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Exotic Retreat

Elevate / February 2013

A getaway to this Arizona resort can rejuvenate the body, mind and spirit

If you believe in spooky legends—and, believe me, I most certainly do—there’s a good one at the Joya Spa at the Montelucia Spa & Resort in Paradise Valley, Arizona. Rumour has it, on the eve of the spa’s opening in May 2008, and beneath a full moon no less, the Arizona Queen of the Night—a volleyball-sized flower with a cascade of pearly white petals on an otherwise sleepy cactus—bloomed on the very pathway leading to Joya’s door. The flower is said to impart wisdom, clarity, awareness and beauty to all those so lucky to encounter it.

Needless to say, they took the auspicious event as a sign. Legend also has it that the Queen of the Night, a.k.a. peniocereus greggii, were the guests of honour at elaborate lawn partes in the late 1800s, where locals gathered to await the cactus’ bloom—which it does just once every 15 to 20 years. Even more impressive, however, is its fragrance, said to be so head-spinningly strong that partier-goers didn’t even need wine. (I’ll still have just a bit though, thanks.)

So when the Queen appeared, Joya’s organic alchemists acted fast. They collected her essence, infused it with gem essences of diamond, sapphire and gold, and created their signature scent, Joyambrosia, which permeates 19 treatment rooms in 31,000 sq. ft. of Moroccan-inspired spa space and also makes me hungry. I promptly stripped down for Joya’s signature treatment: the Joyambrosia Body Polish.

I start with a half-hour exfoliating sugar scrub, which I did take a quick taste of and it wasn’t half bad, from my sunburned shoulders and all the way three-hour mountain climb that morning, but that’s another story. A liquid sapphire shower afterward never felt so good, then it’s massage time, with diamond moisturizing nectar, Beyoncé-style.

Nobody’s kidding about the Beyoncé business; she and hubby Jay-Z are Montelucia vacationers. I imagine she, like me, retired afterward to the Grand Palace Suite’s fab digs with a king-sized daybed, fireplace and fl at-screen TV before moving outdoors to the pool terrace to sip vodka watermelon martinis in a cabana.

But stars aren’t just on the guest list at the Montelucia, they’re in the decor. Look up: in a round, dark room, a constellation of 888 stars on the ceiling recreates the sky from Grenada, Spain, on August 8, 2008. Eight being, of course, the lucky number of infinity and the exact number of looming deadlines I’m avoiding in real life.

If the Montelucia is just a little bit magical, this room is where she gets her power. And so I place both hands on either side of the room’s massive central crystal—an oversized glowing quartz that promises to make my deepest wish come true—close both eyes tightly and think positive thoughts of my spa-spoiling at the Joya Spa. I wish for wellness and happiness mostly, maybe some calmness and perspective too, and, lastly, if there’s time, my own queen of the night. Just wisdom, clarity, awareness and beauty—I’d tell you more, but then it wouldn’t come true.

No matter what you love, the Montelucia has something to do for everyone. Here’s what you can’t miss:

While it’s tempting to just relax by the pool—Montelucia has three of them—and enjoy the Arizonian scenery, you’ll miss out on an experience and a half climbing Scottsdale’s Camelback Mountain. It’s not an easy hike (believe me!), but more than a mile up to the top will make for the best view you’ve ever earned. And do consider this your whole weekend’s worth of whole-body exercise—two hours of lifts and squats burns at least 1,000 calories.

And the best part of your feat on Camelback? Now you can guiltlessly dig right in at one of Montelucia’s five dining options—six if you count room service—including Prado, an AAA Four-Diamond restaurant with a balcony view of the mountain that has no power over you. Dinner options on the light-up menu were many, but I munched on the charcuterie starter, swooned Seinfeld-style over the scallop risotto and even dipped just a bit into a bacon sundae. Yes, a bacon sundae!

Besides my personal vacation uniform, a bikini and the supersoft housecoats that appear in your suite, more fashionable travelers might do a quick stop at Dulcinea, a delightful on-site boutique full of colourful dresses by high-end designers like Monaco, Nicole Miller and Diane von Furstenberg, plus comfier yoga gear that includes Puma and Lululemon. And if you can’t live without another whif of Joyambrosia, here’s where to stock up on the resort’s signature product line.

Following with Joya Spa’s theme of new-age wonder, is a menu of unconventional wellness treats at your fingertips: meditation, hypnotherapy and tarot. This gal couldn’t resist the Lip Print Reading, where lipsologist Pam Fox—one of just five in the whole world—reads your energy, personality and moods via your lip print. Intrigued what your pout says about you? Visit her at lipstory.com.