In Tucson, Health & Wellness Comes Home With You

By Suzanne Wright

One of the best things about checking into a resort is the pampering you receive during your stay. One of the worst things about checking into a resort is checking out and returning to the grind. However, I have found that Tucson’s resorts excel at helping guests bring that beloved R&R into the everyday by sharing their secrets—the skills, tips, and tricks they use on-property to promote healthy habits. Instead of checking out, you’re checking into a better lifestyle, liberation and bringing that oh-so-good resort feeling home with you post-handing in your room key.

As you’ll be able to tell from my five experiences at some of Tucson’s best resorts, it’s about more than just comfort in a peaceful, wide-open setting. It’s about losing the “maybe someday” and embracing the “here and right now,” to improve and amplify every moment—on property or not. Take it from me, these resorts offer enriching stays that stay with you.


Loew's Ventana Canyon at dusk

Lowes Ventana Canyon

Loews Ventana Canyon

It’s as though Loews is held within the embrace of the Santa Catalina Mountains, intimate to its curves and peaks, nestled in the contours of the canyon. Among its paths is the tranquil, adults-only Serenity Pool. For the activity-seekers, there is water aerobics and Pilates classes, which challenge the body, work out tension and free the mind.

It is the ParCourse Fitness Trail I am most looking forward to. There are 18 exercise stations on this 1.1-mile guided trek along the golf course, but the pathway isn’t just about getting your blood pumping in the fresh air. The fitness trail gives me the chance to explore the panoramic desert environment. I take the opportunity to experience my surroundings: the plaintive call of native birds, the skittering of lizards, the warmth of the sun on my face, details that sometimes get lost in the day-to-day shuffle. So when a butterfly alights on my shoulder, I’m delighted but hardly surprised. There’s a bit of magic in this setting and I can feel it course through me with every breath. But the magic doesn’t end on the resort grounds—I learn new stretches and exercises I can perform on the trails around my home, extending my motivation to stay fit while gaining clarity from my surroundings.


Woman in front of labyrinth at Miraval

Labyrinth at Miraval

Miraval Resort & Spa

From the moment I walk in, Miraval begins living up to its slogan, “Life in balance.” Here it’s about connection, mindfulness, healing, meditation, and overall wellness in a luxurious, innovative setting. Everyone exudes a positive state of mind—the resort’s layout even has good energy—and the staff is ready to cater to your wellness needs. I feel safe, taken care of, and the worries of a stressful week instantly begin to fall away; I’m ready to sync my body and soul.

When I sit down with registered dietician Angela Onsgard for a private nutrition session, there is no intake form to fill out. Our session is more like a chat with a friend. We discuss my current health and where I could improve, with Angela intently listening to conscientiously create solutions and a plan I can follow once I leave the cocooned environs of Miraval. I can tell she’s actively pursuing the best solutions for me as she measures my height, body fat, and muscle, then prints off a meal plan, an exercise plan, and a supplement plan that are personally catered to my well-being.

I scan the plans and rattle off all sorts of questions, trying to soak in her expert advice and get every detail. Angela senses my urgency and says, “It’s about adaptation, not perfection.” That makes this all seem so approachable. The advice resonates and I feel more confident in my ability to follow these plans.

After my private session, I’m off to a culinary class called “Cocktails in the Kitchen.” Here, I discover that Miraval practices what it preaches—don’t cut alcohol out altogether, just be more conscious of it.

We approach crafting a drink like Miraval would a meal: using fresh, local ingredients in new combinations that delight the senses. I imbibe guilt-free on a well-balanced drink of green tea, honey (harvested right on the property), lemon, arugula, jalapeno, and gin. Simple and refreshing. I’m excited to begin following my new meal plan.

Sated, I walk the property past rushing water, heading to the labyrinth, a meditative escape in the form of a rock maze—follow the path and let my mind be free. On the way, I pass dozens of rock cairns: pebbles big and boulders large piled atop each other in perfect balance.

The land is sending me a sign, for sure.


Video: Discover Miraval Resort Spa


Omni Tucson National Resort

The Omni Tucson National Resort is known for golf: more than 30 PGA events have been held here and another PGA Champions Tour event is slated for 2017. However, golf isn’t the only pursuit offered. Within the 4,500-square-foot fitness center, guests can get expert training from personal trainers and join regularly scheduled fitness classes. Basically, fitness is at your fingertips.

I’ve opted for a 9 a.m. yoga class with instructor Donna Papetti. I immediately liked her energy, which is both kinetic and calm—something I’d like to achieve. She describes her style as “strength and flow,” and encourages each of us to honor our own rhythm: to push ourselves, but gently.

“It’s not just about where you get to, but where you are,” she reminds us.

I concentrate on trying to be in the moment, but it reveals itself to be simple. About 30 minutes in, I feel something in my body—and my spirit—yield. From my downward dog contortion, I catch a glimpse of blue sky, palm trees, and the veranda through the windows. I’m finally present and can feel the difference.

Before we part, Donna offers me this: “The principles of mindfulness and attention allow you to open channels of energy,” she says. “You don’t need to do a lot; a tiny adjustment makes all the difference.”

Again, I find myself more confident. The resort gives, not takes; just like Tucson’s surroundings free, not inhibit.


Westin La Paloma Exterior and Pool

Westin La Paloma

Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa

Westin was the originator of the “heavenly bed experience.” In addition to a nighttime amenity of lavender sachets and eye masks, the Sleep Well Menu offers room service meals that can help your body adjust to a new time zone or recover from the stresses of travel. The superfoods include amino acids, vitamins, and minerals that promote restful sleep. The choices are tasty: citrus shrimp and buckwheat noodle salad, turkey avocado wrap, chamomile tea. 

I didn’t pack workout clothes for this visit. But, thanks to the New Balance Lending Gear program, I’m still able to lap the property for three miles under the warm Sonoran sun, admiring the rugged majesty of the Catalinas. For just $5, a housekeeper delivered me a mesh bag filled with all the gear I needed in my size: New Balance tennis shoes (brand new!), sportswear, and socks.

Ashley Rae Labar, the running concierge, maps out customized routes for guests and even leads twice-weekly runs. “One of our goals is that you feel better when you check out than when you checked in,” she says.

Sitting under the waterfall in the mineral pool after my run, I feel my muscles relaxing, but I also feel my strength building both physically and mentally. I’d say that goal was achieved.


Horseback Riding at El Conquistador Tucson, A Hilton Resort

Horseback Riding at El Conquistador Tucson, A Hilton Resort

El Conquistador Tucson, A Hilton Resort

In a city filled with dramatic desert vistas, the El Conquistador Tucson, A Hilton Resort might take the proverbial cake. Spread out in the distance is a panoramic sweep of mountain ranges, including Pusch Ridge, with its saguaro-studded hillsides. With these views, it’s little wonder why they host “Window to Wellness,” a program that focuses on keeping guests healthy during their stays with daily activities that connect them to the gorgeous natural surroundings.

The connection with nature doesn’t stop there.  Each guest gets two complimentary hours of bicycle rental for every night they stay. Or, if riding four legs versus two wheels is more your style, then a morning or evening horseback ride is the perfect way to start or end your day. On a breakfast ride, watch the desert brighten from a mellow blue to sun-drenched yellows and greens, while the evening steak ride will give you a front-row seat to a fiery sunset. Clearly, it’s not just about seeing the vistas here; it’s about getting out there and experiencing them.

I’m here to experience the Native American flute evening ritual, a live performance that fills the air with the soothing sounds of native spiritual cultures. It’s monsoon season and the sky is cloud heavy as Larry Redhouse, a Navajo flute player takes to the lawn in ceremonial embroidered and beaded garb. He says a few words about spirituality, but it’s the sound of his instrument that connects with the audience, which tonight includes a gathering of Vietnam vets. We are rapt for a few melodic minutes.

Chirpy cicadas, excited about the possibility of oncoming rain, accompany the pure sound of the flute. The music enhances the encroaching, deep indigo clouds, which blend into an orange and pink sunset palette as the sun descends into the horizon.

Look. Listen. Stop. Savor. Think.

Serenity comes in many forms. 

Begin your pursuit of health and wellness in Tucson’s healing resorts.

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