On Sacred Ground

NO STONE IS EVER LEFT UNTURNED AT MII AMO, a desert oasis nestled in the natural slope of red rock mountains in Sedona, AZ. Although premiere spa-ing has been taken to a whole new pampering level at this luxe locale in Boynton Canyon, it doesn't sum up the entire Mii amo adventure. A Native American term for "journey," Mii amo offers guests an elevated experience deeply rooted in Southwestern history and compounded by its powerful setting.

A spiritual and healing mecca for many, Sedona is located 110 miles north of Phoenix. New Agers flock to this respite because it is believed to be the home of many vortexes, centers where energy emanates through the earth. Boynton Canyon is considered to be sacred by several Native American tribes, including the Navajo, Hopi, and Yavapai-Apache, who believe it's the cradle of human origin. Taken very seriously, this spiritual aspect is echoed through the entire property and celebrated with daily rituals and annual ceremonies.

Its mystical background isn't the only thing that sets Mii amo apart. Located on the picturesque 70-acre grounds of the Enchantment resort, Mii amo has the unique position of being a destination spa within a resort. Although the two properties, separated by a par-3 golf course, are siblings, by no means are they interchangeable. The focus of the 220-room resort is on a different demographic than Mii amo, which houses spa guests in a 16-room village of adobe-style casitas inspired by Native American cave dwellings. Every spa guest room includes a private patio, electric fireplace, and bathroom with deep Scandinavian-style custom tubs. Two of the guest rooms offer a bit more pampering than the rest. The largest is the Mii amo Suite, featuring 1,500 square feet of living space. It hosts its own treatment room overlooking a private outdoor courtyard with a fireplace, whirlpool, and shower.

 The great hall, featuring floor-to-ceiling windows and organic materials, is the main thoroughfare at Mii amo.
The great hall, featuring floor-to-ceiling windows and organic materials, is the main thoroughfare at Mii amo.


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The attention to detail is carried from the casitas through to the 24,000-square-foot subtly modern and organic spa facility. Designed by Sedona resident Sylvia Sepielli of Sylvia Planning And design (SPAd), Mii amo's spa building is clearly an extension of its environment. An example of how it connects its interior and exterior spaces is through a running water feature, which greets guests outside the entrance and leads them to the inside reception area. Located on either side of the hall, floor-to-ceiling windows allow guests to soak in the dramatic crimson backdrop that envelops the property. Opened January 2001, the structure combines simple lines, an earthy palette, and pure materials—such as adobe brick, indigenous stone, and bamboo floors—to create a warm and inviting setting. Mii amo also boasts 19 treatment rooms, many with awe-inspiring views of the vibrant canyon. For an unmatched experience in a private setting, guests can choose to have their services performed in one of the spa's five outdoor treatment areas, known as wickiups. If guests prefer this type of alfresco activity, there is an outdoor relaxation area on the second level near the treatment rooms, a round of benches by the casitas surrounding a fireplace, or an open-air lap pool and whirlpool, just next to the indoor spa pool.

Tapping into the spiritual side of Mii amo, the spa also hosts a Crystal Grotto, considered the heart and soul of the spa. Every morning, guests are invited to participate in a staff-led meditation in the grotto. Fire, earth, water, and air are represented in this peaceful hideaway, which features an earthen floor, crystals, a circular opening in the domed ceiling positioned with the summer solstice in mind, and a massive mineralized trunk of an Arizona Ponderosa Pine as a centerpiece.

Guests are free to take a dip in the indoor pool or lounge around the perimeter at their leisure.
Guests are free to take a dip in the indoor pool or lounge around the perimeter at their leisure.

Naturally, guests at the property have the option of partaking in both Mii amo and Enchantment's facilities and activities complimentary and paying for services. In addition to the use of Enchantment, Mii amo packages, available in either 3-, 4-, or 7-night increments, also include accommodations in the spa casitas; three multi-course meals at the Mii amo Café or in-room; use of all state-of-the-art fitness facilities and access to fitness classes; invitations to lectures; use of all pool, lounge, and relaxation areas; and slippers, a tote bag, a water bottle, and a specially designed robe, which await each guest upon arrival. A minimum of two 90-minute treatments and four 60-minute treatments are included with the packages. The number of treatments increase depending on the length of the guest's stay.

Customization is certainly an industry buzzword these days, but at Mii amo this concept takes on a life of its own. Upon reservation, people are asked to fill out a Guest Intake Sheet used to formulate each itinerary. Questions include how much free time guests are interested in having each day, if they prefer solitary or group activities, and what time they would prefer to begin their programs. The information from the questionnaire is gathered and passed from the spa coordinators to the spa manager, the fitness supervisor, and the front office manager to ensure that guests receive the proper treatments in the right order. "The guest experience here is uniquely about the individual because what works for one person may not work for another," says Annika Jackson, Mii amo's general manager. "Guests should be able to skip a fitness class to focus on something else if the spirit moves."

Clockwise from left: The whirlpool in the locker room allows guests to soak up natural light; Mii amo's entrance complements its environment; a communal dining table encourages guest interaction; Native American sculptures serve as accent pieces; the Crystal Grotto provides a quiet place for meditation.
Clockwise from left: The whirlpool in the locker room allows guests to soak up natural light; Mii amo's entrance complements its environment; a communal dining table encourages guest interaction; Native American sculptures serve as accent pieces; the Crystal Grotto provides a quiet place for meditation.

It is this versatility that is present in every aspect of the spa and a reason Mii amo sees a high client return rate. "It is very rewarding when guests keep coming back," says Jackson. "Then we know that Mii amo has truly made an impact on that person." The spa's program caters to all types of guests, from the ones who choose to treatment-room hop and lounge poolside to the adventure-philes who want to hit the hiking and nature trails. The list of daily activities includes everything from Pilates and qi gong to Navajo Flute & Storytelling in a teepee and quirky toe readings in the spa's library.

The staff of 128—74 full-time and 54 part-time—is very involved in making sure the spa runs without a hitch. "We are fortunate to be able to draw from a pool of the world's most veteran therapists who choose to live in Sedona," says Jackson. The large staff also allows the spa to accommodate a daily average of 150 to 200 services (at spa capacity).

With an innovative treatment menu that offers more than 60 options, from Abhyanga ($260, 60 minutes) to Vedic Meditation ($130, 60 minutes), it's no wonder the spa's door is always swinging. Although classic choices, such as Swedish massage, known as a Relaxing Therapy Massage, ($130, 60 minutes; $180, 90 minutes), are highly requested, treatments featuring indigenous products are very popular. For example, the Blue Corn Vichy ($130, 60 minutes) uses local ground blue corn to cleanse and purify, and the Sedona Clay Wrap ($130, 60 minutes; $180, 90 minutes) integrates mineral-rich Sedona clay to nourish and detoxify.

The slate-colored bathrooms (left) and sleek furniture (right) offer modern touches to the classic adobe casitas.
The slate-colored bathrooms (left) and sleek furniture (right) offer modern touches to the classic adobe casitas.

It's not all about esthetics in the treatment area. Spiritual health is sublimely important at Mii amo, and these services are integral to a guest's itinerary. One example is Aura-Soma Color Reading ($180, 60 minutes; $220, 90 minutes), which is derived from an English healing system based on essential oils and vibrant color extracted from plants. This in-depth reading, meant to give people clarity and the power to change, involves guests choosing four out of 94 small bottles, each filled with different colored Equilibrium Oils. The colors chosen as well as the sequence they were chosen in are believed to translate guests' past, present, and future.

From menu offerings in the spa to the cafe, Mii amo is all about the details. Guest indulgences can be found at the juice and smoothie bar next to the dining hall, which offers a healthy option for daytime snacking. Sometimes considered a taboo in the industry, alcohol is stocked in the full-service bar, which includes organic wines, as well as in the casitas' mini-bars. "A glass of wine may be enjoyed at dinner by those who want to savor and enjoy a culinary experience," says Jackson. "We're all about balance."

It's fair to say that destination spas are some-times viewed as glorified detox venues, but not Mii amo. "Mii amo is not about deprivation," says Jackson. "We let the guests choose what they want their journey to be." While a person's stay can definitely be catered to fit this bill, cuisine generally does not take a backseat at Mii amo. Its exhibition kitchen invites guests to watch what would normally be behind-the-scenes action from the comfort of their own tables or during scheduled cooking demonstrations that are very popular among guests. The sophisticated menu, which includes subtle mentions of nutritional information, offers organic fare worthy of any culinary snob or health food enthusiast. Fresh local ingredients are harmoniously used to create savory meals and tasty desserts, which mask low calorie and fat counts.

Recipes aren't the only things that guests can take home with them from the spa. "Our investment in retail is large in space and revenue management," says Jackson. "Guests expect to be able to buy the products they experience while staying here." Following some treatments, guests are given a list of products that were used on them. Skincare lines such as Epicuren, éminence Organic Skin Care, and Jurlique are featured prominently and are popular retail items. Retail is also driven through Miiamo.com which sells products, spa wear, and even the luxurious bedding featured in each casita.

Attention to the minutiae is why Mii amo has firmly positioned itself globally as a premier destination. Not a stranger to newsstand glossies, it has been spotlighted in magazines such as In Style because of its gliteratti guests as well as in Travel + Leisure, which named it the #2 destination spa in the world in 2005. The lauding certainly doesn't end there. This Leading Spa (as designated by the Leading Hotels of the World last year) was awarded the 2002 American Architecture Award by The Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture; it was also named one of the Top 10 Spa Retreats Overseas by the U.K.'s Condé Nast Traveller and Best Boutique Spa by Luxury Spa Finder.

The minds behind Mii amo have no plans to rest on their laurels. In addition to continuing on its path toward what Jackson refers to as "the leading edge of integrity in spa standards and in customer service," she also mentions bold future plans for the spa. "Possible branding of the Mii amo concept is in the early planning stages for potential release in other unique destinations." From the sound of it, this Arizona hot spot is showing no sign of slowing down. As long as the momentum is going, guests will continue enjoying what they sign up for—being primped, pampered, and doted on throughout their stay by the best of the best.

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