- Author: Craig Outhier
- Category: Travel
- Issue: Mar 2013
For a no-holds-barred wellness gorge, Arizona’s red rock country is like an all-you-can-spa buffet.
To much of the world, the phrase “health and wellness” is clinically self-evident: It refers to that which makes you healthy, and well. However, in the hospitality industry, “health and wellness” is code for something a little more specific, and perhaps more decadent. It suggests scented oils and talented strangers manipulating your body in relaxing and soreness-relieving ways. It promises inventively-seasoned gourmet meals of organic meats and local vegetables, lovingly farmed in small quantities by ex-attorneys, perhaps, or someone who drives an old Volvo. It means an invigorating hike followed by a milk-and-honey scrub poolside.
Yeah, that kind of health and wellness. The spoiling-oneself kind. And few destinations in the Southwest excel in this regard quite like the high-desert hamlet of Sedona, with its bounty of hiking and fitness opportunities, high-end spas and soul-groping New Age caregivers. Combine them with Sedona’s natural serenity-boosting loveliness, and you may slip into one weekend-long health-and-wellness coma.
Our odyssey of Sedonan wellness begins at one of its newest luxury hotels, the Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa (2250 W. Hwy. 89A, 928-203-4111, $199-$450/night, sedonarouge.com). Despite its orthodox, two-level layout, the eight-year-old hotel is one of the town’s most aesthetically-distinct properties, with carved Mediterranean column motifs and wrought-iron Indian window partitions on the outdoor walls. The rooms are comfortable, and management has cultivated plenty of green, grassy spaces for dog walks and general serenity. If a Marriott and the Taj Mahal had a baby, it might look something like the Rouge.
In addition to an excellent gym (new equipment, bay-window views of the pool) and a community observation terrace for red rock viewing and stargazing, the Rouge offers a diverse suite of wellness services at its Spa at Sedona Rouge. From the spa’s furniture-showroom-new staging area, you can access a typical menu of facials and peels ($65-$200); massage and bodywork ($120-$225); and couples treatments ($235-$365). Less typical are the Ayurvedic treatments, so named for a Hindu system of alternative medicine that emphasizes the use of plant-based medicines, yoga and meditation. The services are not strictly body-based; clients are encouraged to undergo an Ayurvedic consultation prior to treatment, in which they discuss “lifestyle choices” and “holistic wellness” with a counselor. The services ($145-$195) range from the detoxifying Abhyanga warm oil massage to the nasal-and-sinus clarifying Nasya head massage, billed as “perfect for those suffering from allergies, migraines, frequent colds or chronic sinus issues.”
One needn’t visit the spa to enjoy a shot of Hindu wellness – the Rouge also offers a flat $10 yoga session every morning by the pool.
Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa
Nearby hike: A menagerie of interesting rock formations awaits you on Coffeepot Trail, a leisurely, modest-gain 2.5 mile hike.
Anti-wellness splurge: The crack-addictive bleu cheese whipped potatoes that accompany the 12-ounce aged rib-eye ($29) at REDS, the Rouge’s on-site New American eatery.
Immortalized in an Aerosmith song and admired by countless early-risers, the Sedona sunrise is truly a thing to behold in the east-facing courtyard at the Amara Resort Hotel & Spa (100 Amara Lane, 928-282-4828, from $139/night, amararesort.com). Cropped high by a handsome red butte standing tall over the resort’s swanky negative-edge pool, the sun makes its first appearance in the late morning, drenching the breakfast crowd in a bath of yolky yellow light. Riding this sunrise buzz, we cruise into nearby Amara Spa for the day’s first rub-down. Like the rest of the resort – which is sequestered just downhill from the town’s main shopping district – the boutique spa was refurbished last year and has a cozy, drape-hung quality befitting Sedona’s New Age crunchiness. Massages are available in 60- and 90-minute sessions ($120 and up) and include such iterations as the low-pressure, healing-minded “shiatsu” and expectant-mother “prenatal.” My expertly-paced 90-minute deep-tissue treatment was glorious torture, shredding layers of nettlesome connective tissue. Amara also has a regime of body treatments – including one that aims to “transform you into a beautiful butterfly” – and a menu wholly devoted to the feet and hands. Foot rubs are great, but the butterfly transformation-thing sounds like a freaky Kafka fantasy. Next time.
After a hike at famous Cathedral Rock – which, most experts agree, has the juiciest vortex in town – we settle in at L’Auberge De Sedona (301 L’Auberge Lane, 928-282-1661, from $205/night, lauberge.com), the legendary 87-room-and-cottage resort overlooking Oak Creek. Recently refurbished to the tune of $25 million (it seems like all of Sedona’s resorts celebrated the recession by renovating themselves), L’Auberge is a luxury resort in the truest sense, a Condé Nast lifestyle fantasy in the flesh. The free-standing cottages all come equipped with outdoor showers adjacent to the master bathrooms, which doesn’t sound life-altering, but kind of is. The resort’s creekside fine-dining restaurant, L’Auberge Restaurant on Oak Creek, is a magnificent old lion in a town not traditionally celebrated for its dining, with umpteen Wine Spectator “Award of Excellence” plaques and some of the best game dishes in Arizona. The resort is dog-friendly, they have daily duck-feedings, and so on. I would gladly live at L’Auberge if given the chance. Imagine Camp Snoopy re-conceived by eco-minded Silicon Valley billionaires. It’s sort of like that.
Whither the wellness? Rest assured, it’s everywhere, from Reiki to vinyasa yoga to a gyrokinesis yoga session for beginners and/or tender-jointed folk. The L’Auberge de Sedona Spa is nice enough, but considering the exquisite condition of the cottages and the sublime creekside wilderness, why not do your massage, facial or body treatment on your private deck or by the creek? For a $30 surcharge, you can enjoy your rub-down ($135-$210) or lymph-draining facial ($80-$195) amid the song of bird and water. Do you feel like a butterfly yet?
Amara Resort Hotel & Spa
Nearby hike: The easy-to-moderate Brins Mesa trail cuts through a pine and juniper forest and culminates with lump-in-your-throat views of Sedona’s red rocks. The hotel will drive you to the trailhead.
Anti-wellness splurge: Undo your fat-obviating body wrap and pilates with tiramisu ($8) at the resort’s restaurant, Hundred Rox.
L’Auberge De Sedona
Nearby hike: There are a handful of sweet hikes within a mile of the hotel: Brins Mesa, Jordan, Jim Thompson and Cibola. The resort’s unfailingly friendly valet staff will gladly ferry you to and from the trailhead, staunchly refusing any offer of tip, per L’Auberge policy.
Anti-wellness splurge: Follow your pore extraction with a cask-conditioned orange rum cocktail at the Veranda Bar near the creek: Pyrat XO and Appleton rums aged in an oak barrel with Citronage and orange Curacao, producing a deliciously integrated spectrum of smoky and sweet flavors ($14).
For a place so ethereal in appearance, Sedona can be shockingly no-nonsense in temperament. Its cuisine is a good example. With all the talk of “energy work” and “cosmic vortexes,” you’d expect a health-food café on every corner. Not the case at all. Sedona has exactly one vegan restaurant: ChocolaTree (1595 W. Hwy. 89A, 928-282-2997, chocolatree.com), where you’re infinitely more likely to find a seminar on “healthful cleaning” than a chicken wing. Truth be known, the messily-edible veggie burger ($10) is pretty damn good.
Powered by my beefless-burger, I race into the home-stretch of my Sedona wellness marathon – located at Enchantment Resort (525 Boynton Canyon Rd., 800-826-4180, $275-$1,045/night, enchantmentresort.com), a 70-acre fiefdom of seclusion and comfort located on perhaps Sedona’s choicest piece of real estate: Boynton Canyon. With red cliffs on all sides looming over a lush chaparral of junipers, the place is almost narcotically serene. If big-city stress is what ails you, Enchantment is your one-stop wellness solution.
The Enchantment brain-trust has labored productively in recent years to bring the resort’s hospitality services in line with its world-class scenery, beginning with its flagship restaurant, Che Ah Chi. Since replacing Yavapai as the resort’s signature dining spot last February, the Native American-influenced bistro has matched L’Auberge blow-for-blow in the fine dining arena, mixing a selection of down-the-middle resort crowd-pleasers (e.g. lobster bisque with beech mushrooms, $15) with adventurous regional specialties (e.g. a roasted elk loin so vividly-flavored you almost see its Bambi doe-eyes through your rifle-scope, $44).
The resort’s Mii amo Spa is a formidable operation – a two-level Anasazi palace of wellness featuring more than a dozen treatment rooms, a gym, a wine-tasting grotto, a health-food restaurant and a super-chill “serenity room” composed solely of sand, a bench and a roving beam of natural sunlight.
Because Enchantment has taken special care to honor the bygone Native American settlement that once occupied this beautiful valley, I opt for the Inner Quest ($250), a 60-minute treatment that aims to “create the warmth of a sweat lodge” while allowing “you to reconnect with your inner self” through the “sacred wisdom of Native American culture.” My fears of a James Ray-style sweat lodge tragedy are instantly allayed by the fact that the treatment takes place in an air-conditioned massage room, not a sweat lodge, which makes the heavy, brightly-colored blanket placed over my naked torso more of a creature comfort than a mind-bending test of tolerances. A drum is pounded four times, representing the “four stages of life.” Grasses and fragrant herbs are burned. A light massage follows, followed by a 10-minute private interlude in which I’m left alone, presumably to explore the nooks of my subconscious and find enlightenment.
And I do: I come to the realization that, where wellness is concerned, folk-med herbs are OK, but the massage is king.
Nearby hike: The quarter-mile Vista trail starts within the resort and is great for sunsets. The nearby Doe Mountain trail (2.6 miles roundtrip) includes challenging switchback gains and culminates with captivating mesa-top views.
Anti-wellness splurge: Order a finger of bourbon or one of the tasty specialty margaritas ($11-$16) at View 180 bistro. Enjoy your tipple while warming your feet near the resort’s outdoor fire pit.
Dog-friendly resorts are pretty common in Sedona, but the dog/person couples spa service has yet to be invented. So what to do with your pooch while having your pores cleaned? Carolyn “Max” Grebenstein of Dirty Hairy’s Pet Wash & Doggie Daycare (2900 W. Hwy. 89A, 928-282-7387, sedonadoggiedaycare.com) has the answer. For $65, Dirty Hairy’s will ferry your four-legged friend from your hotel to the daycare center, where Fido will enjoy a “spa package” that includes a wash, nail-trim and other grooming services. Grebenstein also offers hourly ($5/hr) and overnight ($20-$35) boarding for breeds under 50 pounds. “Sedona is a very dog-friendly place,” she says. “But sometimes it’s nice to have a break and do some things by yourself.”