Sanctuary Mountain Provides a Superb Experience—a Balance of Mindful Relaxation and Heightened Activity

Make it memorable.

  • Category
  • Written by
    Staness Jonekos
  • Photographed by
    Michael Becker

What do you give a husband for a milestone birthday when he insists he doesn’t “need or want anything”? I googled “amazing gifts for men” but nothing fit. What about a way to de-stress? I shifted my focus from a gift to a place and found my answer at the luxurious Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona, a six-hour drive from LA.

The resort seemed to check every box. Low on stress; high on ways to relax. An infinity-edge pool surrounded by private cabanas, award-winning spa, and an elegant restaurant launched by celebrity chef Beau MacMillan, all with spectacular views of Paradise Valley. Nestled against Camelback Mountain, popular for hiking and rock climbing, the resort sprawls across 53 acres surrounded by palm trees—a desert oasis.

“Bar chef” Christiian Röllich creates his signature Cardoon cocktail with the Italian bitter aperitif Cynar and amber beer.

Our 1,500-square-foot spa suite was the ultimate cozy crib. The contemporary-decor living room was complete with a wet bar, glass fireplace and private patio. The tranquil bedroom had luxurious Fili D’oro linens and an enormous bathroom with signature Molton Brown products in Japanese Orange and Kumudu scents. I booked this room for the freestanding, oversized, two-person soaking tub in a private patio, perfect for stargazing.

Above: Chilean sea bass served over avocado mousse, along with fresh pea and lobster salad.


One of the highlights of our stay was the exceptionally broad array of daily fitness activities. My husband, Michael (the birthday boy), is a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) enthusiast, and they held a yoga/SUP class in their infinity-edge pool. Other unique offerings: classes with a Pilates reformer, and “aerial yoga” using a soft fabric trapeze sling suspended at hip height.

We also spent time at the 12,000 square-foot, Asian-inspired Sanctuary Spa. Michael booked a custom deep-tissue massage, and I booked a HydraFacial treatment for some much-needed nourishing and purifying.

Above: Lemon and blood orange custard served with honey meringue, olive oil and thyme streusel topped with white chocolate.


After a day lounging at the pool, we headed to the Jade Bar to meet the award-winning mixologist (or “bar chef” as they call him) Christiaan Röllich. He says he gets “inspired by the ingredients in his kitchen” for his homemade syrups. And when it comes to selecting alcohol brands, he isn’t a snob, noting he selects them based on flavor, not cost, so “everyone can enjoy my cocktail recipes.”

Michael is a bourbon and rye whiskey fan, so Christiaan made him his cardoon cocktail with the Italian bitter aperitif Cynar, rye and amber beer. The smooth, creamy cocktail was a win. In yet another unique resort offering, guests can book Christiaan’s two-hour mixology session that includes cocktail tasting.

We celebrated Michael’s birthday at elements restaurant. Chef MacMillan, an Iron Chef America winner, believes that his farm-focused food “should not be overworked, but rather appreciated for its simplicity and natural perfection.” He has held sous chef positions at Hotel Bel Air and Shutters on the Beach. We relished artfully presented chilled Island Creek oysters followed by Chilean sea bass served over avocado mousse, along with fresh pea and lobster salad and decadent desserts.

On our final day, we went off-campus to enjoy Old Town Scottsdale. Just five minutes away, it is a charming slice of pioneer history with restaurants, shops and art galleries. Though we enjoyed the experience, we didn’t last long. After a quick tour we rushed back to our hideaway to spend our last afternoon chilling out in our sublime relaxed state.

On the drive home Michael quipped, “This was the perfect, peaceful, age-defying getaway!”

We both sighed. Him—of satisfaction. Me—of relief. Indeed, Sanctuary turned out to be all that.

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