Civana takes a work hard, play hard approach to wellness.

By Carole Dixon
June 05, 2019
Credit: Courtesy of Civana

Earlier this spring, I motored out to Carefree, Arizona for a detox retreat at the newly revamped Civana resort. I’ve checked in to wellness resorts all over the Southwest, but Civana — which seeks to “offer a holistic experience to a wider audience of wellness travelers” — promised to be totally different.

Located in the tiny tumbleweed town of Carefree, just 15 miles from Scottsdale, the midcentury property espouses a more egalitarian and, dare I say, carefree approach to wellness. Rates start at just $119 a night, and include movement and fitness classes, programs and lectures on the healing arts, and, for an additional cost, spa treatments and healthy-ish dining (more on that later). Not wanting to shell out hundreds of dollars in the name of self-deprivation, I was immediately won over by Civana’s philosophy and decided to check it out for myself.

Credit: Courtesy of Civana

From the moment I stepped inside the property’s main building — a low-slung structure set against the boulder fields and mountains of the Sonoran Desert — I felt the hotel’s healing energy at work. The open lobby set the tone with a crackling fireplace, rustic flagstone walls, and expansive glass windows that revealed serene cactus gardens and a glittering swimming pool.

My room, too, was a sanctuary of calm. The large king-sized bed faced an expansive terrace with a panoramic view of Black Mountain, while the bathroom had a large soaking tub and spacious walk-in shower.

The next morning, feeling the desire to take my time and ease into things, I skipped the three-hour, 7 a.m. group hike and opted for a leisurely breakfast at the café instead. As I sipped my coconut milk and banana smoothie, I scanned the day’s roster of activities and exercise classes (of which guests can partake in a maximum of 12 per day), which included aerial yoga, bodyweight training, and boot camp.

In a group stretching class, I learned new breathing techniques and attempted wall yoga, a hair-raising practice that involves straps and harnesses to improve alignment and deepen postures. I also tried a sound bath, an immersive, full-body listening experience produced by crystal bowls and gongs.

Credit: Courtesy of Civana

At the property’s main restaurant, Terras, I had a grass-fed cheeseburger for lunch — and not the ‘impossible’ vegan kind. Also on the menu: flat bread pizzas, prime rib sandwiches, and mahi-mahi tacos. Having been to detox resorts with extreme calorie-controlled menus, I was pleased to find options that would actually satiate me after a tough workout or a long afternoon of exploring.

Credit: Courtesy of Civana

The centerpiece of the reborn property is the spa, fresh off a $10 million renovation and comprising 28 treatments areas (including one Watsu therapy pool), 13 massage rooms, and a hydrotherapy circuit. I opted for an anti-aging facial and chi energy massage, the latter of which came with a scalp treatment that sent tingles down to my toes. I thought I had died and gone to heaven when my therapist off-handedly mentioned the “wellness cocktails” (cucumber melon margaritas, hard lemonades with fresh ginger) that could be enjoyed post-treatment. I was all in.

That night, I dined on a healthy spread with the perfect degree of indulgence: crispy brussel sprouts, chili-rubbed carne asadas, and house-made chocolate truffles for dessert. It was my second night and I felt satiated, relaxed, and seriously recharged. Tomorrow, I’d set my alarm and seriously think about going on the hike.