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Arizona’s Famed Castle Hot Springs Just Got a New Star Attraction

A Watsu pool, plus other ways to go with the flow at the beloved wellness retreat this season.

The lodge at Castle Hot Springs Castle Hot Springs

In 1896, Castle Hot Springs’ first guests braved a five-hour stagecoach ride to reach this remote swath of Sonoran Desert at the base of the Bradshaw Mountains. Since then, the resort went on to welcome Gilded Age holidaymakers like the Vanderbilts, Astors, Pews and Rockefellers, and has hosted everything from the WWII-era convalescence of a Purple Heart-decorated JFK to the post-lockdown birthday celebration of a triple Grammy-decorated Ludacris. While much has changed since the days of the stagecoach—the option to arrive by helicopter, for starters—one essential element has coursed through every phase of the resort’s existence.

That element, of course, is water. The source, long prized by local indigenous communities for its healing and life-sustaining properties, is a network of mineral-rich, geothermically heated underwater streams that emerge into a succession of palm-flanked pools. And thanks to a new Watsu pool, Castle Hot Springs’ latest season promises the most sublime soaking ops to date.

Watsu pool at Castle Hot Springs
The new Watsu pool at Castle Hot Springs. Castle Hot Springs

For the uninitiated: Watsu is a blend—both linguistic and therapeutic—of water and shiatsu, a Japanese form of bodywork. In theory, the therapist-led rhythmic treatment unblocks and balances energetic flow. In practice, however, the blissed-out state of oblivion you’ll achieve as you swirl and float through the enveloping warmth beneath the palm fronds, rock walls and desert sky will leave you utterly unconcerned about what energy has moved where (and utterly unconcerned about most things, to be fair).

“It was a natural progression for the resort,” says owner Mike Watts, who bought the fire-scarred, largely torn-down property in 2014. He unveiled its dazzling reincarnation in 2019, and has clinched every conceivable hospitality award since. “Our wellness programming is firmly rooted in the stunning nature surrounding us, and the new Watsu pool is also outdoors in our geothermal spring canyon, which enhances the experience.” 

Thus the new Wellness through Water Package, which includes an hourlong Watsu session—among other water-related experiences—over the course of a three-night minimum stay. Not that you need to book the package to experience the new spa menu’s focus on the springs: Plenty of à la carte treatments, from a mineral-rich scrub to a stream-side reiki session, draw on the local waters.

A Spring Bungalow. Castle Hot Springs

For that matter, so does the expansive resort garden, where a tasting tour is a must—if only to experience how potently (and, for salt lovers, divinely) the springs’ particular mineral mix can affect the flavor of certain plants. These pair perfectly with Lithium Lager, the house beer crafted by Wren House Brewing Company using Castle Hot Springs water.  

Of course, while the springs are the uncontested star of the show, there’s a lot more to experience here. Some other offerings to consider: the Crater Canyon Exploration, which takes you on a guided tour through a private slot canyon; an assortment of adventure-, Western-, and Zen-focused packages; a partnership with hop-on, semi-private jet service JSX; and sleep retreats next January and May with Dr. Rebecca Robbins, a famed researcher, author and instructor at Harvard Medical School. Then again, you may find that in a place so inherently dreamy, you won’t need the extra help.

Rates start at $1,250 per night.

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