If your social media feeds are anything like mine, they’ve become inundated with aesthetically lovely videos and photos referencing some vague concept of “wellness.” You know the ones. The muted tones and soft light trickling in through the blinds. I’m not always quite sure what it is that I am looking at exactly, but I do know one thing – I want it. I want to be well, too.
So when I heard about CIVANA Wellness Resort and Spa, I was intrigued. I didn’t want to go to a bare-bones silent retreat or be relegated to raw meals or mandatory sunrise hot yoga classes. I just wanted to feel good. A better version of myself. A relaxed, happy, and well-fed version.
I wanted to read books and move my body… but with an option to hit up a hotel bar in the in-betweens. CIVANA offered exactly that.
A stylish retreat in aptly named Carefree Arizona, the resort is just a short Uber ride north of Phoenix. Once I arrived, I quickly discovered the property wasn’t strict about how guests interpret the term “wellness.” There were no hard and fast rules (except maybe the strong suggestion to stay hydrated — it is the desert). Instead, it proved the perfect property for curating my own ideas about what health and relaxation mean to me.
Why It’s Awesome:
CIVANA has it all – but you don’t have to do it all if you don’t want to. They really embrace the idea of finding your own journey to happiness and wellness through the things that you choose for yourself. I loved that there were options scheduled all day long for as many traditional health and wellness activities as I wanted or I could just hang out on my patio in a robe and drink champagne (hey, I like what I like).
Guests at CIVANA can lean as far in or out as they choose – and to me, that was very freeing. CIVANA is a refuge for those who just want to get away, but want to do it in their own way. While I was on property I swam in the pools, got a massage, took a guided hike, went to two blissful sound baths, a gentle flow yoga class, and also took a nap and watched Castaway on a random cable channel on a night I just felt like vegging.
As I was sitting at the restaurant bar the evening before I checked out, sipping on a prickly pear sangria, I had a realization: I did, in fact, feel well. Whatever I had done in the last three days had somehow calmed me. And that’s really the whole point.
In-House Food and Drink:
There are a few options for food at CIVANA. Seed, the coffee shop and market is open from 6 am –3 pm and Terras, the on-site restaurant, is open for all meals of the day. I had breakfasts and dinners at Terras and enjoyed all the fresh and nourishing options I chose. My personal favorites were the Harvest Breakfast Bowl and Hemp Crusted Tuna at dinner.
The Greenvana smoothie is also a treat at the pool bar, while the cocktails are innovative and fresh – the CBD Spritz was my favorite.
There are countless things to keep busy with – or not – at CIVANA. There is a pool in the heart of the resort that is great for relaxing with a book or a nap, as well as a saltwater pool at the spa. With a spa treatment, you can access the pool, relaxation room, steam room, and the innovative aqua therapy circuit – moving from pools of varying temperatures to a sanarium and cold deluge shower to promote circulation and relaxation.
If you want to be a little (or a lot) more active, there are classes going on throughout the day – many included with your room rate. From higher intensity group gym classes to gentle yoga, to sound baths and guided hikes outside of the property (for a small fee) you can truly choose your own adventure. I learned so much from the interpretive guides on our early morning hike in Cave Creek Regional Park and it was a nice change of pace from my normal solo hikes.
A resort representative will reach out before your stay to coordinate an itinerary of activities, also giving you access to an online reservation system. You can also sign up upon arrival.
I stayed in a spa king room with a private patio, mountain views, and a soaking tub within a beautiful large shower. There are also king rooms, queen rooms, and one-bedroom suites available – all with a similarly minimal and modern style, with private patios or balconies on each.
The minimal decor promotes a quiet relaxation and feels very zen.
Best Things to do/eat/drink within a 15 Minute Walk:
Hop on one of the resort’s bikes and ride the short distance to downtown Carefree. Home to one of the largest sundials in the world, the small town is whimsical and charming. Sitting at a higher elevation than Phoenix or Scottsdale, it is about 5-7 degrees cooler in Carefree, and the small-town vibes make for a fun ride.
Be sure to stop at Brix Wine Bar for a relaxing sip before heading back to the resort.
Best Things to do/eat/drink within a $20 Cab Ride:
While it may cost slightly over $20 (depending on surge timing), Phoenix or Scottsdale are both just around 30 minutes drive from CIVANA. I love to explore Old Town Scottsdale when I’m in the area, visiting local winery tasting rooms and eclectic shops.
Another fun detour is a visit to Talisen West – architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s former winter home and studio. Still home of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is open for tours 5 days a week – and it is an unforgettable and quintessentially Scottsdale experience.
Bed Game: 8 /10
The rooms are very minimal by design, with the beds facing the large windows and patio –0 a particularly nice touch in my book. The bed was just soft enough for a good night’s sleep or a cat nap during the day, with linens that were hard to pull myself away from.
Sexiness Rating: 6 /10
This was a tough category for me, as CIVANA caters to a lot of different audiences. I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t just women on solo and girlfriends retreats, but plenty of couples on romantic getaways as well. The grounds and rooms are the perfect backdrop for a sexy long weekend, but just like CIVANA itself, you can choose to make it what you want.
Remember those aesthetic social media wellness posts I mentioned earlier?
Well, this place was made for them. In fact, when I searched the hashtag “wellness resort” almost all of the top results actually were from CIVANA. And you can see why. The grounds are immaculate, with the ample number of towering saguaro cactus – only found here in the Sonoran desert – and beautiful geometric mid-century architecture, there is a photo op around every corner.
Best Season to Visit:
I imagined the best season would be during the colder months as a warmer desert getaway, but I was surprisingly happy with my choice to visit in July. The rates are lower during that time, and it was definitely hotter, but it didn’t ever feel unbearable. With easy access to pools and indoor classes, it’s truly a year-long destination.
Still, it’s always great to escape winter with some desert time.
If I Had to Complain About One Thing:
Maybe it was the time of year that I visited, but there didn’t seem to be a ton of food or drink options that were open or walkable from the resort. For a couple of days this is fine – just stay on the property – but any longer and you might want more variety in your food and drink.
CIVANA is running several special offers right now, for deals on midweek stays, special rates for Arizona residents, and all-inclusive packages with a spa credit and unlimited food and drink. Find more info and book your stay here.