If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that locals and snowbirds alike have long loved the Spa at Camelback Inn. But on our first visit to this landmark haven in 2001, we were less than impressed with the cliche southwestern decor and the harried service (although the treatments were fabulous). So with the $8 million upgrade in the summer of 2003, has the Spa become more worthy of its adulation? The answer is: a resounding yes.
The most impressive renovation hit me as soon as I entered the doors of the spa. Gone were the turquoise and salmon pink trappings of the Santa Fe decor and in its place: rich chocolate brown woods, flagstone walls, eclectic lighting and expansive windows. The once drab lobby now looks dramatically out over the relocated Sprouts cafe with a breathtaking view across the pool and the craggy cliffs just beyond. Spa-goers now check in at a convenient reception desk where they receive their treatment itinerary and are either escorted to the locker area or as in my case, directed to Sprouts where I had decided to start my journey.
My first priority was food and I started with the recommended 3 Dips Lavosh — freshly baked, whole grain flatbreads served with citrus hummus, sun-dried tomato goat cheese tapenade and soy nut pesto. The extensive menu still offers healthy, sophisticated fare and thankfully, a not-so healthy selection of wines and mixed drinks. I finished with a sublime shrimp stir-fry and fruit smoothie.
Now off to the spa. With itinerary in-hand, I entered the locker area and was loaded up with a plush robe, slippers and locker key and given a quick tour. High marks go to the beautiful new basin style sinks, the inviting chaise lounges in the treatment waiting area and the overall contemporary southwestern edge of the upgraded look. One drawback: though lavish and accommodating, the waiting area is still not large enough to handle the traffic. With 32 treatment rooms (shared between the women and men’s locker areas), the “quiet” lounge area fills with a buzz of anticipation and a parade of roll-calling therapists. But as long as the weather is on your side, you can find quiet refuge outside on a private tanning deck or by the pool (where children are a no-no).
And now for the crowning moment: the treatments. I was first indulged with the Camelback Signature Massage Treatment, which incorporates hot and cold stone massage, reflexology, aromatherapy and light massage. Though not as therapeutic as a deep tissue massage, the aromas and energy work were very relaxing. Next, I was treated to the much-anticipated Dr. Perricone Anti-Aging Facial. Camelback is one of the few spas in the country offering this treatment, and the therapist lulled me into a near trance with the generous hand, foot and neck massages that garlands this lavish facial. My face was treated to all kinds of peace-inducing masks and skin-quenching goodies. The facial culminates with cooling, water-filled glass globes that act like a toner, followed by more Dr. Perricone anti-aging products.
Camelback has pulled out all the stops with the recent upgrade. The decor organically fuses western style with simple tranquility. And as opposed to the 50 minutes afforded by most resort spas, Camelback is one of the few that offers full 60-minute treatments. I was also happy that at the conclusion of each of my treatments, I was not asked to sign a bill and instead, handled tipping calculations and expenses at the reception desk after I was dressed and ready to leave. Time does stand still at this award-winning spa.