If I were going on a honeymoon, a babymoon, an anniversary blowout, or trysting with a lover, there's no place I'd rather land than Alvadora Spa at Royal Palms in Phoenix. With winding paths that transport you past a grove of orange trees and Mexican-style fountains, this Spanish Colonial-style resort is the most romantic and intimate of Arizona's famous spas.
Part of the charm is its history. Set on the southern side of Camelback Mountain in an expensive neighborhood, Royal Palms was originally a 1929 mansion built as a winter home by a New York City financier who loved Spain.
In the 1940s it became an inn, named for the stately row of palms that still line the entrance, and attracted stars like Groucho Marx. In the 1990s new owners spent a fortune to make it an ultra-luxurious property that today has 117 casitas, guestrooms and suites, including a Presidential Villa where actual presidents stay.
Spa Terrace Rooms With Soaking Tubs
The Valencia casitas are cozy, with leather chairs that invite you to settle in by the fire. For people who like more spacious rooms with super-fabulous baths, Montavista overlooks a tiered courtyard and reflecting pool. This is also where spas lovers will find the Spa Terrace rooms, with a canopied day bed that conceals a table so you can get treatments in your room. The bathroom has a wonderful deep soaking tub and steam shower, and beyond that the bedroom has a fireplace and terrace that offers the property's most spectacular views of Camelback Mountain.
While getting a treatment in your room can be nice, it would be a shame to miss out on the magical atmosphere of Alvadora Spa. Everywhere you look there is something beautiful -- outdoor fireplaces, a tiled fountain in a Moorish Courtyard, Spanish-Colonial folk paintings. I was greeted by a therapist with a warm, scented neck roll, which felt wonderful, and the 60-minute massage ($125 Mon.-Thurs., $135 Fri.-Sat.) was deeply therapeutic.
I was having neck and shoulder problems (what else is new?) and the therapist was able to get significant release that I felt both at the time and the next day. I helped out by getting there early to immerse myself in the warm outdoor plunge pool, take a cool outdoors shower, then head off to the eucalyptus steam room. I like that all the treatments are 60 and 90 minutes long instead of 50 and 80 minutes, so you don't feel rushed.
A Small, Romantic Spa
Alvadora is a small spa -- just eight treatment rooms -- but that's another thing I like about it. You never get that cattle call feeling. (Ever seen 15 therapists show up at the same moment and start calling out names?) Also, the rooms are especially beautiful. Many have private outdoor gardens, and there are several lavish couples suites, perfect for a romantic property.
The signature wet room suite called Aqua Dolce has side-by-side Vichy Showers . You lie underneath a warm, gentle shower while a therapist exfoliates your body during the first third of the 90-minute Aqua Dolce Rituals. ($190 per person Mon.-Thur, $200 Fri.-Sun.) After the Vichy shower you enjoying a warm bath (you have to love water for this treatment), then come back to be rubbed down with body lotion.
Sixty-minute facials ($125 Mon.-Thurs. and $135 Fri.-Sat.) start with three deep inhalations of essential oils that calm the mind. Then you get a hand-and-arm massage and warm mitts placed on your hands while you listen to the burbling fountain on the private patio. For the 90-minute facials ($190 Mon.-Thurs. and $200 on weekends), you also get foot massage, warm booties and other extras.
Drawbacks to Alvadora Spa at Royal Palms include a small gym and relatively few exercise classes (and then only in high season). And if you're looking for a kid-friendly atmosphere, there are better choices.
Spa lovers should definitely try the Spa Terrace rooms, for their sumptuous bathrooms and serene views. Just don't get all your treatments in your room, even if you can. You would be missing out on one of the most beautiful -- and romantic -- spas in the country. You can also visit on a day spa basis.
Alvadora Spa At A Glance:
- Type of Spa: Resort Spa
- Special Features: Romantic and couples-friendly.
- Address: 5200 East Camelback Road, Phoenix, AZ
- Room Rates: $205 - $1025. Book Now.
- Room Reservations: 800-672-6011
- Alvadora Spa Appointments: 602-977-6400
- Non-resort guests welcome at the spa: yes
- Websites: Alvadora Spa at Royal Palms
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary airfare, accommodations and treatments for the purpose of reviewing those services. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.