By { Beth Weitzman

Arriving at CIVANA, the recently unveiled spa and wellness retreat in Carefree, Arizona, is like stepping into an entirely different realm—one where you leave stress at the door and open your mind to the experience that awaits. “CIVANA offers guests the flexibility to create an experience they want,” says Maggie Lang, CEO of CIVANA. Guided by overarching principals of flexibility, attainability, sustainability and innovation, CIVANA challenges guests to uncover their potential while offering them complete choice. Personalized journeys are based on four main pillars: Discovery and Enrichment (think sound bath sessions, intention burning and introduction to crystals); Healing Arts/Spa (specialized  facial skincare, massage therapies and spiritual classes); Healthy Cuisine (interactive smoothie and cooking demos alongside nourishment workshops); and Movement (such as guided hikes, indoor group cycle and aerial yoga). With an ethos of wellness through oneness, and a connection between the individual, the community and the natural environment—each trip is individualized to each guest. All classes and hikes are included, and guests can take as many or as few as they desire. Want to soak in the Arizona sun by the pool every day, followed by spa? No problem. Prefer an intense multi-day fitness retreat? That works, too. Wall Yoga followed by Angel Card readings? You got it. Cocktails? Absolutely. You can even bring your pup! That’s right, CIVANA is pet-friendly!

The town of Carefree, located in the Sonoran Desert just outside of Scottsdale, where the resort is located, was developed by K.T. Palmer and Tom Darlington via their company, Carefree Development Corp., as a leisure community. It was the early 1950s and, as the story goes, they invited all of their friends to town, tasking them with naming the streets relative to leisure. As a result, the town is home to streets such as Nonchalant Way, Slumber Street and Tranquility Lane. The area, not surprisingly, quickly beckoned celebs and wealthy business execs looking to escape their hectic city lives. During the hotel’s early days, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball and Dick Van Dyke were among those who hung out in the lobby, giving it a star-studded appeal that continues today.

Last known as the Carefree Resort & Conference Center, upon 20 acres of land, the property was originally built in the 1960s. It was purchased and rebranded as CIVANA in 2017, and officially opened in March 2018. Since then, it has undergone an amazing $50 million renovation to its public spaces, guest rooms, restaurants and added a new spa oasis. Meeting spaces were converted into state-of-the-art fitness, yoga, energy, movement and enrichment studios.

Of the many stories from the time the original hotel was constructed, one that stands out is that of a Japanese landscaper who wrote the Japanese characters for the word “love” where the pool now sits at the heart of the property. Terras, one of the two restaurants on site, is purposefully designed to be slightly off center, so that it harnesses the energy of the sunset. And the 176 rooms that comprise the hotel, which mostly face the outdoors with patios, are designed to allow guests to feel a connection to nature while providing for the utmost in calming comfort and convenience (luxurious beds ease you to sleep; USB and standard outlets are abundant; WiFi is complimentary). These are just a few ways in which the resort effortlessly mingles with its surroundings and provides for an overall sense of well-being. 

The final phase of the renovation came with the debut of a breathtaking two-story, 22,000-square-foot spa—one of the largest destination wellness retreats in the country. Features include an adults-only Olympic outdoor lap pool and sun deck with healthy food and beverage options; a boutique retail shop and salon offering all-natural nail and hair services; and 28 treatment areas, including one Watsu therapy pool, two couples’ treatment rooms, three wet treatment rooms (including a Vichy shower), five facial rooms and 13 massage rooms. There is also a communal area of hydrotherapy immersions—dubbed the Aqua Vitality Circuit—that includes a European-designed Kneipp hot/cold wading pool, a Tepidarium therapeutic soaking pool, a cold deluge shower and a Klafs Sanarium that transforms into five different climates: a classic sauna, warm air bath, tropical bath, aromatic bath and soft steam bath (and it’s the only one in the continental U.S.). All hydrotherapy modalities are designed to help increase circulation and promote relaxation. In addition to dedicated men’s and women’s relaxation areas, guests can also enjoy a 1,600-square-foot co-ed lounge with an outdoor balcony and majestic vistas of Black Mountain and the Sonoran Desert sunset.

The spa menu is filled with an array of well-being treatments from massages, facial skincare and body treatments to energy and Eastern therapies. Not-to-miss services include the Energy Aligning Chi Signature Massage—a gentle body exfoliation and sequenced 90-minute massage using 10 different aromatherapy blends. Meanwhile, the Sound of Color manicure combines positive intention and meditation with your treatment. It includes Himalayan salt gloves that actually glow, aligning your vibration to that of the earth. Optional headphones are available for a precise meditation to accompany the manicure. Reiki and the Sonoran Sea Facial are also musts. 

Meanwhile, the five movement and fitness studios offer up to 18 fitness, personal growth and spiritual classes daily. Trying something new is easy, with classes such as Wall Yoga, in which participants practice traditional poses using the wall as a prop to deepen poses and promote spinal alignment; or Sound Bath, a class in which participants recline while singing bowls balance energy and improve mood. Spiritual experiences include an Angel Card reading, in which messages and angelic guidance are delivered by way of a trained intuitive; astrological readings; and language of animal medicine cards (deepening and awakening innate abilities through the nature of the animal).

“Always leave people better than when you found them. That’s my life motto – for myself, my employees and the guests that we welcome every day at CIVANA. Many guests share that they leave the resort as a better parent, spouse, employee or boss, and I truly believe it’s our unique programming, state-of-the-art spa, nourishing food and beverage, and calming energy that permeates through the resort that creates this shift,” says Lang. We couldn’t agree more! The impressive cadre of wellness experts at CIVANA are specifically trained to assist guests of all ages, fitness levels and health conditions. For example, private sessions can be booked with exercise physiologist Dan Zeman, who has more than 35 years of expertise helping those with cardiac and diabetic disorders. Similarly, Pickleball level II certified pro Wayne Walden is available for group or one-on-one classes. Dr. Fabio Almeida, an integrative oncologist and functional medical physician, conducts guest lectures and consultations, in addition to operating The Center for Integrative Healing and Wellness, an independent practice at CIVANA. He holds retreats here every six weeks that teach cancer survivors how to live healthful lives.

Rounding out the experience is author and award-winning Chef Justin Macy’s culinary creations—all with health in mind—nourishing and delicious, farm-to-table cuisine. At Terras, the resort’s signature restaurant, vegetable-forward dishes are free of GMOs, hydrogenated fats, hormones and preservatives with locally sourced produce and grass-fed meats and sustainable seafoods as a complement. Guests seeking gluten-free, grain-free, vegetarian, vegan, anti-inflammatory or gut-friendly choices also have a plethora of options from which to choose. Indoor and outdoor seating is available. For a quicker/lighter meal, Cafe Meto is the go-to spot. Adjacent to the spa, the casual indoor-outdoor setting features a largely plant-based, flavor-forward menu including quick grab-and-go items for breakfast, lunch and snacks. 

Without a doubt, with just one visit to CIVANA, you’ll understand what makes it truly one-of-a-kind.

Around Town

Near CIVANA are top golf courses, such as Legend Trail, The Boulders, Rancho Manana and Dove Valley. Restaurants also abound, including Cartwright’s Modern Cuisine (an upscale restaurant serving farm-fresh, New American fare in a rustic, ranch-themed setting), The Buffalo Chip (which offers live bands, two-step dancing and even a rodeo every Wednesday and Friday night), The Grotto Cafe (known for tasty sandwiches and amazing coffee), El Encanto (a Mexican restaurant with unbeatable margaritas), Tonto Bar and Grill (overlooking Rancho Manana Golf Course), Oregano’s (an Italian restaurant), and many more.