Canyon Ranch, a Wellness Resort in Tucson


by Anne Dimon

Wellness Resort. Strung together, those two words conjure up the vision of a spacious, full-service, hotel facility with quality accommodations, restaurants serving healthy meals, and wellness-focused services, activities and facilities that cater primarily to a wellness-minded guest. It is a far more fitting term for properties the likes of the all-inclusive Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona than “Destination Spa,” the term that such properties have previously been referred to. I have visited the famed Tucson Wellness Resort twice. Most recently for the 2nd Annual Meeting of the Wellness Tourism Association (of which Canyon Ranch is a co-founder) and prior to that, for this story.  

canyon ranch, tucson

Surrounded by the Santa Catalina, Tucson and Rincon mountain ranges, Canyon Ranch, Tucson is a collection of Southwestern-style buildings grouped together in a spacious, mixed-community setting in the midst of the tranquil Senora Desert – about a 20-minute drive from downtown Tucson. The private 150-acre, cactus-studded property offers gardens, streams, pools, fountains and countless pockets for quiet self-reflection. And, there is just so much to do, to learn and to experience. 

Guests have the opportunity to fill their days with a selection of the numerous wellness-focused activities available. With over 50 movement-based activities offered every day, there is something to suit every level of fitness and a wide range of special interests. And, for guests with a personal goal or intention, a focused Wellness Program can also be easily customized following a personal consultation. 

While high-intensity activities are perfect for the wellness-minded traveller, guests are also welcome to simply bask in the peacefulness of this resort and just relax. The serenity of the  environment makes it the perfect place to simply BE.

aerial yoga, canyon ranch, tucsonI met one guest who described the resort as an “adult camp.” I’d add the word “luxury” to his description, but yes, with its extensive offerings, it does have the feel of one.

There are walking and jogging trails, a nature-embraced labyrinth, an 80,000 square-foot spa complex, various movement and fitness studios, a creative arts center, swimming pools, tennis courts, a high ropes challenge course, an aquatic center, a life enhancement center and more. 

Although it was difficult deciding which activities to work into my way-too-short stay, I did try the Aerial Hammock Yoga Clinic and loved it. Another day, I joined a group in a guided, four-hour hike along the Milagrosa Canyon Trail located a 25-minute drive from the resort. I found the classes, clinics, wellness practitioners, fitness instructors and guides to be excellent. Many staff members have been employees for years (some for decades) and their passion for their work is clearly evident. 

At their demonstration kitchen, Chef Shawn Brisby offers attendees a salad buffet, a daily soup and culinary demo served up with genuine enthusiasm through his daily Lunch and Learn program.

canyon ranch, lunch and learn

During one of the lunch sessions, we learned how to make mashed cauliflower. Yes, mashed cauliflower. The greatest lesson the class would absorb that day, according to the chef himself, is that “cauliflower is not a potato.”  So, as we learned, “making mashed cauliflower is not the same as making mashed potatoes. Since the cauliflower has no starch and doesn’t break down with mashing, it needs to be cooked much longer than a potato.” he highlights.

Along with the Lunch and Learn Demo Kitchen there are two other restaurants that are also part of the all-inclusive program. Food is wholesome, nutritious, locally and sustainably-sourced and there is plenty of it. It would be wrong to associate Canyon Ranch with being on a “diet.” Instead, think exploring new ways to dine nutritiously and learning how to make healthier choices when it comes to food.

Since most guests at Canyon Ranch are like-minded, there is also an easy camaraderie and, consequently, a great place to travel solo. While women aged 50 to 55 make up the majority of guests, many also come with their husbands and adult children. One guest, who visits the Ranch on a regular basis, arrived with her husband and 22-year old daughter. Another guest from Wyoming, told me she has come to this resort every year for one week for the last 15 years. She makes it a weekly event for herself, and to be proactive, she books preventative screenings with a personal wellness advisor. Medical testing is a point of distinction here, and not offered by all Wellness Resorts.

Mark Andrew, VP Resorts and Managing Director is quick to point out that “wellness” is very personal. “Wellness is not defined by Canyon Ranch,” he says. “It is defined by what you (the guest) needs when you get here.” He adds that “sometimes, you don’t even know what you need. Your intentions (what you think you need) and reality (what you actually need) might be two different things.”

And that’s the beauty of a Wellness Resort like Canyon Ranch. As there are experienced, knowledgeable and helpful staff everywhere with just so much to offer, one can easily find the “perfect fit.” You’ll find a whole lot more info on the Canyon Ranch web site.  

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Anne Dimon is the founder/editor and the President of the Wellness Tourism Association.