SPA REVIEWS: Scottsdale's Golden Door Spa at The Boulders

I have woken up to a panorama of massive golden boulders teetering upon one another, as if a giant toddler has just stacked them like wooden building blocks. Decades-old saguaros raise their arms to the sky—thanking the heavens for the view, perhaps. A family of tiara’d quail skirt past me, followed swiftly by a lone coyote. The morning air is hot and dry like a natural sauna, and it smells like Mexican lavender and sage. Save for the occasional breeze rustling the bright green palo verde trees, there’s not a sound to break the silence. I feel like I’ve traveled about 12 million years back in time, and if only I had only packed a one-shouldered fur dress to wear, my transformation to Raquel Welch circa one million B.C. would be complete.

I am at the Boulders Resort, a Waldorf Astoria hotel set on 1,300 acres of pristine Arizona desert, and today I will experience the resort’s Golden Door Spa. Like its sister property in Escondido, California, Scottsdale’s Golden Door offers Zen-like, Asian-inspired ambience, with carved wooden doors that evoke an Indian fort-palace. But within this stark and sculptural landscape, the spa also draws upon the healing serenity of the desert. The 33,000-square-foot space rises like a modern adobe hacienda before a towering block of honey-colored rock facade. Inside the sun-filled spa lobby, a black clay fireplace, Native American woven baskets, cracked stone floors, cacti, and floor-to-ceiling views of the famed boulders and color-streaked landscape remind spa-goers they’re amid an ancient, other-worldly desert.

I’m here to sample a series of indigenous spa treatments, massages, facials and wraps that channel the healing and pampering powers of local herbs, flowers and traditions. I’m told that people from all over the world travel to the Boulders to experience an unnamed magic that emanates from its grounds and stone monuments; they also come to be enlightened by centuries-old Native American wisdom. “The property, with its boulders and cultural inheritance, is magical,” says spa therapist Kelli Casella. “Our guests are always very inquisitive about the local customs. They find the Southwestern lifestyle really intriguing—it’s grounded, down to earth, serene and quiet, like the desert itself. By drawing from local remedies, plants, herbs and beliefs, we give clients another way to experience this special place.” —By Alison Singh Gee