Insider's Guide to Spas
Waldorf Astoria Spa at The Boulders


Waldorf Astoria Spa at The Boulders

Rima Suqi

  • Waldorf Astoria Spa at The Boulders
  • Carefree, Arizona
  • 480-488-9009

The Boulders, a resort in Carefree, Arizona, about 35 miles outside Phoenix, gets its name from the 12-million-year-old dramatic boulders that dot the landscape here. You can opt for a room overlooking one of the resort’s two golf courses, but I prefer to gaze at those amazing rocks. If you’re like me, you want to be in Rooms 265, 255, 225 or 227, which are also conveniently located near the Waldorf Astoria Spa, where I spent most of my time.

While the spa has gone through several name and branding changes (the last time I visited it was a Golden Door), the Southwestern style structure itself has remained basically the same. The large, 33,000 square-foot building has 24 treatment spaces, a movement studio offering all sorts of classes from yoga to cardio intervals, an outdoor labyrinth, a Watsu pool, a swimming pool, a beauty salon, a 2,000 square-foot fitness center, a shop and a café.

One of the great things about this spa is that it offers a wealth of unusual treatments and experiences. For example, there is the opportunity to book a shamanic experience with Razel Wolf, the resident shaman. If you’re lucky, that experience might take place in a beautiful tipi (I didn’t do this, but wish I had). Guests can also have astrological readings, life coaching sessions, or meet with a naturopath. There’s tons of variety.

On this trip, I had a Watsu session, an Emotional Balancing session (here’s my review: balancing) , and I experienced one of the new “Journey of the Sacred Circle” treatments.

One of the great things about this spa is that it offers a wealth of unusual treatments and experiences. For example, there is the opportunity to book a shamanic experience with Razel Wolf, the resident shaman.

You enter the spa through a lovely Zen courtyard and enter a light-filled circular lobby with a seating area arranged around a soaring adobe fireplace. It is a great place to hang out.

After checking in, I headed to the locker room. It’s quite large, with the expected sauna and steam, plus a Japanese soaking bath and full-sized lockers.  My only complaint is that the overall design of the locker room is maze-like, unintuitive, and can be difficult to navigate. I got lost several times just trying to find the darn bathroom! A minor inconvenience, made up for 10 times over by the ultra-serene, gorgeous spa pool. Here, you you can sip a smoothie (or something stronger) while gazing at those amazing boulders, pre- or post-treatment.

There’s a spa shop that sells everything from clothing to jewelry, workout gear, and a good selection of Ray Bans (including a folding option I hadn’t seen before, and was tempted to buy). They also had a good selection of skincare like Naturopathica, as well as Coola, my favorite natural sunscreen. As with many resort shops, the merchandising could use some help—but that’s a whole other story, and a lot of shoppers enjoy the ferreting experience.

And then there’s the café—which I think is the Secret Star of the resort. The last time I stayed, I ate almost every meal there, but this time I came at an odd time—in between seasons—which meant that the breakfast offerings did not include any egg dishes—almost everything was carbohydrate-laden. Anyone who wanted, say, an egg-white omelet (usually a spa food staple) had to order through room service. Sadly, the new seasonal menu (complete with breakfast burritos and spa-style eggs benedict), was debuting two days after I left. My (unconfirmed) theory on this is that I visited during shoulder season, and some hotel menus vary with occupancy rates—less people, less offered. The lunch, however, was consistently very good…if only they served dinner I’d never leave the spa!

See our interview with the chef Neal Hall here:

Rima Suqi

Rima Suqi

An avid world traveler raised in an international home, Rima has explored and covered emerging destinations in the Middle East and Africa, far-flung luxury resorts in French Polynesia, as well as those closer to home, and the burgeoning arts scene in Marfa, Texas. Rima has traveled to over 30 countries, writing about the trends and tastemakers for leading travel and lifestyle publications, and subjected herself to innumerable spa treatments — sometimes under very odd circumstances — all in the name of journalism. A weekly contributor to The New York Times Home section, Rima held the envious position of Best Bets Editor at New York Magazine for six years, and is regularly published in national magazines including T Magazine/The New York Times, Departures, Architectural Digest, Elle Décor and American Way. Her last book American Fashion: Designers at Home (Assouline) in partnership with CFDA, sold out three printings.