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Girlfriend Getaway at Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa, Tucson Arizona

By Michele McIntyre, GoGirlfriend contributor

Conquering travel fears with a hefty dose of relaxation

I’m afraid of heights. It’s not exactly a paralyzing fear but it’s more than a healthy caution. And yet when I’m perusing Miraval’s activity guide, the rock-climbing wall is one of the first things I sign up for. And I don’t think about it again. That is until my guide, Matthew, leads me to the base of the climbing wall and I look up. Way up. This is when the fear really kicks in and I ask myself, none too kindly, “What the heck were you thinking?”

Miraval's inclusive activities like the rock wallPeople aren’t looking to just get away anymore, but to do something, learn something, and experience something new during their vacations. I’m determined to have experiences on this trip, as I often do while traveling, that my home self would never have either because a) I’m too busy, b) I spend money differently  - more frugally - at home than when I’m on vacation or c) I’m too darn scared!

I was recently at Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa in Tucson on four-day girlfriend getaway. I’ve set an intention for this trip to make mindful choices that challenge me and take me outside my comfort zone. I’ll pair these choices with doing things I know and love and will throw in a hefty dose of relaxation – usually lacking on my getaways – to achieve the ultimate in balance for my stay. Hence, the rock climbing wall.

Why Miraval?

relaxation poolside at Miraval ResortIn the sphere of destination resorts, Miraval receives a fair amount of attention and is often placed at or near the top of prominent influential lists. Oprah catapulted Miraval’s popularity in 2007 when she famously brought a group of 60 women to the resort for a week. I’ve been curious and a little wistful ever since. I’m drawn to the desert and to Miraval’s “Life in Balance” tagline. And there’s the fact that Miraval inspires extreme loyalty: 30% of guests are repeat visitors. 

Miraval is, after all, a destination resort that is so much more than a spa. You can be as active or as inactive as you like. Most packages include a nightly resort credit that can be used toward guided hikes, mountain biking clinics, spa services and Miraval’s signature experiences. I sign up for a photography class, where I hold a real DSLR camera, and the Miraval Equine Experience, where participants groom a horse while learning about dealing with fear, frustration and the emotional baggage. 

Mindful, balanced choices

mindful balance options at Miraval ResortThere are no bad choices at Miraval Resort, only mindful and balanced ones. While some destination resorts opt to be alcohol free, Miraval has a full bar. But it’s easy to go your entire stay without imbibing if that’s your choice. The smoothies, iced teas and fresh juices are so good you may not miss the alcohol anyway. If there is any real partying going on, we’re unaware of it. 

If weight loss is your intention, the tools are in place with controlled portion sizes, calorie counts listed for each dish and minimal use of unhealthy fats and refined sugars. But while the food was utterly delicious, I personally did not lose weight. Menu items are fresh and light and served in a way that is artfully composed to feast with your eyes before enjoying with your taste buds. There was frequent use of such trendy and local ingredients as sunchoke, prickly pear and grass-fed meats. The dish that seems to draw the most attention is the wood fired flatbread pizza served nightly; ask your server what tempting variety is being served that day.

Spa time at Miraval

I’m lying outdoors on a cushy chaise lounge next to a roaring bowl of fire on a moonlit night. I’ve slipped into deep relaxation as I await my therapist, Krystal, to call me for my sleep-inducing Tranquil Nights treatment. When Krystal does collect me, we exit the spa and head up a dimly lit path to one of six Miraval Life and Balance Spa treatment tentsoutdoor spa treatment tents. I’ve never had an outdoor spa treatment before and having one at night awakens the senses in unexpected ways: listening to the nighttime creatures around you, breathing in the desert scents, climbing into warm, fresh sheets to escape the cool evening air. 

The 75-minute treatment involves an exfoliating salt scrub removed with warm towels or a rinse off in the outdoor shower. You’re drenched in eucalyptus infused oil followed by a hydrating massage with eucalyptus lotion. Your massage is combined with gentle rocking to sedate the nervous system, ultimately calming the mind and body. Schedule the last treatment of the day (mine was at 8:30 pm) and meander back to your guest room in your robe and slippers as I did. 

Movement at Miraval

starting the day at Miraval Resort with a morning hikeMorning stretch has just begun when I arrive at the Body Movement Center (BMC). I squeeze in and take my place on a mat in the back row and follow the queues of the instructor, Randy, that twist and turn my body into deep, satisfying stretches. It feels luxurious to devote an entire 45 minutes to stretching here at Miraval. I’m mindful that my body feels less aches and pains than I can recall in recent memory.

My favorite way to start the day at Miraval is with a morning hike. I’m grateful that the rock climbing wall is somewhat hidden down a lesser-traveled path. I expect a group session but it’s a huge bonus when the session becomes private because I’m the only guest signed up. It’s a lot harder physically than I expected and my muscles scream the next day. Matthew, my guide, offers strong encouragement and expertly coaches me to the top. I return home determined to find a local rock-climbing wall so I can introduce the sport to my family.

Doing nothing at Miraval

I’m mindful that I need some time at the pool to relax, journal and maybe take a swim. I gaze in awe at the Catalina Mountains as the light changes throughout the day; Miraval certainly puts its surrounding splendor to good use. The rich hues leave one with the impression of being in a watercolor painting. 

Rooms to book

one of many elegant casita-style luxury roomsStandard, deluxe and premium guest rooms are supremely comfortable but not luxurious; more plush options exist. Catalina Rooms offer unparalleled views, private outdoor showers and large soaking tubs. You have to see Miraval’s ultra-luxurious private villas to believe them, with some boasting more than 6,000 square feet of combined indoor/outdoor living space with plunge pools, whirlpools and windowed walls that slide complete away to reveal killer views. No matter what room category you choose, the beds are fluffy like marshmallows with feather bed toppers, airy down comforters and the best pillows I’ve ever slept on.

If you’d like to learn more about Miraval Arizona, visit them online at MiravalArizona.com, Facebook or Twitter and read what other travelers have to say about them on TripAdvisor.com.

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