Combine 12 million year old granite boulders, two 18-hole championship golf courses, the world renowned Golden Door® Spa, top it off with the Arizona Honey Festival and you have The Boulders, a Waldorf Astoria Resort located in Carefree, Arizona, just north of Scottsdale.
The Boulders, which opened in January 1985, is a destination resort for those seeking peace and tranquility, a great round of golf and pampering spa treatments. It is situated on 1300 acres of virtually untouched nature and plant life in the spectacular foothills of the Sonoran Desert. Its dramatic and unique architecture pays homage to its Southwestern heritage and roots as The Boulders seamlessly blends in with its surrounding landscape. An idyllic oasis far from stressful city life!
When I arrived at the Boulders main lodge, I was immediately transported to the Southwest (it could be the location of a John Wayne film), starting with the massive entry doors crafted from four different hand-rubbed woods. The lobby displayed indigenous Native American crafts and artworks. Finishing off the décor were glass skylights and a cozy lounge with boulder-like high wood beamed ceilings, southwestern style furnishings in brown, blue and orange hues. Comfort with a Western flair!
This Southwestern theme is carried throughout the 160 guest casitas as well. My room was extremely spacious featuring a hand-hewn wood-beamed ceiling, a gorgeous wood burning fireplace, a separate sitting area with all the furnishings in earth tones, additional decorative Indian artifacts and artwork, a wet bar, an elegantly appointed bathroom, a separate vanity area and the largest walk-in-closet I’ve seen in any hotel in any city. The pièce-de-résistence is the large balcony overlooking the mountains and the green, expertly manicured golf course. From there, I witnessed the most magnificent sunsets. What views!
After unpacking, I spent a leisurely afternoon walking around the grounds getting familiar with the property. I did some “boulder climbing,” taking in the beauty of the flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert along with trying to land a sneak peek of nature’s wildlife which included lizards, coyotes and bobcats roaming freely about the land. Truly stunning vistas! After a few hours, it was time to head back to the casita to freshen up for dinner.
I then joined six additional journalists (from various cities in the US) and Debi Bridges (publicist for the Boulders and our host for the weekend) in the lobby. We then proceeded to dinner at The Spotted Donkey Cantina at El Pedregal (the resort’s outdoor marketplace and the site of the Honey Festival). Naturally, the Spotted Donkey embraces Arizona’s southwestern influences with “cantina style” dishes and western flavors in a very relaxing and friendly environment. The chef created “Modern Mexican” cuisine and to keep the Southwestern flavor, incorporated regional flavors, artisanal ingredients and home grown sources of food. What better to accompany these fantastic dishes than a margarita. Make mine with salt! Ole’
The next day the group met at the Golden Door® Spa Organic Garden for lunch. The Organic Garden consists of two outdoor dining areas, naturally flowing water, a reflection pool, an elevated dining area with teak furnishings and a Chef’s Table at the Outdoor Kitchen. So peaceful and harmonious. Next stop, The Spa!
The 33,000 square foot Golden Door® Spa (which opened in October, 2001 and is the sister to the original Golden Door® Destination Spa in Escondido, California), combines the Eastern and Western influences in its designs and treatments. It also merges the philosophy and vision of the original Golden Door® with the Native American and Southwestern influences of the Sonoran Desert. There are 24 treatment rooms and a myriad of services to indulge in. Such treatments Include LOMI LOMI, inspired by Hawaiian massage rituals of rhythmic rocking movements to de-stress, treatments catering to Eastern Harmony including acupuncture, WATSU® (water healing in a private outdoor pool) as well as many forms of Eastern style massages.
If you love scrubs and wraps (I’m one of them), there is the Turquoise Wrap, based on the Native American belief that turquoise is a color of protection. The guest receives a turquoise clay wrap, a wrap of pure honey and a honey butter crème to smooth and nourish the skin. Another can’t live without body treatment is the Avocado Citrus Scrub. This scrub consists of vitamins, minerals, anti oxidants and micro-nutrients followed by an application of warm avocado citrus oil. I was lucky enough to receive this amazing body ritual and my skin has never felt so smooth and silky. Other choices include Aloe Body Wrap and Seaweed Body Wrap (among others). Facial treatments include the signature Golden Door ® Facial, the Vitamin C Facial, Gentleman’s Facial (yes, men like to be pampered too), Golden Harvest Facial and the Caviar Ageless Facial. This advanced sophisticated formula is based on nutrient rich Caviar (it’s not just for consuming), collagen boosting peptides and cell regenerating Co-Enzyme A. This facial helps to reduce fine lines, improve skin elasticity, promotes skin regeneration and re-mineralization while providing essential antioxidant protection. I chose this particular facial and my skin has been looking fresh and radiant ever since. Launching in October, the newest and most innovative of the treatments is the creation of “The Dance of the Sacred Circle.” This 4 part series takes spa wellness to a higher level. There is also a state-of-the-art 2,000 square-foot Fitness Center, a Movement Studio, a nail, waxing and hair salon. Afterwards, head over to the Spa Cafe̛ which offers breakfast and lunch menus consisting of light and healthy fare featuring fresh, organic and local produce.
After enjoying a wonderful day of pampering, it was time to get ready for cocktails and dinner. We met in the lobby and then headed for a cocktail reception at Bogeys at the Boulders Golf Club. Adjacent to Bogeys is The Grille where we dined. It was a lovely dinner and we called it an early night as Saturday was the opening of The 1st Annual Arizona Honey Festival. This was the main event of the weekend and I was eagerly anticipating the festivities.
Honey is a local Arizona treasure for its history, health benefits and epicurean delights and since September is “National Honey Month, ” The Boulders Resort at El Pedregal (the outdoor marketplace adjacent to the Boulders), played host to celebrate the 1st Annual Arizona Honey Festival. The Festival took place on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, there were activities such as Honey Bee Cookie Decorating, Beekeeper Dress Up, “Beekeeping Basics” with Boulder’s resident beekeeper, AZ Queen Bee, Emily Brown and “How Bees Make Honey” with American Honey Princess, Danielle Dale. For those with an appetite, epicurean delights included Sambal Honey Glazed Salmon Tostada, Chipotle Honey Glazed Chicken Wings and Honey BBQ Pork Sliders. If you have a sweet tooth like I do, there was Honey Mascarpone Crème Brulee and Chocolate Cupcake with Honey Cream Cheese Icing prepared by Chef Eric Marie of Boulders Resort. A veritable feast! On stage, there were Bluegrass concerts featuring groups “Barefoot and Pregnant,” “Chicken and Waffles,” and “Jimmy Pines and Washboard Jere.” (Ya gotta love those names!).
My favorite segment of the Festival were the cooking demonstrations by top Executive Chefs of various Waldorf Astoria properties who were invited to share their culinary prowess during the weekend festivities. The Executive Chefs included Todd Sicolo from the Arizona Biltmore, Stephen Strickland and Jimmy Schmidt, La Quinta Resort & Club, Stefan Kauth, The Roosevelt, New Orleans, Clement Galas, Waldorf Astoria, Park City and Michel Pieton, The Boulders Resort. My favorite savory dish prepared by Stefan Kauth (who loved playing to the audience), was Lavender Honey Glazed Muscovy Duck Breast, with Braised Red Cabbage. The duck was so tender and the cabbage, sweet but not over the top. I loved it so much I had seconds. My favorite dessert was Honey Almond Cake, Lavender-Honey Crème Anglaise, Honey Tuile prepared by French Chef Clement Galas. It was to die for. As much as I enjoyed all these activites, I needed to go to the pool, catch a few rays of that glorious Arizona sun and relax before “the main event” that evening.
The highlight of the weekend was the Arizona Honey Festival Charity Dinner benefiting “Desert Foothills Land Trust” held Saturday evening in the ballroom of El Pedregal, hosted and emceed by Michael Hoffmann, Managing Director of the Boulders Resort. The mission of the Trust is to work with communities and partners to protect and to preserve the land and species for the survival of the fragile Sonoran Desert for generations to come.
We started with a lovely cocktail reception followed by a 4-course dinner, each prepared by a different Executive Chef accompanied by wine generously donated by Benziger Wines, Sonoma County. Such dishes included Hazelnut Roasted Diver Scallops with Honey Corn Pudding, Beef Tenderloin Marinated in Molasses and Honey, Pan Roasted Honey, Long Pepper Cured Breast of Duck. For dessert, we enjoyed Orange Blossom Honey Torte, Honey Frangipane Mousse, Honey Almond Ice Cream Brulee. A feast for the senses!
Throughout the dinner, there was a live auction benefitting DFLT. Each auction item was conducted by the Managing Director of that Waldorf Astoria property. These auction items included 3 or more night stays in US and European destinations (think Paris and London), privately prepared dinners by the Executive Chef, rounds of golf, spa packages, etc. Each Director kept trying to outdo one another with their hotel packages to raise more proceeds for the charity. My favorite however, was the package offered by Mr. Kerry Hing, GM of Waldorf Astoria, Park City. Not only did he offer the usual perks, he offered a VIP Package with all the parties to the Sundance Film Festival! In total, the auction raised over $23,000 for the Trust. A fun time was had by all and for such a worthy cause!
By Sunday, my time at the Boulders Resort was at an end. The weekend was one of the best I’ve had in some time. Everything was all I hoped it would be from the beauty of the Desert, to the comfort of the casita, to the top notch service by the entire staff. I want to add a special thanks to my hosts Mr. Michael Hoffmann and Ms. Debi Bridges. They, in particular, made my weekend that more enjoyable. In addition, the Honey Festival along with the Honey Festival Charity Dinner far exceeded my wildest expectations. A must see next year!
“So pack your bags and head to The Boulders, your paradise in the Desert.”
The Boulders, A Waldorf Astoria Resort
34631 North Tom Darlington Drive
Carefree, AZ 85377
Telephone: (480) 488-9009
Toll-Free Reservations: (866) 397-6520