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CIVANA, a wellness retreat for the masses

The new CIVANA resort in Arizona.Pamela Wright for The Boston Globe

There aren’t too many people who wouldn’t go gaga over a stay at a luxury wellness resort. And there aren’t too many people who can afford it. That’s why we’re excited about the new CIVANA resort, located in the Greater Phoenix area.

After a more than $40 million renovation project, a takeover and revamp of a tired, existing resort, CIVANA opened as a wellness retreat for the masses, a resort focused on health and well-being with an unpretentious, approachable vibe and affordable price tag.

Let’s start with the Sonoran Desert setting: It’s gorgeous, and enough to get you in a take-a-deep breath, relaxed state of mind. The cluster of low-slung buildings is surrounded by desert gardens, boulder fields, and mountains. One evening, we watched the sun slip behind Black Mountain, smearing the sky with swatches of rosy and purple hues. Another day, we took a guided early-morning meditation hike, visiting the Sears-Kay ruins of an ancient Hohokam village, perched on a hilltop overlooking the desert. Beautiful.

They didn’t do much to the exterior of the mid-century, boxy buildings, but the new interior design, including a spacious lobby, which opens into the new Terras restaurant and lounge, is purposely clean and uncluttered, nearly minimalistic, with tans, browns, grays, and whites, mimicking the soft colors of the desert. We found the restaurant a bit too stark and open, lacking warmth and solitude. But, hey. (We were told that art for the dining room is still coming).


The sparse design works best in the rooms. All 176 rooms and suites have been renovated, with white walls and muted desert hues, floating beds in the center of the room, walk-in showers, and private balconies; some also have soaking tubs.

There are two restaurants on site. The bistro-style Café Meto features a mostly plant-based menu, as well as smoothies, power juices, and power bowls. There’s a wider variety at Terras, where you can get cocktails, beer and wine, and dishes like beef tenderloin, venison chop, black cod, and a grass-fed beef burger.


“There’s no wellness shaming here,” says Curt Moroney, director of sales. “We create an environment and setting for people to make their own choices, and to have an experience that best suits them.”

The programming is focused on wellness, encompassing nutrition, healing, movement, and arts and cultural enrichment. Guests can meet with the lifestyle concierge (free) to develop a personalized schedule of activities and services during their stay. There’s an extensive selection of complimentary activities offered daily in the new state-of-the-art fitness center. There are “Movement” programs such as guided hikes, indoor group cycle, and aerial yoga; “Discovery & Enrichment” options, including sound bath sessions, intention burning, and introduction to crystals, and “Nourishment” workshops such as juicing 101, meal planning, and more. Or, you can lounge by one of two pools, with a margarita in hand, browse the shops in the nearby town of Carefree (yes, that’s the name of the town), or get in a round of golf.

Water plays a big part at the new CIVANA spa. CIVANA

You can also spend some time in the new 22,000-square-foot spa. Guests are free to use the facilities, including the aqua vitality circuit with hot and cold pools, a sanarium (fancy sauna) that can be programmed for wet or dry heat, steam showers, a lounge overlooking the mountains, and an adults-only pool and sundeck. There are 29 treatment rooms, and a host of innovative, cutting-edge therapies (at an extra cost) like the energy aligning chi massage, Watsu (aquatic body massage in a dedicated pool), and the bio energy lift facial.


Now, about that attainable price point. The folks at CIVANA told us that their rates are at least 35 percent less than other luxury wellness properties. We researched several prime-time dates and compared rates for CIVANA, Miraval, and Canyon Ranch in Tucson. CIVANA nightly rates averaged $479-$599 (though we found online deals for as little as $300-$400). Miraval rates averaged between $1,030-$1,175 for the same nights. Canyon Ranch topped out at about $1,935 on the same dates. That’s closer to a 50 percent — or more — discount.

“There’s such a greater awareness and demand for wellness travel experiences; our goal is to make it more accessible,” says Moroney. “Not everyone can afford a Canyon Ranch or Miraval.”

We hear ya.

CIVANA, Carefree, Ariz., 480-653-9000,

Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at