Renowned for all-encompassing wellness resorts, Tucson, surrounded by Saguaro National Park in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, is a natural choice for groups keen on relaxing and rejuvenating.

Tucson is home to health- and fitness-oriented spa retreats such as Miraval and Canyon Ranch (profiled in our June In Balance section), yet its major meetings properties are increasingly focusing on wellness, offering great group alternatives to the pure well-being experience.

Meetings Today discovered two such properties during its recent Meetings Today Live! West event: Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort and Spa and JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort and Spa.

Westward Look Wyndham Grand

The historic Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort and Spa, set on more than 80 acres of pristine Sonoran Desert landscaping, is a lush oasis for wellness and one of the destination’s meetings favorites, with more than 20,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space.

Raymundo Ocampo, the property’s master groundskeeper, had our group entranced as he led us on a tour of the property’s five specialty gardens, including its acclaimed Chef’s Garden, where he meticulously tends to fruits, vegetables and spices. Ocampo taught us about the medicinal properties of anise and other plants before we sat down to a deliciously healthy lunch that featured vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free dishes. Wild salmon with sorrel-orange hazelnut butter, grilled black beauty eggplant and fresh herb quinoa with toasted almonds, apricots and turmeric were among the highlights.   

The property hosts Dr. Andrew Weil’s Integrative Medicine Fellowship Program, drawing physicians from around the world.

“One of our big points of differentiation is wellness and how we weave that into group programs,” said Andrew Stegan, general manager of the property. “Weil lives here in Tucson and is available to speak to groups, and he consults with the resort’s chefs to develop nutritious, anti-inflammatory dishes for our restaurants and catering.”

The resort’s Sonoran Spa is an integral part of the wellness experience. One unique way to align with nature via the spa is during a guided walk through the Sonoran Spa Garden, where guests can pick fresh herbs such as lavender, sage and jasmine to bring back to the spa, where they learn how to make a special body scrub that is then used in their treatment.

Meanwhile, the resort offers yoga, meditation, Tai Chi and other classes, a guided educational nature trail along a landscaped pathway, plenty of hiking trails and horseback riding.

JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass

With more than 78,000 square feet of meeting space, JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort and Spa is one of the destination’s top meetings properties, as well as an ideal place to bring wellness into the agenda. It features an idyllic setting among the saguaro-covered foothills of the Sonoran Desert, a labyrinth of pools and Jacuzzis, a high-end spa and an abundance of unique on-site and off-site activities.

Our group enjoyed the meditative Native American ceremony known as Mitakuye Oyasin, which takes place every morning at sunrise at the resort. During the ritual, accompanied by Native American flute music, we burned sage, releasing our intentions to the universe, and received an eagle feather blessing.  

According to Marissa Bernal, manager of the resort’s Hashani Spa, one of the property’s standout wellness experiences for groups is a three-hour sunrise or sunset hike to the Bowen House ruins for a yoga or meditation session. The program is offered through Southwest Trekking.

Yoga is also offered at the resort, as well as other fitness classes, and there is a selection of trails that start right on property, so hiking, trail running and biking are popular ways to take in the natural beauty.

Meanwhile, Hashani Spa provides relaxing massages, invigorating body scrubs and facials, many of which incorporate indigenous therapies.

During one of our events at the property, we caught up with one of Tucson’s local brewing companies, Crooked Tooth, which partnered with Hashani Spa to create a monthly combination beer tasting and full moon floating meditation in the resort’s saline lap pool.

“We bring a specialty beer that connects to the energies and the properties of that moon each month,” said Julie Vernon, co-owner of Crooked Tooth, which utilizes only locally grown, organic ingredients in its brewing process. “It’s a guided one-hour meditation. We come into stillness and awareness and connect to the medicinal properties of beer, including the hops, the barley and all of the herbs that we add.”