A week in Paris this summer sounds lovely. Ditto for London, Istanbul and Vancouver, B.C. But relaxing? Probably not. There’s always a new Michelin-rated restaurant to try or a must-see museum exhibit. This summer, maybe it’s time to relax and restore — recharge the old battery, clear out the brain clutter. Or, maybe just enjoy the great outdoors. But where? Some of the world’s most beautiful settings for retreats, resorts and spas are right here in the West.
The Boulders, a Waldorf Astoria Resort
The backdrop at this Sonoran Desert getaway, just outside Scottsdale, is as stunning as you’ll find anywhere: granite boulders as big as houses, sky-grazing saguaro and prickly pear cacti that burst into exuberant blooms in the spring. The spa’s activities menu is Native American-influenced; you can join a drum circle or sit cross-legged in a tipi while a shamanic ceremonialist guides you toward balance and harmony. The meditation labyrinth has a fire pit in the center. Scribble your worries on a piece of paper and toss it into the flames. Under a starry desert sky, go on a moonlit bike ride, keeping an eye out for the shy, pig-like javelina and the creamy-white flower of the night-blooming saguaro. www.theboulders.com
Calistoga Ranch, an Auberge Resort
Napa Valley, Calif.
The forest that envelops this super-private getaway feels so primeval that you almost expect a druid to pop out from behind a moss-draped oak. Calistoga Ranch sits on 157 idyllic acres that brim with outdoor activities. Take an invigorating hike along a deer path or deep into the woods, soothe yourself in a soaking pool that overlooks a creek, stroll through the vineyard, or listen for the hum of pollinating bees in the fragrant lavender fields. City slickers hankering for a taste of country life can help the chef collect eggs in the chicken coop or harvest tomatoes. Look for the four-legged lawn mowers: adorable baby-doll sheep. www.calistogaranch.com
Rancho La Puerta
Tecate, Baja California, Mexico
In 1940, natural-living enthusiast Edmond Szekely and his young bride, Deborah, began welcoming guests to their primitive “health camp” southeast of San Diego, just across the Mexico border. Guests slept in tents, breakfasted on raw goat milk and whole-wheat bread, and helped with kitchen chores. Vigorous physical activity was de rigueur. Today’s visitors sleep in lovely casitas and dine in high style, but the emphasis on healthful fare and outdoor activity remains strong. The resort is blessed with beautiful weather, and outdoor activities are plentiful. You can get a low-impact aqua workout in the pool or make your own skincare product with freshly harvested herbs from the organic garden. The sunrise hike through fields of ancient boulders and mountain lilac to the not-quite-towering peak of Mount Kuchumaa is absolutely unforgettable. www.rancholapuerta.com
Red Mountain Resort
You can certainly spend all your time here on a massage table, getting pummeled into a helpless pile of goo. Even spa-aholics won’t want to. With its red-and-white Navajo sandstone, the scenery is so beautiful you’ll want to spend as much time as you can outdoors. The emphasis here is on adventure. Soft or hard is up to you. Sunset yoga or a climb up a 40-foot mountain wall? An easy hike or a thigh-burning mountain bike ride? A clippety-clop-paced horseback ride or rappelling over a 150-foot cliff? If you choose the latter, don’t worry: After the first few steps backwards, it’s a piece of cake. www.redmountainresort.com
–Anne Burke, Brand Publishing Writer