Miraval: Is It Worth the Price?

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It’s been on my bucket list for a while now, the famed Miraval. With a location less than two hours from my doorstep, it’s surprising this self-proclaimed wellness aficionado hadn’t made the short drive South for a chance to attend the much-coveted retreat center.  To be honest, each time I jumped online to book a stay, I found myself resisting pushing the reserve button once I saw my grand total for just a couple nights!  I pushed back for another time and then another time yet again. This year, I decided the wait was over. Wanting to spend some special one-on-one time with my mom, I decided her birthday was just the occasion to take the plunge.

Luxury wellness spa Miraval, is it really worth the price?
Photography courtesy of Miraval.com

If you’ve never heard of Miraval, it was once declared one of Oprah’s favorite places and from there its stardom was built. The Arizona property, which at one time was an addiction recovery center, was purchased and turned into a wellness destination in 1995.  With over 500 acres tucked up against the Catalina Mountains in the Sonoran Desert, the resort offers a large array of classes and spa offerings to keep you busy in-between eating, enjoying the pools or even interacting with horses with their special equine therapies. With an all-inclusive model, your stay includes a small dollar amount towards the spa or classes and healthy food offerings including a juice bar with snacks to keep you going.

The pre-game plan went well. Miraval does an excellent job making the online selections of classes and spa treatments easy. Their registration system seemed quite simple to use and with each person getting their own unique conformation code, it was easy to book even for people sharing a room. A quick scan of their services showed, a few off the beaten path offerings, so I quickly choose the “Jin Shou-Tui Na” always looking to experience something new. My mom on the other hand chose a traditional facial and massage.  I also received lots of emails and calls to assure we had made our selections.

However, once we arrived at the property the customer service began to trickle off. The check-in procedures were average at best, and I must admit I felt sorely disappointed as we toured the resort. Large and impressive no doubt, but worn and weathered equally portrayed my assessment as we made our way around. Note that this is mindfulness retreat center, so they discourage the use of your phone unless in a designated area and even provide “a phone sleeping bag” for your stay. Although I deeply appreciated the intent, the “rules” felt a little big brotherish for me.  As we settled into the restaurant after our property tour and waited for our room, we struggled to understand the procedure as no one came to ask for our order?  While most opted for the buffet, each day a handful of a la carte menu items are available. (Unlike some wellness spots Miraval does also serve alcohol). Finally, we put our order in, got our drinks as our lunch was ending and tried to stay positive concerning the overall experience!

Kim Roach creating resin art at Miraval Resort and Spa.
Kim and Dianne creating resin art in one of the many classes offered at Miraval.

Luckily, things did improve once we made it to our spacious room and cozy beds.  Over the phone I selected a larger room with no patio and although we had to hike to the edge of the property to get it, we were happy with its size and comfort. For our classes we had opted for an array of things including: resin art, past life regression, restorative yoga, a hanging meditation, dream analysis and mythic poetic journey. My overall impression of the classes was that they are geared towards those just starting their mindfulness journey. While I could feel that the information felt new and far out to some attendees, some of the sessions left me bored and asking for more. Both the hanging meditation and restorative yoga included sound healing with crystal bowls, which elevated the experience and helped me to relax. Being a complete novice to resin work, this class I found very enjoyable. Named “Creating a Miraval Moment” we spent time walking to property to gather bits of nature to symbolize our retreat. My mom and I gathered portions of leaves, blooms, rocks, and cacti to memorialize in resin. The process was easy, straightforward, and enjoyable. Our art was even placed inside my vehicle with the luggage at checkout and I couldn’t have been happier with our creations.

Nature was our inspiration for demoralizing our Miraval getaway in resin art.
Nature was our inspiration for memorializing our Miraval getaway in resin art. The shell was neatly tucked in my purse from my travels to Costa Rica.

My favorite moments at Miraval however were shared with a medium named Rae Jessie. Scottish born, this red headed beauty elevated my overall experience on property by bringing in some much-needed depth and experiential learning to the table. Leading both the mythic poetic journey and the past life regression, Jessie has not only a melodic voice but an entraining tempo to her guided journeys. Her presence is both soft and loving and yet you are also powerfully aware that this woman is tapped into a frequency most aren’t.Both journeys were powerful and insightful. The mythic poetic journey was littered with symbolism and helped me connect to a deeper emotional layer and offered reflective insight on where and how I was engaging with it.  Conversely, the past life regression offered me tools and memories of sacred knowledge from past or parallel lifetimes that seemed relevant to my life today. Both journeys made me realize how critical the facilitator is to our overall experience.  Ray Jessie’s approach offered something to both the novice and experienced seeker which I appreciated. Rather than displaying her wisdom she EXUDED it not just with the way she crafted an experience but in her presence with each guest. Remarkably she even handled a guest who kept dosing off and appeared intoxicated with as much grace and ease as someone who is markedly free from ego. It neither bothered her not did she feel any need to make a punitive remark towards the guest but simply redirected her with love.

My review of the spa is somewhat limited because the treatment I choose didn’t take place in the actual spa facility but in a yurt. I was told to meet at an abandoned cabana by an aging pool that reminded me of something in a 25-year-old apartment complex. I stood there waiting for several minutes with no one in sight wondering is this really where I’m supposed to meet and worried I might be missing out on a few precious minutes of the 50-minute treatment. However, my practitioner did arrive right on time, taking me to the yurt, where I crawled on to her table clothed. “Jin Shou-Tui Na” is a combination of massage and cranial sacral. The massage done with clothes on involved vibrating motions used to stretch and elongate the spine. I found it novel and relaxing. She then had me flip over for some cranial sacral work, one of my favorite treatments. Gentle subtle energy work, cranial sacral is much different than a massage and involves gently rocking the cerebral spinal fluid at the base of the spine so that it will rise and coat the nervous system. Having done this work several times before, I quickly got into a floaty state and felt the way this gentle service can bring rise to deep healing. Overall, I gave the service a good score, again due to the facilitator, but for an exclusive high-end wellness resort the facility left a lot to be desired. Note:  the spa facility itself did look beautiful and allows guests to use its sauna and steam room while on-site. They do not have a cold plunge.

What can I say overall about my Miraval weekend? Company, practitioners, and mindset are the most important. The memory of spending the weekend with my mom on her special day was the precious gift that I was looking for and without the distractions of life, work, kids and even a phone, we found valuable time to connect. Your facilitator is key!! Take the time before traveling to Miraval to get recommendations and seek out seasoned facilitators if you are an experienced seeker. Lastly, manage expectations! Since I waited so long to visit this property and had heard gobs about it, my expectations were considerably high. The property felt more on par with Two Bunch Palms or its copycat Civana, and certainly was no Amangiri. Ultimately, I gave Miraval about a 7 out of 10. If you are on a budget, try creating your own mindful getaway by booking a treatment at a local spa and carving out the day to enjoy their amenities distraction free.  Or sign up for a local class and create space around it to reflect. Add a new meditation video to your morning routine, take an hour to journal and take a bath or start a gratitude practice. Much of Miraval’s magic is simply about creating space to reflect and the truth is that doesn’t have to cost a thing.

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