Centre for Well Being
updated 7/10/2006 1:27:12 PM ET 2006-07-10T17:27:12

Ever since the first "lungers" showed up in the Phoenix area hoping to cure their tuberculosis, the desert has been a magnet for those looking to get healthy. In the first half of the 20th century, health spas were all the rage in Phoenix, and today, spas are still immensely popular in the Valley of the Sun. Over the past decade, most of the area's top resorts have added new full-service spas or expanded existing ones to cater to guests' increasing requests for services such as massages, body wraps, mud masks, and salt glows.

If you can't or don't want to spend the money to stay at a top resort and avail yourself of the spa, you may still be able to indulge. Most resorts open their spas to the public, and for the cost of a body treatment or massage, you can spend the day at the spa, taking classes, working out in an exercise room, lounging by the pool, and otherwise living the life of the rich and famous. Barring this indulgence, you can slip into one of the Valley's many day spas and take a stress-reduction break the way other people take a latte break.

If you want truly spectacular surroundings and bragging rights, head north to the Golden Door Spa at the Boulders, 34631 N. Tom Darlington Dr., Carefree (tel. 800/553-1717 or 480/595-3500; www.goldendoorspas.com). Although this spa has the best name recognition of any spa in the Valley, it is not the most impressive. However, at 33,000 square feet and with 24 treatment spaces, it is certainly large. Also, the list of services is one of the most extensive in the Valley and includes both ayurvedic and Native American-inspired treatments. The turquoise wrap, the spa's signature treatment, is a real desert experience. Most 50-minute treatments cost around $130 to $160. Packages are $290 to $1,500.

Willow Stream-The Spa at Fairmont, 7575 E. Princess Dr. (tel. 800/441-1414 or 480/585-4848; www.fairmont.com), is my favorite Valley spa. Designed to conjure up images of the journey to Havasu Canyon, it includes a rooftop swimming pool and a large hot tub in a grotto below the pool. Because this is one of the largest spas in the Valley, you stand a better chance of getting last-minute reservations. Most 60-minute treatments cost $149 to $159. Packages range from $199 to $749; there are also several package options for couples.

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The Spa at Gainey Village, 7477 E. Doubletree Ranch Rd., Scottsdale (tel. 480/609-6980; www.thespaatgaineyvillage.com), is a spa and health club near the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale. Although the health club, which is popular with the Scottsdale Mercedes set, seems to be the main draw, the spa offers a wide range of specialized treatments, including massage in a hydrotherapy tub, hot stone massages, and just about anything else you can think of. With any 1-hour treatment (average price $95), you can use the extensive exercise facilities or take a class. Packages range from $95 to $365.

Located high on the flanks of Mummy Mountain, the Spa at Camelback Inn, 5402 E. Lincoln Dr., Scottsdale (tel. 800/922-2635 or 480/596-7040; www.camelbackspa.com), has long been one of the Valley's premier spas and gets my vote for all-around best spa in the Valley. The location is convenient, the views are fabulous, the setting is tranquil, and there's a long menu of relaxing spa services. For the cost of a single 1-hour treatment -- between $100 and $145 -- you can use all the facilities. Among the treatments available are a para-joba body moisturizer that will leave your skin feeling like silk. Packages run from $175 to $310.

The Centre for Well Being, at The Phoenician, 6000 E. Camelback Rd., Scottsdale (tel. 800/843-2392 or 480/423-2452; www.centreforwellbeing.com), is one of the Valley's most prestigious spas. For as little as $130, you can get a 50-minute spa treatment (anything from a botanical hydrating wrap to Turkish body scrub) and then spend the day using the many facilities. Packages range from $270 to $555.

The historic setting and convenient location of the Arizona Biltmore Spa, 2400 E. Missouri Ave. (tel. 602/381-7632; www.arizonabiltmore.com), make this facility an excellent choice if you're spending time along the Camelback Corridor. The spa menu includes dozens of different treatments, including massages with lavender and a cactus flower body wrap. If you have just one 50-minute treatment (priced between $125 and $155), you can use all of the spa's facilities for the rest of the day. Packages cost $290 to $590.

For more on what to see and do in Phoenix, visit our complete guide online at www.frommers.com/destinations/phoenix.

Frommer’s is America’s bestselling travel guide series. Visit Frommers.com to find great deals, get information on over 3,500 destinations, and book your trip. © 2006 Wiley Publishing, Inc. Republication or redistribution of Frommer's content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Wiley.

Photos: Valley of the Sun

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