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Castle Hot Springs

by Abbie Kozolchyk



Following a dusty dirt road can lead you to magical places, and this road will take you straight to you the lush oasis of Castle Hot Springs. Whether you’re looking to unwind in our hot springs or go on an adventure in the Sonoran Desert, our inclusive experience takes you on a memorable journey and you’ll leave here feeling better than when you arrived.

Desert sojourners are famously prone to mirages, so you’d be forgiven for doubting your eyes at the end of a long dirt road about an hour north of Phoenix. There beneath the saguaro-studded slopes of the Bradshaw Mountains appears a scene so improbably abundant, it’s almost unfair to standard-issue oases, where date palms and the odd orange tree are the only sources of sustenance. By contrast, so much is growing in this corner of the Sonoran Desert that the resident agronomist has a seven-member support team, aka “the flavor farmers.” Welcome to Castle Hot Springs.

The namesake mineral-rich waters, long known among the area’s indigenous people, became so famous after the resort’s 1896 debut that the guest register soon included the likes of the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Astors, Pews, Wrigleys and Roosevelts. And though he was here under decidedly different circumstances—convalescing from the torpedo boat incident that had earned him a Purple Heart and Navy and Marine Corps Medal in WWII—future President John F. Kennedy took the waters at Castle Hot Springs as well.

Since those early days, the property has seen a devastating fire and decades-long closure, but the recently revitalized version has been on an awards hot streak—most recently, with a coveted spot on the 2023 T + L 500 list. One reason Castle Hot Springs is getting so much love? The food, which would be exceptional by any measure, but especially within the world of wellness retreats, where “virtuous” has often been code for “boring.”

Among the first thing you’ll notice on the organic farm tour—offered daily, and worth taking for sampling opportunities alone—is how distinctive a lot of the fruits, veggies and herbs taste. Fed by the same streams that make soaking and spa-ing famously sublime here, these varietals are the product of a certain alchemy: the water’s mineral blend and the farmers’ ambition. “We seek to grow things that no one else grows,” says agronomist and fifth-generation Arizonian Ian Beger, who prizes uniqueness, diversity and flavor over size and yield.

The resulting breakfast, lunch and multicourse tasting dinner menus—which change daily at the resort’s Harvest restaurant—might incorporate any of 30 types of heirloom tomatoes, 20-something pepper varieties and beans that look more like confections than legumes (see: the purple- and white-striped dragon’s tongue). Thanks to headline-making spring rains, current favorites from executive chef John Amann include a seared King Trumpet mushroom basted with butter, garlic and thyme as well as a pozole that uses Pioppino and Trumpet mushrooms in place of the traditional pork.

As for pairings, crowd favorites range from Lithium Lager (a beer brewed locally from Castle Hot Springs’ own lithium-rich water) to the Aroma Pearapy (a gin-based cocktail from the on-site Bar 1896). And while sommelier Sarah Foote’s handiwork has landed Harvest a 2022 Wine Spectator Restaurant Award, oenophiles will also want to keep an eye on the calendar for special winemaker experiences. Though June’s Opus One Wine Event is already sold out, you can still join a waitlist.

For anyone who’d like to replicate at least a taste of the above at home, options include a Homegrown Gardening Workshop and a Farm to Bar Mixology 101 class—hallucinatory hot springs, alas, not included. castlehotsprings.com

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