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An Oasis In Arizona – The Montelucia Resort (Scottsdale)

October 19th, 2010 No Comments

On the way to my room at the Intercontinental Montelucia Resort in Scottsdale, Ariz., I passed three fountains, a fire pit, an open-air bar, the entry to the spa and a giant pool — all of which momentarily took my attention away from the breathtaking view of the towering mountain in the distance. Well, that’s a charming start in my book.

Despite the fact that Travel + Leisure ranked this the best hotel in Arizona and No. 13 out of 50 in the United States, I was determined to use a meticulous and discerning eye when sizing up this enchanting destination “reminiscent of an Andalucían village.”

Because it is operated by the InterContinental chain, I expected the resort’s décor and atmosphere to feel somewhat corporate.

I was in for a pleasant surprise. In my room, there was a rustic dining table where the desk should have been and a bathroom that boasted a walk-in shower big enough for three. Overall the room was cozy, but not so much that I didn’t want to explore the rest of the property.

After I arrive at a resort, the first place I settle myself is by the pool, so I made my way to the secluded adult pool near my room. I brought my iPod to drown out any cheesy techno they might have playing in the background, but I didn’t need it – their playlist of alternative rock and acoustic top 40 was better than my selection. Top that off with a glass of Sauvignon blanc, and all of the tension in my life seemed to seep out of my body.

Another of the resort’s major draws is its six on-site restaurants. The critically acclaimed Prado was notably the most popular, offering farm-to-table classic Italian cuisine. This concept made me hesitate. I had not seen a full-grown tree since I set foot in Phoenix. How could a local farm yield anything remotely edible? I still don’t know the answer to that, but the fare was remarkably fresh, especially the signature Fra’ Mani (meats prepared without preservatives and grown without antibiotics).

The Joya Spa did not disappoint, either. When I walked in, my eyes relaxed in the dim light, my senses calmed with the scent of Moroccan oils and my body began to breathe. Try the indulgent signature Moroccan Hammam scrubdown, followed by a massage in which all of those knots are rubbed out of your aching muscles. Then, rejuvenate in the eucalyptus steam room and whirlpool.

The gym was fully equipped and also offered outdoor spinning overlooking the beautiful vista and daily yoga classes. Usually I consider hotel yoga a waste of time, but for some reason I centered myself to practice my vinyasa with five other women. It was one of the most innovative flows I’ve experienced in years.

There is really only one reason to leave the Montelucia compound: Camelback Mountain. The towering pile of monstrous rocks dominates your view during your stay, so you should not pass up a climb. After a 45-minute hike (which was more like a scramble) to the top, I looked beyond the planned communities and dwarf trees to the expansive desert in the distance that opened my eyes to the beauty of a barren landscape.

During my stay, the forecast was 102 degrees without a cloud in sight. Yes, the heat was dry, but I felt every digit above 90. Breezy nights cooled me down and the low, off-season rates made up for the steep temperature.

During the winter, when the weather is perfect, you can still tuck into this hideaway for less than $300. Getting there is a quick flight on Continental, starting at $250 round-trip.

Travel + Leisure has led me astray before, but its accolades for the Montelucia are deserved and accurate.

The whitewashed architecture and entryways accented with mosaics were indeed reminiscent of an Andalucían village, as the website described, but to me the Montelucia just felt like paradise.

(My article was first published in The Houston Chronicle on Oct 17, 2010.)

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