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While there’s hardly a bad resort or even dude-ranch in all of Tucson, the popular Catalina Foothills has long been a hotspot for trendy wellness retreats. Here’s what to expect before booking your next trip to Arizona’s most beautiful city. 

I’m perched in the front of an infinity pool, overlooking a beautiful green golf course that is several hundred feet below me. For a desert, this upper valley is invitingly green. In the distance, I see innumerable giant green cacti, called saguaro (pronounced “suh-WAH-row”), which are endemic to and nationally protected in this special place. They stand like sentinels in the area — millions of them, in fact — arms reaching towards the sky. 

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The pool at Hacienda Del Sol, located in the Catalina Foothills, overlooks the mountains and the city of Tucson. © Hacienda Del Sol

Although inanimate, the saguaro look like they could move at any moment. The cacti don’t, but my eyes do. In between them, I spot hundreds of red roof hotels, casitas, fancy homes, and desert willows, all perched in rolling foothills leading up to the Santa Catalina Mountains off in the distance. The mountains protect and look over greater Tucson along its northern border. In between the lush, green gardens, I imagine the several unseen sparkling pools under a bright blue sky, all of them shimmering under Tucson’s resplendent sun. 

Where am I? The Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch, a historical multi-building hotel and former Hollywood getaway in the sought-after foothills. This isn’t the first or second time I’ve stayed at a relaxing resort in the area, but if the first day at this century-old but modernized property is any indication, it won’t be my last either. Here’s why it’s worth swapping palm trees and beaches for 40-foot cacti and sweeping mountain vistas for your next restful getaway.

hacienda del sol exterior
The Catalina Foothills is a popular location for resorts and wellness retreats such as Hacienda Del Sol. © Hacienda Del Sol

A wealth of wellness resorts

There are over a dozen well-rated resorts in the Catalina Foothills. Some are posh, high-rise resorts that could have been transplanted from Las Vegas, just on a slightly smaller scale. Others, like The Hacienda Del Sol where I’m staying, are low-lying but equally swanky Southwest properties with a homier, yet luxurious feel to them. 

All of these resorts, of course, were erected for the same reason: to provide a high-perched retreat to the fretful, high-strung, or otherwise paying visitor (or local) in the most beautiful part of the state’s most beautiful city in one of the greenest deserts in the world. Nestled north of the city, the Catalina Foothills is where Tucson comes to unwind and take in the bird’s eye view of the timeless valley where the city lies. 

In addition to the spectacular scenery and shiny digs, the foothills are a dozen miles away from the retail center of downtown Tucson without being more than a few minutes away from some of the finest dining in the city. One of Tucson’s most innovative and exciting restaurants, Commoner & Co., is only a ten-minute drive from Hacienda del Sol. The location is as quiet as it is remarkable, but it’s also accessible. This brings me to my next point... 

The short but stunning Valley View Overlook Trail at dusk in Saguaro National Park West district.jpeg
Saguaro National Park is worth the drive for gems like Valley View Overlook Trail. © Blake Snow

Accessible wilderness

Don’t misunderstand me. Getting to either side of Saguaro National Park is easily done by car and something you should strongly consider doing while visiting Tucson. In fact, National Geographic previously recognized Saguaro as the “Greatest National Park in America.” It’s that good. But it’s also up to an hour’s drive away, depending on which side of the sprawling city you’re coming from. 

That said, there’s another “great outdoor” in Tucson proper that’s nearly as good and could arguably pass as a small national park itself. That place is Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, which many of these wellness resorts butt up against. 

sabino canyon recreation area stream
Sabino Canyon Recreation Area is located in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson, and is part of Coronado National Forest. © gurineb / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Featuring paved and gravel hiking trails through the picturesque desert, a tram ride to the top, and an impressive waterfall, Sabino Canyon is a vast and marvelous way to take in the wonders of Tucson from within a single setting. That it’s only a few minutes from the nearby resorts is the icing on the cake.

Wherever you choose to stay on your journey, the Catalina Foothills are an excellent place to start for those coming to Tucson for their first, second, or even third time over a long weekend or full week.

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