I had visited Arizona once before, some 30 years ago, and forgotten how totally unique, dramatic and powerful the Sonoran Desert cacti-studded landscape is.  On a recent visit I fell in love again with the beauty and nature of the region, while enjoying a wonderfully relaxing getaway at two world-class resorts less than an hour from Tucson.

The Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain (RCDM) is an intimate, rustic, airy lodge with a contemporary design nestled into the Tortolita Mountains, embodying the heart and soul of the high desert, where nature takes center stage. 

Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain

As relaxed as the resort is, it fully reflects the Ritz repute for quality and just completed a $10 million renovation.  The Forbes Travel Guide named the RCDM to both its 2018 World’s Most Luxurious Hotels and World’s Most Luxurious Spas lists –only three US hotels bearing this dual award; the RCDM is the only western one (the other two being on the east coast).  Outstanding personal service is one factor leading to this honor.

Sunset at Dove Mountain

During my stay, I discovered a great balance of fun activities and relaxation. 

We went on a fascinating 2-hour hike right out the hotel’s back door (featuring over 20 miles of hiking and biking trails), the landscape alive with spring color, blooms and desert critters.  We saw a hummingbird’s nest cradling one tiny egg; plenty of petroglyphs depicting life of the Hohokam people who lived here for over a thousand years; large holes in stone slabs (bedrock mortars) where the Hohokam ground mesquite into flour (naturally gluten-free!) and other plants.  Our naturalist guide managed to gently capture a 4-foot long gopher snake and told us about the habits of this and other resident reptiles including scorpions whose florescence enchants guests during the hotel’s night hike.

We enjoyed a round (and the scenery) at the 27-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course (note: beware when searching for a stray ball in the underbrush of the” jumping” cholla cactus which can seem to attack you.  No lasting damage but it wasn’t easy to pull off my bare arm.)

At night we enjoyed amazing star gazing through a NASA-quality telescope.  Southern Arizona is world famous for its dark and clear skies.

And then there was the food … creative dishes showcasing fresh local ingredients like pistachios, tangelos and Cholla buds, lovingly overseen by award-winning head chef Emily Dillport.  I applaud RCDM’s move to use only paper straws throughout the resort.

The entire ambiance of the spa induces relaxation. I particularly enjoyed the outdoor salt whirlpool and eco-friendly, holistic treatments in individual casitas.

It’s hard to evoke the peace and inspiration being in the main saltwater swimming pool (one of 3 on property) fringed by colorful lacey trees gazing out on an amazing view in all directions of mountains and the mighty Saguaro cacti which grow only here in the Sonoran Desert.

We ended our stay with a leisurely game of Scrabble in the lobby lounge sipping tasty prickly pear and hibiscus juice, looking out the massive open doors onto the resort and mountains beyond.  This is one place I can’t wait to come back to!


Nearby is another world-renowned spa and resort — Miraval — specializing in rejuvenation, healing and wellness –“creating a life in balance.”  Upon arrival, you’re encouraged to “unplug and be present,” and put your cell phone to sleep in a mini “sleeping bag” the resort provides.  There is connectivity only in parts of the property.

You can of course just enjoy the all-inclusive ease and no-tipping policy of this beautiful resort and its wide menu of spa treatments, fitness sessions and classes but, as my host put it, Miraval aims to be a healing sanctuary of surrender and discovery, an opportunity to go out of your comfort zone by experiencing something different and challenging. Acquired by Hyatt in 2017, Miraval has been named one of Travel + Leisure’s top 5 US destination spas.

A recent expansion added a compound The Retreat to the collection of lovely rooms, suites and villas scattered around the property. The Retreat’s modular units can accommodate from 2 to 20 people in a unique combination of privacy, community, luxury and killer views.

I was surprised by the number of men I saw at Miraval.  Traditionally the purview of ladies, the spa is welcoming a growing percentage of men (now roughly 30% versus 10% just a few years ago), reflecting a growing trend of men’s interest in self-care in physical and mental health.

The food at Miraval is notable, often direct from their organic gardens.  There is a wide selection.  And here healthy means delicious.

Miraval continues to adopt eco/sustainability practices – to maximize its impact on guests, while minimizing its impact on the environment.  Explore more on the resort’s water use, building practices, organic gardens and reducing its carbon footprint!

With over 350 days of sunshine a year, each season in the Sonoran Desert offers unique benefits and charms.

To book your stay and receive exclusive discounts and amenities, CONTACT ME NOW !!

Photo Credits:  Ritz Carlton, Miraval, Susan Bruce