As a long-time Phoenix resident, I’ve had the opportunity to visit most of the amazing resort spas in the Valley of the Sun, but my experience with Tucson’s spas had only focused on the big destination spas in the area-Miraval and Canyon Ranch, so when I had the chance to spend a weekend exploring two Tucson spas, I jumped at the chance.
Loews Ventana Canyon
The Loews Ventana Canyon’s Lakeside Spawas once named one of the Top 100 resort spas in the U.S. by Conde Naste Traveler. Today it looks in need of some minor updating, but the all-important treatments still shine. I opted to try the spa’s signature treatment, the Sedona Sacred Ritual, which is only available at the Ventana property. The service was created to use the local desert botanicals and Native American to heal. The 80-minute ritual begins with the therapist rubbing a Cedarwood Citrus Desert salt scrub over my body that is designed to exfoliate and deliver essential minerals to the skin. Directly on top of the scrub a nearly black mud made from Sedona clay is slathered on before I’m swaddled in a wrap that encourages the products to leach toxins out of my body. While I’m cocooned the therapist purifies the room with sage and uses something called Desert Dew Facial Serotherapy to perform a neck, face and head massage. When she tells me it’s time to unwrap and rinse off, I am so relaxed I’m loathe to move. But move I do and after a shower I’m back on the table for a soothing massage using Cedarwood Citrus lotion. The end result is skin that glows and a body that feels relaxed and soothed.
After your treatment enjoy the adult-only Serenity pool while drinking in the view of the Catalina Mountains, or perhaps simply continue to relax in the sauna and steam rooms in each locker room.
Casino del Sol
If you’re like me when you think spa, you don’t think Casino, but in Southeast Tucson the year-old, four Diamond Casino del Sol is hoping to change that.
It’s not surprising that a spa affiliated with a Native American casino would incorporate that culture into its treatment menu and that is the case at the Hiapsi Spa. The name means “heart and soul” and the mission of the spa is to renew your heart and soul while you are there.
While there are many treatments like the Native American Herbal Therapy where you are wrapped in muslin sheets that were seeped in a blend of Native American herbs, or the Bio-Energetic Fusion Facial that combines a pumpkin enzyme facial with a Native American Sun ritual, my achy muscles beg that I choose the SOS Sports Massage. The 80-minute service uses deep massage techniques coupled with assisted stretches to try and coax tight muscles and stubborn knots to release their grip and relax. My therapist said she liked working on necks and I smiled thinking, “Well you’ll have quite the challenge here then.” Because the neck and upper back are my problem areas, we spent much of the time honing in on them. In addition to working the muscles she used specialty balms and homeopathic gels where needed and deep heat on my back while she massaged my legs and arms. My muscles are so tense they didn’t completely release, the massage did encourage these long-term aches and pains to let go a bit.
While I thought the treatment at the Hiapsi Spa was easily the quality you would expect in a luxury spa, the spa itself was the worst designed space I’ve encountered. The lockers are the smallest I’ve seen in a spa, which I find difficult because I usually have a workout bag with me when I go to the spa. But size isn’t the biggest offender; it’s the placement right by the door to the spa. Now, simply for privacy sake this isn’t the best place to put the changing area, but when I got knocked by the door while changing it was clear it was also a hazard. We all know that after a spa service you have to fix yourself up again to face the world thanks to face cradle marks and hair flying in all directions from scalp massages, but the Hiapsi Spa doesn’t give me any practical place to do this. There is a mirror with a tiny shelf I can stand in front of, but it’s in the traffic path and not at all conducive to doing hair and make-up. It’s not surprising most of the women grab the hairdryer and go into the bathroom, but with only one bathroom in the locker room this creates an obvious problem as several of us now have to leave the spa in our robes to use a bathroom down the hall in the hotel. The other big issue I had was that a spa is supposed to be relaxing, but just outside the relaxation room is the hotel’s pool and instead of chilling out listening to serene spa music all I heard was music from the pool, and from the concert going on in the property’s amphitheater.
Despite a very friendly staff and good treatment, the experience was marred by the design problems inherent in the spa.
Scottsdale may get the accolades when it comes to spas in Arizona, but Tucson offers up a wide range of spas and treatments to please a variety of travelers in search of a bit of Zen while visiting this gem in the Sonoran desert.