One of the most visually captivating landscapes in the world, the Sonoran Desert in Arizona’s southern expanse draws visitors from across the world. Belying its stark and arid appearance, the desert is home to a vast array of plants and animals, coming alive at dusk or after heavy rainfall with flowers, lizards, birds and other wildlife. This raw beauty is brought into sharp focus at the five-star Miraval Resort, where the importance of mind and body harmony is nurtured with healthy menus, unique fitness programs and an underlying appreciation of the land.
Accommodation type: 5-star
No. of Rooms & Suites: 118
Pricing: starts at $579 for rooms, at $895 for suites, at $1,636 for villas
High season: November through March
Nearest airport: Tucson International Airport (TUS)
Suitable for: couples, honeymooners, business travelers
• Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Award, 2016
• Travel+Leisure “World’s Best Destination Spas,” 2016
• Shape Magazine’s Healthy Travel Award, 2016
Set on 400 acres of the saguaro cactus-strewn Sonoran Desert, Miraval Resort represents a retreat not only from everyday life but a chance to concentrate on being in the moment. The secluded grounds inspire a sense of serenity. The picturesque views from the desert floor to the peaks of the Santa Catalina Mountains change subtly throughout the day. It’s a never-ending kaleidoscope of stark beauty.
There are rooms, suites, and villas to choose from, all decorated in soothing tones that combine modern chic with a desert aesthetic. Overall, there are three swimming pools, pavilions for yoga and pilates, a riding arena, winding walking trails, lounges, and a cafe. In addition, the gourmet restaurant has a range of other delights to discover. Tennis courts, a Zen garden, climbing wall, and stone labyrinth will keep guests amused when they’re not attending one of the many complimentary classes in cooking, art, riding or fitness.
• Cactus Flower Restaurant — using locally sourced ingredients and seasonal produce, this restaurant offers breakfast and lunch buffets. Moreover, full table service is available for evening meals. Savour local delicacies like prickly pears, pinyon nuts, and desert honey produced right on the resort in the season.
• Life In Balance Spa — the healing benefits of massage, Ayurveda practices, body scrubs, hair care and nail treatments are the highlights of the spa, using natural plants and minerals from the surrounding desert. The daily resort fee can be applied toward spa treatments.
• Body Mindfulness Fitness Center and Purple Sage Ranch Equestrian Center — a focus on wellness is prevalent at both the fitness and equestrian centers. Enjoy activities like yoga, pilates, underwater Tai Chi and body boards in the fitness area or take a horseback riding class that focuses on self-discovery.
As an all-inclusive resort, most of the activities on offer are complimentary to guests. Learn the Miraval chefs’ secrets for success in the teaching kitchen, with a full lunch to enjoy afterward as a reward. Other classes on the resort include morning stretches and desert fitness walks, aqua rhythm classes and cardio dancing.
Equine therapy in a variety of options allows guests to not only learn about their hooved friends but also about themselves. Learn to direct a horse non-verbally or take a trail ride out into the sublimely beautiful Sonoran Desert. Guests can also nurture their creative side with classes on cell phone photography or take a class in accessing right-brain creativity.
Tucson has an Amtrak station on 400 North Toole Avenue. This is a stop along the New Orleans to Los Angeles Sunset Limited Line. At just 30 miles away, the airport in Tucson is a quick drive from the resort. Miraval Resort maintains a complimentary shuttle to ferry guests to and from the airport.
For those planning to rent a car, they will need to get on I-10 West when leaving the airport on South Tucson Boulevard. After approximately six miles, take Exit 255 onto AZ-77 North. Follow this road for 16 miles before taking a right onto East Golder Ranch Drive. After about a mile, turn left onto North Lago del Oro Parkway. Follow this road for two miles before making a right onto East Via Estancia Miraval. The Miraval Resort will be at the end of this road, about one-tenth of a mile.
Main Attractions Around Miraval Resort
The stunning Santa Catalina Mountains, which can be viewed across the desert from the resort, harbor a vast ecosystem of fascinating plants and animals, in addition to their geological beauty. A complimentary tram traverses the canyon. The tram stops in nine different locations in order for visitors to appreciate waterfalls formed by Sabino Creek, idyllic picnic spots and areas of natural or historical interest. There’s also an informative visitors’ center with plenty of information about the local features of the canyon. Visitors can also buy guide books and gifts in the on-site shop.
Mission San Xavier del Bac
One of the oldest buildings in Arizona, this historic mission was founded in 1692. While the original structure was destroyed during an Apache Indian raid, the current building dates to 1783. Visitors can peruse the murals in the church’s interior and tour the grounds. There’s also an on-site museum with an informative documentary discussing the mission’s history. Those visiting on the Friday after Easter can witness the San Xavier torchlit parade hosted by members of the local Native American tribes.
While it’s located nearly two hours from the resort, this slightly kitschy but endearing embodiment of the Old West as re-imagined by those in the present day is a fun excursion. The superlative ride through the Sonoran landscape to get there is also part of the mystique. Once there, visitors can stroll the quaint streets and admire the historic buildings. You can also take in a Wild West show, peruse art galleries of Native American and Western art. Or you can grab a drink at the saloon or sample some local fare in a restaurant.
For a retreat from the ordinary that will help to build serenity and confidence, spending time in the haunting beauty of the desert Southwest has no equal. Have you ever visited Arizona’s Sonora Desert? If you’ve been lucky enough to spend time in Tucson or have even stayed at the Miraval Resort, be sure to tell us all about your trip in the comments below. And if you cannot get enough of the starkly beautiful Sonoran Desert, another option for you to consider is the Boulders Resort & Spa, in Scottsdale.