Ever since the first "lungers" showed up in the Phoenix area hoping to cure their tuberculosis, the desert has been a magnet for those looking to get healthy. In the first half of the 20th century, health spas were all the rage in Phoenix, and today spas are still immensely popular in the Valley of the Sun. All of the area's top resorts have impressive full-service spas that cater to guests' ever-increasing requests for massages, body wraps, mud masks, and salt glows.
If you can't or don't want to spend the money to stay at a luxury resort and avail yourself of the spa, you may still be able to indulge. Most resorts open their spas to the public, and for the cost of a body treatment or massage, you can spend the day at the spa taking classes, working out in an exercise room, or lounging by the pool. Barring this indulgence, you can slip into one of the Valley's many day spas and take a stress-reduction break the way other people take a coffee break.
Romance and relaxation take center stage at Alvadora Spa at Royal Palms, 5200 E. Camelback Rd. (tel. 866/579-3637 or 602/977-6400; www.royalpalmshotel.com), where a Mediterranean ambience prevails. The citrus ritual and orange-blossom body buff are two of the spa's signature treatments. Most 60-minute treatments cost $135, and packages run $232 to $380.
The historic setting and convenient location of the Arizona Biltmore Spa, 2400 E. Missouri Ave. (tel. 602/381-7632; www.arizonabiltmore.com), make this facility an excellent choice if you're spending time along the Camelback Corridor. The spa menu includes dozens of different treatments, including a variety of massages, body scrubs, wraps, and facials. If you have just one 50-minute treatment (priced $135-$185), you can use all of the spa's facilities for the rest of the day. Packages cost $225 to $770.
If you want truly spectacular surroundings as well as bragging rights, head north to the Boulders Resort and the Golden Door Spa, 34631 N. Tom Darlington Dr., Carefree (tel. 480/595-3500; www.goldendoorspas.com). Although this spa has the best name recognition of any spa in the Valley, it is not the most impressive. However, at 33,000 square feet and with 24 treatment spaces, it is certainly large. Also, the list of services is one of the most extensive in the Valley and includes both ayurvedic and Native American-inspired treatments. The turquoise wrap, the spa's signature treatment, is a real desert experience. Most 50-minute treatments cost between $135 and $230. Packages are $450 to $1,900.
The Centre for Well Being at the Phoenician, 6000 E. Camelback Rd., Scottsdale (tel. 800/843-2392 or 480/423-2452; www.centreforwellbeing.com), is one of the Valley's most prestigious spas. For $140 to $165, you can get a 50-minute spa treatment (anything from a desert serenity scrub to a shea butter wrap with honey-avocado foot therapy) and then spend the day using the many facilities. Packages range from $290 to $620.
At Joya Spa, 4949 E. Lincoln Dr., Paradise Valley (tel. 888/691-5692 or 480/627-3020; www.joyaspa.com), in the luxurious InterContinental Montelucia Resort & Spa, you'll find the most romantic spa in the valley. With its couples suites, it's the perfect place for a day of relaxing with the one you love. The spa's signature treatment is the hammam ritual ($45), which involves relaxing in a warming room, then a scrub followed by an herbal steam bath, whirlpool, sauna, and cold deluge; it's best as an add-on to full treatment. Most 50-minute massages run $145 to $165.
Located high on the flanks of Mummy Mountain, the Spa at Camelback Inn, 5402 E. Lincoln Dr., Scottsdale (tel. 800/922-2635 or 480/596-7040; www.camelbackspa.com), has long been one of the Valley's premier spas and gets my vote for all-around best spa in the Valley. The location is convenient, the views are fabulous, the setting is tranquil, and there's a long menu of relaxing spa services. For the cost of a single 1-hour treatment -- between $130 and $175 -- you can use all the facilities, which include a fitness center and pool. Among the treatments available are the Para-Joba Body Moisturizer, which will leave your skin feeling like silk, and the Sonoran Rose facial, perfect for making sure you come back from vacation looking like you were actually on one. Packages run from $190 to $360.
Spa Avania, Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch, 7500 E. Doubletree Ranch Rd., Scottsdale (tel. 480/444-1234; www.spaavania.com), takes its name from the Greek work for "tranquil" and offers spa treatments designed to stimulate all the senses and also take into consideration the time of day and the body's natural rhythms. One-hour treatments run $165 to $180, while packages cost anywhere from $297 to $555.
Willow Stream-The Spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, 7575 E. Princess Dr. (tel. 800/908-9540 or 480/585-2732; www.fairmont.com/scottsdale), is my favorite Valley spa. Designed to conjure up images of the journey to Havasu Canyon, it includes a rooftop swimming pool and a large hot tub in a grotto below the pool. Because this is one of the largest spas in the Valley, you stand a better chance of getting last-minute reservations. Most 60-minute treatments cost $169 to $189. There are also several options for couples.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.