Scottsdale, Arizona

Agave Spa in the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona

Capturing the Essence of Arizona at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa…By: Christine Wynne

Scottsdale1The Valley of the Sun is all about relaxation and there’s no better place for it than at one of Scottsdale’s famed resort spas. On a recent trip to the Phoenix area, my locale of choice was the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa. The Westin brand, upscale but not pretentious, focuses on providing a vacation experience that’s perfect on every level. After spending two blissful days at this desert oasis, Westin did not disappoint.

Scottsdale2The Westin Kierland impresses from the moment you arrive and catch a glimpse of the resort’s picturesque silhouette which was inspired by the nearby Pinnacle Peak Mountain. The theme, “Treasuring the Essence of Arizona,” is evident throughout every detail of the resort. The impeccable attention-to-detail that sets the resort apart is found in features like the multi-level lobby where color graduations in the façade and flowing water are reminiscent of the layers of the Grand Canyon. Displayed artwork and historic photographs showcased throughout the resort celebrate Arizona’s rich history. Other unique touches include Dreamweaver’s Canyon Courtyard, where you can enjoy cocktails & appetizers while watching the sunset and listening to the relaxing music of Master Bagpiper Michael McClanathan who pays homage to Arizona’s Scottish immigrants who made contributions to the state’s railroads and mines.

Nowhere is the essence of Arizona captured more than in Agave, The Arizona Spa. Traditional Native American treatments that use indigenous ingredients from the surrounding desert such as the agave plant will rejuvenate the mind, body and soul. The exotic décor alone will have you mesmerized. Southwestern flair runs throughout each element of the spa where desert colors of rich golds, muted greens and browns create a warm glow. In keeping with the theme, each of Agave’s 21 treatment rooms is named for a different part of the tequila distilling process – tequila is the fermented juice of the agave plant. Other Southwestern touches abound, my favorite was the Apache Burden basket. Each treatment room contained a basket and according to Apache Indian tradition, I was to visualize placing my worries into the basket. Prior to the treatment commencing, the therapist would place the basket on a hook outside the door so I could leave my worries behind.

After a long, hectic day of travel, my spa experience began with a Tui’Na Massage. This 5,000 year-old Chinese tradition seeks to establish a more harmonious flow of Qi (energy flow) and blood, allowing the body to heal itself naturally. The Chinese believe that most aches, pains and even diseases can be traced to an imbalance of yin and yang energies within the body. Tui’Na uses a variety of hand techniques and acupressure to stimulate acupoints, activate the flow of Qi and manipulate the soft tissues and articular relationships of the body. Mix in some stretching with the help of my therapist and I was feeling energized and refreshed. Any aches and pains from my four and a half hour flight were a distant memory.

Scottsdale3A highlight of my stay was dinner that evening in the resort’s celebrated Deseo restaurant. In keeping with the resort as a whole, dining experiences are inspired by the flavor and soul of the Southwest. Deseo specializes in creative Latin-influenced cuisine showcasing fresh, healthy ingredients, wine and specialty cocktails designed to soothe away stress. Behind the scenes, James Beard award-winning Executive Chef Douglas Rodriguez has not only won approval from the most discerning palates that visit, but has also been recognized as the “inventor of Nuevo Latino cuisine.” The variety of mouth-watering flavors, colors and textures at Deseo creates an unforgettable dining experience. The mojito and muddle menu is a perfect place to start (bartenders use a wooden mallet to smash together fresh fruit and herbs for the cocktails). With my ‘muddle it up’ cocktail in hand, I headed over to the ceviche bar where the choices seemed endless. I ended up selecting the create-your-own trio with a Lobster Escabeche in jalepeno vinegar and a lime juice marinade, the Rainbow ceviche which is a three-fish combination of salmon, hamachi and ahi tuna and shrimp halves tossed in a roasted onion, jalepeno and tomato sauce. I found the beef tenderloin to be the perfect entrée companion to the ceviches. On the way out, I took a few minutes to enjoy the beautiful and vibrant art of renowned Cuban artist Nelson Garcia-Miranda. Garcia-Miranda is committed to creating artwork that celebrates Cuban culture and heritage by combining his personal experiences in a style called “Cubanidad.”

The following day was all about the spa. I began the day with one of Agave’s signature treatments, “Rollerssage.” This exclusive massage, which was created by Agave therapist Matthew Murdock, combines the techniques of a hot stone massage and a Swedish massage. Rollerssage uses heated, perfectly round semi-precious stones that fit into a patented massage tool that allows the stones to roll smoothly over your body. You begin by selecting two of the stones that you want the therapist to work with. Each type of stone, hematite, rose quartz, tiger eye or sodalite, has unique metaphysical properties. You choose the stones based on the areas where you could use support, for example, tiger eye promotes optimism. The therapist then alternates between use of the stones and the application of long gliding strokes and kneading to leave you feeling relaxed.

Scottsdale4I had some downtime between treatments, so I grabbed a refreshing agave limeade and sunk into a soft, terry cloth covered wicker chair in the dimly lit relaxation lounge. Once hydrated, I opted to take advantage of some of the spa amenities all Agave guests receive. Agave features a full-service salon, movement studio, weight training/cardiovascular studio and a spacious locker room with a whirlpool, sauna and steam room. Just outside the spa, cabanas surround an adult only pool, providing guests with a private setting for relaxing, meditation and outdoor spa treatments.

My final treatment was more like a journey of the senses, rather than a massage. The Rain Massage, also developed by Matt Murdock and exclusive to Westin, creates a magical and transformative atmosphere that evokes feelings of mystery while taking guests on a journey of the rain. The treatment begins with the sound of falling rain. The therapist then spritzes the room with rain scented water. Utilizing a cutting edge rowing technique, you are then massaged with warmed, smooth rain sticks — the hollow tubes of wood sound like rain when turned upside down. This technique washes out negative energy and chi from the head to the toes, just as the rain falling from the sky cleanses the air. I left feeling not only relaxed, but completely renewed.

My time at the Westin Kierland came to an all too familiar end. As I left, I realized that I had only scratched the surface of this amazing resort. I would have needed another day or two to sample all five restaurants, play a round of golf, shop the 70 retailers at Kierland Commons or just float down the lazy river.

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