsdale and Phoenix’s bustling city life, in an area called Paradise Valley, 53 breathtaking acres of pure sun drenched Arizona desert would emerge and allow this tired and weary traveler as much relaxation, serenity, and tranquility that I could possibly handle.
The minute I turned into the desert-scape designed driveway of The Sanctuary I was greeted by several tanned smiling faces (who appeared oblivious to the heat) asking me if I would like a nice cold bottle of water even before checking in. Within minutes I was guided to my own weekend ‘mountain casita’ terraced naturally into the rugged slope of the mountain.
The steep location of my little casita afforded me a beautiful postcard perfect view of Paradise Valley complete with its imposing and shifting mountain silhouette that reached peak beauty at sunset— absolutely worth the daily mini-trek up and down to the resort’s base.
The Sanctuary has extracted the refined elements commonly associated with exclusive spa resorts in Asia and brought them to the Arizona desert
The mountain casita is its own sanctuary and self-contained villa. It comes complete with feather beds and sprawling bathrooms appointed with showers and tubs for those long after hour soaks, but let’s face it—beautiful interiors are easy to come by in top resort destinations. What truly sets the Sanctuary apart is an almost inexplicable feeling of nature’s balance- one that touches your spirit and reminds you of the most important priorities in life. Some people may associate words like barren, lifeless, and dead heat to the desert. But, the Sanctuary has created an intimate retreat utilizing life affirming architecture complete with meditation garden, reflecting ponds, watsu pool, indoor and outdoor treatment rooms, all united with what nature generously offers—the overwhelming views.
It’s truly Zen-like and then some. It has extracted the refined elements commonly associated with exclusive spa resorts found in Asia and transplanted them to the Arizona desert! Among its Asian-inspired treatments is Luk Pra Kope, which I immediately booked. Luk Pra Kope is a Thai expression that means “to massage with medicinal herbs.” It is exactly what my jet-lagged body needed. I learned the treatment has been used in Thailand for centuries.
My therapist began by soaking my feet in a fresh lime and essential-oil bath, and then followed it up with an exfoliation treatment using fine, white clay and fresh lime. And if that wasn’t blissful enough, it was combined with Thai massage—a medicinal blend of steamy, organically grown herbs, rolled, and massaged and pressed into my aching tight muscles and other problem areas. The heated compress soothes, enhances circulation and reduces joint stiffness and before I knew it I found myself drifting into “never never land” during my 120 minute treatment. The indoor/outdoor layout of the spa allowed for what landscapers call “borrowed landscape” compliments of mother nature. You can hear the birds chirping—it was so pleasant that I had to ask if it was generated from a CD.
Iron Chef Delights
I was ready to venture out, but not before I sampled some of the Sanctuary’s dining in Elements’ celebrated Chef Beau’s signature dishes
-like the pan seared wild king salmon dish, presented with bok choy, udon noodles, snow peas, and just a touch of sesame and ginger make it one of the best dining spots in Phoenix. I was not surprised to learn that Chef Beau (MacMillan) recently dethroned Iron Chef America’s Grill Master, Bobby Flay, on the popular hit reality show, Iron Chef. If you should ever find yourself dining poolside by the Sanctuary’s
peaceful infinity pool, remember to order the seared ahi salad with avocado and ginger vinaigrette. It’s tasty and light—just the right blend for a work out in the desert.
Ballet Stars Aglow
These desert communities are richly connected by one emerald green golf course after another, but they are also rich in culture. Ballet Arizona’s world premiere performance, PLAY, has been described by Arizona Republic’s dance critic as ‘7-courses of artistic delight that both plays with its name and plays off it.’
Accompanied by the Phoenix Symphony under conductor Timothy Russell, the first half illuminates the brilliant artistic direction of the lighting director as the dancers begin in a star-lit stage to Mozart’s variations of ‘Twinkle Twinkle little Star’ and builds into the passionate heat of a pas de deux by Ballet Arizona’s danseur, Astrit Zejnati and ballerina, Natalia Magnicaballi. Dressed in the briefest of costumes, Zejnaati and Magnicaballi dance entwining their bodies slowly and sinuously, never breaking body contact.
Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain is located eight miles north of Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport and less than five minutes from downtown Scottsdale.
For your own desert escape experience at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa, contact:
Reservations: 1-800-245-2051 Sanctuary Camelback Mountain 5700 East McDonald Drive Paradise Valley, Arizona 85253
For Ballet Arizona tickets and info:
Ballet Arizona Box Office +1 602 381 1096 www.balletaz.org