Only one other person is swimming as the early morning sun dapples the lap pool, the desert air already starting to warm. I slide into the comfortably cool water and begin a leisurely crawl to the other end of the 25-meter expanse. I’ve only been swimming a few minutes when a staffer comes out with a bottle of water which she positions next to my towel, waiting for me to stop and sip.
I could get used to this life.
I had arrived the day before in Scottsdale, Arizona, and after a quick plate of chicken guaraches at a local tienda, Mercado Y Carniceria Cuernavaca, I drove through the suburban boulevards of the aptly named Paradise Valley and into another world: Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort.
Here’s the scoop on this luxury Scottsdale resort.
Paradise in Paradise Valley
You could be forgiven for thinking you’ve entered the gates of some kind of paradise when you pull through the entrance to the 53-acre Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort, the rocky camel-like outline of Scottsdale’s landmark peak rising behind this collection of low-slung casitas. A valet opens your door, grabs your bag, and ushers you into the lobby, a 1950s building that now houses the resort’s restaurant and bar, as well as the reception and concierge desks.
Behind the reception area is an outdoor terrace and further still is an expansive infinity pool, shimmering turquoise in the sun.
Wellness Facilities at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain
This luxury Scottsdale property emphasizes wellness getaways, with a full-service spa and a large fitness facility. Guests can choose from several daily yoga and exercise classes, play on one of the three tennis or two pickle ball courts, or swim laps in the pool.
While children are permitted on property, Sanctuary is adult-oriented, better suited to a couple’s weekend, girlfriends’ getaway, or even a solo wellness escape than to a family holiday.
Dining and Drinking
The resort prides itself on its “comfortable luxury” atmosphere, offering gracious service in a relatively informal environment. You can certainly hang out in your yoga pants, but you’ll feel more at home if you dress up a bit for drinks or dinner.
With a long curved onyx counter, Sanctuary’s Jade Bar specializes in fresh juices and inventive cocktails, like cantaloupe martinis or the “fiery mandarin,” blending vodka, cranberry, orange, and mulled jalapeño juice.
The resort dining room, Elements, has large windows and an outdoor deck overlooking the infinity pool. It’s open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch. Executive chef Beau MacMillan has staffed the kitchen for two decades, and these days, his menu offerings range from salads like spinach, frisee, and roasted squash with goat cheese and herbed pecans to substantial plates like Korean BBQ wagyu beef cheeks paired with kimchi Brussels sprouts and bacon.
For the past several years, Sanctuary has hosted “Nirvana,” an annual food and wine festival that takes over the resort for five days in April with a line-up of celebrity chefs hosting themed dinners and other special events. Guests can purchase tickets to individual events, and the resort offers room and event packages as well. This year’s festival runs from April 16-19, 2020.
Sanctuary Camelback Guest Rooms and Amenities
Sanctuary’s 109 spacious modern guest rooms, which have all been updated over the past several years, fall into four main categories: mountain casitas, mountain suites, spa casitas, and spa suites.
Higher on the mountain, the property also includes several private homes that are available to rent. JayZ and Beyoncé chose one of these villas for their honeymoon.
The Sanctuary mountain casitas, which measure 500 square feet, and the larger suites (which range from 1,000-square-foot one-bedroom units to 1,500-square-foot spaces with two bedrooms) are similarly furnished, with separate living and bedrooms areas and kitchen facilities. The suites have private terraces and more spacious bedrooms and bathrooms.
Located closer to the spa and fitness facility, the spa casitas and suites feature a different contemporary look and layout. These casitas, which measure 650 square feet, have patios, while the 1,200-square-foot suites come with outdoor soaker tubs.
All units have standard resort amenities, from robes and slippers to safes to espresso makers and tea kettles. Wi-Fi and large-screen TVs with Google Chromecast (for Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube access) are included.
While Sanctuary, which opened in 2001, feels quite secluded, it’s just eight miles from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, a short drive from downtown Scottsdale and 25 minutes from central Phoenix.
But once you settle into your lounge chair or begin swimming laps in the desert sun, the rest of the world will seem very far away in this little corner of paradise.
Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Rates
Double room rates at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort start at about $500 per night, plus a $39 daily resort fee, during the winter/spring high season, dropping to $200/night during the hot summer months. Check rates online at Expedia or Hotels.com.
Hotel feature by Vancouver-based travel, food, and feature writer Carolyn B. Heller. Photos © Carolyn B. Heller. Experience Scottsdale, in partnership with Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort, hosted my stay for review purposes.