The lure of the desert oasis. Relax in luxurious comfort at the Boulders, Scottsdale, Arizona.
By: Gary Sandelier and Daedrian McNaughton.
Buried under the holiday rush and stress-the week before Christmas; the busiest time of the year for travel-the noisome hallways of Chicago O’Hare International Airport with one advisory and announcements after another echoing through this expansive facility-early morning report times-full flights-weary feet and lack of sleep. Oh how I wish I could just find a place to really relax after these stressful periods.
Well while I was thinking, my partner Gary was planning. He knew we deserved some relaxing time away from work, and so the week leading up to the Christmas rush he booked a spa vacation for 4 days in Arizona.
On a typical Monday morning while the average person is preparing for work we jetted off to the desert land and golf community, The Boulders, a Waldorf Astoria property in Scottsdale, Arizona.
I was very pleased with his selection as the Arizona weather seemed a suitable alternative to the brisk temperatures I have been experiencing throughout the northeast and Midwest regions. Quite the contrary for Gary as Florida’s weather was a consistent and balmy 80 degrees. But the idea of jetting off elsewhere was more desirable to him.
Unfortunately upon our arrival in Phoenix the temperature was unexpectedly low-causing us to wonder if we had made the right decision for our trip.
After landing in Phoenix we took a taxi to the Boulders property which was about 45 minutes away from the Phoenix airport-costing us $80. With a car reserved by the property, transportation cost runs around $130 one way. The cost would be a little less if we rented a car-but with no real plans and since this was our first trip we took a cab instead.
What’s between Phoenix and The Boulders? Nothing but wildlife, desert land and hundreds of variations of cacti.
Since all the planning was done by Gary I did not know what to expect. All I was told was that it was a beautiful property,well known and reviewed by some of the travel industry’s respected specialists and experts, also confirmed by our tour operator and taxi driver.
We pulled into a property beautifully designed adobe structures and hovering ancient boulders. These simply designed buildings/casitas were spread out over the property as one, two to five bedroom lodges suitable for the desert climate of Arizona.
After check-in we were escorted to our lodge in a golf cart, a consistent theme throughout the property. Golf carts served as the simplest and easiest mode of transportation shuttling guests across the grounds. The pathways are very narrow and is perfect for a golf cart size vehicle.
Whether you want to be picked up from the steps of your casita to be dropped off at the Golden Door Spa or The Grill restaurant, the shuttle service is available to guests free of costs. If you are a fitness buff or if the weather is tolerable trekking it is definitely the way to go. This way you get to fully appreciate the property and enjoy the panoramic view and scenery of the deserted land of the Sonoran Desert, peppered with cacti.
The charming accommodations at the boulders are studio settings to 5 bedrooms for the entire family with a warm Southwestern ambiance. Our lodge was a spacious studio-stand alone equipped with a wood-burning fire place, perfect for a romantic evening or when the temperature dipped below 48 degrees. The unit had a private patio which looks out into The Boulders grounds with enchanting views of the desert.
The Boulders offers a comfortable, relaxed and sophisticated stay for anyone who is overwhelmed, stressed and desires solitude from the city life. They have several lodging options to choose from, however we chose The Truly Boulders package priced at $309 per night. On this package we enjoyed daily breakfast, valet parking, access to the Golden Door Spa fitness facilities and classes, 20 percent off spa services, complimentary golf club and shoe rental and complimentary tennis raquet rental.
The Boulders culinary options ranged from chic to casual and of course we experienced them all-almost. On our first night we dined in a romantic setting at the award-winning restaurant, the Latilla which offers Mediterranean fare. From a delectable taste of duck to rich and delicious white and dark chocolate to end the evening-it was divine. The following morning we partake in a healthy and hearty breakfast at the Golden Door Spa Cafe which offers light meals, fresh juices and smoothies for breakfast and lunch. And for two evenings we indulged in The Ultimate Boulders Burger-the best burger I have ever had, at the all American The Grill at the Club. We also enjoyed a traditional breakfast at The Bakery Cafe, a casual bistro at el Pedregal, off the Boulders grounds. Although the dining options at the resort were delicious and delightful, somehow we missed the Spotted Donkey, a cantina located off the Boulders property that serves a combination of Southwestern and western flavors.
While dining at the Grill a remarkable thing happened, Richard a long time member of the Boulders club who recognized we were guests at the resort walked over to our table, introduced himself and shared his basket of fresh pita bread and welcomed us. That gesture was what we experienced throughout our entire stay both guests and staff members were very warm and welcoming.
Although this vacation was intended for relaxation and rejuvenation, while exploring the grounds we also had a chance to reconnect at the Promise Rocks, an area designated for nuptials.
Known as one of the finest golf communities around the world and for its two championship golf courses designed by Jay Moorish and tennis; it was too cold to participate in any of the aforementioned. Instead we watched a bobcat roamed the grounds of the spa.
And of course, a vacation is not complete without a spa experience. The world renowned Golden Door Spa is recognized by Forbes 400, SpaFinder and Travel + Leisure. Ranked among the worlds best spas and one of Conde Nast’s favorites, the spa offers a wide array of spa services. During our 4 days we took full advantage of the spa amenities and indulged in the Purification Ritual and replenished the body with some potassium broth in between massages and other spa exercises-all admiring the view of the vast desert landscape and the towering boulders which serves as a beautiful backdrop to the spa.
One of the highlights of our trip was the Purification Ritual offered by the spa, is highly recommended. We definitely needed to detox and allow all the impurities that have clogged our pores to escape. We started with 5-10 minutes in the steam room followed by a cold shower, then another 10 minutes in the sauna with a cold shower followup. After all that another relaxing 10 minutes in the Japanese style OFURO pool. In between steam room and sauna we kept hydrated by drinking a lot of water which was provided throughout the facility and encouraged. After we completed the ritual we lounged on comfortable chaise and nibbled on light fares while awaiting our treatments. I was treated to a Swedish massage while Gary enjoyed a deep tissue massage.
We would have loved to take a dip in the outdoor Watsu pool but temperatures which were below average prevented us from doing so.
I was impressed with Gary’s selection in this relaxed southwestern atmosphere and will make the Boulders an annual occasion.
No traffic signals or stop signs, no airport announcements, just us enjoying the cool, crisp air and carefree vacation and the whispers of nature in the middle of this remote desert and unconventional enclave.