Miraval has a bit of a cult following. Two of America’s top talk show hosts rave about it, as do Vanity Fair, CN Traveller and The New York Times. It’s young and laid-back. It’s the happiness that shines through when you’re comfortable in your own skin. It just may be what you’re trying to achieve.
The resort backs onto the Santa Catalina Mountains and the Sonoran Desert. Turn off a dusty highway, past ranches and polarising political billboards; the driveway is short and sweet. The resort is south western but with a modern twist; calm white walls set off rich wooden furniture, slate floors and soft neutrals flash against occasional pops of colourful art or cushions.
Here, the spa is at the centre of the resort. Lizards dash past your feet as you walk down the pathway; try not to startle the hummingbirds drinking next to the gate. The indoor relaxation room has floor-to-ceiling glass windows with loungers looking out over green trees, blue skies and Mount Lemmon mountain range. Head outside to the deck if you can manage the heat. The single sex changing rooms both have a sauna, steam, hot tub and an outdoor relaxation area. The ladies’ relaxation area has seating running along two sides and a central fire pit, the design uses cool, calm colours with only a splash of yellow and golds on a back wall. Just next door to the spa you’ll find three levels of pools; some hot, some cool but all with views over the mountains. We drifted in the main pool overhearing conversations about life balance and beliefs.
The Body Mindfulness Centre is all about fitness with a gym, pool and regular classes. The Agave Centre hosts yoga and meditation classes from beginner right through to aerial yoga where you use silk supports to hold yourself in the air. The Activity Rooms host a flurry of classes during the day and evening: try nutrition, an introduction to Ayurveda, mindful living, emotional intelligence, sleep strategies, to name a few.
Discover the high-ropes challenge course, guided hikes, tennis classes or The Labyrinth, a low level maze which looks out over those mountain views. The Equine Experiences are off site – just a short five minutes’ drive. Take a group or a private session to get up close with the beautiful ranch horses. Go for a traditional trail ride or try the Miraval Equine Experience™ where you work with a horse in a ring and in doing so notice your own behaviour traits.
Tell us about the treatments
We had Naga Thai Massage (50 minutes, $125), an Organic Facial (50 minutes, $175) and Deep River Hot Stones Massage (60 minutes, $225).
If you’ve tried Thai massage before, you’ll know it’s absolutely nothing like a traditional European massage. Naga Thai Massage takes it a step further; the therapist uses silks hanging from the ceiling to manage their bodyweight, so they can use their feet and weight to stretch and massage muscles. My therapist, Matthew explained how it would work as I lay on a large cushioned mat on the floor. He worked on my legs, back and a little on my arms, using his feet to put pressure, roll and stretch the larger muscle groups. My muscles were tight from hiking and the silks really felt like they made a different; Matthew could stretch my limbs in very different and effective ways.
The Organic Facial was much more traditional. Kimberley guided me to a bright treatment room and quickly talked through my skincare and what products I used at home. She cleansed and inspected my skin (oily and blemish prone) and applied an exfoliation with strong fruit enzymes which made my skin tingle. Next up was the manual extractions; Kimberley literally unclogged my pores with her gloved fingers. She applied an oil and massaged my face and neck in short, sharp movements but also longer, softer strokes. Kimberley applied a thick and cool hydrating mask, cleansed again and then applied finishing products. My skin felt clean and clear, as if it could finally breathe in fresh air.
My final treatment was the Hot Stones Massage – this time with Rick. He used very smooth hot and cold stones in tandem, pressing into the muscles and using long, soft, flowing movements to relax my back, legs, arms and feet. It was soft, calming and the perfect evening treat.
Miraval embraces farm to fork food. Everything is healthy and nutritionally balanced, but you can opt for some slightly more indulgent dishes too – chocolate cake and alcohol are on the menu if you so choose.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the main restaurant. Breakfast and lunch are a buffet, with a la carte offerings if you fancy something special. Dinner is more formal, but the food is equally good. We loved the balance of fresh fish and meat with local vegetables and beautifully blended flavours. You can eat in the bar if you want to stay more relaxed.
A café just next door to the restaurant serves home-made snacks and fresh juices and smoothies during the day. Choose your fruits and they will blend them for you – delicious.
Who would like it?
Equestrians: The Common Ground Equine Experience was really unusual; I spent an hour moving my horse, Magic, around a ring without touch or voice. Using body language and movement, I had to encourage him to walk, trot and change direction. At the end of the session I talked through how I felt, what had worked and what lessons I could take away from Magic’s response to me.
The mindful (or those who just wannabe): The huge range of classes will help clarify, motivate and empower you to make changes to your lifestyle.
Walk down to the Labyrinth and take the time to set your intention. The view over the desert is beautiful and it will give you time to soak up the surroundings and atmosphere. Treasure the memory for when it’s grey and rainy at home.
The sunrise hike: You’ll meet in reception at 6.45am so you’re up in time to see the sunlight flooding into the valley. The landscapes are otherworldly – see the vast range of cacti and gasp at eagles flying overhead.