Starry Arizona

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This Mediterranean villa-style property, managed by Destination Hotels & Resorts, feels like an oasis in the desert with a 250-year-old fountain in a circular porte cochere, Spanish colonial architecture, grounds brimming with magenta bougainvillea, lush flower gardens and exotic plants, French doors, ornate antique iron gates, and 119 custom-appointed casitas and guestrooms. “Once you step foot past the front drive,” says Erin Stremcha, the hotel’s director of marketing, “you feel whisked out of Phoenix and the desert atmosphere. Our property is covered in lush gardens, winding cobblestone walkways, original courtyards and beautiful fountains, which make the grounds unparalleled to any other property in Arizona.”

And that Mediterranean feel is felt throughout the property with guestrooms and indoor dining areas—including the much-talked-about T Cook’s—designed with rich gold, teal, and burgundy colors. “Much of the architecture has been here,” says Stremcha, “since the original Cooke estate was built in 1929, which gives the property a great history and lots of charm.”

That charm is on full display in the accommodations, which include numerous suites and one-of-a-kind villas, as well as the Montavista Collection—with dramatic views of Camelback Mountain—and the Designer and Valencia Casitas. There are 17 Designer Casitas, featuring custom furnishings designed by members of the American Society of Interior Designers, and 29 Valencia Casitas, with wrought-iron four-poster king or queen beds and many with fireplaces. In other words, accommodations here are not cookie-cutter. “Very popular guestrooms for our clients are our casitas,” says Stremcha. “They are private, bungalow-style rooms with their own entrance…very secluded….”

But it’s the six Alvadora Spa Terraces that Stremcha can’t say enough good things about. “Those are arguably one of our nicest accommodations,” she gushes. “They are the most Zen/modern looking of our rooms, with dark hardwood floors and light interior colors. They are part of the Montavista Enclave that was built in 2007. They have a living room area with a day bed, flat-screen TV, a large open bathroom with a steam shower and European-style deep-soaking tub…and breathtaking views!” And, of course, the kicker here is that guests of these accommodations can expect in-room spa treatments.

Which leads us right to the Alvadora Spa, which opened in 2002 and has won numerous awards since then, including the Forbes Four Star Spa Award (2004-2011). It’s an all-natural spa—no chemicals used—that’s Mediterranean-inspired to fit in with the rest of the property and featuring eight treatment rooms, a Watsu pool, separate men’s and women’s locker rooms and indoor/outdoor relaxation rooms. Stremcha recommends the 90-minute Acqua Dolce Rituals treatment, which includes a full-body aromatherapy scrub, candlelit bath and full-body massage. “It’s one of our most unique and popular treatments,” she says enthusiastically.

Lured by the aforementioned amenities as well as more quirky ones like a “Director of Romance” and a “Director of Shopping” (who can plan a shopping day catered to your client’s preferences), it’s not surprising that, as Stremcha points, the hotel’s target clientele is primarily 35 and over. “Royal Palms differentiates itself by always striving to go above and beyond in the areas of customer service,” she stresses. “We realize that our property is beautiful, but it is the personalized service that truly keeps our guests coming back—approximately 30 percent of our guests are repeat.” Rates through April start at $299, and then from May to August start at $109.

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At Miraval Arizona in Tucson, it’s more than just fab spa treats and well-being one-on-one sessions. A new partnership with National Geographic Expeditions will have budding photographers going on 4-day workshops in Tucson that will include daily excursions to photograph the area’s stunning vistas as well as edit-and-critique sessions with National Geographic photographers. Dates are March 31-April 3, Oct. 13-16 and 27-30. The package is $1,875 pp dbl and $2,075 sgl.

If achieving inner peace or enjoying a relaxing day at the spa is on the 2011 to do list, look no further than the Agave, the Arizona Spa at The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, with free monthly spa clinics. The first Tuesday of each month focuses on a different wellness topic. March 1, for example, is all about self-awareness so guests are recommended to come with an open mind and a calm spirit and they should leave knowing how to keep it that way.

The Hermosa Inn in Scottsdale has upped the ante on elegance with its newly renovated luxury accommodations and the very new and very intimate Blue Door Spa. The spa, in one of the property’s original adobe structures, features The Hermosa’s citrus sage scent with a variety of custom massages, reflexology, ashiatsu, and a deep-cleansing facial.