Cool Hunting



By Kristy Alpert 

The sun hasn’t even made its way over the mountains in the distance when a small group begins Thai Chi. Inside, the soothing sound of water flowing through a zen garden serenades the silent morning stretches of the Sensei therapists who are preparing themselves for the day to come. This scene, perhaps surprisingly, isn’t playing out in China or Japan, but Arizona’s recently renovated Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa.

Located in Paradise Valley, at the base of the resort’s namesake Camelback Mountain, Sanctuary’s unassuming elegance and focus on wellness have turned a stunning landscape into a transformational travel opportunity. Wellness remains rooted in the foundation of the resort, which has a long and varied (and potentially troublesome) history. It was first a place where Native Americans would pray and meditate before transitioning through various stages until it became Sanctuary in 2001.

The Sanctuary Spa has long been the leader in the spa circuit, setting the bar high with strict training protocols for its staff. “Specialized services are reserved for Sensei therapists, a select group within our team that have received extensive training and take a multi-dimensional approach to body work,” Mike Surguine, VP and Managing Director, tells us. “Each Sensei must pass rigorous certifications [including oncology massage and restorative consultations] and have no less than 10 years of experience.”

The spa’s focus on quality and training earned it a place as one of the highest rated spas in the world, yet despite the international acclaim for the treatments it offered, the spa’s aesthetics were not winning any awards with guests. That all changed with the recent Sanctuary Spa renovation.

The renovation included a top-to-bottom facelift, where paint colors were selected to reflect the focus on healing through water and cabinetry was custom-made with Alpine granite to allow sparkling flecks of light to shine through the backlit countertops.

The overhaul was led by Lynne Beyer Design and the result is a sublime, truly tranquil space. Beyer tells us, “The wet areas of the spa increased in size, with an additional shower, water closet and dramatic expansion in size of the steam room. Every surface in the spa—in both the men and women’s side—is new. It incorporates beautiful marble walls from Turkey in herringbone patterns and small-scale circular mosaic patterns from China on shower accent walls, large-scale porcelain tile from Italy, new carpeting, new lighting above lockers, over vanities and highlighting artwork.”

The biggest addition to the spa—which has 12 indoor and outdoor treatment rooms, a Watsu pool and a zen meditation garden with private reflection pond—is the Women’s Quiet Room. Inside there are wave-lounges by Living Earths Crafts set beneath a custom-designed paper light sculpture designed by William Leslie. The entire room is lined with soft drapery and privacy panels between each of the ergonomic chaise lounges, where soft lighting and an electronic-free environment set the stage for relaxation. 

This dimly lit, windowless room exists as the antithesis of change-rooms that are oftentimes chatty, loud and bright. Providing a gentle re-entry back to reality after a treatment, the Quiet Room feels delightfully like a cocoon.

Images courtesy of Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa