Activities of all sorts are at your fingertips at the Boulders Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona—from exploring the Sonoran Desert via bike, ATV, or hot air balloon, to horseback riding through the Tonto National Forest, to climbing a 70 foot granite boulder before rappelling down a waterfall (my personal favorite). There are also more relaxed pursuits, like desert photography tours with a professional or stargazing underneath the Arizona night sky.
The resort takes its name from the 12 million-year-old boulders that surround the property, and the Southwestern-style architecture blends seamlessly with the natural surroundings. Located in the heart of the foothills of the Sonoran Desert the resort has 220 rooms, including 160 newly-renovated guest casitas, 61 bedroom Villas/Haciendas (ranging from 1-4 bedrooms) and 1 five- bedroom Villa Retreat. The rooms are scattered around the golf course and among the boulders in the desert. The southwestern design can be seen inside the rooms with art and color patterns favoring this palate.
Rooms have wood-burning fireplaces, wet bars, large dressing and bathroom areas, and private patios or deck. If you're planning to pack your pooch, the hotel does offer pet-friendly accommodations, as well as a photography package ($75 per hour) for professional snaps of your four-legged bestie among the boulders.
The Palo Verde restaurant is known for serving up contemporary Southwestern cuisine, and the trout is cooked to perfection. This is a nice place to sit outdoors and simply take in the atmosphere including views of the golf course. The Spa Café uses locally sourced ingredients from their organic garden and I highly recommend the egg white omelets with asparagus and Feta cheese; the perfect healthy breakfast dish. The Spotted Donkey Cantina is a good spot for anyone who is into authentic Mexican cuisine (a must is a made-to-order guacamole), while the Discovery Lounge, which features outdoor fireplaces and beautiful desert views, is the perfect spot for an after-dinner cocktail.
Of course, one of the biggest reasons to come to this resort is the Spa at the Boulders. Measuring 33,000 sq. ft. it focuses on healing methods, treatments, and philosophies. The spa features 24 treatment spaces, a labyrinth, an authentic tipi, fitness center, movement studio, Vichy treatment rooms, Yoga studio and a full-service salon. The wet areas in the spa were my favorite: steam room, sauna, hot tub and pool (there are four swimming pools at the resort). There’s also a labyrinth for meditation.
Golf enthusiasts will love the Boulders Club, which features a 6,959 139-yard, par 72 championship golf courses and a 6,888-yard, par 71 golf course, both designed by Jay Morrish. The Club offers a golf pro shop, fitness center, and restaurant. They also offer private instructions at the golf academy.
Guests can also opt to beat the desert heat at one of the resort's four pools: the Lodge Pool, located by the main lobby, offers spectacular views of the desert landscape and is open round-the-clock. The adults-only Spa pool is ideal for relaxing post-treatment, while the Club Pool is the perfect pick for a swim after a day of golf or tennis. Located near the resort's private villas, the Villa Pool offers a more secluded option.
Tips From the Resort to Ensure a Great Stay
- Plan Your Transportation in Advance — Because of their location, taxis are not readily available, so you may want to rent a car. Doing so will also give you the chance to explore the high Sonoran Desert (Lake Pleasant, Bartlett Lake, the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and Old Town Scottsdale are all within 30-40 minutes’ drive and well worth the trip). For airport transportation, please contact their concierge.
- Room Suggestions: If you’re looking for a preferred view, book a Sonoran Casita. If you want more privacy, book a Boulders Casita. If you’re traveling as a group or with your family, book one of a Villa home featuring a full kitchen and a private patio with a gas grill.
- Make reservations for their more popular activities and services, like spa treatments, golf and tennis lessons, and horseback riding. See their full list of suggestions here.
(As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with some discounted services for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.)