As soon as I feasted my eyes on those mesmerizing red rocks my body immediately relaxed. It was my first time in Sedona, actually the whole state of Arizona, and the charm and beauty of the area had preceded my introduction. The purpose of my visit: relaxation and the exploration of an untapped and, in my opinion, underappreciated American gem. Even having done some research on this hidden treasure prior to my visit, I wasn’t quite prepared for all of the magnificence of what I experienced.
Let me preface my review with a slight detour from the destination itself. This delightful weekend was a girl’s trip and much needed mental health weekend that could not have come at a better time for any of us. From demanding careers to newborns back home and everything in between, we were all worn out and I was happy to provide the perfect prescription for the woes of adulting. If you are reading this right now and you haven’t scheduled your own mental health break or some type of getaway to rejuvenate your mind, body and spirit, stop right now and schedule it! Well, first finish reading the blog and then get to scheduling (smile).
Being the travelpreneur I am, I thoroughly researched the resorts in the area and landed on the Amara Resort, which is in the family of one of my favorite hotel brands, Kimpton. I love the boutique resort feel and the attention to detail in customer service and of course, the food. I also loved that a ginormous red rock formation served as the backdrop and focal point of the outdoor pool, communal lounge area and restaurant. Additionally, out of all the luxury hotels offered in the area, the Amara presented some of the most reasonable rates.
I loved pretty much everything about this hotel, including the glorious infinity pool and decent sized hot tub adjacent to it. However, based on the capacity of the resort, the pool area is a bit small. On more than one occasion, particularly during peak hours of the day (noon – 3pm), there were more guests than lounge chairs and cabana beds. Aesthetically, it is a lovely, well-landscaped and designed area. But if you want to have a relaxing day at the pool, you better arrive before 9 am or you won’t have a place to lay your towel, much less your body.
What I loved most about the resort was pretty much what I most look forward to on any trip: the spa and the food. Considering Sedona is spa country, meaning that it is most well-known for its spas, I was excited about venturing to a destination that specializes in my beloved past time. The Amara Spa itself is not a full-service, large-scale spa but it certainly delivered in service and quality. After a glorious 90- minute massage, a rejuvenating nap in the relaxation room and a refreshing visit to the sauna, I literally had to pry myself away from the place. If it wasn’t for my grumbling stomach, I might have stayed all day.
If you’re a foodie like me, you’ll appreciate that the Kimpton brand specializes in an award-winning collection of seasonally-inspired restaurants and bars. Considering that type of yummy goodness was just steps away from our living quarters, we spent a lot of time at Saltrock Southwest Kitchen, Amara’s signature restaurant. Literally everything from breakfast to lunch to dinner and everything in between was absolutely delicious. And since it was Cinco de Mayo weekend, we just HAD to indulge in the handcrafted margaritas as well. Delicious!
We also had top-notch experiences at other well-known Sedona gems such as Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill, which boasted ridiculously beautiful views of the mountainous Sedona landscape, and Etch Kitchen and Bar of the beautiful L’Aubuerge Resort and Spa, which is nestled along the banks of Oak Creek. Neither of these options were cheap but they were well worth the delicious fare and breathtaking views. We opted for the all you can eat gourmet brunch at Etch where we thoroughly stuffed ourselves with some of the most delicious brunch bites I’ve had to date.
The most unexpected but memorable highlight of the trip came at nearly the tail end and in hindsight, it should have taken place at the beginning because I needed another massage afterwards. Anyone who knows me knows I have two fears: insects and heights. I can’t say that I was ever excited about the idea of hiking, but I did want to explore Sedona and see some of the magnificent views I’d heard and read about, so I looked at it as a necessary evil when two of my girlfriends suggested we go. Little did I know, a hiking trail called Devil’s Bridge would have me stare my fear straight in the face.
When presented with two options, I selected the trail because the reviews said it offered hands down, the best photo ops. Sign me up! Let me be clear. I had NO idea what that meant. I got to what I thought was the top and jumped for joy that I had made it through my first hike without passing out or having a heart attack.
Then I was rudely awakened to the fact that I was not at the top and I had some serious climbing left. Yes, climbing. At one point we had to use our feet, legs, core, arms and hands to pull our bodies up to what was the real top. Then nothing prepared me for what I was going to see next. Devil’s Bridge. They don’t call it that for nothing. Granted, the natural sandstone arch is not as high or as narrow as it looks, but when you’re standing on it and look out and see that you are peering down on a forest and there’s nothing on either side stopping you from plunging hundreds of feet to your death – well it’s pretty scary. But, it was a magnificent view. I can say without a shadow of doubt, I was afraid (heart beating through my chest and legs trembling), but I did it anyway…with the help of my friends, holding my hand as I gingerly stepped towards the middle of the bridge.
Now you can understand why I was regretting getting the massage before the hike. But, I was able to reward myself with the brunch I mentioned above and a nice long dip in the hot tub afterwards, which sufficed.
Needless to say, Sedona was in fact, a trip of a lifetime. For you Americans reading my blog I want you to know you really don’t have to go outside of the United States to see some of the greatest wonders of the world. They literally are right here in our backyard. And believe it or not, I didn’t even get to experience all there is to experience so yes, I’ll be returning. Upon my next visit, I plan to check out the famous spiritual vortexes, take a pink jeep tour, and maybe just maybe indulge in a hot air balloon ride if I want to get my heart pumping again.
There are a few things to note if you plan to take my word for it and make Sedona one of your next travel destinations. Save up some money because the best places to dine and spa are not cheap. Fly into Phoenix, rent a car, and enjoy the amazingly scenic two-hour ride to Sedona. It is useful to have a car while there. Everything literally shuts down by 9 pm so you’ll want to make sure you grab some munchies and perhaps a bottle of wine or two from the Circle K to keep you entertained until your bed time. Lastly, stay off of social media and away from the rest of the world as much as you can while you’re there. Otherwise, you’ll miss all the magic this splendid little town offers.