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The Boulders Resort & Spa

A number of lovely resorts grace the Phoenix/Scottsdale area.  Most are oases of lush greenery carved out of suburban districts within sight of Camelback Mountain and close by upscale shopping malls.  All of this can make for a pleasurable winter sojourn indeed.

My favorite Arizona resort, however, sits a half hour drive north of Phoenix Sky Harbor airport in semi-rural Carefree. Here unfolds a truly remarkable property, The Boulders Resort and Spa.

The Boulders is a A blend of nature and man-made structures.

Some 12 million years ago earthquakes tumbled immense granite rock formations across this arid terrain. The Boulders has left much of it intact, 1,300 acres of indigenous plant and wildlife which provides the setting for superb lodging along with golf, tennis, luxury spa and endless walks through pristine Sonora Desert.

The Sonora Desert being quite simply one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes, generous access to it within a first-class resort is doubly attractive. An extensive system of trails leads you among giant saguaro, ocotillo, and fragrant sage into lavender sunsets.

The Boulders is a blessedly quiet place. Its eco-friendly design has gathered numerous awards.  The main lodge and 160 adobe guest casitas blend harmoniously into the desert landscape.  

All 160 casitas have recently been upgraded.

Interiors feature a distinctive southwestern motif with wood-beamed ceilings, earth-toned furnishings, and regional artifacts.  All the casitas have recently been renovated, including design upgrades to the bedrooms, fireplaces, and patios.

My wife and I come to The Boulders agreeing on the main thing:  we love the Sonora Desert and wish to spend many hours soaking it in.  Beyond that she looks forward to blissful hour’s poolside and at the sumptuous Golden Door Spa (the opening photo is the spa entrance).  I opt for a regimen of golf and tennis.

Golf at the Duck Pond.

Two 18-hole courses designed by Jay Morrish wind their way among dramatic boulder landscapes, providing some of the more challenging holes in the American Southwest.  But I am an inveterate tennis guy in high anticipation of a long weekend pounding the fuzzy yellow ball.

Tennis at The Boulders is top notch.  Eight courts offer both hard and clay surfaces.  The teaching philosophy of tennis director Dale Light is much in keeping with an overarching “Boulders spirit” which emphasizes a holistic approach to exercise and good health.  Dale has incorporated extensive experience in China, both teaching tennis and absorbing techniques like Tai Chi into his lessons.

Tennis offers dramatic backdrops.

Tennis Director Dale Light.

“Balance” is a key word of his “Light Touch” approach to all sports.  Don’t be surprised to have Dale suggest that you try playing barefoot (to become more aware of your footwork) or going through drills with a bean bag on your head (as an aid to proper equilibrium).  Great fun!  

Like most resort guests primed for tennis, I arrive at The Boulders in search of partners. (My wife, you may recall, is “busy” pampering herself with fragrant oils amid watery realms at the spa.) 

The tennis pro shop is quite happy to make arrangements for play with other guests or club members from the local Carefree/Cave Creek community.  What with clinics, match-up doubles and singles play I manage to spend several hours each day on the courts.  And since the complex is lighted for night play I could go onto into the evenings as well.

The wife, however, has finally made her reappearance. “I hear you’ve been running around out here for hours!  Don’t you ever think about eating?”

I do occasionally need to be reined in.  And after all, a quiet dinner for two at Latilla, The Boulders’ Four Diamond signature restaurant, is de rigueur.

“Latilla” are branches of the ocotillo, which here have been crafted to create the ceiling.  This feature blends nicely into a Desert Southwest décor, appropriate setting for the seasonal American menus of Chef Stephen Jones.   “American” suggests to me a robust offering of meat dishes and this proved to be the case—plenty of fresh fowl, pork, and beef as well as seafood among the main courses.  Vegetables are grown in the resort’s organic garden.  A prix fixe m
enu, which changes regularly, is also available.

The trendy Latilla Restaurant.

Over dinner my wife has some very nice things to say about her afternoon at the Golden Door Spa.  “It’s just the whole atmosphere.  The staff, the design.  There’s a spirit of peace about it.”

The Golden Door blends influences of East and West in its architectural design, healing methods, treatments and philosophies.  Outdoors is a walking labyrinth, an authentic Tipi, a Japanese garden.   Add 24 treatment spaces, a fitness center, yoga studio, tea room, salon, and all manner of hydrotherapy—here is a truly remarkable full service spa.

Romantic couples massage at Golden Door Spa.

Although it’s quite easy to spend several days enjoying The Boulders, off property activities can be arranged through the concierge:  hot-air ballooning, cycling, horseback riding, and rock-climbing excursions among others.

Set aside a few hours to visit the nearby Musical Instrument Museum (MIM), a world-class facility displaying more than 10,000 musical instruments as well as video recordings of music from around the globe. 

Poolside at the Golden Door Spa. 

For more information on The Boulders Resort please consult their website:   Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Hilton’s luxury brand of landmark hotels, has its website at  For more information on the MIM, click:

Feature by Jerry Nemanic, Jetsetters Magazine Golf and Tennis Editor; photos courtesy of The Boulders.