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No Place Like Om

By Dianna Sanchez
Posted On Jul 21, 2011

Astonishing scenery provides both the backdrop and inspiration for Arizona’s enchanting Golden Door Spa

WORDS: Barbara Perkins

Set in the whimsically named town of Carefree, Arizona, The Boulders is a Waldorf Astoria Resort situated on 1,300 acres of pristine Sonoran desert, a spectacular landscape punctuated by 12-million year-old granite rock formations. It’s an easy, 30-mile, straight-shot ride from Phoenix, but it’s a world away from the hubbub of civilization.

Some head here for the resort’s two challenging Jay Morrish-designed championship golf courses. I came for the Golden Door Spa, an outpost of the Escondido-based mother ship of one of the true gold standards among spas. The 33,000-square-foot complex, set among–you guessed it, giant boulders–blends seamlessly into the rugged terrain. An expansive and modern facility, the spa is disguised as a series of classic adobe structures, perfectly at home in the desert environment. Inside there is a full-service salon, fashionable boutique and an organic-centric cafe that serves deceptively healthy fare.

Spa guests are welcomed in the spa’s circular tea lounge area. A relaxing space, drenched in light, it overlooks the desert vistas and the aqua-therapy zone, with outdoor swimming pool, lap area and whirlpool. The massive east wing of the complex is home base for 24 treatment rooms and both men’s and women’s locker areas, with Vichy showers, heated-tile floors, steam rooms, saunas and o’furos (a Japanese-style bath).

Drawing on the desert surroundings for inspiration, the spa’s treatments and services include a sage-and-prickly-pear-cactus moisturizing body mask, and another goodie–the warm clay wrap, a specialty here that taps into the healing power of turquoise, which according to Native American lore provides protection and positive energy. Another best is the fresh avocado citrus facials; try it if you visit in season.

If you’re up for action, the spa’s west wing is your nirvana. This area is jam-packed with state-of-the-art cardiovascular equipment and movement studios (which is code for yoga, tai chi and pilates-ish classes).

The fundamental tenets of The Golden Door Spa philosophy strongly advocate personal exploration, which lends itself to a variety of atypical spa course offerings. Two I had hoped to explore were Astrological Soul Reading and Memory Enhancement classes, the later of which details how certain foods affect the neural pathways of the brain.

I did set aside time to walk the spa’s sacred meditation labyrinth. Located outdoors, the labyrinth is derivative of the Hopi Indian medicine wheels. Unlike a maze, the labyrinth has no walls; instead it is a circuitous pathway on the ground, which is designed to lead to a central focal point and back. The principle is that walking the circles alters your consciousness and helps quiet the mind; this introspective walk is a means to reconnect to one’s spiritual center and release blocked energy. Now I can appreciate the healing power of this sacred geometry, as my walk was a surprisingly calming experience.

The walk also reflects the spa’s balance between the physical and the spiritual. Among its wide offerings are treatments from the Eastern Harmony menu, which includes Thai massage and shiatsu. Among its Ayurvedic Experieces are Bindi Balancing and Shirodhara, the latter based on pouring liquids over the forehead, home to our ‘third eye.’ I already mentioned Astrological Soul Reading among its Mind Body & Soul Connection menu; add to that Reiki—a kind of Japanese palm healing—and Chakra Balancing. By the time I left I was ready to give up all material concerns, until I realized I still had to make a living in the material world. But at least the break was heavenly!

The Boulders Resort and Golden Door Spa
34631 North Tom Darlington Drive
Carefree, AZ 85377
Telephone: (480) 595-3500