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SpaWatch: Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain, Arizona

The incredible pool at the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain, Arizona

By Mary Alice Kellogg

SpaWatcher has a soft spot for the Sonoran desert of Southeastern Arizona, which happens to be where she was born and raised. Recently she hopped the next plane to check out the newest spa contender in the region that gave us Canyon Ranch and Miraval.

The Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain resort, nestled into the Tortolita Mountains northeast of Tucson, has a glorious desert setting, with stately multi-armed sahuaro cacti standing sentinel and all the resort bells and whistles one could wish (including 27 holes of Jack Nicklaus-designed golf).

But the 17,000-square-foot Ritz-Carlton Spa here is a destination in itself, with 14 indoor-outdoor treatment rooms, cozy spaces for relaxing, and an ever-blue sky above (the region averages 300 days of sunshine per year).  I was immediately impressed by the lounges: separate and ample ones for men and women, each with its own outdoor whirlpools and fireplaces, all with a relaxing, Son of the Shiek oasis feel. A full menu of traditional and new treatments is on tap, using organic desert botanical products … as it should be.


I chose the “Embracing Your Elements-Balance” treatment, an 80-minute indulgence incorporating all the things I love: exfoliation (a full half-hour of skin-soothing bliss), a warm tub soak with mineral salts/essential oils and massaging underwater jets, and a full-body hot stone massage to top it off. This treatment, specifically created for Dove Mountain, will be rolled out in other Ritz-Carlton spas soon.

“Elements” means just what it says: be it Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal or Water, we all connect with each at one time or another. With therapist Jenn, I discovered that at the moment I was feeling … metal (this was based on birthdate and interview at the beginning of the treatment). As a result, all the oils and unguents and massage therapy went toward bringing out the best of that element and balancing the rest. The beauty of this treatment is that it changes each time you have it – as you do – and is so individualized that you can be confident that all the elements are in line at the moment. I could come back for Embracing Your Elements in a month or two and the treatment would be completely different.

The fact that this all took place in a huge suite with kiva fireplace, private outdoor patio and tub overlooking the mountains was a bonus. At the end of it all I contemplated demanding to stay in the suite all day, but, being too relaxed, could only whimper softly as I left. (Yes, you can book it for a whole day, and order lunch in. Bring a friend for couples or pal’s treatments, too.)

I repaired to the Spa’s main (co-ed) pool, one of the best I’ve experienced, a secluded pond with whirlpool, waterfall wall, outdoor firepits, tented day beds … and a most particular view. Hills with large rocks behind the spa bear ancient petroglyphs inscribed by the Hohokam people a thousand years ago. This long-disappeared tribe certainly knew the value of location.

Waiting for a spa lunch to be delivered poolside, I contemplated the fact that the Hohokam probably invented their own potions from local cactus and plants to recover from a hot day of putting art on rocks. I toasted them, their art … and the particular spirit of this desert spa, which brought SpaWatcher home.



15000 North Secret Springs Drive

Marana, AZ 85658


 Mary Alice Kellogg, a New York-based writer and editor, is a recipient of the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award for Consumer Reporting. A contributor to many national publications, including Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Bon Appetit and GQ, she has reported from 120 countries and five of the seven seas to date… and counting.Visit MaryAlicekellogg.com

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