The Boulders Resort in Carefree: Arizona tranquility 12 million years in the making

CAREFREE, Ariz. - It would be a pity to stay at The Boulders Resort and do nothing but play golf. Yes, two championship, Jay Morrish-designed layouts lure any avid golfer, but resort guests should budget time for other worthy activities.

A spa treatment ranks as a must, as do hiking or biking through 1,300 acres of property at this Waldorf Astoria Collection. Play tennis, go horseback riding or even try a little rock climbing. Of course, relaxation in a luxurious casita also has its merits.

It all starts with a setting unlike anything you're likely to find elsewhere in the world. Giant, 12-million-year-old namesake boulders - some perched in seemingly magical and precarious pirouette poses - dominate the Sonoran Desert landscape. The resort and top-rated Golden Door Spa, which opened in 1985, blend seamlessly, giving resort guests a true escape from the pressures and noise of everyday life.

The Boulders Golden Door Spa

The 33,000-square-foot Golden Door Spa blends Eastern and Western influences in its design and treatments. You can't go wrong with a massage. But men, don't dismiss treatments like the gentleman's facial.

Golfers, in particular, aren't diligent enough about caring for their skin. Facials can help reverse some of the damage caused by exposure to the harsh sun. Plus, the treatment is relaxing in its own right, and it comes with a neck and face massage performed by the spa's highly trained therapists.

In addition to a full-service menu of treatments, the Golden Door Spa, modeled after the original Golden Door in Escondido, Calif., includes a fitness center, yoga studio, full-service salon and Spa Café.

Superb dining at The Boulders

Find six terrific restaurants at The Boulders Resort, starting with Latilla, a AAA Four-Diamond venue that features American fare with organic and naturally grown ingredients from the western seaboard. The restaurant features hand-sculpted booths and wood ceilings with views of cascading waterfalls outside.

For breakfast, it's hard to beat Palo Verde. Its Huevos Rancheros rank among the freshest and tastiest in the Americas. For lunch, it offers everything from cheese enchiladas to beef tenderloin.

There's also the Bakery Café at el Pedregal, which offers fresh soup and sandwiches as well as specialty coffees; Bogey's at The Club, ideal for pre-tee time food; live entertainment, scotch and cigars at the Discovery Lounge; Rudy's at the Club; and the Golden Door Spa Café, where nutrition takes top priority alongside taste.

Accommodations at The Boulders

If you're looking for high-definition televisions, you've come to the wrong place, although it wouldn't surprise anyone if the resort soon replaced its old, tube-style TVs with flat screens.

It's all about relaxing here, which means a book - or some other activity - would be more appropriate.

The resort includes 160 casitas and 60 Pueblo-style units with one to three bedrooms. Each unit features wood-beam ceilings, a wet bar, fireplace and private patios or decks to overlook the desert or golf courses.

Conference facilities at The Boulders

The resort's 12,000-square-foot Tohono Conference Center, designed for meetings of up to 300 people, includes a 5,400-square-foot ballroom, a sunset terrace and a boardroom that seats up to 16 people. There's also the business center with a conference services director. Additionally, three meeting casitas are ideal for executive conferences and retreats.

The Boulders Resort and Spa: The verdict

Expect to pay top dollar to stay at one of Arizona's finest resorts. But as the economy attempts to rebound, you might find better rates. That said, if price is no object, it's hard to make a better choice than The Boulders.

The resort truly inspires a feeling of escape from the stresses of everyday life. The restaurants are particularly outstanding, and you can't likely top the spa experience of The Golden Door.

The golf courses are also top-notch. Both the North Course and South Course, designed by Jay Morrish and superbly conditioned, feature a unique backdrop. While the Boulders South Course seems to get more notoriety, I was equally impressed with the shot values of the North Course at Boulders. In short, play both.

Golf packages at The Boulders

The Boulders Resort offers several instructional and stay-and-play golf packages, catering to individuals, groups and couples. The Boulders Golf Academy provides programs for the novice to accomplished player, with individual lessons at various half-day, full-day and multi-day schools. For more information see

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

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The Boulders Resort in Carefree: Arizona tranquility 12 million years in the making