things to do
Things To Do
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Things To Do
Ashlea Deahl, Adam Klawonn, Keridwen Cornelius & Celeste Sepessy
June, 2009, Page 108
Lazy rivers, water slides, swim-up bars...
Sound cool? That’s just the beginning when it comes to the Valley’s pool scene. Here are 25 of the sweetest pools in town to help you stay cool this summer.
Photo by Brandon Sullivan
Propelled by underwater jets, kids and adults can drift down the 1,600-foot-long Lazy River at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort.
1. JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort
5350 E. Marriott Drive, Phoenix
Rectangles are so last season. At the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort, the 1,600-foot-long Lazy River pool is shaped like a meandering stream. It slithers between thickets of lush trees populated by cawing birds, giving one the fleeting impression of swimming in a river in Costa Rica (only chlorinated). Propelled by underwater jets, guests float lazily on canary yellow inner tubes, under fountains and bridges, past the tree-camouflaged slide that dispenses squealing children into the pool with a splash.
Kids have a blast here: Toddlers waddle in the ankle-deep water rushing toward the river-rock waterfall. Young boys play basketball in the Sidewinder Pool, which snakes between the other pools. And everyone gets a kick out of the duck races and dive-in movies every Friday and Saturday. (That’s in addition to the Nickelodeon Activity Zone, which offers games and activities for 4- to 12-year-olds, plus cameos by Sponge Bob and Dora the Explorer.)
Adults gravitate to the swankier lake-shaped Wildfire pool – crowned with a stone pagoda fountain that’s set ablaze at night – or stroll hand-in-hand along paths next to more natural ponds and waterfalls that grace this golf-course-side property.
The pools are available only to JW Marriott Resort guests.
2. Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale
10600 E. Crescent Moon Drive, Scottsdale
Some pools are designed to take your breath away, some to make you sigh. The main pools at the Four Seasons Resort in north Scottsdale are the latter. In fact, the setting is so subtle you might not realize how radical it is: While most Arizona pools fight against the desert, the Four Seasons embraces it. Here, the scents of creosote, cassia and chlorine mingle in a xeriscape of palo verde trees and saguaros. The curves of the side-by-side pools echo the nugget-shaped boulders on the surrounding mountains. Pinnacle Peak juts scenically to the southwest. The color scheme of the cabanas is sand and clay. Chaise lounges are shaded by tree branch roofs that cast stripy shadows on people reading paperbacks. And you won’t find fountains or fancy hydraulics in this desert oasis.
Kids enjoy the pool, as they would anywhere, but it’s not catered specifically to them. Rather, it’s mostly a sophisticated clientele of 30-plusers who appreciate the tranquility and the signature hourly amenities, when the attentive staff proffers frozen grapes, spritzes guests with water, or cleans their sunglasses.
The desert theme is continued at the poolside Saguaro Blossom café, which serves Sonoran-inspired fare like tequila-lime marinated chicken quesadillas and, por supuesto, prickly pear margaritas. Every Saturday at 4 p.m., the bartender conducts a margarita-making demonstration – the perfect way to unwind after a hike at the Peak or a particularly suspenseful chapter in your paperback.
Saguaro Blossom poolside café and margarita demonstrations are open to the public.
3. The Wigwam Golf Resort & Spa
300 E. Wigwam Blvd., Litchfield Park
You will never spy Paris Hilton canoodling with her latest beau at the Wigwam Resort’s Cabana pool. But that’s precisely the point. In keeping with Litchfield Park’s low-key vibe, this pool has an Everyman appeal. The closest you’ll get to celeb sightings are Major League Baseball spring training managers; it’s also popular with folks from Luke Air Force Base.
The design is nostalgic rather than edgy, with adobe-style architecture harkening back to Arizona’s past. Clay-colored umbrellas, cabanas and lounge chairs circle the lagoon-shaped pool, echoing the buildings’ earth tones. Petunias and snapdragons splash color onto the scene, and palm trees add a whiff of the islands – a sensation enhanced on nights when a steel drummer plays.
The pool’s atmosphere is family oriented, with a swirling slide, a fire pit popular for s’mores-roasting, and an array of poolside children’s activities, including watermelon-eating contests and a Wacky Water Balloon Toss. Adults tired of the pitter-patter of little feet can seek solace at the typically kid-free Courtyard pool, tucked peacefully amid lawns, palm trees and hotel rooms.
Both of the pools are available only to Wigwam Resort guests.
4. Fairmont Scottsdale
7575 E. Princess Drive, Scottsdale
Like the Spice Girls, the pools at Fairmont Scottsdale have personalities. “Posh” pool would be the rooftop, adults-only Mesa pool at Willow Stream Spa. Its infinity edge plunges into a waterfall that echoes the sound of the other cataract below it. (The entire spa is a resorty reinterpretation of Havasupai in the Grand Canyon.) Not much swimming goes on here; the already well-hydrated spa clientele soaks up the sun and silence, or secrets away into the curtained cabanas.
The same can’t be said of the East Pool (“Sporty” pool), where guests play water volleyball, swim in the lap lane and catch dive-in movies on Fridays and Saturdays.
“Baby” pool would be the adjacent Sonoran Splash, where tots can ease into the water from the zero-entry deck; build castles in the sand area, then destroy them with Tonka trucks; and zip down the twin 199-foot-long water slides.
There is no “Scary” pool. (Metaphors only go so far.) “Lazy” would be more apt. The centerpiece South pool is scattered with queen-sized day beds, complete with mattresses and plush pillows, so you can roll out of your hotel room and over to the palm- and petunia- fringed pool, barely interrupting your sweet dreams.
The pools are available only to Fairmont Scottsdale guests.
Taking in a lap at The Ritz-Carlton’s second-floor pool also means taking in the scenic views of modern high-rises in the posh Biltmore area.
5. The Ritz-Carlton, Phoenix
2401 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix
Call it minimalist, but the second-floor pool at The Ritz-Carlton, Phoenix is more about urban architecture than lush gardens, water features and poolside amenities. For guests only, this outdoor pool features views of towering office complexes and condominiums in Phoenix’s posh Biltmore area with a setup that is clearly oriented toward corporate guests and events. In the pool, 10 people would feel like a crowd. But outside the pool, ahh, now that’s the ticket. Sun chairs and towel service are offered poolside, along with a large shade structure that can accommodate a private party.
Across the way, the wide-open windows of the Optima Towers’ remaining floors are easily viewable. Next door, condominiums within the 12-story Esplanade Place, whose own pool was recently splashed onto the pages of Playboy magazine, look out upon the Ritz-Carlton’s pool area. But like a fig leaf in an urban setting, the shade structures offer some cover for Ritz-Carlton guests.
Photo by Brandon Sullivan, Model provided by Ford Robert Black agency
The Boulders Resort & Golden Door Spa in Carefree offers solace amid lush, natural desert landscaping.
6. The Boulders Resort & Golden Door Spa
34631 N. Tom Darlington Drive, Carefree 480-488-9009
Tucked away behind a boulder-studded butte, the main pool at The Boulders Resort offers a cozy retreat where the surrounding landscape is the real architectural feat.
A manmade fountain gushes down the face of a massive, 12-million-year-old boulder. Natural desert landscaping, plus a few wildflowers, march up to the pool deck. Sun chairs surround a modestly sized pool while still offering that pasty uncle from Wisconsin a chance to bask in the shade of a mature palo verde tree, whose reaching boughs cover about one-third of the pool’s south end.
Although there’s no swim-up bar, Boulders staff attend the main pool with towel services and a modest menu of light lunch fare and thirst-quenching cocktails ($9-$15). Try the sea bass tacos ($13) for a healthy alternative that won’t wreck your sun-bronzed body.
Pool access is for resort and spa guests only, but there’s a summer special for locals: Buy two spa treatments and flash your Arizona driver’s license to receive 40 percent off the lesser-priced treatment. Other specials abound, so be sure to check the Website for sweet summer deals.
Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa
5594 W. Wild Horse Pass Blvd., Chandler
The Pima Indians descended from the Hohokam, an ancient tribe that tamed the Gila River Valley by developing a sophisticated system of canals. So it’s no wonder that the Pima- and Maricopa-owned Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort has a way with water. The main pool, Hanyo (“oasis” in the Maricopa language), weaves like a mini stream, mirroring the 2.5-mile re-creation of the Gila River that flows through the resort.
Next to that pool – past the mesquite trees, fairy dusters and yuccas – fountains spurt water into a smaller pool, and steps away sit two circular Jacuzzis. (The circle represents the circle of life and is a recurring motif throughout the resort.) Finally, a 111-foot-long water slide, inspired by the nearby Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, sends kids twizzling into their own mini, squash-shaped pool. With water, water everywhere, you’re sure to develop a thirst, quenchable at the Hanyo Mojito and Beer Bar, a little wooden shack that mixes up mojito varieties, from prickly pear to blood orange.
Head back to the lobby, made more inviting with its cascading waterfall, and over to Aji Spa. Here, the amoebalike pool is surrounded by the Sonoran Desert’s answer to a Zen rock garden, spiked with barrel cactuses and agaves.
The spa’s resident healer, Belen Stoneman, conducts traditional meditations in the poolside Olas’ki (“roundhouse” in the Pima language), a replica of a traditional dwelling made from local arrowweed willow. You can also request a water massage session where you float in the circular, Jacuzzi-like watsu pool while a therapist gently rocks you like a baby.
The pools are open only to resort guests.
8. Camelback Inn
5402 E. Lincoln Drive, Scottsdale
Nestled between the Phoenix Mountain Preserve to the north and Camelback Mountain to the south, the Jackrabbit Pool at Camelback Inn offers some serious scenery that even influences the shape of its pool. Is that the outline of a jackrabbit? Camelback Mountain perhaps?
It’s open to interpretation, but the atmosphere is clearly a family one. The layout features tiered levels of sun chairs around the pool, which has a small fountain and a divider that separates swimming lanes from games of Marco Polo and football toss going on nearby.
It also offers a nearby Jacuzzi and health club, which can help ease stress and burn off those calories from all of the ice cream, salads, sandwiches and pizzas available poolside ($6.50-$14).
The Jackrabbit Pool is open only to resort guests.
Models provided by Ford Robert Black Agency; hair, makeup and styling by Shauna Thibault
The elements of earth, air, fire and, of course, water reign supreme at FireSky Resort & Spa in Scottsdale.
9. FireSky Resort & Spa
4925 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
Every Kimpton hotel has a theme, and at FireSky Resort, it’s the elements: water, earth, air and fire. Water is present, naturally, in the two pools, both set in a courtyard filled with lush, mature landscaping (the property, though recently remodeled and renamed, has been here since 1961). Water also trickles from fountains and flows from waterfalls into ponds filled with koi.
Earth is always underfoot: in the stone paths that twist between ficus and orchid trees, and in the sand between the toes of the kids and adults soaking up the sun at the beach pool. Air is, well, everywhere: blowing through the gauzy silver-blue curtains on the pool’s cabanas, carrying the scent of flowers to sunbathers lounging on tangerine-tinted towels. And at night, fire blazes from the wok-shaped fountains that tower over the pool.
The poolside décor is modern, fun fusion: Polynesia meets the Mediterranean. But for all its beauty and plushness, it doesn’t feel intimidating or exclusive. Average Joes and pale brunettes with real breasts will feel perfectly welcome here. So will your animals. The resort is pet friendly, and you can even introduce your pooch to the Director of Pet Relations, Bosco the chocolate cocker spaniel. If you don’t have a pet, don’t feel left out. The resort offers complimentary goldfish rental. But, please, don’t release it into the pool.
The pools are available only to FireSky Resort guests. Through September 6, the resort is offering delux rooms and a bottle of wine for $109 (call for details).
10. The Phoenician
6000 E. Camelback Road, Scottsdale
In Phoenix real estate, Realtors always espouse location, location, location. If you had to drill down to exactly where that is in the summertime, it would probably be next to The Phoenician’s main pool on a breezy day while sipping one of the resort’s bubbly Bellinis.
The main pool features a 165-foot-long water slide and a series of large pools that encircle the bar/snack station/restaurant. It’s like the hub of a wheel. Several catwalks and staircases connect the pools, which sit at different levels. Just off the pool deck is a large yard for lawn bowling and another for sunbathing. Above it all, mature trees and towering palms rustle in the wind. It gives the resort a tropical feel that makes the desert seem far away – if it weren’t for the scenic east end of Camelback Mountain jutting up in the background. No wonder professional athletes and other celebs (John Mellencamp visited recently) hang out here.
Find a comfortable seat, then order a Bellini, a sparkling combination of Prosecco and various fruits ($10). Or, if you’re looking for more than a warmup, splurge on a pitcher of sangria ($38) or a bucket of beer (six bottles for the price of five). Add a sandwich to soak up all those libations ($16-$19).
Pool access is only for guests of the resort or its spa. Luckily, the spa is offering some hot summer discounts. For $99, get a peppermint winter revival, facial or mani/pedi. For 50-minute treatments that cost from $140 to $160, spa customers can get a 50 percent discount on a second similar treatment. Did we mention that includes access to a killer pool?
Photo by Brandon Sullivan
Sanctuary’s infinity-edge pool comes with panoramic views of Camelback and Mummy mountains.
11. Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa
5700 E. McDonald Drive, Paradise Valley
Perhaps the only Valley resort to truly embody its name, this luxurious retreat transports its guests to a world free of hustle, bustle and BlackBerries. No doubt you’ll enjoy resting in one of 105 opulent guest rooms and casitas, but make the most of your panoramic mountain views – with Camelback Mountain to the south and Mummy Mountain to the north – by lounging poolside.
The tranquil turquoise waters of this infinity-edge pool (the largest in Arizona) reflect the surrounding sandstone-hued mountains and, in the evening, salmon-colored sunsets. A separate 25-yard lap pool caters to those who can’t stop moving.
As you unwind and reflect beneath a crisp-white sun umbrella, take advantage of the seasonal delights offered by Sanctuary’s award-winning restaurant, elements. Snack on a healthy, spa-inspired bento box, filled with steamed bok choy, jasmine rice, pickled vegetables and your choice of seared ahi tuna ($22), salmon ($18), orange miso chicken ($16) or barbecued tofu ($16). Then wash it all down with one of many unique cocktails from jade bar. Try the celery Serrano margarita – a kicky concoction of hand-pressed serrano chilis, Sauza Hornitos plata tequila, cointreau, fresh lime and hand-extracted celery juice.
Only resort guests can admire the stunning views from within this sanctuary; they also can benefit from the Light and Harmony summer package, a three-night special starting at $1,101 that brings myriad freebies (offered through September 10).
Wet, the hip second-floor pool at the W Hotel Scottsdale, attracts pretty people who come to sunbathe and socialize.
12. W Scottsdale Hotel
7277 E. Camelback Road, Scottsdale
It’s not even a year old, but the W Scottsdale Hotel has already lived up to its reputation, attracting the Valley’s – and quite a few of Hollywood’s – most notorious party people. Wet, the hotel’s hip, beach-themed pool area, surely has something to do with that.
Situated on the second floor above the hotel’s lobby – with four large see-through portals on the surface for the ultimate people-watching experience – the raised pool area is perhaps best for those who want to sun, socialize and sip a cocktail… or four.
Rows of cream-colored deck chairs, day beds and lounging pods border the infinity-edge pool, allowing plenty of side-by-side sunning, but for a little extra privacy, reserve one of 13 cabanas, which come complete with a flat-screen TV, Internet access and your own attendant. No matter where you situate yourself in this stylish setting, however, someone is eager to take your drink order; you can stroll right up to the sunset.beach bar and order a frozen cocktail yourself, but why not take advantage of the personal attention?
At night, the pool transforms into a sleek club-like atmosphere, with electric pink and red lights illuminating the cobalt blue water. The best part? The pool stays open 24/7 for hotel guests, and non-guests can still get in on the action by reserving a cabana between
9 a.m. and 6 p.m. (prices start at $250).
13. The Clarendon Hotel
401 W. Clarendon Ave., Phoenix
The Oasis at the Clarendon Hotel may not offer a wonder wall, but it does have a water wall. Spanning 60 feet and towering two stories, the wall is just one of the features that makes the Oasis the perfect pool, day or night.
This hip spot is the perfect mix of intimacy and exclusivity. It’s not the community pool filled with questionable liquids, nor is it a secret spring for the elite. This pool is truly upscale: An Italian tile mural glimmers with specks of 24-karat gold and platinum. At night, a thousand glowing stars light up the pool’s floor while underwater speakers might as well serenade you to sleep.
The brave can compete for a spot in a 50-person Jacuzzi that sits at the foot of the pool. Branching out from the pool is Gallo Blanco, the Clarendon’s brand new café and bar. Doug Robson, former chef at La Grande Orange restaurant, heads the new venture, dishing up Mexican food with fresh, local ingredients.
The Oasis is open to the public with no cover charge or daily fees and offers complimentary towels and sunscreen.
14. Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort
7677 N. 16th St., Phoenix
This is one busy pool, but at 4 acres in size, it’s easy to see why: There’s a little something for everyone at the Hole-in-the-Wall River Ranch. The main pool at the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort is more like a BYOT (Bring Your Own Tube) water park. A few hundred yards from 16th Street lies a lagoon pool with a wide, 10-foot-long waterfall. Above it, a 130-foot-long water slide named Slippery Rock delivers adventurous water babies into a nearby splash pool. And for the little tykes, there’s even an aptly named Tad Pool.
Up above the lagoon and slide, a slow-moving lazy river shuttles tubers along an 800-foot-long course. Kids might find this a little boring, but adults might find it liberating (from the kids). The pool menu offers tacos, burgers and wraps ($9-$12), and the bar has local beer from Sonoran Brewhouse on tap.
But perhaps the coolest thing about the pool is the views of Piestewa Peak and secluded sunbathing spots atop a small hill within the park. Get there early to stake out a spot; it gets quieter the higher you go. But if this trip is for the kids, hang out below for occasional salsa-making demonstrations and Nintendo Wii tournaments. No wonder traveling sports executives have been known to bring their families here.
The public can use the pool facility. The price is $15 per person and free for children under 42 inches tall.
15. Royal Palms Resort & Spa
5200 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix
This monument to grand Spanish colonial style does it right with a pool tailored to adults and romance. The lush landscaping around the small, teardrop-shaped pool exudes Mediterranean serenity and stateliness; indeed, the resounding thwack! of a Fun Noodle fight would shatter the soothing vibe like a chainsaw.
Resort or spa guests can access the pool by strolling through cool, covered exterior hallways punctuated by gurgling fountains and secluded sitting areas. The pool menu features appetizers ($8-$14) such as shrimp cocktail and fruit-and-cheese plates; entrées such as a beef burger with Manchego cheese, prosciutto, tomato relish and basil aioli ($14); and daiquiris that can include a protein or vitamin boost ($1 extra) for the health-conscious. Vegetarian options – such as the chickpea burger and breakfast drinks made with soy milk – also are available.
16. Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa
2400 E. Missouri Ave., Phoenix
We’re not sure how Frank Lloyd Wright would have felt about the architectural significance of putting greens, chess gardens and a water slide, but we don’t care. When summer activities slow down and the weather heats up, we’re certain Arizona’s famed architect and consultant to the Arizona Biltmore Resort would have been willing to see the value here.
The Biltmore’s main pool is geared toward couples, families, spa fanatics and foodies. Swim up to the poolside bar for a house margarita ($14), then watch resort chefs prepare original salsas for you to sample with gourmet, housemade tortilla chips. A 92-foot-tall water slide ejects children into a pool that’s within reach but just out of splash distance from diluting that tasty drink.
From here the pool heads west, opening up toward a chessboard where knee-high game pieces are surrounded by mature trees and plants. Cabanas surround the pool and can be rented for $80 during the week or $145 on the weekend to guests or resort visitors; but the best seat on Saturday evenings is actually in the heated pool. That’s because it’s dive-in movie night at the resort pool, where PG-rated movies are shown on a large projector screen.
17. The Arizona Grand Resort
8000 S. Arizona Grand Pkwy., Phoenix
The Arizona Grand Resort is giving Golfland Sunsplash a run for its money. The resort’s supersized pool area, The Oasis, sits on 7 acres at the base of South Mountain.
Recently named one of the top 10 water parks in the nation by the Travel Channel, The Oasis boasts three towering water slides, a 10,000-square-foot wave pool and the Zuni River for a relaxing and lazy pool experience. The park accommodates guests of all ages: Adults can relax at the Oasis Bar and Grill while sipping one of the resort’s special summer drinks like the Mango Sunburn, Oasis Breeze or the Adult Sweet Tea – a mix of sweet tea vodka, fresh lemonade and lemon-lime soda; kids over 4 feet tall can enjoy wedgie-inducing water slides; and smaller children can prowl in the Wild Cat Springs play area.
On the weekends, the resort offers dive-in movies for guests of all ages, and the park’s water features are all heated, just in case the 110-degree air isn’t warm enough. The Oasis is not open to the public, but summer rates for the Arizona Grand Resort start at $129 per night. The park is open seven days a week, from 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
18. Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort
11111 N. seventh St., Phoenix
The attraction at this pool is the myriad waterfalls gushing nearby. They flow down different lengths of man-made, boulder-shaped landscapes and around the tiered seating areas for café patrons and sun worshippers.
The pool area sits on 3.5 acres and features 23 covered cabanas and a 138-foot-long water slide. On the weekends, chef demonstrations and poolside spa services are mixed with arts-and-crafts sessions for kids, American Idol and Nintendo Wii competitions, and a show-and-tell session with animals and Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium staff.
Best of all, you don’t have to stay at the resort to enjoy the pool and its amenities. Access is granted for those who pay a $10 admission fee Sundays through Thursdays, chow at the buffet on Fridays ($12 for adults, $6 for children ages 12 and under) or rent a cabana on Saturdays ($65 or $90).
19. The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa
6902 E. Greenway Pkwy., Phoenix
Enjoyed by families, business travelers, golfers and spa-goers, the Westin Kierland’s come-one, come-all approach doesn’t diminish its upscale ambiance or ultra-modern amenities.
Two options offer plenty of opportunities to soak up the sun and get soaked at the same time. The kid-friendly Adventure Water Park comes complete with a 110-foot water slide and lazy river, in addition to poolside activities with the “Fun Team.” For a slightly more hushed experience, switch over to the adults-only pool, where cabanas abound and marked swimming lanes prompt you to get in that extra lap. Either way, you’ll enjoy refreshing water since both pools are cooled by as much as 14 degrees by a Glacier Pool Cooler.
There to sip, not swim? Sidle up to J. Swilling’s Pool Bar & Grill for a prickly pear margarita ($9) or the equally tasty but sans alcohol Kierland Kooler ($5), which combines lemonade, raspberry syrup and a splash of soda for a fizzy pick-me-up. Both go well with a Southwest shrimp salad ($12), made with black beans, corn, roasted red peppers, pepitas, tortilla strips, tomatoes and an orange-cumin vinaigrette. Or try an exotic cocktail at Muddle Bar, where muddling fruits and herbs is the specialty, or a sumptuous sampling of ceviche each Thursday night at Deseo (reservations required).
Don’t think about crashing this pool party unless you’re a guest of the resort or spa, but if you are, take advantage of current deals to make your stay even sweeter; book four nights, for instance, and get the fifth and sixth for free.
20. Hotel Valley Ho
6850 E. Main St., Scottsdale
Once favored by Hollywood A-listers who hunkered down at the Valley Ho in the 1950s, this retro Old Town hotel is enjoying its second heyday, thanks in part to a funky pool where all-day lounging is the preferred MO. There are no elaborate water slides, negative-edge pools or bedazzled tile surfaces here, but what the pool lacks in pizzazz it more than makes up for in personality.
For optimal pool viewing and plenty of room to party, book one of 11 cabana guestrooms, which offer curtained, oversized patios leading out to the pool. Your next best option? Rent a cabana for the day (open to non-hotel guests as well), which will cost you $99 to $498 during the summer, depending on the cabana size and the day of the week. Each cabana comes with a few freebies of your choice, like fruit smoothies, playing cards and homemade potato chips, but there are plenty of goodies to order from the OH Pool Bar as well.
Pair a Farmer’s Market Wrap ($9), which blankets a fresh mix of alfalfa sprouts, marinated mushrooms, grilled zucchini, cheddar and ranch dressing in a hearty tortilla, with a Miami Vice ($10) – half piña colada, half strawberry daiquiri – and you’ll be plenty energized for a full day of sunning and socializing. And don’t miss nostalgic summer treats such as the Retro Pop ($3), which you may remember better as a Bomb Pop.
Live poolside music on Friday nights and long hours (the pool stays open until midnight every night) make Hotel Valley Ho one of the hottest summer spots for chilling out.
Ten separate pools weave their way throughout the lush property at Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch.
21. Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch
7500 E. Doubletree Ranch Road, Scottsdale, 480-444-1234,
The Hyatt Regency most likely coined the word “staycation,” luring Valley dwellers with its stunning backdrop of the McDowell Mountains, intimate touches (where else in town can you take a gondola ride?) and its 2.5-acre “water playground.”
Divided into 10 separate pools, including one for adults only, this sprawling water park embodies the sophistication of a secluded island resort – think towering palm trees, lofty stone structures and foliage-lined columns dissecting it all – but manages to keep things fun and hip with a white sand beach, three-story water slide and tons of summer-related activities. This summer, for instance, the Hyatt is offering Nintendo Wii and dive-in movies on its big screen, water slide races, beachside barbecues and water basketball, water ping-pong and water volleyball.
If that all sounds like child’s play to you, relax at the Lobby Bar instead, which features nightly entertainment and fresh sushi from Sushi Centro on Thursdays through Saturdays. To wash it all down, order the signature “Dark and Stormy,” made with Gosling’s Black Seal Rum, ginger beer and a twist of lime – perfect for ushering in Arizona’s monsoon season.
The pool is for resort guests only, but the “Friends and Family Summer Package” makes staying here more tempting. For $139 per night in July and August ($159 in June), guests get a slew of discounts, like 25 percent off spa services and 50 percent off your second room.
22. Mondrian Scottsdale
7353 E. Indian School Road,
Though some of its scenesters may have been whisked away by the shiny new toy to the north (W Scottsdale), Mondrian Scottsdale was here first, and judging by the constant parade of sun-hungry poolgoers, it’s here to stay.
Choose from one of two sparkling pools – the more secluded Serenity pool or the popular main pool – and start your day of lounging, swimming, sunning or snacking. There’s nothing over-the-top about the main pool here, but its stylish, minimalist approach is what makes it stand out.
For the ultimate day at the pool, rent one of the private cabanas for up to six people (available to both hotel and non-hotel guests) and order a tasty snack or ice-cold cocktail from Blue, the poolside bar and grill. Summer drink specials on Fridays and Saturdays, plus weekly DJ appearances, ramp up the cool factor.
While you’re there, take advantage of other great summer deals, like 30 percent off any spa treatment and room rates starting at $95 per night for Arizona residents (ID required).
23. Doubletree Paradise Valley Resort/Scottsdale
5401 N. Scottsdale Road,
The Arizona Biltmore Resort is commonly referred to as the “Jewel of the Desert,” but it’s not as widely known that the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired Doubletree is dubbed the “Diamond in the Desert.” And rightfully so.
With sparkling water features throughout the 22-acre property, and two large outdoor pools with tumbling waterfalls, this lush resort with a plum Scottsdale location probably glitters like a dazzling diamond from overhead. But this classy destination offers more than just a pretty facade.
You’ll also find plenty to do here, just in case working on your tan isn’t the type of workout you had in mind. On-site racquetball and tennis courts help you work up a sweat on land while the south pool offers water sports, including volleyball and basketball. And when you’re finished practicing your serve, saunter over to the poolside Cabana Bar for a light salad, sandwich or beverage.
If your day of sunning doesn’t end until sundown, be sure to welcome the evening with a cocktail at Loggia Lounge, where imported and microbrewed beers, and specialty vodkas, bourbons and tequila dominate the menu (bartenders recommend the prickly pear margarita). Doubletree’s pools are open only to guests of the resort and spa.
Spain-inspired architecture mix with stunning views of Camelback Mountain at the InterContinental Montelucia Resort & Spa in Paradise Valley.
24. Inter-Continental Montelucia Resort & Spa
4949 E. Lincoln Drive, Scottsdale, 480-627-3200,
Imagine, first, the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, where Moorish arches frame a courtyard filled with water. Then color it the sunny hues of the Spanish palette: saffron, lemon, café con leche, cobalt. Replace the reflective bath with a huge, H-shaped swimming pool populated by families frolicking in the fountains and beautiful people bronzing themselves on towels emblazoned with a compass pattern. Landscape it with palms, bougainvilleas and Mediterranean flora galore. Push play on an upbeat soundtrack and, finally, backdrop it with the breathtakingly up-close Camelback Mountain. This is the Oasis pool at the InterContinental Montelucia Resort & Spa in Paradise Valley.
The resort’s owners traveled throughout Spain, Italy and Morocco, bringing back inspiration and artifacts that accent the entire property. The social hub at the Oasis is Kasbah Pool Bar & Grille, which sits under a wave-like series of arches spangled with hanging star decorations. Kick back with a limoncello-amaretto cocktail and sample the dozen-plus internationally inspired varieties of French fries. You can burn about 20 calories by climbing the outdoor stairs of the adjacent spa for even more jaw-dropping views of Camelback. The pool and Kasbah Bar are open to the public.
25. The Buttes
2000 Westcourt Way, Tempe,
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to stumble upon a hidden oasis within one of Arizona’s rugged mountains, you’ll get your answer at The Buttes in Tempe. This Marriott resort boasts two crystal-clear pools, both nestled among the craggy russet walls of the Buttes, which afford views of the entire Valley from its 25-acre central location. You’ll be surrounded by so many cactuses, shrubs, rocks and palo verde trees you might wonder where the “vacate” portion of your vacation comes in. Not to worry – the water slide, cascading waterfall and four soothing whirlpools (all carved out of the mountainside) will abolish those summer blues in no time.
But if you need some liquid assistance to further diminish those desert doldrums, head to the open-air Thirsty Cactus Pool Bar and Grill and order the Casey Crusher, a saccharine blend of Malibu rum, Madori, piña colada mix and fresh strawberries ($8). The original concoction is named after Casey, one of the resort’s bartenders, who has been mixing things up there for 17 years.
Live music on Saturday and Sunday nights and a variety of kids’ activities, like a water balloon toss, add to this pool’s coolness.
Photo courtesy of Loews Ventana Canyon Resort
Très Chic Tucson
If you’ve been there, done that when it comes to the Valley’s plethora of pools, check out these equally cool spots just south of town.
Loews Ventana Canyon Resort
7000 N. Resort Road, Tucson,
Get pampered this summer at Loews Ventana’s main pool, which is set behind the hotel and offers stunning views of the Santa Catalinas. The pool boasts its own concierge, who’s ready to supply you with sunscreen, magazines, pool toys and refreshing treats such as Italian ice, frozen grapes, smoothies and chilled towels. Now that’s cool. Head to the spa’s adults-only pool for a bit more privacy or some space to work out. Don’t miss dinner at the Ventana Room, where Chef Marc Ehrler whips up unforgettable cuisine at Tucson’s only AAA five-Diamond restaurant.
JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa
3800 W. Starr Pass Blvd., Tucson,
Tucked away in the saguaro-studded forest of Tucson Mountain Park, you’ll hardly notice you’re in the desert once you’ve parked it poolside. Take it easy by floating languidly along the Starr Canyon lazy river, make a splash with the Monsoon Falls water slide, or simply spend an afternoon cooling off in the massive, multi-level pool. Finally, for the ultimate relaxing day at the pool, take a refreshing dip in Hashani Spa’s private pool. Cap off your rejuvenating day by toasting at the resort’s Salud Bar, which honors several regionally made tequilas.
Westward Look Resort
245 E. Ina Road, Tucson,
This striking resort set at the base of the Catalina Mountains has some history behind it. Built in the early 1900s, just after Arizona received its statehood, the resort started out as a humble hacienda-style family home. The property expanded, thrived for a while as a dude ranch, and recently underwent a $10 million renovation. Today, the lavish resort is designed to put guests in touch with their natural surroundings. After a peaceful stroll through the outdoor meditation labyrinth, take a refreshing dip in the resort’s main pool, outlined by abundant desert foliage and plenty of shaded daybeds perfect for dreaming the day away.
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