Arizona’s first-ever luxury resort––Castle Hot Springs––marks its triumphant return to the world of luxury hospitality, reopening its doors for its first premiere full season. Originally established in 1896, the iconic resort known as the “Grand Dowager of Arizona hotels” will open seasonally from October through late June, offering guests an authentic and innovative hospitality experience that revolves around the pursuit of health and wellness. At the epicenter of the 210-acre property are the magnificent thermal hot springs, which emit from the earth at 120 degrees fahrenheit, alongside a forward-thinking sustainably led culinary program. Beyond indulging in the hot springs, wellness lovers can recharge and renew with nature through a multitude of outdoor adventures such as horseback riding, meditation sessions, pickle and bocce ball, archery, star gazing, invigorating hikes in the Sonoran desert and Bradshaw Mountains; while food aficionados can indulge at Harvest, the resort’s farm-focused restaurant featuring a hyper-local and ingredient-driven menu that rotates oftentimes daily, pending the yield.
History of Healing
Along with a myriad of desert-inspired adventures and distinctive culinary experiences, the historic property, which boasts an impressive arrival that The New York Times recently called out as an “sultan-worthy allée of mature date palms,” has long been a restorative ground for visitors beginning with Native Americans who journeyed to the mineral-rich hot springs for medicinal purposes over a century ago.
In the 1880s, the area and hot springs were developed by Frank Murphy to create a wellness resort, capitalizing on the health benefits of the water and desert environment. At the turn of the 20th century, intrepid travelers seeking extended holidays in the western United States, many for their health, sought the rejuvenating springs and news of the healing waters spread. Eventually, word of the springs reached celebrities and dignitaries from around the world including Cecil B. DeMille, "the Father of American cinema,” who staged his cast and crew at the resort in 1931 a remake of "The Squaw Man," and prominent families including the Vanderbilts, Pews, Cabots, Astors, Roosevelts, and Wrigleys –– all considered captains in their respective industries of railroads, oil, steel, shipping, real estate, politics, and banking. In the 1940's, the resort was used as a military rehabilitation center to treat veterans wounded during World War II. One famous convalescing soldier who chose to repose at Castle Hot Springs was future president John F. Kennedy, who spent three months recovering from injuries.
Following its heyday, the property exchanged hands only a few times before being purchased in 2014 by its current owners, a local philanthropic couple. The Arizonan natives dreamt of honoring the property’s history and reviving its grandeur into a modern version of the storied retreat to which American elites once flocked to connect with nature and enjoy the restorative qualities of its namesake.
A Culinary Mecca in the Desert: Crop-Driven Cuisine & Farm
Based off of the desert’s natural vegetation and on-property farming, the world-class resort houses Harvest, its signature restaurant helmed by Executive Chef Christopher Brugman. He quite literally embraces the restaurant’s moniker by creating daily rotating menus based off the farm’s yield. The harvest is cultivated by Castle Hot Springs’ Resident Agronomist Ian Beger at the property’s greenhouse and one-acre farm, where more than 150 varieties of fruits and vegetables (including over 30 varieties of heirloom tomatoes) native to the desert are grown. Highly focused on the land’s distinct soil capabilities, Beger also tends to the resort’s groves that are home to 36 types of citrus trees.
Along with a nimble team, Brugman and Beger select ripe fruits and vegetables perfect for each day that revolve around sustainable, zero-waste guidelines––supplementing the resort’s fruits with quality ingredients from local purveyors. Guests can also choose to partake in the daily forage and learn about ‘flavor-farming’ used for meals that cover a colorful spectrum of savory and sweet profiles such as Coconut Carrot Bisque with Toasted Pistachio, Pickled Fresno Chilies, Garden Cilantro; and Tandoori Octopus Grilled Over Juniper Wood with Curried 898 Squash, Confit Tomato, Preserved Pink Lemon, Lime Yogurt, Garden Celery. The culinary team also hosts an in-house pickling program and concocts process-driven amalgamations such as Brugman’s charcoal-colored Onion Ash.
Complementing the culinary program is a thoughtfully developed beverage program led by Food & Beverage Manager & Sommelier, Thomas Burris, who taps into locally-grown and sourced ingredients from the property to create distinctive desert libations such as the Trade Secret with Tito’s Infused Rosemary Vodka, Elderflower, Grapefruit, Pink; and a savory pasta-reminiscent Lady & The Tramp cocktail made with Pecorino Romano cheese-infused vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup, and fresh basil leaves. For yet another distinctive offering, Harvest offers the Castle Hot Springs Lithium Lager made exclusively for the resort utilizing properties from the heart of the land’s hot springs.
A Digital Detox Approach
Tapping into the modern traveler’s desire to escape the pressures of constant connectivity, the 32-room sustainably designed resort employs a “Digital Detox” approach that originated well before the “disconnecting” travel trend of late. For decades, visitors went off-the-grid by trekking out to the exclusive retreat to find solace through the sights, sounds, and surroundings of the abundant hot springs. As further testament to Castle Hot Springs’ longstanding history and tradition of guests seeking minimal disruptions amidst stunning desert views, the property strives to provide visitors with the opportunity to unplug from the stresses of daily life and connect intimately with nature without interruption or disruption.
At the center of this experience where guests become one with nature, stand the magnificent hot springs, which count time as their master architect. Beginning their journey more than 13,000 years ago, the waters paint the land with a spectrum of hues reflective of the minerals running through them. Lithium bears a deep purple shade, while iron evokes rusty red and copper oxidizes into blues and greens.
In addition to swimming and soaking in the mineral-rich thermal springs, guests can choose from a variety of activities including horseback riding and hiking amongst the resort’s surrounding 1,100 acres of rugged Sonoran Desert and Bradshaw Mountains, which once yielded fortunes of silver, copper and gold; training in archery on the great lawn; and flexing their green thumbs by gardening and foraging with the resident ‘Flavor Farmers.’
Inspired by the natural thermal waters and desire to connect guests with nature, the resort’s spa experience welcomes wellness seekers to indulge in soothing massage treatments in their outdoor cabanas, where sounds of the nearby springs provide nature’s soundtrack. Pre- or post-treatment, guests can choose to dip into the hot springs to fully absorb the wellness properties associated with the mineral rich water. Signature treatments include the Serenity Springs Custom Massage, Deep in the Desert, and Hot Rock/Mineral Massage.
Guest accommodations have been built with the intention to immerse oneself with the environment at every moment, including the Sky View Cabins that are perfectly positioned for stargazing and experiencing the outdoors by lounging on a private patio deck or indulging in the outdoor soaking tub; and Spring Bungalows which feature private fireplaces as well as outdoor tubs that source mineral water from the springs. Groups looking to retreat together can elect to stay in The Cottage –– an expansive 1,200+ square-foot, three-room lodging fashioned after the original structure; whilst travelers seeking a traditional hotel environment can opt to stay in one of the Lodge Rooms that share a patio deck overlooking the main pool, Farm & Garden, and Bradshaw Mountains.
A serene adult getaway (ages 16 and up only) accessible via helicopter or automobile, Castle Hot Springs is conveniently located just an hour’s drive from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport yet remains a perfectly remote hideaway in the Sonoran Desert for those seeking to disconnect from the everyday hustle. Nightly rates at Castle Hot Springs start from USD $1,200 inclusive of meals and activities.
For more information, please visit www.castlehotsprings.com or follow on Instagram at @castlehotsprings.