Joya. Even the name (pronounced joy-ah) elicits a peaceful easy feelin’. But as the new kid on the resort spa block, did it live up to its name and budding reputation? Oh yah. Did it ever.
I visited the spa mid-summer with my spa-savvy sister-in-law in tow. A high-powered admin assistant, she was as fried and frazzled as I was, and we agreed to leave our worries in the resort parking deck and squeeze every inch of relaxation out of this splendid day. And that, it turns out, was way beyond easy.
Joya Spa is a magnificent two-storied respite in the aptly named town of Paradise Valley. Home to the super rich and other acclaimed spas such as Camelback Inn and Sanctuary, PV sets the perfect backdrop for the Omni Scottsdale at Montelucia with its scenic manicured landscapes dotted with ancient saguaro cactus and Camelback Mountain vistas in the distance. We arrived on a blinding sunny morning when the temperature was making the climb to its average summer sweet spot of about 105 degrees. Eager for a dose of AC, we hustled through the enchanting little garden area that guards the spa’s gigantic aged wooden doors and slipped into the spa. Not only were we immediately enveloped in the cool of the dimly lit reception area but completely transported by the exotic, other worldly atmosphere of the Moroccan decor and Moorish architecture. After checking in, we were led up the dramatic staircase that lines the circular wall to the second floor.
Aesthetically, the spa is stunning. But not in an over-the-top Vegas way. More in a mindful, no-details-spared way. Striking artwork welcomes you at the top of the stairs and orchestras of flickering flameless candles beckon you along. As you make your way deeper into the spa, the light softens and it’s as if you’re entering the belly of some palatial hideaway. We were led along the hallway to our first stop — a domed room where we each picked a stone from a central pedestal and placed it on an alter to clarify our intention for the visit. Then, off to another dramatic alcove centered by an amethyst-colored crystal pedestal illuminated by twinkling fiber optic lights above. Finally, we were shown around the spacious women’s lounge.
We changed and met back in the women’s waiting area, a warmly colored room lined with couches and puffy throw pillows. After a few sips of hot tea, my sis was whisked away for her Cherry Harvest Festival body treatment and I was off to my custom massage. My therapist led me to the treatment room where I was left to settle into the massage bed, which was draped in exquisitely soft linens. The warmly appointed, dimly lit room was elegant yet simple and white-glove spotless. My therapist, though she seemed young, was skilled at seeking out my rough spots.
Afterward, drowsy from the massage, I plodded into the women’s quiet room — a room lined along one side with beds separated by breezy curtains. The “whisper room” as it’s called doesn’t even have a hint of music and I promptly fell into a trance-like sleep (the kind of sleep where you’re thankful for the privacy curtain … drool, ewww). I awoke just in time for my next treat — the spa’s signature Hammam service.
There’s something to be said for discovering the amenities of a spa on your own. However, the Hammam ritual is possibly the best introduction to a spa’s heart that I’ve ever experienced. The treatment started in a wet room where the therapist gave me a brisk scrub using a traditional Turkish black soap and rough cloth. Then — and this made me a little nervous — she grabbed one of several large buckets of warm water to rinse away the soapy residue. Oh man, who knew having a bucket of warm water poured over you would feel so amazing. After I was all rinsed and squeaky clean, she led me the few steps to the neighboring Hammam — a moderately heated room with a reclining bench of tiny pearlescent tiles. She instructed me to relax here for about 10 minutes and then head to the steam, cool off under the cold plunge, hot tub, sauna and finally bring my body temp down with one more cold plunge. I followed her instructions to the tee, enjoying the details of each station — the extremely steamy steam room, the intimidating though completely refreshing cold plunge shower, the beautifully tiled hot tub and the spacious sauna. You can use all but the wet room and Hammam on your own but the full ritual is a must if you visit Joya. I absolutely insist.
My sis and I spent the rest of the day paddling around the rooftop pool, lounging on the cushy chairs and nibbling on the complimentary fresh fruit and tea. We ordered a flatbread pizza from the spa menu (complete with cocktails if that’s your thing) and gobbled down the healthy version of ‘za with creamy fresh-made mozzarella and roasted tomatoes. The day was completely enjoyable, down to the tiniest detail.
And yes, I’ve left many a detail about Joya Spa out only so you’ll have a few surprises along the way during your visit. But after looking back on the overall experience, I keep coming back to one memory from that day that defined it for me. I was in the pool with my chin rested on my folded arms on the ledge facing Camelback Mountain. The sun was beginning to set and a ripple of clouds was beginning to form in the distance, casting intricate shadows on the craggy mountain backdrop. I remember taking a few deep breaths and being overcome by a feeling of peace, of appreciation, of unadulterated Joy. Joy-ahhh. A fitting name for a magical place.